The University of Auckland art collection is a significant part of Cultural Collections, and we are extremely excited to have a painting from the collection recently installed in the Special Collections Reading Room, Ground Floor, General Library.
The painting, In the Lee of a Looted Island (1966), is by Don Binney and has recently been returned from having some routine conservation.
The ‘looted island’ mentioned in the work’s title is Kawau Island, situated just north of Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf. The looting reference relates to the manganese copper mining that took place on the island between 1844 and 1852. The dolphin in the foreground of the work is a common dolphin, and is a significant change from the native birds that often feature in Binney’s paintings. The creation of the painting coincided with the opening of Napier’s Marineland aquarium (1965) and Binney painted this work to highlight the plight of marine animals held in captivity.1
Linking paintings, poetry and postcards
It is significant that this particular artwork was chosen for the Reading Room as there are several elements that unite the painting and the artist to the University of Auckland and the different repositories cared for by the Cultural Collections teams.
Don Binney (1940-2012) completed a Diploma of Fine Arts here at the Elam School of Fine Arts and later taught at Elam for 24 years between 1974 and 1998. The Fine Arts archives include a number of files relating to Binney, both during his time here as a student and as a lecturer.2 Furthermore, Binney was a friend of influential New Zealand poet Kendrick Smithyman (1922-1995) and letters between him and Smithyman can be found in Smithyman’s literary papers.3
Additional connections include items donated by Binney’s first wife, Judith Musgrove, whom Binney married in 1963. Judith also taught at the University and later became a Professor of History and a noted New Zealand historian. She gifted several items, including audio files from the Ringatū Church to the Archive of Māori and Pacific Sound.4
You can now view In the Lee of a Looted Island in the Special Collections Reading Room on the Ground Floor of the General Library. A selection of items linked to Binney, his work and his extended networks are on display in the room until 24 August 2023.
Nigel Bond, Special Collections
1 From the collection: In the Lee of a Looted Island.
2 For example, see the Don Binney ephemera collection.
3 MSS & Archives 2009/3. Kendrick Smithyman literary papers.
4 Search the Archive of Māori and Pacific Sound.
Feature image: Nigel Bond, Team Leader, Cultural Collections, sits in front of Don Binney’s ‘In the Lee of a Looted Island’ (1966).