Acclaimed artist Dr Max Gimblett returned to New Zealand for the first time in 14 years. His visit was to accept an Honorary Doctorate from AUT, awarded for his outstanding and sustained contribution to the arts.
Speaking to the NZ Herald, Max said the Honorary Doctorate from AUT is an endlessly deep honour which will ensure he maintains a profound connection with the institution, as AUT alumni (at that point the Seddon Memorial College), when he studied management in the 1950s.
"My wife has three doctorates, so it means I'm getting some mana in the family. My view is that you can't get enough of education. Education is the key to life and education brings with it networking so you find your peers and mentors in education," he said.
As part of his visit,Max gave a public lecture earlier in the week and will deliver two sumi ink workshops this weekend. Accompanied by his wife, scholar Dr Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, who also presented a lecture at AUT’s Ngā Wai o Horotiu marae, on the future of Holocaust museums.
Max’s public lecture was delivered to a full house at Auckland Art Gallery on Monday 11 March. Always in These Islands shared insights into Max’s experiences and practices as an artist and offered insights into his life as a painter from 1964 to the present.
Taking the audience through a decade by decade account of his work and personal life, he explained that his work is influenced by his life and beliefs. He spoke of his journey from Grafton where he grew up, to his current studio in New York, and his annual trips back to New Zealand, where he attends the openings of his exhibitions.
He also spoke about an event close to his heart – his involvement in the collaborative effort to save St David’s Church in Grafton. Max and Paul Baragwanath (Curator of the Art of Remembrance Project and the Gow Langsford Gallery) raised just over one million New Zealand dollars to fund the restoration of the church and save it from being demolished. This showcased Max’s love for New Zealand culture, history and art.
Max accepted the Honorary Doctorate awarded for his outstanding and sustained contribution to the arts at a private event on Wednesday 13 March. 100 art industry professionals, close friends, collectors and teachers of Max gathered at Auckland Art Gallery. Guests heard from Dr Sarah Farrar, Head of Curatorial and Exhibitions at Auckland Art Gallery, John Gow from Gow Langsford Gallery, Professor Pare Keiha and Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack.
Despite being based in New York Max said he will always feel at home in New Zealand. “I will remain a kiwi until my soul leaves my body… I can't imagine my journey from Grafton to here… How did I get here? How amazing? How did I manage it? But I did.”
Max’s visit to Auckland will conclude with two fully booked Sumi Ink workshops at AUT this Saturday.