Street art to take over empty Canterbury Museum in one-off show

SHIFT exhibition curator and street art expert Reuben Woods says the show is unprecedented.

CHRIS SKELTON/Stuff

SHIFT exhibition curator and street art expert Reuben Woods says the show is unprecedented.

A squad of 50 street artists will take over the empty Canterbury Museum in January, using the walls and floors of the building as their canvas for an unprecedented new show.

Once all the treasures have been removed from the Canterbury Museum in preparation for a $205 million redevelopment, street artists will move into the empty building to create new artworks across five floors and over 35 spaces.

The new show, called SHIFT: Urban Art Takeover, will open at the Canterbury Museum on January 28 and run until April 11. The museum will then close for five years while the building undergoes an ambitious revamp.

Only parts of the museum built between the 1950s and 90s, which are being demolished as part of the redevelopment, will be used for the show. Historic parts of the museum will remain untouched and will be restored as part of the revamp.

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Woods says SHIFT will be a unique exhibition sprawling across the empty Canterbury Museum.

CHRIS SKELTON/Stuff

Woods says SHIFT will be a unique exhibition sprawling across the empty Canterbury Museum.

SHIFT curator and street art expert Reuben Woods said the exhibition would sprawl across exhibition spaces and behind-the-scenes store rooms, offices, corridors and stairwells.

“This is a once in a lifetime show,” he said.

“This institution isn’t going to be empty again in a way that allows this to happen. This is unprecedented.

“The huge scale of this and the idea of ​​it being a takeover, using this institution for urban artists to show you their work, is incredibly attractive and super exciting.”

A Canterbury Museum staff member walks past a mural kept from the 2013 RISE street art exhibition.

CHRIS SKELTON/Stuff

A Canterbury Museum staff member walks past a mural kept from the 2013 RISE street art exhibition.

Woods said the exhibition would take visitors over two hours to fully experience.

“I wanted to create the sense that we are getting lost in all these interesting spaces.

“It will cover the whole museum and places that people have never seen.”

The street artists, who will come from New Zealand and across the world, will take on spaces as diverse as executive offices and concrete stairwells.

KAI SCHWOERER/STUFF

Canterbury Museum is preparing for redevelopment, which means the entire museum collection – 2.3 million items – has to be moved. (First published October 24, 2022)

“This isn’t: Here’s a big wall, paint a mural. It will be: Here’s an interesting space, what can you do with it?

“Street artists have a playful sense of how to subvert and transform. They are used to adapt to different spaces.”

Museum director Anthony Wright said the show would have an entry fee, but the exact price would be dictated by pending funding and sponsorship applications. The money would be used to help fund new exhibition space in the redeveloped museum.

“This is a unique situation for us. I am not aware of another museum devoting itself entirely to an urban art exhibition. It is very rare for a museum to be stripped out for major redevelopment.

“This is a high energy way of saying goodbye to the museum as we know it now but a bit of a taste of a future museum that is a bit bolder and more forward-thinking.”

He said the exhibition was a sequel to the RISE street art show that opened in December 2013 and attracted 250,000 visitors, becoming the most popular show in the museum’s history. Most of the artworks from RISE were retained and will be on display again for SHIFT.

Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright overlooks the RISE street art exhibition in 2014.

Daniel Tobin/Stuff

Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright overlooks the RISE street art exhibition in 2014.

“RISE was successful beyond our wildest dreams and it helped change the public perception of the museum.”

Woods said the new show was on a much larger scale than RISE.

“RISE was a massive event, but it was the main exhibition hall and three gallery spaces.

“The plan for this one is five floors and 35 spaces.”

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