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Speech

Launch of the Cindy Sherman Exhibition

Issue date: 
Friday, 18 November 2016
Speaker: 
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO

Aku mihi nui, ki nga tangata katoa, e hui mai nei i tenei po.

Aku mihi nui ano, hoki ki a koe e te rangatira, e Rei, e whakatau nei i ahau.

My greetings to all gathered here this evening.

And also my thanks to you Ray for your words of welcome.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I’m delighted to be here with you tonight. It has been a difficult week for New Zealand and our thoughts are with the people of the Upper South Island as they continue to deal with the aftermath of Monday morning’s quake.

I know many of you here this evening have also been affected by the earthquakes.  I hope that tonight’s event will give you some respite from the realities of life in a seismically-active environment.

When I first discovered Cindy Sherman’s work, I received a jolt of a different kind. My reaction began with a smile, became a giggle then morphed into something altogether different.

A sense of unease perhaps?

Art is meant to be provocative, in that it should provoke or elicit some kind of response in the viewer. For me, Cindy’s work constantly raises questions.

Who is the person in the image?

What has happened to them?

How did they get to that place?

What’s wrong with this picture?

Her images encourage us to construct our own narrative. We’re not being told what to think but we’re asked to react and respond in our own way. It’s our thoughts and feelings that stay with us when we leave the exhibition.

I find it intriguing that although Cindy herself is the model in many of her images, the works are not about her. Cindy is part of her art but never the subject. It’s another fascinating element in a remarkable body of work.

Cindy - I have long been an admirer of your art and I have been fascinated by your changes in style and subject over the past 30 years. I am particularly drawn to the fashion and ageing socialite series where your images have aptly been described as inhabiting ‘the uncertain space between the joke and the truth’1. Perhaps, then, I should not have been surprised to discover that we are, in fact, exact contemporaries.

I congratulate Elizabeth and her team for having the great vision and determination – I’m sure you have needed it – to bring this exhibition to New Zealand. So often it’s us who have to do the travelling!

There will be many New Zealand artists who have been influenced by Cindy who have never had the opportunity to see an exhibition like this. I’m sure they will appreciate the chance to see the work of an international artist at the height of her creative powers and no doubt this will inform their own art in future.

The programme of events around the exhibition, including film screenings and late night openings, offer an array of different ways for all of us to engage with the works. It’s an exciting time in the life of City Gallery and I hope the people of Wellington, and further afield, embrace it whole heartedly.

Art has an important role to play in our communities. It opens up conversations, inspires new ideas and activates our imaginations. It’s not just to be viewed, it’s to be talked about, recommended, dissected and maybe argued about as we get to grips with what we’ve seen.

Cindy Sherman’s work, and the characters she creates, are powerful stimulants and I look forward to hearing the conversations that get started and seeing the impact this exhibition makes on our cultural scene.

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.

Last updated: 
Friday, 18 November 2016

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