29 May 2007

So the story goes

The shelves of Unity et al are littered with the stories and histories of artists – the great, the good, and the not so good. We can read what they wrote to their friends, where they lived, how they lived, and what they created. Even what they liked to cook.

But there’s a whole other story about New Zealand art that I’d love to read – one that’s glimpsed through the artist’s books, but only fleetingly.

It’s the story of the 18 year old who attends his first exhibition opening and is instantly hooked; the 30 year old suburban couple who forgo a new car, shoes, plasma tv, and instead choose to support a handful of artists whose company and ideas they enjoy; the pensioner who is putting off downsizing their home because the thought of shifting the 50 year collection is too much to bear.

It’s the stories of the dealers, the collectors, the patrons, and the advocates who have helped make NZ art so interesting, have been integral to its becoming so accessible, and have enabled the artists to focus on doing what they do best.

Names that spring to mind are Elva Bett, Helen Hitchings, Peter McLeavey, Les and Milly Paris, Jim Fraser, the Barrs, Hamish McKay…but there are countless others. The history of the quite remarkable Monica Brewster, for example, is currently being researched from the sunny hills above Oakura. It’s a brilliant place to start.

Pic: Hamish McKay's editioned book from the Auckland Art Fair, slected to mark the occasion of the opening of his new gallery space.

No comments: