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Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA) re-opens with ‘Precarious Balance’

1 February 2016

Five years after the Christchurch earthquakes closed its Gloucester St gallery, the Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA) is back in business with its launch exhibition opening in the reconfigured central city space on Saturday 13 February. Entry is free.

Director and Principal Curator Paula Orrell says the re-opening of CoCA, hard on the heels of the re-opening of the Christchurch Art Gallery, is another great step forward for the art loving public of Christchurch, tourists and visitors.

“We have a spectacular building to share with everyone, and a really significant exhibition to launch it with.  CoCA was a dynamic and progressive institution before the earthquakes, and it has been missed by many, who we know are going to welcome the gallery’s reappearance and the opportunities to experience art works that move, challenge and inspire them.”

It has been a long haul for CoCA, whose building has received $4m of repairs, strengthening and refurbishment over the past three years, she says.

“We have a spectacular building to share with everyone, and a really significant exhibition to launch it with".

Paula Orrell, CoCA gallery director

CoCA’s Mair Gallery is regarded as one of the beautiful exhibition spaces in New Zealand and Orrell says it has been lovingly restored.

Appointed last year, Orrell says the current relaunch has given CoCA an opportunity to redefine and strengthen its vision and the way it operates.

“We’re an agile and responsive organisation with a strong social consciousness and an understanding of the value of art and its importance to our society.  We’re determined to remain as ever relevant and innovative as the artists we support.  The public experience is at the heart of how we present artists’ ideas.  We are reaching out to diverse communities through our programming and we are implementing leading edge programmes for youth.

“Young people will be encouraged to express their ideas through a uniquely engaging approach.  We will be working closely with the Christchurch Art Gallery to ensure students have the opportunities to be involved in contemporary art.  It is truly our ambition to create a pre-eminent centre just for contemporary art for the city and South Island that has a national and international reach.”

CoCA will open its doors to the public for the first time from 10am-5pm on Saturday, 13 February, with a series of speakers being featured throughout the day.  The gallery will then be open every day from 10am-5pm.

“It considers the balancing act of Christchurch, and how the city is rebuilding itself. It also explores a global question of imbalances in society, and how contemporary artists are addressing social and political issues to consider a counter perspective in precarious times.”

Paula Orrell, CoCA gallery director

Orrell says the opening show, ‘Precarious Balance’, is a group exhibition of works by New Zealand and international contemporary artists.

“It considers the balancing act of Christchurch, and how the city is rebuilding itself.  It also explores a global question of imbalances in society, and how contemporary artists are addressing social and political issues to consider a counter perspective in precarious times.”

The exhibition explores balancing, the precarious placement of objects, and the use of architecture  - the artists often incorporating playfulness, fun, satire and humour.

Included are the carved stones from the original 1880s Canterbury Society of Arts building which were saved in the earthquakes recovery programme, a note to CoCA’s foundations and re-launch.

‘Precarious Balance’ features work by Sophie Bannan, Matt Calderwood, Sione Faletau, Claire Fontaine, Regan Gentry, Shaun Gladwell, Rob Hood, John Ward Knox, Richard Maloy, Zina Swanson, Catherine Yass, Peter Trevelyan, Abigail Reynolds, Ervin Wurm and Wayne Youle.

It will open on February 13 and continue until May 8. Free entry. Throughout its season a programme of films and talks will explore the themes of balance and stability.

‘Precarious Balance’ is the first of a two-part exhibition; ‘Precarious Nature’ will be exhibited at the end of the year.

CoCA will run four seasonal programmes per year, as well as ongoing events and is offering new youth and art associate programmes to support new and developing artists and to foster the creation of contemporary art.