Chris Finalyson is perhaps the best Arts Minister one could find in the world. He loathes pretentious art.
The Parliamentary Art Collection, value $12 million, includes an artwork in shagpile that can only be described as a piece of its time.
That time is 1981 – the year of the underarm bowling scandal, the Springbok Tour, and the first hints of the trend that shoulder pads and big hair will become. The piece, Variation in Apricot, is considered ‘textile art’. It reportedly feels like touching a dirty dog.
Arts Minister Chris Finlayson’s immediate reaction is sotto voce: “S***, that’s awful.”
Then he gets closer and sees the plaque that says it was donated by the National Party caucus wives in 1981 – when Robert Muldoon was the Prime Minister.
“Oh my God,” he says, shamefaced at slighting the taste of such a group of women. He slams into reverse and hunts for a more diplomatic adjective than ‘awful.’
“It certainly is a unique contribution to the art collection in Parliament.
I couldn’t think of better lighting for it. It has been very carefully thought through.”
It is in a dark corridor of Parliament, in an area where no members of the public and few MPs would go.
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