ARTisSpectrum Vol.30, November 2013 - page 44-45

ARTisSpectrum | Volume 30 |
ARTisSpectrum | Volume 30 |
As a figurative painter based in Hamilton, New Zealand, I have been watching, with growing interest over the years, the art
market trends we are seeing in how galleries and dealers represent their artists here in New Zealand. Changes are afoot as
we become a world that is increasingly globalized and interconnected, and the way we are introduced to and consume art
is evolving. One of the major trends I am seeing is that some of our most prominent art dealers are closing the doors on
operating from a dedicated gallery space. As an artist, especially an artist that wants a ‘space’ to show the work, I see that
it is in my best interest to remain abreast of the changes and opportunities that present themselves. This article outlines
some of the biggest trends I am seeing in the New Zealand art market and questions whether the threat to the gallery
space is really a threat at all.
It came somewhat as a
shock to read an article
in the winter 2013 issue
of Art News New Zealand
magazine that Hamish
McKay, one of our more
prominent mid career
art dealers, is closing the
doors of his Wellington,
Willis Street Gallery after
dedicating twenty years
of his career to a monthly
McKay has worked closely
with some of New Zealand’s
most forefront artists:
Shane Cotton, Ronnie van
Hout, Peter Peryer and Billy
Apple, being just some
of the notable names he
represents. As he said in
his interview for the article,
“The gallery space itself
and the regular programme
of exhibitions is becoming
less relevant to my business
which is increasingly done in private.”
As I have just returned from knocking on the closed doors of Haunch of Venison
in London, which has also just shut up shop, it seems that it isn’t just New Zealand where changes are afoot. Galerie
Jerome de Noirmont in Paris and Margo Leavin in Los Angeles have also closed their doors to the gallery space. At first
glance anyway, it appears that there is a diminishing status of the gallery show. For generations, this has been “our lyncpin
experience, the white cube that contested space where art finds its audience. Or Vice versa.”(Dunn 2013: 79)
Historically, the major way an artist in New Zealand has developed his or her standing in the art world has been to show up
and participate wherever and however it was possible: to get involved in community projects, network, attend openings,
get known to the point where they are eventually invited to exhibit in entry level galleries, work professionally and reliably
at that for a few years and after a period of dedicated practise and hard work, building their resumes up one exhibition
at a time to eventually gain representation, maybe at a gallery such as the ones just described above. But where is the
incentive to follow this path if at the end of the day, these notable galleries are closing their doors? The answer as I see it
is that the younger generation of artists coming out of art school, no longer see this dedicated path as the only path that
is taken, and the dealers are responding to this change. The internet has altered the ways we share and buy art, as well as
the way artists share and hear of artistic opportunities that exist both in New Zealand and around the world. With internet
and the increasing connections artists are making through their websites and Facebook pages, artists are being introduced
to the opportunities to participate in art fairs, triennales and international projects sponsored by curators and agencies
from around the world. Once upon a time the representational gallery really was the only place where you could see work.
But that is all changing, and the bright, ambitious and dedicated artists of today not only know about it, but are quick to
take up the opportunities that present themselves both here in New Zealand and around the world. With this movement,
the dealers are following. McKay talks about the newest and brightest star in his stable, Andrew Beck, a Massey graduate
whose work occupies the luminal space between photography and painting. Beck’s work has recently been exhibited at
Paris Concret and at the Cologne Art Fair with Galerie Luis Campana. And McKay was there. McKay has taken part in art
fairs at home and away, including Liste, Basle, NADA in Miami and the second Frieze in London, 2004. He says, “It required
a lot of energy and money but it made me feel part of the world.” (Dunn 2013: 79)
As I see it, this is the growing trend. As an artist, based in New Zealand, it is easy to believe we are isolated from the
rest of the world. Despite having a very dedicated and intelligent audience for the fine arts here in New Zealand, that
audience is very small and not very rich. Smart businesses ‘get’ the value of investing in art and involving themselves
with the important ideas discussed through the visual arts, but it is a hard sell and interested companies remain few
and far between. Governmental and local bodies struggle to find the political will, motivation and money to invest in
the infrastructure required to support the arts and art funding is often the first to be cut from the ‘to do’ list at local
and governmental levels. It’s hard not to develop a level of despondency towards making art in this climate, but artists,
compelled to make the work they make, are on the lookout for new and exciting opportunities and audiences. The internet
has facilitated this and no longer is New Zealand seen as the isolated land it once was. Conversations and dialogue are
happening between artists in the major art centres like New York, London and Berlin. As McKay says, his “current approach
includes finding alternative spaces to stage art exhibitions and events.” (Dunn 2013: 80) This, I would suggest is what artists
are doing as well. Artists today are savvy at making connections both here and aboard, with or without a dealer in tow.
So, with representational galleries changing how they operate, what are the other venues available to promote art in New
Zealand? As far as I am aware, and I may just be uniformed here, New Zealand does not have the scale of promotional
galleries that are found in centres like New York or London who promote their artists to a vast database of collectors and art
agencies locally and internationally through their websites. For an artist developing his or her career, representation through
a promotional gallery can provide the crucial boost needed for career building. There appears to be a growing awareness
of the value of investing
in a gallery such as this,
as this opens the doors to
more interconnectedness
different venues all around
the world and an expansion
of an audience not available
in New Zealand.
From my perspective,
the evolution of the art
world is an exciting one.
Knowing that there is an
audience for the work, not
just in New Zealand, but all
around the world, and that
there are opportunities to
be involved with projects
designed by agencies and
curators all over the world
and in different venues,
gives me the motivation
and inspiration to make
the work I do with the
freshness and energy that
comes from this sort of
international engagement.
Art Market Trends from the
Perspective of a New Zealand Painter
by Sarah Mitchell Munro
Sarah Mitchell Munro: The Light Behind Oil on Canvas 16” x 20”
Sarah Mitchell Munro: Beside the Wardrobe Oil on Canvas 60” x 84”
Dunn, M.(2013) Confessions of a mid-career art dealer, Art News New Zealand, Winter publication
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