In the Cloud ... the Auckland Art Fair

The first week in May sees the Auckland art scene explode into life at the Auckland Art Fair*. Time to clear some space in your diary suggests Hamish Coney. Here he presents a selection of must see exhibitions (and a few talking heads) and events during Art Fair Week.

The 2019 Auckland Art Fair is the big news this week in the New Zealand art world. From today until Sunday more than 40 galleries from New Zealand, Australia, China, The Cook Islands, Indonesia and Chile will be vying for the attention of your art eyeballs. Located in the Cloud on Auckland’s waterfront the fair, based on previous iterations, will attract over 10,000 visitors and many of those, myself included, will have a shortlist of galleries and artists they have to check out. 

The beauty of the art fair model is in both the expected and the unexpected. I’m expecting to see new works by artists whose careers I have been following for some time. I’ll also be making a beeline for new to New Zealand presentations such as the China Import Direct video art extravaganza which will showcase new work not yet seen on these shores.

A feature of art fair this year is a number of dealer galleries staging solo shows by key artists. Two notable examples being K’ Road stalwarts Michael Lett and Starkwhite who will be presenting new works by Seraphine Pick and John Reynolds respectively. Wellington’s Suite Gallery presents a two hander – Melbourne based NZ painter Richard Lewer and the moody nocturnes (I think) by Daniel Unverricht, an artist I have lost touch with, but I recall his beguiling canvases from the early 2000s and can’t wait to see his latest work this week. 

Installation view of Michael Lett stand featuring work by Seraphine Pick, at Auckland Art Fair 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Josef Scott

Getting sidetracked by new treats in the lollyscramble that is the Art Fair is a big part of the attraction, so armed with my own list and a few tips from Art Fair Director Stephanie Post here are a few of the stands and events that come highly recommended. 

Trish Clark Gallery at the Auckland Art Fair. Gender bias in curated exhibitions, gallery rosters and public gallery collections is one of THE art world issues of the day. The current Guerilla Girls exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery (which you can take in when you visit to see Frances Hodgkins – see below) was the inspiration for long time Auckland gallerist Clark to present a pointed and timely group show of five New Zealand female artists - Marie Shannon, Heather Straka, Christine Webster, Jennifer French and Alexis Hunter. It is the late Hunter who is the godmother figure here, a leading figure in the 1970s feminist art movement. See a link to my 2017 Newsroom article on Hunter here.

McLeavey Gallery at the Auckland Art Fair. Long before art fairs were a reality, here, or indeed anywhere there was Peter McLeavey (1936 – 2015) and his gallery at 147 Cuba Street in Wellington. McLeavey’s central role in the NZ art scene from the 1960s has been memorialised in print and in film. Today his and the gallery’s legacy continues with his daughter Olivia. In a classic case of coals to Newcastle, McLeavey is bringing new photographs by inaugural Walter’s Prize winner Yvonne Todd to Auckland and a fresh suite of en plein air paintings by Christchurch based Darryn George.

McLeavey gallery install at the Auckland Art Fair showing works by Yvonne Todd and Darryn George.

Whanaungatanga curated by Francis McWhannell at the Auckland Art Fair. Over the last two iterations the Auckland Art Fair has broadened its offer by including curated shows that feature works by artists not usually seen in the gallery context. In a twist this year, curator McWhannell has assembled an exhibition of works by artists nominated by previous Art Fair exhibitors on the theme of network, kinship and support. Whanaungatanga is a chance to see works that sit outside the traditional dealer gallery structure from artists including as Layne Waerea, Nikau Hindin, James Wylie with Hannah Valentine, Ruth Ige and other next generation artists, many of whom are recent art school graduates. 

Live Salon by Faisal Abdu’Allah at the Pā Rongorongo on Wellesley Street. Live Salon by the Wisconsin based Abdu’Allah is part of an ongoing series of global performance projects, this iteration centres on the exchange inherent in barbering and forms an offsite extension to Whanaungatanga. So, while you are getting a trim you can have a chat about art or indeed anything that takes your fancy. The artist is all ears!

