Yesterday I went along as part of a tour group to Rannock House I wandered round and checked out Sir James’ house and gardens, spied on his dogs and was shown round by one of his guides/staff/disciples Grae Burton who professed to be a photographer, actor, filmmaker, theatre director, close personal friend of Sir James and also apparently tour guide. While he was able to tell interesting personal anecdotes about Sir James and some of the events and goings on of the house, disappointingly he wasn’t able to divulge much information on the artworks themselves apart from what was available on the handy printouts available in each room. To his credit, they had recently rehung some of the works or “pieces” as they were all referred to, so he may not have had a chance to bone up on what was actually on the walls. Regardless I had a lovely time and had even managed to drag my significant other and teenage son along to be cultured up good and proper.
It wasn’t until I was thinking about the visit later on that night that I became aware of how heavy the emphasis was on male made art during that visit.
I realise that a collection like that is an indication of the collector’s personal tastes and penchants, but the discourse was based around the Tonys and the Garths, the Terrys, Gregors and Dicks (sorry, Frizzells). They did have a bright Millar by the entrance and a mandatory Albrecht in the attic, but when asked about a painting referred to only as “the pink viking” our guide replied “oh, that was actually done by a woman”. Golly what a clever girl, she managed to make an ‘actual’ painting. Gosh.
It did feel like a boys club in there, and it wasn’t just down to the the good looking male staff (which I also appreciated) but there was a dearth of female artists on the walls of Rannock. I wonder if that has shaped the New Zealand art scene, perhaps I was just noticing a thread in the particular works that were in the house that day, but how does it shape an environment, if the biggest benefactor and collector is biased towards a gender? That surely must have some kind of impact.