You know that “art” thing, right? It’s landscape and portrait realist paintings, and anything else isn’t art, ok?
Currently displayed on Te Papa’s outdoor Sculpture Terrace is a piece by Ronnie van Hout called A loss, again
It comprises of two replicas of his father’s old garden shed. He’s taken a mould of the real shed and cast two fibreglass replicas, one painted red, the other yellow.
The yellow shed is filled with all the original contents of the old shed. It’s locked – just as it was when van Hout was a boy – but you can peek through a small hole in the lock and catch glimpses of what’s inside.
The red shed is also locked and empty (or so says the official description).
I visited it recently. While I was there a father and young son came passing through. They observed the two sheds.
Father: That’s not art; it’s rubbish!
Son: It’s meant to be a sculpture. It’s just a garage!
Father: I wouldn’t even use it as a garage. It’s just rubbish. If you had that in your garden, you’d have to pay someone to come and take it away.
So as far as they’re concerned it fails both symbolically and literally – not only is it a failure as art, but it’s not even a good shed. They left the Sculpture Terrace, but after a little while they came back.
The boy wandered around it some more. He tried to open both the sheds and became frustrated that neither of the shed doors opened. He declared:
Son: It would be good if you could get in it. It’s stupid cos you can’t go in it.
This frustrating experience is exactly what van Hout is attempting to convey. Says Te Papa:
Throughout van Hout’s boyhood, the shed was locked and inaccessible. It was only after his father’s death that van Hout was allowed access. As the shed had been a source of fascination for so long, it was a bittersweet moment for him to finally get inside.
So perhaps the little boy should take comfort in the useless, disappointing non-art sheds and instead go and have a look at a Goldie portrait and be thankful that the bittersweet Pandora’s box of the shed can’t be opened.