Centre of Contemporary Art
|Centre of Contemporary Art|
The CoCA gallery
|Location||Christchurch Central City|
|Address||66 Gloucester Street, Christchurch|
|Renovation cost||NZ$4.1 m|
|Owner||CSA Charitable Trust|
|Design and construction|
|Architecture firm||Minson, Henning Hansen|
Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA, formerly the Canterbury Society of Arts) is a curated art gallery in the central city of Christchurch, New Zealand. The not-for-profit organisation provides free access to modern works of art for the public as well as a platform for contemporary practitioners, in particular prominent New Zealand artists. CoCA also collaborates with international innovators whose works engage with contemporary ideas and cultural issues.
The gallery is administered by the Canterbury Society of Arts (CSA) Charitable Trust. Quarterly seasonal exhibitions are overseen by a curatorium of experts from New Zealand and overseas, headed by new Director and Principal Curator Paula Orrell. The gallery is focused on curating and commissioning artwork, over than simply acquiring collections. This ensures that the exhibitions remain of consistent and continual relevance, engaging audiences in an ever-present world of contemporary art and supporting ongoing innovation in artistic practice. The gallery also has an impressive and proud history as one of the longest standing arts organisations in New Zealand.
The Canterbury Society of Arts
CoCA began in 1880 as the Canterbury Society of Arts (CSA). It was the first organisation to exhibit and collect artworks in Christchurch, and quickly became the most influential and dynamic arts society in New Zealand. Its first exhibition was held in 1881 at Christchurch Boys' High School, in what later became part of the Christchurch Arts Centre. The CSA played an essential role in New Zealand’s burgeoning arts scene. In the 1930s it exhibited the works of “The Group”; a collection of artists including the eminent New Zealand painters Rita Angus, Evelyn Page and Doris Lusk. The CSA found its first permanent home in 1890 in a building especially designed for it by society member and acclaimed New Zealand architect Benjamin Mountfort (1825–1898) – the Canterbury Society of Arts Gallery. This was a prime example of the function and form of Gothic Revival in New Zealand architecture. A second neighbouring gallery, in the more conservatively favoured Venetian Gothic style, was added in 1894 by Richard Dacre Harman. Both buildings were on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust register until their demolition following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.
Gloucester Street and CoCA
In 1968 the CSA moved to larger premises at 66 Gloucester Street. The purpose-built gallery is a major example of the 'Christchurch Style' of modernist buildings designed by Canterbury’s avant-garde architects in the post-war period. The building was honoured by two New Zealand Institute of Architects awards. In the years following this move, the gallery thrived and was renowned for housing some of the most progressive and innovative exhibitions in New Zealand’s history of art. The CSA helped launch the careers of local New Zealand artists including Neil Dawson, Bruce Edgar, Ross Marwick, and Boyd Webb, who had their inaugural exhibitions there in June 1971.
Change and innovation have always been central to the institution’s identity. In 1996, the CSA gallery was rebranded CoCA Centre of Contemporary Art, the name it is known by today.
Earthquake and recovery
Like many prominent buildings in Christchurch, the CoCA gallery was damaged in the February earthquakes of 2011. In 2013 a “rescue squad of volunteers, former gallery staff on contract and experts from Te Papa recovered all the artworks trapped in the building, including everything on display at the time and the gallery's collection”. Four million dollars has been spent on repairs, strengthening and refurbishment to retain the building and ensure it performs as a 21st-century gallery building should, and to save this outstanding example of Christchurch architecture for years to come, re-establishing it as a centre of development for the New Zealand art scene.
Future and refocus
CoCA reopened on 13 February 2016 in its completely restored and modernised gallery space on Gloucester Street. Trustees have reframed the future of CoCA with a re-energized focus on engaging with people in conversations about contemporary life and culture. "Our new Ambition is 'Making a unique contribution to the cultural life of Christchurch – presenting contemporary art programmes that enrich and strengthen our community by enabling and encouraging critical dialogue about the world we live in’". There is also a renewed effort to make the arts accessible to all, and to incorporate public art in public space, moving beyond and outside the walls and confines of conventional gallery space and engaging with the larger environment and community of Christchurch. The gallery was closed again temporarily after the 2016 Christchurch earthquake struck the day after the reopening.
- "New CoCA director". The Big Idea. 13 April 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- "Register Record : Canterbury Society of Arts Gallery (Former)". Quakestudies.canterbury.ac.nz. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- Elisabeth Louise C'Ailceta Cooke. "The Group 1927–1977 : an annotated bibliography" (PDF). Christchurchcitylibraries.com. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- "Register Records for the former Canterbury Society of Arts Gallery, 282–286 Durham Street, Christchurch". Quakestudies.canterbury.ac.nz. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- "A clear future for COCA". Stuff.co.nz. 7 October 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- Charlie Gates (15 November 2013). "Funds sought to speed CoCA reopening". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- "CoCA – Centre of Contemporary Art". Archived from the original on 19 April 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2006.
- "Jitters, but little damage in CBD". The Press. 15 February 2016. p. A3.
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