On an Art Tour of the North Island
New Zealand’s art scene is vibrant, moving, astute, and gnaws at your consciousness, with a strong connection to history and place. And it’s everywhere, from Auckland’s dozens of small commercial spaces to major galleries in little towns. Broadsheet’s Will Cox recently spent a week crisscrossing the North Island, in search of its best art stomping grounds.
“At first glance, Auckland is a tangle of highways under grey skies, threatening sudden, violent surges of rain. But it’s on a pretty harbour, with backstreets full of little shops and some beautiful green space,” Cox writes.
“Aside from the weather, May is a good time to visit. On the harbour, the annual Auckland Art Fair sees the country’s best galleries crammed into one space. Across 45 booths, there are hundreds of works by New Zealand artists from galleries across the country. There are representatives from Australia and Asia here too, but it’s the local galleries that I kept coming back to.
“After Auckland I took a 50-seat, rickety airplane to New Plymouth, which is home to the world class Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and the Len Lye Centre, both housed in one remarkable building. The huge, glimmering stainless steel block –with its dramatic curtain-like façade – in the middle of town has a Mona-like presence, attracting local ire and awe in equal measure. It’s an unapologetically provocative building full of provocative art.
“Wedged between jagged hills and a grey harbour, [Wellington] is a humbler, more down-to-earth place than Auckland, but is also brimming with art. And a sense of humour.
“Cuba Street is dotted with little gallery spaces, all within a ten minute walk of each other. At Robert Heald there are new paintings by Andrew McLeod. It’s an ethereal collection of close-up portraits and huge, dreamy tableaus with a neoclassical tinge. Up the road is Enjoy, an artist-run space for often aesthetically challenging, politically aware work by up-and-comers, and upstairs from that you’ll find Peter McLeavey Gallery, which has occupied this building for 50 years, and represents revered New Zealand artists including Colin McCahon and photographer Yvonne Todd.”
Original article by Will Cox, Broadsheet, July 17, 2018.