Studying the history of art enriches one's life in many intangible ways, but it also can lead to worthwhile careers in the visual arts industry. The global art market was valued at over US$60 billion in 2012 and many of our graduates go on to take up positions with museums, galleries, and auction houses, both in New Zealand and overseas, or go on to study art history at a higher level. The following profiles of recent graduates from the Art History Programme give a taste of the kinds of careers that are possible with this degree in hand.
After completing her Bachelor of Arts degree, with Honours in Art History, in 2012, Emma Ng returned to Auckland and found a job as a gallery attendant at the Auckland Art Gallery. In 2013 she was made the Blumhardt Foundation Curatorial Intern at The Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt, curating an exhibition titled Everyday Fiction that explored "the human compulsion to know the unknown, become familiar with the unfamiliar and to see the unseen." The following year she became Curator and Manager of Enjoy Gallery in Wellington, where she oversees a changing array of contemporary art exhibitions.
Dr Rebecca Rice
Dr Rebecca Rice gained her PhD in Art History from Victoria University in 2010. Supervised by Roger Blackley, her research investigated the evolution of the state collections of colonial New Zealand art, as well as how they have been used in exhibition and discourse to contribute to the formation and critical fate of a "canon". This followed from her MA research on New Zealand's representation on the world stage at 19th century international exhibitions. While her research interests lie in the area of colonial New Zealand art, Rebecca maintains an active writing profile in the field of contemporary art and is particularly interested in locating moments of intersection between past and present practice. Rebecca has been a regular reviewer for Art New Zealand since 2004, she has published a number of journal articles, contributed to catalogues and has presented her research at local and international conferences. Rebecca was awarded the VUW Medal for Academic Excellence (2002), received both a VUW Postgraduate and William Georgetti Scholarship for her Master's and a Vice-Chancellor's Strategic Research Scholarship for her PhD study. In 2013 Rebecca Rice was appointed Curator Historical New Zealand Art at Te Papa Tongarewa. Before this appointment she worked as a part-time lecturer in Art History at Victoria University and Collection Officer for the Adam Art Gallery. Her current situation seemed highly unlikely more than 10 years ago when she returned to study after working as a physiotherapist for several years. A love for the arts and music led her back to university and art history soon became, and continues to be, her primary passion.
As a recent graduate of Victoria’s Art History programme, I have found that the study of art doesn’t necessarily focus on artworks alone. Art History’s expanded field includes creators and curators, socio-political contexts, theoretical interpretations, and, most importantly for my research, a viewer’s subjective understanding of the artwork. In my MA thesis, which was completed in 2013, I investigated the notion of interpretation via the works of Peter Peryer, a New Zealand photographer.
Having previously studied at the University of Canterbury, and as an exchange student at the University of Oxford (UK), I was enticed to Victoria by the opportunity to be supervised by Prof Geoffrey Batchen, and I found the department welcoming and supportive.
While completing my Masters, I presented papers at conferences in Sydney, Wellington and Christchurch. I volunteered for the VUW Art Collection, published an article in Art New Zealand, and tutored for two undergraduate Art History papers. These opportunities nicely complemented my academic studies, providing me with invaluable practical experience – a must for anyone considering a career in the arts.
In addition to my job in the public service, I am a Trustee of Enjoy Public Art Gallery, Wellington, which will also host a show I’m co-curating later this year. I am planning a return to academia, to study towards a PhD, in the near future.
After writing her Art History Honours thesis in 2013 on the alternative Auckland art space Jar, India Davis took up a position in 2014 as Gallery Assistant in the newly opened Trish Clark Gallery in that same city.
Elizabeth Bisley graduated from VUW in 2003 with an Honours degree in Art History. After working as a Research Assistant at City Gallery Wellington, she moved to London in 2007 to do an MA in History of Design at the Royal College of Art. This degree was funded in part by a William Georgetti scholarship and a bursary from the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women. After finishing her MA, Elizabeth worked in London as a freelance Research and Editorial Assistant. She contributed to several book projects, including a multi-volume catalogue of the V&A’s French eighteenth-century furniture collection. In 2011 she started work as an Assistant Curator at the V&A, in the Department of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion. Since starting at the museum she has worked on major projects including as Assistant Curator on the opening of a new, permanent furniture gallery.
