Within the world of art, there is a long history of informal exchange, including a special type of transaction between artists borne from admiration, camaraderie and, often, rivalry. Despite an increasingly corporate and cut-throat art world, this long history of the artist trade or swap has remained stable—testament to the fact that artists, by and large, are the best collectors. They are the last to think of art as a commodity and the first to consider themselves custodians of a given work, relishing its sentiment and meaning above all else.
Building upon the spirit of the artist exchange, Auckland Art Fair’s 2021 Projects Present Tense draws together six early-career New Zealand artists in a series of commissioned unfolding interventions that continue the Fair’s initiatives to encourage contemplation and debate. As an alternative model to the commercial exchange of the Art Fair, each artist has created endless copies of an object that will be given away and/or traded with audiences in contexts that reinforce personal and communal bonds over the individualising effects of the cash-based exchange.
Burning with the realities of the global pandemic, each artist’s work is suffused with a will to repair and rebind the fissures, incoherence and disconnection of our time—directly responding to the present through activations guided by feeling, human connection and the personal. From soap to abandoned birds’ nests, ceramic totems, postcards, scented blotters and sand, each artist has transmuted seemingly everyday objects that are a part of our recognisable reality into a poetic meditation on today’s issues—offering audiences a different type of transaction that takes place outside of the usual business of art collecting.
– Micheal Do, Curator