The Ivan Anthony Gallery stand at the Auckland Art Fair - from left large scale canvases by Andrew McLeod and Bill Hammond. Photograph by Sam Hartnett

Ivan Anthony Gallery at the Auckland Art Fair and at 312 Karangahape Road. Auckland dealer Anthony is ambitiously on exhibition at the Cloud and at his K’ Road gallery with the final days of London based Francis Upritchard’s latest exhibition Centaurs and Sea Creatures (Until May 4). Upritchard’s ceramic mythological creatures and historical remnants are also accompanied by a superb example of her recent large scale figure sculptures. At the Art Fair Anthony will be presenting a group show of new work by Bill Hammond, Francis Upritchard, Tanya Nola, Andrew McLeod and Peter Madden.

China Import Direct at the entrance the Auckland Art Fair. This curated presentation is a must see, featuring ten contemporary Chinese video artists being exhibited for the first time in New Zealand. Art fans will have had their appetite wetted by the two video works by Chinese star Cao Fei currently on view at the Gus Fisher Gallery on Shortland Street in the curated show We’re Not Too Big to Care (running until June 15). This will be a fascinating presentation of young new talent from China, all born after 1980. The 10 artists of China Import Direct show their work, appropriately enough given the waterfront location of the Art Fair, in a container. 

Fine Arts, Sydney at the Auckland Art Fair. This Sydney based gallery has strong New Zealand links. At the Art Fair they will exhibit an intriguing mix of New Zealand artists spanning some 35 years of practice. An early major canvas by Julian Dashper dating to 1984 will be complemented by a 1992 work by Gretchen Albrecht and contemporary work by 2015 Venice Biennale representative Simon Denny and sculpture by Yona Lee who has recently shown at the City Gallery, Wellington and the Art Gallery of New South Wales to great acclaim.

There is also plenty to visit outside the Art Fair this week in Auckland, including…

Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki from May 4. Hodgkins (1869 – 1947) stands as a unique figure in New Zealand art history, being one of the few New Zealand born artists who played an active part on the international scene in the mid 20th century. Hodgkins also can lay claim to inventing a genre all her own, the still life in the landscape. Her lush, evocative landscapes depicting exotic scenes from San Tropez and Venice still posit as impossibly romantic. Hodgkins was the model of the expatriate creative New Zealander, along with Katherine Mansfield, and is quite simply a national treasure. This exhibition is a long time coming, including many works seen in New Zealand for the first time, sourced from European collections.

Layover at Artspace Aotearoa, 300 Karangahape Road until May 25. Since 1987 Artspace Aotearoa has been at the forefront of the presentation of contemporary New Zealand and international art. The current exhibition Layover curated by Lana Lopesi centres on the idea of transit between place and cultures and features works by Edith Amituanai, Louisa Afoa and the BC Collective. Tonight at 6pm (Thursday May 2) Artspace Aotearoa Director Remco de Blaaj will be in conversation about the genesis of Layover with Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh, the new directors of the Govett Brewster/Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth who commissioned the first iteration of the exhibition concept at the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane.

Sam Hartnett, The Poets Room Te Whare Toikupu 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Objectspace

The Room at Objectspace, 13 Rose Road, Ponsonby until May 19. This is one of the not to miss shows in town at the moment. Taking the simple premise of the intimacy of the domestic room in diverse cultures four curators and groups of artists have made distinct presentations. Over 20 artists, curators and collectors are represented. One of the four, The Poet’s Room, Te Whare Toikupu curated by Justine Olsen of Te Papa and the artist and jeweler Karl Fritsch features an array of vintage Hue, decorated gourds, one of the oldest forms of art making found in Aotearoa New Zealand. In a collaboration with the Art Fair Objectspace will be open tonight until 8pm offering a few special treats for visitors.

*The Auckland Art Fair at the Cloud on Queens Wharf from Thursday May 2 until Sunday May 5, 11am – 5pm daily. For ticketing information and onsite event details see

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