Fool's Gold

Feb 2 2021 – May 16 2021


2021 marks fifty years since the founding of The Dowse Art Museum in 1971—our golden anniversary. Fool’s Gold celebrates this moment by digging for gold in the collection, exploring some of the yellow, ochre and golden artworks that have been collected and treasured over the past fifty years.

Fool’s Gold is the well-known nickname for the mineral, iron pyrite—a low-value material whose metallic lustre and pale brass-yellow hue gives it a superficial resemblance to real gold. But perhaps the value of fool’s gold is all about perspective? For instance, pyrite was used by the earliest humans to strike fire; as decorative elements on jewellery from the Aztec peoples through to the British Victorians. In the present day it has been used as an abundant source of sulphide minerals used in the paper industry and the manufacturing of sulfuric acid.

However, like iron pyrite, all that glitters is not gold. This exhibition challenges you to consider the idea of value, and the ways we assign value to the things in our collection. Cultural value, historical value, monetary value—how do we determine the worth of the things we collect, and how might that sense of value change over time? From a golden Canterbury landscape to a gleaming pot scrubber, Fool’s Gold takes an inquisitive look at the golden moments and prized possessions at the heart of The Dowse collection.

Fool’s Gold is part of The Dowse Art Museum’s 50th Anniversary programme. It continues our commitment to acquiring and exhibiting artworks that highlight key developments in New Zealand art by artists of significance, explored in previous projects such as All I Want To Be (2019), Fiona Clark: Te Iwi o Te Wāhi Kore (2017) and The Cabinets: Peeking Into The Collection (2013–2014)