Welcomed by Marianne Hargreaves, Executive Director of WORD Christchurch Festival, Leonard Bell enthralled us on Wednesday night with his presentation on artists that emigrated to New Zealand, and their influence. His book Strangers Arrive: Emigrés and the Arts in New Zealand, 1930–1980 was published in November 2017 by Auckland University Press.
Leonard Bell is associate professor of art history at the University of Auckland. His writings on cross-cultural interactions and representations and the work of travelling, migrant and refugee artists and photographers have been published in New Zealand, Britain, the United States, Australia, Germany and the Czech Republic. He is author of Marti Friedlander (Auckland University Press, 2009), Colonial Constructs: European Images of Maori 1840–1914 (AUP, 1992) and In Transit: Questions of Home and Belonging in New Zealand Art (2007). He is co-editor of Jewish Lives in New Zealand (2012).
Using fascinating art images he regaled the audience with stories of artists' forced migrations here fleeing from Nazism, communist countries or displacement after the Second World War. Making connections between displacement and creativity he follows the journey of photographers, architects, sculptors, writers, painters and other artists, the places these artists connected with each other, and and their influence on emerging New Zealand artists.
He also discussed the reception they received from general society and the inspiration they were to some local artists such as Colin McCahon. They brought with them modern styles of art unseen here which in turn changed the local art scene forever. We owe a lot to these artists.
His talk has inspired me to read his book Strangers Arrive: Emigrés and the Arts in New Zealand, 1930–1980 and to delve a little more into New Zealand art history.