Dr Damian Skinner received his PhD in art history from Victoria University of Wellington in 2006, for a thesis exploring the dynamic relationship between customary and modern Māori art in the twentieth century. This was later published as The Carver and the Artist: Māori Art in the Twentieth Century (Auckland University Press, 2008). He has also published a number of other books about Māori art, the indigenous art of New Zealand, including Ihenga: The Evolution of Māori Art in the Twentieth Century (Reed Publishing, 2007), and The Passing World, The Passage of Life: John Hovell and the Art of Kōwhaiwhai (Rim Books, 2010). He was a contributing author for the book Art in Oceania: A New History, published by Thames and Hudson in 2012. He is now working on a project about art and decolonization, which explores the particular role that indigenous and settler artworks have played as part of anti-colonial struggles in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
In addition to his other interests, Skinner has also written about contemporary jewelry, in New Zealand and internationally. His books include Given: Jewellery by Warwick Freeman (Starform, 2004), Alan Preston: Between Tides (Godwit, 2008), and Kobi Bosshard: Goldsmith (David Bateman, 2012), surveys of senior New Zealand contemporary jewellers, as well as Pocket Guide to New Zealand Jewelry (Velvet da Vinci, 2010), a catalogue accompanying the American touring exhibition of the same name. Recent and upcoming books include Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective (Lark Books, 2013) and Place and Adornment: A History of Contemporary Jewellery in Australasia (David Bateman, September 2014), co-authored with Dr Kevin Murray. His book Cone Ten Down: Studio Pottery in New Zealand, 1945-1980 (Bateman, 2009, co-authored with Moyra Elliott), explored the impact of the theories of British potter Bernard Leach on New Zealand studio ceramics.
After several years working as an independent scholar, in 2013-13 Dr Skinner became a Newton International Fellow at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. He is currently working as curator of Applied Art and Design at the Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira.
Matt graduated with an MA from Victoria’s Art History program in 2010, having previously completed undergraduate and honour’s degrees in the department.
Complimenting his studies with work as a tutor, he also lectured and coordinated summer papers before taking up the role of Visual Resources Administrator in 2013. This trajectory led to a strategic role in Victoria’s Information Technology Services directorate, where he currently works as a Customer Relationship Coordinator in the Learning and Research Technology Team.
By combining the study of specific artists, art works and periods with an examination of the broad social, philosophical and historical ideas which underpin them, Art History has fostered transferable skills which now enable Matt to converse with a wide range of academics: from scientists to law professors, engineers to architects.
Thomasin Sleigh completed a BA (Hons) in art history from Victoria in 2005, after which she went to work as Gallery Coordinator for the artist run space High Street Project in central Christchurch. Thomasin returned to Victoria in 2008 to work part-time as Gallery Administrator for the Adam Art Gallery and to write her Masters thesis on the writing of art critic and poet Wystan Curnow. During this time Thomasin took a short hiatus to spend two months in Venice as a Gallery Attendant for the two New Zealand pavilions at the 2009 Venice Biennale. Thomasin completed her Masters in 2010 and went to work at City Gallery Wellington as the Publicist/Marketing Coordinator where she became increasingly interested in digital and online projects. This interest led to Thomasin taking up her current role of Community Manager for DigitalNZ in 2013. Thomasin writes regularly on contemporary art and culture, and has contributed to publications Eyeline, Un magazine, Runway and Urbis, is a regular contributor on the visual arts to the online journal The Lumière Reader, and the CIRCUIT website's monthly podcast. Thomasin also recently published her first novel, Ad Lib, the subject of which intertwines with her training in art history and visual culture. Thomasin considers her time at the Art History department at Victoria extremely important to her critical thinking and writing—particularly the supervision and support of Tina Barton. She is excited that she as able to contribute parts of her Masters research to the forthcoming book on Wystan Curnow, The Critic's Part: Art Writings 1971–2012.
Annika Sippel was born and raised in Germany. In 2002 she came to live in New Zealand, where she found herself in a new cultural and natural environment, which inspired her to further pursue her childhood passion for painting. Annika's love for art, languages and history found its ultimate union in the discipline of art history, which she first encountered at secondary school and has been fascinated with ever since.
She completed her BA at Victoria majoring in Art History and Italian, as well as taking several Classics papers. She is currently completing her MA, for which she is inspecting the collection of Northern Renaissance prints held at Te Papa, analysing their condition and quality as well as their acquisition history. This subject builds on her BA (Hons) thesis, which examined the historiography of Albrecht Durer's life and works by investigating the changing views of scholars towards this artist. Considering her German background, she greatly values the opportunity to focus her scholarly interest on the art of German Renaissance artists and studying their art here in New Zealand.
Annika was awarded a VUW Master's by Thesis Scholarship, as well as the VUW Medal for Academic Excellence (2011). She has been a tutor for Art History at Victoria and appreciates the enjoyable interaction among staff and students at the Department.
