Towards the Precipice: Propaganda Posters collected by WB Sutch. Toured by Exhibition Services
Mahara Gallery has been given the opportunity to show an exceptional group of Spanish, German, British and Soviet propaganda posters from the period 1935 to 1942 which were collected by Dr. W.B. Sutch.
Dr Sutch’s papers are held in the Manuscripts and Archives section of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, and the posters are from the collection of the Shirley Smith Family Trust. Dr Sutch grew up in New Zealand during the First World War and experienced the privations of the 1920s, which had a deep impact on him. He later witnessed the rise of fascism first-hand in Western and Central Europe while studying, travelling and working for the New Zealand government, during which he collected these posters.
This exhibition was organized by the National Library Gallery, Wellington, curated by Imelda Bargas and Andrew Francis, and toured around New Zealand galleries from 2004-2007 by Exhibition Services, who have now offered the exhibition to Mahara Gallery before it goes back into permanent storage.
The exhibition will be of strong interest to those working or studying in the visual arts, design, media, history and political studies; to schools examining the history of World War 1 and 2; and to all those groups and individuals interested in how messages are relayed to the general public and wide audiences through mass media.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines propaganda as ‘the systematic propagation of information or ideas to encourage or instill a particular attitude or response’.
Bill Sutch (1907-1975)
William Bill Sutch was born in England in 1907 and arrived in New Zealand with his family when eight months old. Both his parents were staunch Methodists, independent minded and widely read in the social fields. Sutch trained as a teacher and graduated MA and B.Com from Victoria University. A fellowship took him to Columbia University in 1932 where he undertook a PhD on the topic of ‘Price fixing in New Zealand'. He returned to New Zealand after travelling widely in North America and Europe, to a country in the depths of the Depression. This experience was fundamental to his subsequent thinking on economics and social policy.
Over the next 40 years he held a wide variety of influential government and diplomatic positions, including groundbreaking work with UNICEF and other UN agencies. He published widely and maintained an active role in the cultural life of New Zealand, culminating in his appointment to the Chair of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council in 1973. Bill Sutch is also remembered for being tried and acquitted under the Official Secrets Act.
Economist Brian Easton describes Sutch's writing as providing ‘one of the most comprehensive accounts of, and visions for, New Zealand. He was a nation-builder who wanted to see an economically strong and socially fair New Zealand, free from colonial ties, whether political or cultural.'
“Towards an economically strong and socially fair New Zealand…" To extend some of the ideas raised by the exhibition, and to build on the legacy of Bill Sutch’s thinking, Mahara Gallery is developing a programme of public events, including six Friday lunchtime Forums.