On the world stage: Simon Denny - Art Collector

Issue 63, January - March 2013

This profile appeared in the On the world stage feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2013.

Simon Denny, Channel Document, 2012. Courtesy: the artist and Michael Lett, Auckland

Simon Denny’s work Channel Document sold out within half an hour of the opening of Art Statements at the Art Basel art fair last year. Exhibited by Auckland-based gallery Michael Lett, the major element of the work was acquired by Miami’s Rubell Family Contemporary Arts Foundation, one of the world’s largest privately owned contemporary art collections. The work, with its Maori haka soundtrack, comprised videos, objects, wall components and text focusing on the recent closure of a state-funded television channel in New Zealand, along with the redesign of the nation’s passport. There was more good news at Basel too. Denny’s work won the Baloise Art Prize leading directly to a solo exhibition at the MUMOK Museum of Modern Art in Vienna in 2013, adding to an already packed international calendar.

Denny’s first major international opportunity arose just two years out of art school – again with Michael Lett – showing at Basel’s Liste Art Fair in 2006. There, Denny created an installation of objects that were finely balanced and choreographed – a young artist showing with a young gallery on the other side of the world. “At Liste, Denny’s work was well received and admired by European gallerists and collectors alike, including Daniel Buchholz,” Michael Lett recalls. Buchholz went on to show Denny’s work in 2009 and now represents the artist.

After Liste, Denny stayed on in Europe and, drawn to the calibre of the teachers, began studies at the Stàˆdelschule in Frankfurt am Main, Germany following a recommendation from influential German curator Nicolaus Schafhausen, who had admired Denny’s work at Govett-Brewster Gallery during a visit to New Zealand in 2006.

These events and connections were significant in the rapid development of a European profile for Denny. Added to this was the fact that artists in Europe such as Wolfgang Tillmans were taking a shine to his work, which was developing into a complex practice exploring the role of media and television today. Tillmans included Denny in an exhibition at Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York in 2010, described as a career maker for the artists involved. The associated
New York Times review mentioned Denny’s newly developed work that presented flat screen televisions as paintings.

Things have snowballed since then but despite his inclusion in the 2012 Walters Prize at the Auckland Art Gallery, with work from a 2010 exhibition at Artspace in Sydney, Lett reflects that people in New Zealand don’t really know just how well Denny is doing internationally. “When I first met him in Auckland, he was clearly a hard working and seriously committed young artist. He was and is his own best advocate. Right now he has got to be one of the most well-connected artists from this part of the world living in Europe.”

He has been included in critically important shows in Berlin, Rome, Moscow, London, New York and Aspen, Colorado, and in September 2013 will also show at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof as a finalist in the Nationalgalerie’s 2013 Young Artist Award.

Denny is also one of the winners of the 2012 Ars Viva Prize, currently touring European venues and is set to complete a residency in Munich shortly.

He has achieved high visibility as an international artist and is now getting serious museum attention. The momentum in his CV shows it clearly.

Sue Gardiner

Share this page: