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On 31 May 2018, Library photographer Joy Lai ‘spent an afternoon bouncing light around an incredible portrait of Māori Chief Te Hapuku, painted by Gottfried Lindauer in 1877’. Te Hapuku was the leader of Ngāti Te Whatuiāpiti, in New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay region, and the painting shows him in full ceremonial dress.
Joy set up her lights to allow the oil painting’s natural sheen to show through in her photographs. She researched other paintings by Lindauer to see how major art galleries had digitised his work. But it was the subject of the painting that made the strongest impression on her. ‘Great to hang with another Kiwi at work,’ she posted on social media, ‘We didn’t talk about the rugby once!’
The portrait of Chief Te Hapuku is one of 301 artworks, many leaving basement storage for the first time in decades, now on permanent display in the Paintings from the Collection exhibition in the Library’s refurbished Mitchell and Dixson Galleries. The new Collectors’ Gallery, off the Mitchell Library Reading Room, houses hundreds of objects — from coins and teaspoons to larger ceramic and metal artefacts, some dating to the early days of the colony.
Four temporary exhibitions also opened on 6 October 2018: Sydney Elders: Continuing Aboriginal Stories, guest-curated by Wiradjuri Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones; UNESCO Six, showcasing our collections listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register; Memories on Glass: The Macpherson Family Collection; and #NewSelfWales, which combines State Library and crowdsourced portraits.