Thumbnail of  Louie Zalk-Neale (Ngāi Te Rangi, Pākehā)
Louie Zalk-Neale (Ngāi Te Rangi, Pākehā)

Image Processors: Artists in the Medium—A Short History 1968–2020 was curated by the gallery’s director, Associate Professor Christina (Tina) Barton. Although Millie left before the show opened, she finished her year at the gallery helping to prepare for it.

By then, she was on a six-month contract as an assistant curator, having so impressed Tina and the gallery team during her internship from September 2020 to February 2021.

Working on Image Processors, a group show spanning more than 50 years of video artists from both Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas, was a nice way for Millie to finish at the gallery, she says, since the Master’s degree in art history she completed for the Courtauld Institute of Art in London just before starting was on New Zealand expatriate and video art pioneer Darcy Lange.

Millie, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from Te Herenga Waka, has now embarked on a PhD at the University, with a career in curation very much on her mind after her experience at the Adam Art Gallery.

“It definitely left me thinking this is something I would like to continue with, and I feel well equipped to carve out a curatorial practice alongside my PhD,” she says.

“I feel I’ve got a lot of the necessary tools and skills you need to do that. You really can’t get those without having this kind of experience and working closely with a gallery in the way I’ve been able to.”

Millie was the third intern at the Adam Art Gallery. Her predecessors, Lachlan Taylor and Nina Dyer, are both now working in the art world—Lachlan as editor of the Essays platform on the ArtNow website and Nina as exhibition curator and manager at Depot Artspace in Auckland.

The internship, which provides a part-time paid position, was made possible through a donation from Wellington-based benefactor Barbara Blake, who herself studied at the Courtauld.

Tina says that, as a university gallery, “the Adam Art Gallery is committed to mentoring recent graduates and emerging professionals by giving them access to an environment where a small team delivers a highly respected programme of work”.

“This is a stepping stone into the art world, but it is also an opportunity for us to learn from the intern, who brings new energy and fresh ideas.”

During her year at the gallery, Millie got to work on four varied shows, the others being Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys, Kate Newby: Yes Tomorrow, and Crossings, a group show about intimacies and distances

“The Frances Hodgkins, Kate Newby, and Crossings shows were totally different and had very different curatorial perspectives and very different audiences. I got to see all three of them from beginning to end,” she says.

United States-based New Zealander Newby’s show involved her being based at the gallery and making significant interventions to its architecture, as well as creating other place-based works of art.

“That was amazing, having her here the whole time and being involved with the show from its very beginning. It was a very collaborative approach to art making and to installation, so it was really hands-on and it was great being able to work with her directly,” Millie says.

Millie’s year was marked by other interventions, too, from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her year ended in an alert level 4 lockdown, which curtailed the final week of Crossings.

However, this was fitting, she says, because the show was a response by her and its co-curators, Tina and gallery collection officer Sophie Thorn, to the first lockdown in 2020.

Crossings began with us having very high-level conversations about how we were feeling and thinking about the past year and feeding that into identifying specific artworks and artists we wanted to work with, and that turned into an actual show.

“Seeing that process and the combination of the ideas and concepts behind the curation, coupled with the practicalities of actually getting a show together, was fascinating. It was a crash course in curation because there were so many artists and so many works and I got to be the point of contact for a lot of the artists.

“It’s always interesting in a group show where you’re working with a lot of different artists with a lot of different perspectives to bring them together. It was really nice to have them together at the opening for the first time. A lot of them had never met before.”

Crossings also emphasised for Millie how well thought of the Adam Art Gallery is.

“It’s so highly regarded in New Zealand and that comes with a lot of ease to it in a way because people are always very keen to engage with the gallery.”

Millie’s successor as an intern is Louie Zalk-Neale (Ngāi Te Rangi, Pākehā), who says, “I work as an artist mostly but really want to be on the other side of developing exhibitions, working with other people’s art, and curating.”

Expanding public programming and new ways of engaging with artworks are of particular interest for Louie, along with developing connections between the gallery and the University’s queer community and Te Kawa a Māui—the School of Māori Studies.

Discover more about applying for the Adam Art Gallery internship.

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