Strangers Arrive: Emigrés and the Arts in New Zealand, 1930–1980
None of us had the faintest idea where we were going [but] during 1938–39 . . . the town [Christchurch] was made strangely interesting for anyone like myself, [with the] scattered arrival of ‘the refugees’. All at once there were people among us who were actually from Vienna, or Chemnitz, or Berlin . . . who knew the work of Schoenberg and Gropius.
– Anthony Alpers, 1985
From the 1930s through the 1950s, a substantial number of forced migrants – refugees from Nazism, displaced people after World War II and escapees from Communist countries – arrived in New Zealand from Europe. Among them were an extraordinary group of artists and writers, photographers and architects whose European modernism radically reshaped the arts in this country.
In words and pictures, Strangers Arrive tells their story. Ranging across the arts from photographer Irene Koppel to art dealer and printmaker Kees Hos, architect Imric Porsolt to writer Antigone Kefala, Leonard Bell takes us inside New Zealand’s bookstores and coffeehouses, studios and galleries to introduce us to a compelling body of artistic work.
He asks key questions. How were migrants received by New Zealanders? How did displacement and settlement in New Zealand transform their work? How did the arrival of European modernists intersect with the burgeoning nationalist movement in the arts in New Zealand?
Strangers Arrive, which has just been launched, introduces us to a talented group of emigrés who were critical catalysts for change in New Zealand culture.
Leonard Bell is associate professor of art history at the University of Auckland. His writings on cross-cultural interactions and representations and the work of travelling, migrant and refugee artists and photographers have been published in New Zealand, Britain, the United States, Australia, Germany and the Czech Republic.
He is author of Marti Friedlander (Auckland University Press, 2009), Colonial Constructs: European Images of Maori 1840–1914 (AUP, 1992) and In Transit: Questions of Home and Belonging in New Zealand Art (2007). He is co-editor of Jewish Lives in New Zealand (2012).
Hear Leonard Bell talking about Strangers Arrive on Radio NZ here.