|Gordon Minhinnick (1902-1992), Cover drawing for Loan exhibition of antiques (1935)|
|The Auckland Star report of the opening of the exhibition was juxtaposed against an account of a protest meeting in the Auckland Town Hall against poverty and distress by a group of clergy, including the future dean of St Paul's cathedral in London (1967-77), the Rev Martin Sullivan.|
Auckland Star (25 September 1935), p. 5
|John Cecil Hill (1889-1974), Comment cartoon in the Auckland Star (26 September 1935), p. 8. Hill notes the indifference of neglectful national and local governments to the loan exhibition of antiques while his clerical observer draws attention to the more pressing concerns of the Town Hall protest meeting|
Reporting on preparations, the New Zealand Herald observed such exhibitions 'had met with marked success from the artistic, educational and financial points of view.' Aside from its avowed charitable aim – and the making of a profit – the purpose of the exhibition seems to have been an attempt to address the city's cultural deficiencies by demonstrating the breadth and depth of its private collections. And, in the face of economic instability, it provided a tangible level of reassurance and historical continuity to a nervous bourgeois class. Its failure to acquire cultural or political visibility may have been deliberatively protective but it also reflects a prevalent sense of public ignorance and disinterest in portable material culture.
|Unidentified maker, inkstand of painted and gilded earthenware, [England, (c. 1850)]. From the collection of the Rt Rev E A Anderson, bishop of the Riverina, NSW. Anderson sold this piece at auction in Sydney where it was described in the catalogue as 'an exquisitely pretty soft-paste Sèvres [porcelain]|
inkstand [...] one of the gems of the collection'.
Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Sydney (A509)
|Day & Son after Frederick Rice Stack (1822-1873), View of Auckland Harbour, New Zealand, taken during the regatta of January 1862 (the race of the Maori war canoes), from F R Stack, Views in the province of Auckland, New Zealand (London: Day & Son, 1863), plate 1. |
Six prints from the series were lent to the exhibition by the Northern Club.
Grey Collection, Auckland Libraries (GNZ 993.2 S78)
Gladys Cohen of Sydney); her husband's cousin's firm, L D Nathan & Co, provided the exhibition venue and she seems to have been an active member of the committee, evidently cajoling members of Auckland's Jewish community into supporting the exhibition, including Kenneth Myers and Dr [Augusta] Klippel (née Manoy) who lent a plethora of smaller objects ranging from a 'Medallion in bronze of Charles XII of Sweden. 1705' (399) to a 'Beleek (sic) bowl. Early 19th century' (439). Mrs Nathan's loans included a 'Five-panelled screen, Chippendale, Chinese style, with glass panels. 1753' (59), a 'Three-panelled folding screen, Louis XVI. 1780' (61), a 'Suite of Louis XVI furniture with Aubusson tapestry, six upright chairs, two stools, one settee. 1780' (114), 'Eleven Dutch silver birds and bear. 1800' (303), a 'Complete Rockingham teaset. 1825' (481) and a 'Waterford glass goblet. 1800' (614). Other members of the extended Nathan family were equally generous with loans: Mrs Sidney Nolan (incidentally a Wellington resident) showed a 'Monk's chair in oak with straight legs and wooden seat. 17th century' (69). Mr David L Nathan, chairman of L D Nathan & Co, exhibited a pair of Louis XIII chairs. 1601-1643 (112), 'Two Louis XV chairs with original tapestry. 1710-1774' (113), a 'Pair of hand-tooled leather Portuguese chairs. 16th century' (108) and a 'Pair of hand-painted Cordova leather chairs. 17th century (109). The Nathans seemed keen to demonstrate that, authentic or not, the Rothschild taste for French furniture had spread as far as Auckland.
|Unidentified photographer, Viscountess Galway opens antique exhibition: Her Excellency with Captain G Humphreys-Davies, of Clevedon, a noted collector of antiques, after performing the opening ceremony yesterday.|
New Zealand Herald (27 September 1935)
|Andō Hiroshige (1797-1858), Kameido Tenjin keidai (Inside Kameido Tenjin Shrine) (1856). One of a number of ukiyo-e from Humphreys-Davies' collection shown at the loan exhibition (722). The print was acquired by the Mackelvie Trust in 1946.|
Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (M77)
|Unidentified photographer, Nos 155 and 634 (1935). Mrs Bruce Mackenzie's Sheraton (sic) writing table and her 'Bristol decanters'.|
Loan exhibition of antiques (Auckland: [s.n.], 1935), p. 21
|Loan exhibition of antiques (Auckland: [s.n.], 1935), p. 64|
|Classified advertising by Karoly Antiques in the Auckland Star (1933-1940)|
|William James Harding (1826-1899), H F Turner Major 65th Regt Severely wounded Mahoetahi Nov 1860 ([c. 1860]). Henry Ferdinand Turner (1823-1902) sold his commission in 1862 and returned to New Zealand in 1867. After serving as resident magistrate in Patea he farmed at Whenuakura.|
His son exhibited a silver racing cup he had won in 1854.
Te Papa Tongarewa (O.013569/01)
Aside from the governor general's putative Cook relic, the Northern Club's prints and the Turner racing cup, few of the exhibits had local connections, real or imagined. Mrs R N Moody exhibited a 'New Zealand inlaid wood table, by [Anton] Seuffert. About 1845' (46), Mrs W J Coutts a 'Hall chair used in Government House, Auckland, in Captain Hobson's time. About 1841' (107) and Mrs Ball a 'Soup tureen and two plates. Part of a Coalport dinner service once the property of Bishop John Selwyn' (449). Artefacts with a colonial provenance seem to have had little currency with a selection committee more concerned to exhibit its worldliness; colonial relics, unless they could be invested with an aura of social superiority – a governor, the monarch (Queen Victoria allegedly patronised Seuffert), a bishop – were of no significance. But what passed for cosmopolitan taste in Auckland was realised in the exhibition as a sort of dreary provincialism; as Keith Sinclair archly observed some thirty years later, ‘a pleasant dream of taking tea at Lyons Corner House—or Buckingham Palace—has shaped society in Remuera and St Heliers.’<Keith Sinclair, ‘The historian as prophet: equality, inequality and civilization’, in The future of New Zealand: the University of Auckland winter lectures 1963, ed. by M F Pritchard, (Auckland: Whitcombe & Tombs for the University of Auckland, 1964), 124-142, p. 126>. No matter its displays of exotica – Humphreys-Davies carefully curated Asian material and the Russell familys' dubiously identified Islamic metalwork – the prevailing appearance of the exhibition would have been its provincial Britishness; conformity, no matter how banal, was all.
Despite its avowed aim, the Loan exhibition of antiques was more than just an exercise in charitable philanthropy, the avoidance of economic reality and a foray into social frivolity. Its primary – if unspoken – purpose was to reassert the economic and social values of Auckland's urban elite. Using a language of untutored connoisseurship, the exhibition drew on an often false lexicon of objects in an attempt to sidestep the city's provincial condition. But by investing the city with a concocted veneer of metropolitan sophistication, the organisers of the exhibition unwittingly highlighted the disastrous impact unfettered capitalism had recently made on New Zealand's colonial economy and on its society.
* The Worcester Royal Porcelain Co Ltd was established in 1862.