Corner Dairy open now at Sarjeant Gallery

  • 1 November 2020


Corner Dairy

On until – 14 March 2021
Sarjeant Gallery’s space at the i-Site, 31 Taupō Quay, Whanganui
The exhibition includes Lauren Lysaght and Madeleine Child among others.

The proliferation of the New Zealand dairy developed out of necessity – during the depression of the 1930s, front rooms of houses were either built or converted to accommodate a small shop selling grocery items and confectionary. From the late 1930s onwards, the term ‘dairy’ became commonly used to describe small shops selling groceries. As built structures, they are instantly recognisable in the New Zealand urban environment. They are domestic in scale, integrated within existing houses, or part of suburban shopping complexes. With their bright colours, plethora of signage advertising confectionery, soft drink and basics like bread and milk, the dairy represents a way into small enterprise for migrant communities, the place to go for a sweet treat after the beach, and an essential part of the urban infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the dairy operates on very slim margins and its future may be uncertain. Nonetheless, in New Zealand during level four of the COVID-19 pandemic, the dairy was considered an essential service, with dairy owners becoming frontline workers putting themselves at risk for the benefit of the community. Therefore, dairies sit in the unenviable position of both precariousness and necessity.

The exhibition positions the New Zealand dairy as representing ingenuity, economy of means, nostalgia and a sense of fun. It brings together works that depict everyday items, for example confectionary, fruit and staple food items – the kinds of things found at the dairy – or reference the dairy itself, the works ranging from the mimetic to the satirical. Corner Dairy could be seen as paean or lament to the shifting status of the dairy in New Zealand culture.

James Hope
Assistant Curator
Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua


Share this post