Digging for gold - The Dowse celebrates its 50th year with new exhibition Fool’s Gold

Feb 1 2021

Pauline Bern, Scrubber, 2000. Collection of The Dowse, 2000.

From Colin McCahon’s golden Canterbury landscape to an 18ct gleaming pot scrubber by Pauline Bern, and from Erenora Puketapu- Hetet’s precious golden fibre kete to Areta Wilkinson’s golden, precious metal jewellery. This diverse array of valuable artworks, collected and treasured over the last 50 years, not only celebrates The Dowse’ golden anniversary, but challenges the audience to consider the idea of value, be it historical, cultural or monetary.

Fool’s Gold is all about perspective,” says curator Grace Ryder.

“This exhibition, as the title suggests, asks the viewer to look at our collection items a little differently. We have so many precious and valuable works in The Dowse Collection, but value changes depending on the context, history and moment surrounding an artwork – these can all mean different things to different people. I hope this exhibition gives audiences the chance to understand how we place value on items, from an institutional and collecting perspective.”

Fool’s Gold takes the viewer through an inquisitive look at the prized possessions at the heart of The Dowse Collection. Among the artworks on display are:

  • Caterpillar Landscapes (1973) by Colin McCahon— one of New Zealand’s celebrated artists.
  • Pauline Bern’s Scrubber (2000), Joanna Campbell’s Rosette (2002), Kirsten Haydon’s Networks (2006), Lynn Kelly’s Gold and tussock necklace (2007) and Areta Wilkinson’s Blackbeech and honeydew brooch (2009) - the winning works from The Dowse Gold Award.
  • Threshold X Prologue, With Thanks to El Greco (1973) – Bill Sutton’s iconic love letter to the golden Canterbury plains
  • Kete Pīngao (1983) by Erenora Puketapu-Hetet – highlighting a precious golden native resource.
  • Abstract by Helen Stewart (date unknown) and Maumahara Mahara-Warm Memory (2018) by Star Gossage (Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Ruanui) - the first and most recent paintings by female artists acquired by The Dowse identifying the high cultural value by women across Aotearoa.
  • Steinhaufen Ring (2011) by Karl Fritsch – the jeweller who often remoulds and reworks found gems and metals to new, unconventional and playful forms.

Fool’s Gold is part of The Dowse Art Museum’s 50th Anniversary programme. It continues The Dowse’ 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).

Karl Chitham, Director of The Dowse says, “We’re very excited about The Dowse’ 50th Anniversary. We have become known over the decades for being a little left of field and this year will be no different. Starting with Fool’s Gold, 2021’s anniversary programme will highlight the unexpected and sometimes off-beat moments, either through our collection, our exhibitions, or the conversations that are meaningful to people.”