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SHIFT – Urban Art Takeover of the Museum

Street Art, Visual Arts
image Exhibition curator Dr Reuben Woods with a work by Jacob Yikes painted in 2013 as part of RISE.

A who’s who of the urban art scene from Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas will flock to Ōtautahi Christchurch in January for a collaborative exhibition of epic proportions.

Their canvas? The internal walls, floors and ceilings of the almost-empty, redevelopment-ready Canterbury Museum.

With the Museum’s 5-year redevelopment project scheduled to begin in April 2023, the Museum is inviting Cantabrians to say goodbye with the blockbuster exhibition SHIFT: Urban Art Takeover.

The exhibition will be staged across five floors and over 35 spaces inside the Museum including storerooms, corridors and offices that are not normally accessible to the public. None of the heritage fabric will be painted or altered.

The Museum will temporarily close to the public on 3 January 2023 to allow the artists to create their works before reopening for SHIFT on 28 January. The exhibition will run until 11 April, the end of Easter weekend.

Visitors will embark on a winding, two-hour journey through the Museum, surrounded by urban art on all sides. It will include spaces beyond the current public areas, including the Museum’s basement.

The exhibition will be a fundraiser for the new Museum, with all proceeds going towards the Museum’s $205 million redevelopment project.

SHIFT is curated by Ōtautahi Christchurch-based writer and urban art expert Dr Reuben Woods.

“Similar takeovers have been held in buildings overseas, but this is definitely a first for Aotearoa New Zealand and a first for a cultural attraction. It’s a once-in-a-life-time opportunity. The artists I’ve spoken with about it have all been really excited to be part of it, and I know that excitement will be carried through to our visitors,” he says.

SHIFT follows in the footsteps of the Museum’s 2013 exhibition RISE, produced in partnership with Oi YOU! An estimated quarter of a million people viewed the exhibition across 3 months.

RISE positioned Ōtautahi Christchurch as a leading destination for art in the streets. Since then, urban art has become a big part of our city’s identity. This exhibition is an opportunity to show how urban art practices have developed in the past decade,” Dr Woods says.

Participating artists are still being confirmed, but the Museum plans to have around 50 involved including Ōtautahi Christchurch locals, artists from other parts of Aotearoa New Zealand and high-profile international urban artists.

Museum Director Anthony Wright says the empty Museum was too good an opportunity to pass up.

“When we thought about emptying the Museum, we realised we would have this monumental blank canvas. It’s an opportunity to do something even bigger than RISE, and to raise much-needed funds for new exhibitions in the redeveloped Museum.”

SHIFT is a never to be repeated urban art experience which will give Cantabrians and their visitors a chance to farewell the Museum buildings as we know them and contribute to this much-loved attraction’s future.”

Information about entry costs for SHIFT will be released in December.

While Museum staff are now packing down all galleries in the Museum’s upstairs, the downstairs galleries will remain open until the Museum closes for SHIFT on 3 January.

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