Aaron Lister undertook all of his graduate and postgraduate studies in Art History at Victoria University of Wellington, completing a Masters thesis on New Zealand painter Michael Illingworth in 2004. He has subsequently lectured in the department, as well as in the Art History and Theory department at Otago University, Dunedin. Lister has worked as a curator at the National Library Gallery in Wellington and, for the past four years, at City Gallery Wellington. Notable recent shows include: Seung Yul Oh: MOAMOA, A Decade (2014, co-curated with Aaron Kreisler), Moving On Asia: Towards a New Art Network (2013, co-curated with Mark Williams and Jinsuk Suh), The Sophist’s Mirror: Ben Cauchi (2012), and The Obstinate Object: Contemporary New Zealand Sculpture (2012, co-curated with Abby Cunnane). Working at City Gallery Wellington has enabled Lister to work on projects with a number of high profile international artists, including Simon Starling, Gregory Crewdson and Meiro Koizumi. He has written widely on New Zealand art and artists for a variety of publications and journals. Lister remains in close contact with the Art History department, valuing the ways it shaped his critical thinking and curatorial practice, and the close collegial relationships developed there with staff and other students.
In 2006 Mathew Norman graduated from VUW with an MA in Art History. His thesis was devoted to the print collection of Bishop Ditlev Gothard Monrad in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, where he was later employed to catalogue prints from the collection, ranging from the work of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1527) through to that of artists of the late 19th- and early 20th-century Etching Revival. Following the Marylyn Mayo Internship at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki during 2008, Mathew worked as an intern in the Print Room of the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. In 2011 Mathew was the recipient of the Harold Wright and Sarah and William Holmes Scholarship in the Department of Prints and Drawings of the British Museum, London. In July 2012 Mathew began as an Assistant Curator at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, working primarily with the collection of historic international art. Since then he has curated two exhibitions: Travels with Mr Hollar (March-August 2013); and Fragile Beauty: Historic Japanese Graphic Art (May-October 2014). Mathew continues to research objects in the Gallery's collection and beyond, and he contributes to scholarly journals such as Print Quarterly.
Stella RamagePhD candidate Stella Ramage began her career in Art History by taking various undergraduate courses at VUW on a part-time basis. She eventually received a Graduate Diploma in Arts in 2005, was awarded the Chartwell Trust Art Writing Prize in 2007, and gained First Class Honours in Art History in 2009.
She then spent four years as image researcher and editorial assistant for a major multi-author book project - Art in Oceania: a new history - published by Thames & Hudson in October 2012 and Yale University Press in January 2013. She is currently a Victoria PhD Scholarship candidate with research interests in the intersections of Christian mission, film and colonial modernity in the Pacific.
I finished up my Honours in Art History with Victoria University of Wellington in 2011, writing an extended study of contemporary fashion photography in New Zealand. I also have a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Arts (Art History/Politics) from the University of Otago. When I finished at Victoria, I stumbled upon Remuneration consulting, which is a specialised area of Human Resources. I began consulting with a small firm in Auckland, interacting directly with clients and carrying out business analysis. I was then approached by Vodafone New Zealand with the offer to join their fantastic Human Resources team looking after Reward and Recognition. This involved everything from determining market salary data to organising the countrywide Christmas party!
In 2013 I made the big shift to London where I continue to work for Vodafone for their global corporate office in Paddington. In London I remain in Human Resources but I have shifted to another specialised area called Organisation Effectiveness where we design how the company operates and assess how effective the organisation is in making decisions.
I have ended up in a very different place to where I believed I would be from graduating with law and art history. Coming from an arts-based background, I did not believe I would enjoy business, let alone work for a large multi-national organisation. However I have found out I thoroughly enjoy this world and excel in it due to the analytical skills I learned in Art History, my ability to write clearly and concisely, and an ongoing thirst to learn about the world around me – skills which I developed through my time at Victoria University.
In 2003, James Blackie graduated from VUW with an Honours Degree in Art History. During his Honours year, James sought work in a central Wellington dealer gallery, eventually landing a job stuffing envelopes once a month for the gallery’s mail out. Four years later, James bought half the business, which lead to a name change from Tinakori Gallery to Page Blackie Gallery, with his business partner Marcia Page. Page Blackie Gallery represents twenty of New Zealand’s leading artists, including Max Gimblett, Dick Frizzell, Elizabeth Thomson, Paul Dibble, Heather Straka and Karl Maughan, to name a few. In his ten years in the gallery, James has worked extensively with secondary market sales, handling major works by McCahon, Goldie, Hodgkins, Walters, Hammond, Gascoigne, Parekowhai, Binney, Fomison. The gallery is situated in Wellington’s CBD, but work frequently takes James to North America, Europe, the Middle East and China, either to visit his represented artists in their studios, or in response to the increasing demand for the best of New Zealand art.