Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Art collectors' bliss

Auckland Art Fair
Viaduct Basin
May 1-3 2009

Two years have passed quickly since the last one. Though without the same international profile, Auckland presents a smaller yet possibly more focussed event than the Melbourne equivalent – and you wouldn’t think from this weekend that there was a recession.

However noting that, we see none of the gutsy bravura now so apparent last time when dealers Peter McLeavey and Michael Lett showed one work each. There are dealers making distinctive curatorial statements (Ivan Anthony – all women; Ray Hughes – Australian landscapes) but the last fair featured more individualism.

Yet a richer dialogue is going on now with greater Australian participation in the event. Top Aussie dealers are here in force - a factor that is great for trans-Tasman deals and client sharing. And of the 38 Australasian presentations the freshest, most vibrant display is at Neon Parc, the most innovative use of one wall is at Bath St (Mark Braunias), and the most conspicuous new New Zealand arrival Brett McDowell.

From an Auckland point of view, it’s exciting to see works here from ‘unknown’ artists like Kushana Bush, Patrick Hartigan, Diena Georgetti, Rob Hood, and Jo Langford (her drawings especially).

Yet the shrewd art lover is never beholden to dealers only, but remembers (and follows) the contributions of collectives and experimental spaces. There are lots of artists out there (like David Clegg, Pauline Rhodes, David Cross, and Christopher Braddock) without dealer representation making sensational work.

So, whilst it is obvious it is worth restating that this art fair is a great event - and a superb introduction to the pleasures of collecting - it’s not the whole picture. It is the conspicuous face of the art market, and essential for some artists if they want to make a living from sales, but it doesn’t cover all bases involving art as a creative endeavour circumnavigating the vast scope of the human imagination.

(Image from Elizabeth Newman, represented by Neon Parc)

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