Jenny Harper returned to Christchurch to become director of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu in 2006 after working in London, Sydney, Brisbane and Wellington for many years.
Her greatest moment as director of Christchurch Art Gallery was the day it reopened five years after the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. She says it was amazing to be able to once again welcome people behind the gallery’s wavy glass façade after the building was seismically strengthened.
“Staff and their families arrived an hour before the gallery opened to be photographed and thanked for all their efforts. At ten to ten, visitors started to gather outside. We clapped as they came in, and they started to clap back. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many random hugs."
Harper's team put on more than 100 art projects in the city during the gallery’s closure and added over 500 pieces to its collection. The works are now proudly displayed in rotating collections, temporary exhibitions and on the gallery's stylish website.
A special emphasis was also placed on acquiring five great works through the Christchurch Art Gallery Foundation to positively mark the gallery’s time of closure. Funds for the works were provided from external sources. A new sculpture by Ron Mueck will be the fifth in the series, with fundraising efforts under way.
The other works are:
- Christchurch’s favourite bull, Michael Parekowhai’s Chapman’s Homer (2011), now on the gallery’s forecourt
- Bill Culbert’s Bebop (2013), a sculpture which floats above the marble staircase in the foyer
- An external neon-lit piece on the south-facing wall of the gallery, Everything is Going to be Alright (2015), by Martin Creed
- A wall painting by Bridget Riley, Cosmos (2016-17), upstairs in the gallery
Harper’s favourite things to do in Christchurch include going to the Arts Centre as more and more buildings become available and attending operas at the well-restored Isaac Theatre Royal. She hopes to see more people living in the inner city in the future as well as an increasing number of good reasons for out-of-towners to visit.
Jenny Harper’s top five things to do in Christchurch
- Visit the Christchurch Art Gallery – of course.
- Eat out at interesting restaurants. I enjoy Roots in Lyttelton and I have a soft spot for Mexicano’s on Victoria Street.
- Day trip to Geraldine. My Father lives there, so I go when I can.
- Go to the Arts Centre as more and more buildings become available again.
- Attend operas at the well-restored Isaac Theatre Royal.