Visual arts

One of Christchurch’s oldest art galleries closed for 10 weeks after losing $1million since 2016

The CoCA Gallery building on Gloucester St has housed the arts institution since 1968.

STACY SQUIRES / Stuff

The CoCA Gallery building on Gloucester St has housed the arts institution since 1968.

One of Christchurch’s oldest art institutions will close for 10 weeks while it figures out how to stay afloat after losing more than $1 million since 2016.

Leaders of the struggling Center for Contemporary Art (CoCA), established in 1880, have not ruled out selling their central Christchurch building to keep the gallery alive.

The chair of the charitable trust that governs the CoCA, Anna Ryan, said the gallery had struggled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a drop in funding from the Rata Foundation and the Community Building Fund of Christchurch City Council.

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“Several factors have contributed to this, including declining donor support and the deleterious impact of Covid-19 on opportunities to host revenue-generating events at the gallery.

“The current situation is clearly unsustainable, but we have an opportunity, given that the organization’s asset base is strong, to reshape our future. This will require bold thinking as we have significant hurdles to overcome. »

The gallery has struggled financially since reopening in 2016 after earthquake repairs to its 1960s headquarters on Gloucester St. The gallery lost over $500,000 in 2017 and around $200,000 each year of 2018 to 2020. reservations.

The Judy Darragh exhibition at the CoCA in Christchurch will end in May.

Provided

The Judy Darragh exhibition at the CoCA in Christchurch will end in May.

Ryan said they were considering selling the building as it was draining resources.

She said the building needed new air conditioning at a cost of $150,000. The building, along with plant and equipment, is valued at approximately $1.4 million in CoCA’s financial records.

“At the moment, no options are on the table,” she said.

“The CoCA Gallery in Gloucester Street is an integral part of the cultural fabric of Christchurch. However, currently our revenue from space rental, combined with grants, donations and other fundraising activities, does not cover the building’s annual operating expenses.

“For these reasons, we need to have these important conversations now about the future of the gallery.”

The gallery would be closed for 10 weeks while they consider the future of the organization, she said.

“The [Canterbury Society of the Arts Charitable Trust] CSA is currently considering how best to contribute to a thriving visual arts scene in Christchurch.

“The purpose of the consultation process is to help us identify how to achieve the charitable goals of the ASC in a financially sustainable way.”

The gallery plans to sell its central Christchurch building to recover from financial losses.

STACY SQUIRES / Stuff

The gallery plans to sell its central Christchurch building to recover from financial losses.

The current exhibits would close as scheduled on May 7 and a decision on CoCA’s future would be made by July.

Arts writer Warren Feeney, who was director of CoCA from 1999 to 2011, said the gallery was an important part of Christchurch’s art community.

He said it was difficult to deliver a program of exhibitions without continued public funding or income from the sale of artworks. CoCA moved from a mall model to externally funded exhibitions when it reopened in 2016.

“The gallery has a long history. It offers many opportunities for graduates and young artists.

“It would be tragic to see it close.”

The arts institution was established in Christchurch in 1880.

STACY SQUIRES / Stuff

The arts institution was established in Christchurch in 1880.

The CoCA, formerly known as the Canterbury Society of Arts, was established in 1880. It exhibited from 1895 to 1968 in a gallery on the corner of Durham and Armagh streets, which later became the Environmental Court and was demolished after the February earthquake.

The society faced a lack of funding in the early 1990s and sold artwork from its collection to the Christchurch Art Gallery Trust. It moved to the New Gallery on Gloucester St in 1968 and was renamed CoCA in 1996.

The building was closed during the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, but reopened after a $4.1 million restoration project in 2016. The gallery sold the rest of its collection at auction for around $500,000 in 2016 to help pay for the construction project.