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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fears about galleries, artists' work

Fears about galleries, artists' work

Last updated 11:30 06/03/2011
THE STUDIO of Bill Hammond, one of New Zealand's premier artists, has been damaged and countless other important artworks lost in Christchurch's earthquake.

While the civic Christchurch Art Gallery, built in 2003, was earthquake proof and undamaged - it now doubles as the Emergency Operations Centre - private galleries and the personal studios of artists, most clustered in central Christchurch, have suffered.

Art critic Hamish Keith says Christchurch is an important centre for visual arts.

"Artists will have considerable collections of their life work in their studios, you are really taking out a generation of New Zealand art from Christchurch and that would be a tragedy.

"Some of these artists, like Bill Hammond and Philip Trustrum and Julia Morison, are the most important of their generation."

Hammond, 64, did not return calls, but his live-in studio at Lyttelton was damaged. His work A Lullaby of Birdland sold last year for $251,000. However, it is understood he escaped injury and his works are safe.

Keith says Trustrum's home is a "write off" and he had kept considerable works in a garden shed. He was "distressed", Keith said.

Artist Tony de Lautour was not in his eighth floor studio on Cathedral Square when the quake struck, and had not been able to return because the area was cordoned off, so has no idea how it fared.

Keith listed eight significant galleries inside the cordon "which contain an enormous amount of important work" that needed checking, and said 19 artists had been affected.

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