The arrival of the Kallio Kunsthalle in Wellington, 10000 miles from its home in Helsinki marks a new opportunity for artistic expression at BGI and in this beautiful city.
The new community gallery opened in August 2016 by exhibiting the works of internationally recognized artist Sasha Huber. The gallery is named after the gallery in Helsinki, Finland that Sasha founded with her partner Petri Saarikko. At the event she described the Kallio Kunsthalle insignia as reminiscent of a waka; a comparison that reflects the epic journey that the gallery has taken from Finland, through the suburbs of Sweden, the Mountains of Switzerland, the streets of New York, the temples of Haiti, the red desert of Australia and finally into the mouth of the fish in Wellington.
One of Sasha’s renowned staple gun artworks called God Save the Huia, was loaned from Te Ati Awa for the opening. She uses the staple gun as her weapon to defend victims of prejudice and fight with those who are speaking out against injustice. Maybe the waka Sasha referred to was a wakatoa (war canoe)!
Sasha and Petri were living as international artists in residence on Clyde Quay Wharf Wellington when their relationship with BGI began. They stumbled across a Maori (Ihaea Puketapu) half way through carving a poutokomanawa (carved totem pole) and his Pakeha mate (Ross Davis) coordinating the project. The 11m high poutokomanawa named Arohanui Ki Nga Rangatahi or A Great Love For All Young People would be erected in the newly refurbished BGI centre and become a symbol for not only the bicultural nature of BGI, but also the strong connection that the youth organization has with fine arts and whanau.
On a return visit to the city when Petri was looking for the finished poutokomanawa, the idea for the Kallio Kunsthalle was planted. The pou has been placed outside BGI’s community kitchen and the adjacent room was deemed to be the perfect location for the new Kallio Kunsthalle Wellington. The aroha and stories of the community kitchen, and BGI itself, are integral to creating the feel of the new gallery. The context of the space helps to define the art because BGI’s mission and heart creates an emotional response that remains with the viewer as he/she engages with the works.
The opening of the Kallio Kunsthalle was attended by a number of distinguished artists and curators as well as young artists seeking to be inspired. The gallery will continue to host the work of a number of these high profile artists. It is hoped that their mana will help engage the wider community and create opportunities for young people to exhibit and experience art in a familiar yet unique environment.