Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dunedin Hospital: Not a bad art gallery

It's a little known fact, perhaps, that Dunedin Hospital has a significant collection of art. I know about it because over the years I've had all sorts of different reasons to be wandering up and down different corridors and to be sitting in various lobbies and waiting rooms, on account of medical issues of my own or those of loved ones.

Among the best known pieces is the scintillatingly lovely copper water sculpture by John Middleditch. I've paused many a time to enjoy it (even when just taking a short cut through the hospital in bad weather!)

After a revamp of the hospital in recent years, this was hilariously polished up by somebody who thought the tarnish looked grubby. It looked pretty scary shiny. Middleditch had deliberately aged it for effect.

The Robin White mural in the long winding hallway is another delight offered to those having to traverse the ground floor for any reason. (Up to radiology for an xray perhaps.) Even though some troglodyte attacked it once and they've had to put a hand rail up to stop people trailing their hands along it or knocking against it as they hobble to get their blood test.

The Kinetic Sculpture by Derek Ball (pictured above as it was when I first saw it) also has a chequered history. It has come and gone from the main foyer, and come again. It had been there for 20 years when it was removed, then reappeared 5 years later. I like it. Kids love it. it's nice and close to the lifts so you can stare at it while you're waiting to meet up with anyone.

There's also a sculpture by Peter Nicholls. And. And. And. Really someone should do a tour. I think they do sometimes, or have done, but I can't find it on Google.

Or maybe the presence of the sometimes astonishing art, in odd corners, is just a gift for you if you unhappily find yourself under the weather.

There's apparently a cataloguing effort underway, due to horror stories such as, "A Doris Lusk painting found glued to a piece of cardboard and a Rudi Gopas lost behind a filing cabinet at Dunedin Hospital"...

One that I particularly like is the Shona McFarlane sunflowers, currently in a prominent place on the ground floor.

And there's a lovely little zen garden - visible through glass windows and also from above, that has given me many a moment of peace in contemplating it. But is that art??

Many of these features and works have stilled my soul while - well - going through all the things you go through, in hospitals - waiting, waiting, hoping, praying, crying, hurting, grieving, crossing your fingers that the MRI scan or the urgent needle biopsy doesn't dob you in to the grim reaper... etc etc.

Oh and there's a lot of very bad art too, especially deep in the wards, but when you ask to hear the story behind a particular piece, you are quickly face to face with poignant facts about the world, and it suddenly would seem churlish to judge the piece by aesthetic standards, when there is other stuff going on. Not maybe a relevant campaign for the Art Police to get involved, just avert your eyes darlings.


artandmylife said...

Great post!

Vanda Symon said...

I've always enjoyed looking at the art in the hospital, even if the reasons for being there haven't been that joyous. I particularly like the colourful mural in the entrance way.