The best ideas often come from a small seed of thought, something that germinates into a plant and then eventually develops into a magnificent garden.
In 2003 the Friends of the Auckland Botanic Gardens floated the idea of having high quality outdoor sculpture as part of the Gardens’ attractions. After exploring a number of possibilities, the Friends signed a formal agreement with the then Auckland Regional Council on holding sculpture exhibitions in the Gardens and on an art purchasing policy.
Like many good ideas, others were thinking along the same lines. The ‘Growth Industry’ sculpture exhibition of 2005, organised by the sculptor, Richard Mathieson, proved an outstanding success. This provided the platform from which ‘Sculpture in the Gardens’ was born.
The Friends, teaming up with Richard, were adamant that our event had to be unique and not just another beautiful sculpture walk, we wanted this to be part of their legacy to the people of Auckland. “Art is a very personal thing and should be accessible to everyone” says founding team member Byrdie Ayres. “Hosting this in the Auckland Botanic Gardens is the perfect way to bring art and sculpture to everyone as admission is free and the Gardens are enjoyed by a wide demographic including school children, groups, the local community and visitors from wider Auckland and beyond.”
“We wanted more than just a three month footprint, we wanted a permanent stamp, a blossoming garden of public art” she continues. The acquisition programme that the Friends developed for the exhibitions means there is a growing permanent collection of sculpture. “It is our intention that this permanent public collection will continue to expand and become one of NZ’s most significant public collections”. With the sixth show commencing in November 2017 this aspiration is well on the way to becoming a reality.
Sculpture in the Gardens champions New Zealand artists. For the artists the event is unique as it runs for three months, much longer than other similar events in Auckland. This can provide artistic challenges in the design of works but the curatorial team knows and understands the requirements imposed on these works and selects them carefully.
The inaugural Sculpture in the Gardens exhibition was held over the summer of 2007 – 2008 with 320,000 visitors enjoying the experience of high quality outdoor New Zealand sculpture in the magnificent setting of the Auckland Botanic Gardens; it was a huge success.
Since then five further exhibitions have been held, attracting increasing visitor numbers and introducing many to sculpture, as well as the Gardens, for the first time.
The Friends run Sculpture in the Gardens with the support of a dynamic project team incorporating key stakeholders such as the Friends, Gardens staff, artists, art supporters and a curatorial panel.
Sculpture in the Gardens is now a biennial event within the Auckland Botanic Gardens calendar and continues to establish a large collection of public sculpture for people to enjoy as part of the experience of the Gardens.