Guy Ngan: Heritage Registration
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Producing over forty public murals, sculptures, and friezes over the course of his career, Guy Ngan created some of the most recognisable and appreciated public art in Aotearoa. However, knowledge of the fate of many of these works is patchy at best. Some have been lost, moved, or destroyed. Some may be hidden in boxes or concealed behind walls. Others—undocumented and their authorship forgotten—may be hiding in plain sight.
For Guy Ngan: Either Possible or Necessary, Artspace Aotearoa and Bronwyn Holloway-Smith are facilitating a collaborative public effort to research and record these works in the New Zealand Public Art Heritage Register—an initiative led by Public Art Heritage Aotearoa New Zealand.
To launch this project, Holloway-Smith will be leading an open collaborative research planning session at Artspace Aotearoa from 1pm on Saturday 8 June. Members of the public who are interested in sharing their knowledge, memories, and time with Holloway-Smith and Artspace Aotearoa are invited to join in this process of research and recovery.
Further opportunities to engage with the research project will be announced in due course, including news of discoveries, site tours to Ngan artworks in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, and a concluding event to mark the end of the project.
The Public Art Heritage Register entries for all of Ngan’s known public works will be made accessible from this site and publicart.nz. The ultimate goal of the project is to fill in all of the missing details, images, and stories for every work. Artspace Aotearoaand Holloway-Smith have identified six key public works in Tāmaki Makaurau to begin this effort, following a wide public appeal for information. The images of these works, and what information about them that is already known, has been produced on postcards that can be found across the city. If you, or someone you know, have any information or memories to share with us, please go to publicart.nz/register, or email email@example.com.
About Public Art Heritage Aotearoa New Zealand
In 2014, while researching New Zealand’s major international internet connection the—Southern Cross Cable—Bronwyn Holloway-Smith discovered a ceramic tile mural by mid-century New Zealand artist E. Mervyn Taylor removed and stored in cardboard boxes. The rediscovery led to her project Te Ika-a-Akoranga with Letting Space which saw the restoration, digitisation, and photographic reconstruction of the work. In May 2019, the fully restored mural Te Ika-a-Maui was unveiled in its new location at Takapuna Library.
The project also led Holloway-Smith to direct a research project at Massey University College of Creative Arts focused on researching, locating, and documenting the additional public artworks Taylor had created in the 1950-60s. This resulted in her book Wanted: The search for the modernist murals of E. Mervyn Taylor (Massey Press, 2018), recently a finalist in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
Despite the E. Mervyn Taylor Mural Search & Recovery Project’s focus on Taylor, numerous members of the public came forward with information on other works of art in New Zealand that were in need of similar attention. The team began to capture this information and, without trying, the list grew to over 200 works.
Late last year Toi Rauwharangi College of Creative Arts at Massey University Wellington and Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage joined forces to create a new research partnership: Public Art Heritage Aotearoa New Zealand. The partnership is focused on establishing a New Zealand Public Art Heritage Register, with an ultimate vision to work towards protecting public artworks of national significance and developing best practice resources for the contracting, commissioning, documenting, maintaining, and de-commissioning of public art works. With an initial focus on twentieth-century public art, the register has now grown to over 600 entries from throughout the country. Core team members are Bronwyn Holloway-Smith & Sue Elliott (Massey University) and Mary Donn, Sebastian Clarke, & Melanie Mills (Ministry for Culture & Heritage).
This following project is proudly supported by Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Massey University College of Creative Arts and Artspace Aotearoa.