• Ruth Watson

We have all had little souvenirs at some time, whether bought or gifted. Wherever they come from, some of them we love, some of them make us cringe. They raise some questions: do they do their job of reminding us of a time, place, or event? It is a big ask for these small mementos, wannabe lieux de mémoire (sites of memory). Some people turn their noses up at these and prefer more sophisticated fare or resist their charms for rightminded ecological reasons. We mostly disdain the representations of our own places that others buy*. —Ruth Watson

Sumer is pleased to present Kosmos, an exhibition of new and recent sculptures by Tāmaki-based artist Ruth Watson. This is the artist’s first exhibition with the gallery.

Kosmos, the exhibition’s title, also serves as title for one of the central works in the show: a work which comprises a large globe of brushed aluminium, upon which a dense accumulation of found souvenirs have been adhered. On close inspection it becomes apparent that far from arbitrary, each object relates specifically to its specific locale on the globe. Yet when one sees them collectively they would cease to be seen as any specific thing-in-itself, but rather they become simple forms—growths, protuberances; structures akin to crystals, icicles, stalactites, or corals, barnacles, parasites.

The artist chose kosmos (German for cosmos) as it is closer to the Ancient Greek, kɒzmɒs: which unlike the modern English, refers not only to the universe, but also its nature, order, and appearance (the artist also points out is also the etymological parent of cosmetics). In this exhibition these objet, trinkets, encrust various other things too. Some are somewhat prosaic and not entirely unexpected: a small treasure cabinet, a colonial-style hall table, a mirror; others become more surreal, more distorted and strange—unheimlich: a house altar perched upon a vintage table with unusually long legs, a softball bat (more weapon than sporting equipment), a gauntlet-like bracelet, a ladder with a broken leg held up by a set of archaic history books. With its combination of chrome gold, faux-mahogany and pops of day-glo plastic, the overall effect is glittering and mesmeric.

*A term derived from the title of Pierre Nora’s influential 3 volume, 1984-92 study of that name.

With a career spanning over four decades, Ruth Watson is a highly respected artist and writer. Her interdisciplinary practice—encompassing photography, video, sculpture, and installation—has long been concerned with cartography and other forms of mapping. Through her re-orienting, Watson’s work—layered up and stripped down– speaks to everything from mobility, wealth and power, to memory, desire and value.

Watson has spent extended periods living and working in Australia and Germany, as well as here in Aotearoa. Her work has been shown extensively here and abroad, with highlights including: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Frankfurter Kunstverein; Asia Society Gallery, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb; The Biennale of Sydney; MCA, Sydney; QAGOMA, Brisbane; Te Papa Tongawera Museum of New Zealand; and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. She has been the recipient of the Olivia Spencer-Bower Art Award, The Fulbright NZ Scholar–Visual Arts Award, The Washington D.C. based Ristow Prize for an essay in cartographic history. Her work is held in the collections of Te Papa Tongawera Museum of New Zealand, National Gallery of Australia, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu, National Library of New Zealand, University of Auckland, University of Canterbury, well as various private and corporate collections across Aotearoa, Australia and Europe.

Opening Hours

  • Wed-Fri: 11pm–5pm
  • Sat: 11am–3pm
  • & by appointment


  • 27 Beach Rd, Auckland CBD
  • Tāmaki Makaurau
  • Aotearoa New Zealand