As part of our Faces of the City series, we chat to inspiring people doing great things in their chosen industries. One of these people is Auckland Art Gallery's Director, Kirsten Paisley. Studying art at the Victorian College of Arts in Melbourne, Kirsten went on to complete a masters degree from the first curatorial programme in Australia, and since then has had a successful career working in a number of Australian art institutions. We asked her about her career journey thus far, what attracted her to Auckland Art Gallery, what she's excited for in the year ahead and her thoughts on the city centre's arts and culture scene.

You most recently worked as deputy director at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra before heading to our shores. What was it about Auckland Art Gallery that most appealed to you?  

Everything really. The building, collections, fabulous staff, to be part of a bi-cultural organisation and on that journey, and so much opportunity. Really that is most wonderful aspect of the role, the opportunity here is boundless. The Gallery is on this incredible precipice of growth… growth of our programme, audiences, reach, ambition. We are rethinking the role of the Gallery in respect of where Auckland is going into the future and the changes we are seeing all around us in the city.

It's coming up to a year that you’ve been director at Auckland Art Gallery, what have been some of the highlights of your first year?

Launching my first exhibition programme for 2020 and being able to impact the activity and programme so quickly. The staff and our colleagues and board at Regional Facilities Auckland have been wonderfully responsive and incredibly supportive. There was a huge appetite for new art experience and for a diverse, very active and popular exhibition programme.

Enchanted Worlds

Image: Kansetsusai Tsukimaro, Five Beauties, circa 1825. Private collection.

2020 is going to be a great year for the gallery  - five international exhibitions are heading our way. What are you most looking forward to?

Right now, I'm really excited about kick-starting the 2020 programme with Enchanted Worlds: Hokusai, Hiroshige and the art of Edo Japan, which opens 7 March. Following that is monumental contemporary exhibition Civilisation, Photography, Now, from 4 April. Of course, following this we present Monet: World of Impressionism in August and Picasso. Figures in October and then the Prada Foundation Collection in December, so it is hard to choose. This is honestly the most exciting international programme I have ever presented in a single year. However, the true test for me really is the success of our rehang of the whole of the New Zealand art collections in May. It is hugely significant project for the team amidst everything we are doing this year.

What is it about Auckland Art Gallery that you think sets it aside from other galleries around NZ, and the world?

The community of supporters, partners, collaborators, patrons and friends is incredible. The gallery’s annual achievements are on par with the National Gallery of Australia, however we do it with a quarter of the budget. That is because of the support and engagement we enjoy from the community. The Gallery is a key part of Auckland’s identity and future aspiration.

"The Gallery it is on this incredible precipice of growth… growth of our programme, audiences, reach, ambition. We are rethinking the role of the Gallery in respect of where Auckland is going into the future and the changes we are seeing all around us in the city."

What are your thoughts on Auckland's arts and culture scene?  

There is a lot going on here and that is driven by the appetite for arts and culture. I think the scene here is really developing and burgeoning and has is developing the confidence to look beyond the shores of New Zealand also. There is much more connectivity between New Zealand and the rest of the world and that is exciting to be a part of.

What else do you love about Auckland city centre?

Food. The restaurant scene here is fabulous. Honestly you could eat somewhere different every day and never eat the same thing twice.

Click here for more on Auckland Art Gallery's 2020 Exhibitions.

Last updated: 09 March 2020

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