Q&A with Hayley White, Auckland Art Fair Co-Director - Art Collector

Auckland Art Fair 2016, Photo: Jessica Chloe Gernat. Courtesy of Auckland Art Fair.

New Zealand's premier showcase for contemporary art, Auckland Art Fair, returns from May 23 - 27 2018 at The Cloud on Auckland's Queen's Wharf. Katie Milton talks to Hayley White, co-director of the fair about on the decision to go annual and why it is a must-visit for all serious collectors.

What is the vision for this year's fair?

To build on the success of Auckland Art Fair 2016 (our first edition as co-directors), showcasing some of the most interesting art from some of the best galleries in the Pacific-rim region. We are very pleased to have so many great Australian galleries participating, alongside a few other internationals and of course the best of our NZ galleries. We are also excited to be including the new section Piki Mai: Up Here^^ (see below for more on this) - plus we are very pleased that the Projects Programme, curated by Gabriela Salgado (the new Artistic Director at Te Tuhi, Auckland) and Francis McWhannell (independent curator and writer) will include at least three works commissioned from incredible new artists. Creative New Zealand have offered funding for two of these, and the other is being commissioned by New Zealand luxury goods brand, Deadly Ponies, who are also partnering the Fair to present Piki Mai: Up Here^^.

Which artists and booths are you particularly excited about?

There are so many! What is really pleasing about the galleries this year is that many of them applied to show new work made by artists specially for the Fair, and/or are showing solo or double shows, which give an opportunity to experience the artists' work in some depth. This leads to a much more interesting and enjoyable Fair for the visitor. Examples of these are Michael Lett Gallery who will be showing new pieces from Shane Cotton and Simon Denny, and Starkwhite will have a solo show of Gordon Walters early paintings, Neon Parc will be showing Dale Frank and Sarah Scout Presents will show Claire Lambe. Sarah Cottier Gallery, will debut in Auckland with a solo show by Johnny Niesche and Hopkinson and Mossman will show paintings by Emma McIntyre alongside works by Ruth Buchanan.

Can you tell us a bit about Piki Mai: Up here ^^. What will it bring to the fair?

In the words of the artists Yllwbro, who developed the identity, "Piki Mai: Up Here^^ is shamelessly attention-seeking much like the fresh perspective and change in elevation offered by a young, forward-looking generation with the energy and inclination to confront the future."

Located on the mezzanine of The Cloud, this new section and initiative will feature a small number of young galleries, artist-run-spaces and art schools (Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland University and Victorian College of Arts, University of Melbourne). Separate from the main section on the ground floor, Piki Mai: Up here ^^ will offer a snapshot of artists whose work could appear in future fairs around the region.

Alongside the art schools, galleries in this section will include Auckland's Mokopopaki and Interlude from Sydney, plus a stand showing the work of recent graduates of Chinese Arts Academies.

NZ luxury goods brand, Deadly Ponies are the presenting partner for Piki Mai: Up Here^^. Their connections with art and artisans drew them to the fair, and their dedication to unearthing and supporting new ideas makes them a perfect fit for Piki Mai: Up Here^^. AND we are looking forward to the launch of a new range of Deadly Ponies scarves at the Fair!

What was the deciding factor in the selection of galleries for this edition?

The galleries are chosen by an independent selection committee. This year the selection committee comprised Christina Barton, Director Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi, University of Victoria Wellington; Michael Lett, Michael Lett Gallery, Auckland; Roslyn Oxley, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Simon Rees, Director Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth. Their brief is to select galleries on the quality of artists and exhibitions proposed for the Fair. We have no say in the selection process.

Redbase and Totoral Lab stand out as galleries from outside of Australasia. Can you tell us about their inclusion?

