The Ice Rink and The Lilac Ship

Gallery Six: The Ice Rink and The Lilac Ship
30 June – 25 August 2002
Waikato Museum of Art & History
New Zealand

The Ice Rink and The Lilac Ship
Telecom Prospect: New Art New Zealand
July 2004
The Great Hall, Massey University Wellington
New Zealand

First commissioned by Cam McCracken and Kent Ericksen for Waikato Museum of Art & History with major funding and technical support from York Refrigeration NZ Ltd.

Collection of Te Papa Tongarewa / Museum of New Zealand (purchased 2009).


  • 18m x 2.5m ice rink: 4m stainless steel rail, ramp, refrigeration unit, glycol and piping, timber, polythene;
  • York Refrigeration under-ice logo;
  • full size range of skating boots;
  • one pair of Harlick Figure Skating boots in the artist's foot size;
  • single channel DVD projection

    Curator, Waikato Museum of Art & History: Cam McCracken
    Curator, Telecom Prospect: Emma Bugden
    Refrigeration engineer: Paul Parkes
    Designer: Warren Olds

Supported by
York Refrigeration NZ Ltd
Alpine Ice Sports and Entertainment Centre
Creative New Zealand
Massey University Wellington

With thanks to
Frank Coory & Paul Parkes (York Refrigeration NZ Ltd);
Cam McCracken, Kent Ericksen, Emma Bugden
Marcus Moore, Christina Barton, and Kathy Barry.

This text originally appeared in New Zealand Art at Te Papa (Te Papa Press, 2018):

The shape and scope of water is contained in The Ice Rink and The Lilac Ship. Sculptor Maddie Leach invites the viewer to drift. The ice rink is a long thin strip like a runway. The viewers skate along — one at a time. The ice shifts and scrapes beneath their blades in the temperature-controlled environment of the white gallery. At the end of the rink, Leach’s projected video work The Lilac Ship comes into view. A cruise ship travels slowly across the horizon line at sunset. The dusk is lilac.

Leach is known for making site-responsive artworks, often encompassing audience participation. She first exhibited this dual ‘relational’ work at the Waikato Museum of Art and History in 2002. The Lilac Ship is footage of a cruise liner that Leach filmed in Wellington Harbour, and York Refrigeration worked to her specifications to build the unusual dimensions of the ice rink, which is not ideal for use by multiple skaters at the same time. The ice also bore the company logo rather than the artist’s own signature. The rink included a metal handrail, protective flooring, different-sized ice skates and a security attendant. The industrial manufacture of the rink is as integral to the work as the spectators who choose to skate or not. One early spectator remarked: ‘This isn’t a very good ice rink.’1

But the ice rink is of course part of an artwork and its terms and conditions shift in the context of the gallery. Unadorned by skaters the flat rink has the mute appeal of a minimalist painting, like Kazimir Malevich’s White on white, 1918 (Museum of Modern Art, New York). And paired with the coolly romantic footage of The Lilac Ship, the work provokes questions about how we are expected to behave in different public environments: from the deck of a cruise liner to the white expanse of the art gallery. Are we passive passengers staring out at the passing view or are we in fact part of the scene?

Megan Dunn

1 Christina Barton, ‘Out of the deep in Maddie Leach’, Waikato Museum of Art and History, 2004, unpaginated.

The Ice Rink and The Lilac Ship


Gallery Six: The Ice Rink and The Lilac Ship
Editor: Christina Barton
Design: Warren Olds
Text: Christina Barton, Kathy Barry
Photography: Maddie Leach

ISBN: 0-476-00156-0

Text set in Palatino and Helevetica Neue
Printed on 120gsm Flying Colours Bright Blue, 150gsm and 300gsm Ambassdor Satin Matt

Scanning by DAC, wellington
Printed and finished by Printhouse Ltd., Hamilton

Edition of 500 copies

The Ice Rink and The Lilac Ship


Essays by Christina Barton and Kathy Barry were commissioned in 2002 for the catalogue publication Gallery Six: The Ice Rink and The Lilac Ship.