All That Was Solid Melts: An Exhibit For Our Time
All That Is Solid Melts is currently closed, but will reopen once Auckland comes out of lockdown.
Opening its doors for the first time in 1888, Auckland Art Gallery has always been a mixture of the historic, the modern and the contemporary. Known proudly as New Zealand’s largest and most inspiring gallery, the old and the new connect beautifully. It seems like you’re stepping into a completely different world when visiting.
The latest major exhibition to be excitingly welcomed through the grand gallery doors is All That Was Solid Melts. Featuring work by national and international names, the exhibition started its journey at the beginning of June and has already had many visitors thus far. I’m sure, even when the exhibition shuts its doors, the imprint of its art will forever be etched in the walls of the Auckland Art Gallery. Its intention is to sympathise, and to offer solace and discovery through the narrative of what big events do to the structure of the world, and how we can reconstruct and heal ourselves in its wake. This is art that speaks, with wide mouths and snapping teeth.
Curated by award-winning and internationally acclaimed artistic director, Juliana Engberg, the exhibition invites to connect with a wide expanse of emotion, such as solitude, grief, anxiety, and restoration. Through the worries and fears, loneliness and separations of 2020’s isolations, the exhibition soughts out a way to counter the emotions felt and create a solid representation of things we may have taken for granted—work, leisure, travel, society and family. All That Was Solid Melts travels time and space to revisit life, and triumph over our fears.
Visitors are invited to explore major works by some of the leading global contemporary names such as Pipilotti Rist, Tacita Dean, Pierre Huyghe, Douglas Gordon, Katie Paterson and many more. This, in essence, is a place of solace for those still fretting and unsure of the current world climate and to offer a sense of escapism. Surreal pieces like ‘(Untitled) Human Mask’ by French artist, Pierre Huyghe and Australian-born, Charlie Sofo’s ‘Birds’ offer a world view of video and sound mixed with the joy of childish observation. Both pieces add sound and music to offer a moving, thought-evoking, pleasure-filled composition.
Other contemporary works of note that really push the boundary of this exhibition are quite recent works by esteemed Kiwi artists, such as Julia Morison’s ‘Things/Relics IN-IX’ (2011) and Tim Veling’s ‘Sentinels’ (2018) emphasising the isolation of how Christchurch’s earthquakes changed the landscape for Kiwis forever, then how we grew from it. ‘Sentinels’ photographs document the passing of time in what used to be Christchurch’s riverside suburbs, the red zone, and ‘Things/Relics IN-IX’ conceptualises the aftermath of the earthquake.
As well as new works, the exhibition shows historic pieces, meeting the old with the new to highlight the expanse of art in time. Pieces by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and the work of modernist artist Paul Nash, creates a rich and trans-historical tapestry for the exhibition. The historical works, such as Sophie Anderson’s 1884 oil painting ‘After the Earthquake’, and Franz Sturtkopf’s 1884 ‘The Hermit’, look at pain and isolation as a pathway to spiritual knowledge.
From the exhibitions 13 different rooms each offer a separate moment, or feeling, evoked by music and art. Song is also a motif that runs throughout All That Was Solid Melts that reflect the themes. You can even download the exhibition’s playlist on Spotify!
Located two minutes walk from the bustling Queen Street, any visitor will walk through the grand kauri columns at the entrance and immediately be transformed. The space just thrives on lived experience and connection, making it a wondrous place to discover and rediscover. The modern scope that we are used to in this ever-changing world has been examined in this exhibition. With a shattering of that connection during lockdown, it is now fantastic to see a unity where ruin is turned to restoration.
All That Was Solid Melts is on at Auckland Art Gallery now until the 10 October.