Of the 46 participating galleries about 14 come from Australia (mostly from Sydney and Melbourne, but we are very pleased that Michael Bugelli Gallery from Hobart will be in Auckland in May too). Another 18 come from New Zealand, and then there is Totoral Lab from Santiago, Chile, Redbase Art from Jakarta, Misa Shin, from Tokyo and Bergman Gallery from Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Sullivan+Strumpf who have galleries in Sydney and Singapore are also participating. These galleries all applied with artists who are an interesting part of the art conversations of the wider Pacific-rim region in which we all live and work.

Julia Morison, 025, Omnium Gatherum, 2015-16 series. Mixed media on signex, 900 x 600mm. Courtesy of the artist and Jonathan Smart Gallery.

There are an increasing number of art fairs in the Pacific region. What distinguishes Auckland Art Fair?

Auckland Art Fair is a small fair with only 46 participating galleries which allows us to have a real eye for the quality of art. The Fair focuses on the art conversations of the Pacific-rim and galleries from the region, so that it is focused and curated.

Through a curated Project Programme and great food and drink offerings, visiting Auckland Art Fair is also really unique. We are working with iconic Auckland foodies, Daily Bread, and Champagne Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée, with Catlina Sounds supplying the wines and Hallertau as our beer partner.

Auckland is also a great city with plenty to offer to visitors - whether it is the incredible museums and small institutions including Auckland Art Gallery, Te Tuhi and ArtSpace; the wonderful local galleries such as Te Uru and Fresh Gallery; or the non-profit organisations like McCahon House, Object Space and Pah Homestead. There are also some unbelievable private collections, and fantastic sculpture parks in Auckland including Gibbs Farm, Connells Bay, Brick Bay and others.

There are also the wonderful boutique hotels (Hotel Grand Windsor and Hotel De Brett are partnering the Fair this year), and the infamously good New Zealand food and wine - why wouldn't you want to come to the Auckland Art Fair in May?

What's the main difference you notice between contemporary New Zealand and Australian collectors? Are there major differences?

We are told that five years ago, the New Zealanders bought New Zealand art and the Australians bought Australian art, but that certainly isn't the case anymore. Just look at the growing collection of New Zealand art in the Art Gallery of NSW and during the Fair, Auckland Art Gallery will be showing Other People Think: Auckland's International Contemporary Collection - which will feature highlights from their collection, with a particular focus on illuminating for audiences the more regional focus the Gallery has taken in international collecting over recent years.

A number of Australian museums bring patrons to Auckland for the Fair led by one of their senior curators, but also a lot of Australian collectors come on their own. Obviously, we get a lot of New Zealanders at the Fair too, from all over the country.

What prompted the decision to host the fair annually?

Two things - firstly, the Australian galleries who participated in 2016 were very keen that the Fair become an annual event. They say it is important that it takes place every 12 months so that relationships can be established with New Zealand collectors.

Secondly, as a small Fair, any gallery has an option to not apply one year, without it being a problem - we are always oversubscribed. There are two or three galleries who participated in 2016, and are not participating this year but want to be back in 2019. This is good for the collectors since it keeps the Fair fresh and different each year, and it is good for the galleries, since if they have too much on one year, they know they can take a break and apply again the next year.

What are some highlights of the VIP program?

We run a full VIP programme for invited guests, but for the first time this year we have a very limited number of Premier Art Passes - which offer access to the VIP programme of special events - available through our website (on sale 11 April).

As of this moment, the full VIP programme is not confirmed, but it will include a curator-led private view at Auckland Art Gallery, an artist's breakfast hosted by Te Tuhi at their exhibition at the Silos in Wynyard Quarter, a panel discussion at Pah Homestead entitled 'Why Art Matters', which will explore the role of the arts in our society, and Blair French (Director, Curatorial and Digital, at MCA Sydney) will be joining artist Mischa Kuball, for the Auckland launch of 'Mischa Kuball // Solidarity Grid - Otautahi Christchurch 2013-2016' - a book describing Mischa's recent project for Scape Christchurch. And this is only the start…

Katie Milton

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