One of Canada's most important visual-arts centres gets a new director later this summer, and he's coming all the way from New Zealand.
Sources close to The Power Plant, Toronto's premier non-collecting showcase for cutting-edge contemporary art, confirmed yesterday that a search committee has picked Gregory Burke to succeed Wayne Baerwaldt as the gallery's director. Baerwaldt, who came to The Power Plant in March, 2002, after running Winnipeg's Plug In Gallery for 13 years, announced his resignation in February and completed his term in Toronto June 2.
Burke is currently in Venice overseeing New Zealand's participation in the city's famous Biennale. He also was curator of New Zealand's first-ever presentation at the Biennale, in 2001. For the last seven years he's been director of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth on New Zealand's Northern Island. Previously, he served as an administrator with Creative New Zealand, that country's equivalent of the Canada Council, and assistant curator of the Wellington City Art Gallery. A native of New Zealand, he's been generally regarded as the country's main connection to the international art market.
In 1992 he became the first New Zealander to be given membership in the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art.
In a prepared statement released yesterday, Burke said: "It is very rare indeed that a New Zealander is appointed to a major international art directorship, let alone one from a regional gallery. While I am honoured by this recognition, the appointment is also a reflection of the international regard for the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. . . . As much as I am very happy at the Govett-Brewster, the new position will open up new challenges and experiences for me, which is exciting to say the least."
Burke's last day at the New Zealand gallery will be Aug. 12. The Power Plant, a division of Harbourfront Centre, was opened in 1987 in a converted generating centre alongside Lake Ontario. Since then its 8,000 square metres have hosted exhibitions by such notable Canadian artists as General Idea, Arnaud Maggs, Yves Gaucher, Kim Adams, Ken Lum and Janet Cardiff, as well as international luminaries Christian Boltanski, Wim Delvoye, Daniel Richter, Roni Horn, Vik Muniz and Tracey Emin. Its annual exhibition budget is about $3-million.