Adam Art Gallery director to receive Higher Doctorate

Art historian, writer, and curator Associate Professor Christina Barton MNZM will be awarded a Doctor of Literature from Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington at its May 2023 graduation.

A woman stands in an art gallery.

“This award recognises the immense contribution Christina has made to the arts and highlighting New Zealand artists and their work,” says University Chancellor John Allen.

“Her insights have made an important and lasting contribution to New Zealand art history. Her creativity and passion are inspiring.”

Associate Professor Barton completed her Master of Arts in Art History with first class Honours at the University of Auckland in 1988. While studying she worked as a tutor and assistant lecturer in Art History at the University of Auckland, and then as a research assistant at the Auckland Art Gallery Research Library.

She has held curatorial positions at some of New Zealand’s key art institutions, including Auckland City Art Gallery and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. In 1995 she joined Victoria University of Wellington as a lecturer in Art History, progressing to roles of senior lecturer, programme director, and associate professor.

In 2007 she was appointed Director of the University’s custom-built gallery, Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery, combining her strengths as an academic and curator to develop the gallery as a key platform for teaching and research. The gallery presents a range of highly-regarded exhibitions and manages the Ngā Puhipuhi o Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection.

Associate Professor Barton describes her academic career as “somewhat unusual” in that it combines research and writing with exhibition-making and leading the Adam Art Gallery.

“I wear several hats, my published outputs take various forms, from texts accompanying exhibitions to more conventional journal articles, books, and conference papers,” she says.

“I am really pleased that my scholarly peers recognise the value of my work as this affirms my belief that a working life that combines pure and applied research is one that can measure up to the high standards set for this degree.”

A Higher Doctorate, which is what Associate Professor Barton will receive, recognises a substantial body of published work which shows leadership and excellence.

Associate Professor Barton specialises in the history of New Zealand art since the 1960s. She works closely with artists and always considers art and its histories in relation to wider social, cultural, political, and institutional contexts.

“I love working with living artists and thinking about why they make what they make now. But I also understand that history is always under construction and I want to track how we have got where we are by understanding how art has evolved over a timespan that encapsulates what we understand to be modern or contemporary existence.”

In a career spanning more than 35 years, Associate Professor Barton has curated many exhibitions, including the major Billy Apple retrospective at Auckland Art Gallery in 2015. She has had more than 160 items published and has been a co-editor of the journals Antic and Reading Room.

She counts her 2020 monograph Billy Apple: Life/Work―the culmination of 10 years’ research drawn directly from the artist’s archive―as a career highlight, along with the sustained contribution the Adam Art Gallery has made to art discourse in New Zealand.

Associate Professor Barton was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to art history and curation in the 2021 New Year’s Honours.