Popular Pataka in Kedgley’s hands
Helen Kedgley’s interest in nonWestern art began not in the multicultural melting pot of Porirua but within the refined walls of a Paris art school.
Kedgley is the new director of Pataka where she has been senior curator of contemporary arts. She is also an artist, though her art is ‘‘on the back burner’’ and has usually been exhibited overseas, in Africa and India, and in France, where she studied.
Kedgley graduated from the L’Ecole du Louvre in Paris with a diploma in art history and from L’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts with an advanced diploma in fine arts. Her European education fitted in neatly with being the wife of then diplomat Chris Laidlaw.
Before Paris, she graduated with an arts degree, majoring in politics, from Victoria University, and tried Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland, for an unsatisfactory year.
‘‘Elam left a lot to be desired. It was an extremely macho environment. I headed off and into art school in Paris.’’
In Paris, she was accepted as one of a handful of foreign students and and graduated with her advanced diploma as top student in her year.
One of her teachers was an impressive authority on Chinese art and Kedgley specialised in the subject. She graduated ‘‘with a very early passion for nonWestern art’’.
Her interest was strengthened by her experiences on the diplomatic circuit. She and Laidlaw travelled extensively and lived in 18 houses in five countries in the first 20 years of their marriage. Kedgley took several art- related jobs on the way, including one as a designer at the Science Museum in Oxford. She exhibited, painted and worked at the African National Gallery in Zimbabwe.
Back in Wellington after diplomatic life, her appreciation of non-Western art first led her to work at Page 90 Artspace Gallery, a 1990 initiative of local women and the Porirua community. Page 90 was absorbed into Pataka, which opened in 1998.
As a curator, Kedgley brought a wealth of non-Western art, along with other home- made and some overseas art, to Pataka’s galleries. That won’t change now she has become Pataka’s director. Nothing at Pataka will change radically, she says.
‘‘Pataka is doing very well. I don’t feel the need to make too many drastic changes. In terms of visitor numbers, they’re down in some institutions. Fortunately, ours are up.’’
In the year to June 30, nearly 179,000 people dropped in to see what was on show in Pataka, more than 18,000 above target.
‘‘Pataka, is unique,’’ she says, ‘‘because Porirua is a multicultural city, 27 per cent Pacific Islanders, 21 per cent Maori and the rest pakeha. Pataka has been truly multicultural. Right from the start the exhibition programme has reflected the makeup of the community. In contemporary Maori and Pacific Island art it’s a leader in its field.’’
Kedgley’s role as director is a new one, established after Darcy Nicholas, Porirua council’s manager of community services and also an artist, moved on from Pataka.