“Pictura Britannica”

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

The letter always reaches its destination, but does the exhibition? Hastily installed in makeshift fashion as the opening program of the Te Papa Museum, “Pictura Britannica,” an Australian-curated exhibition of contemporary British art that was initially scheduled to appear in a privately run space, ended up in an institution that is oriented around national identity (the new museum tends to reduce art to a small piece of a larger sociological picture, by placing work alongside such historical curiosities as the waistcoat of Captain Cook or a refrigerator from the ’60s). The inclusion of at least one work in the show, Tania KovatsVirgin in a Condom, 1994, though, was interpreted by some as an indication that the museum has begun to give serious consideration to contemporary art. When Kovats’ piece, a modest votive statue draped in latex, was exhibited at the MCA, Sydney (the show’s

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