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New Zealand Herald: Auckland’s fair is a mecca for collectors and those new to art, writes Dionne Christian.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

So you like art. In fact, you’re an aficionado with an impressive collection of work you’re keen to add to – or maybe you’re not quite there yet, but you’re a regular at Auckland Art Gallery and the Pah Homestead and you often pop into your local gallery to see what’s on the wall.

Maybe you’ve even bought a print or two and now you’re keen to acquire an original work from a recognised or emerging artist. On the other hand, you might just like to look at art and wonder, “What inspired an artist to make this?” Or the old chestnut: “Is that really art?”

This month, an event returns to Auckland, after a three-year break, that promises to delight and tempt art-lovers from the new to the established. It’s Auckland Art Fair and it will show the best in contemporary art from New Zealand and the wider Pacific. Here’s our beginners’ guide to the fair:

What is Auckland Art Fair?

For an art-lover who likes nothing more than looking at paintings, prints, video installations and sculpture, it’s quite possibly a dream come true. More concrete than that, it’s a five-day event at The Cloud, on Auckland’s waterfront, bringing together 40 dealer galleries, representing around 150 artists, nine not-for-profit institutions, a specialist art bookstore, Pacific Real Time – a series of sculptures, installations and multimedia work dotted around the fair – and four pop-up restaurants with premier New Zealand chef (and art collector) Peter Gordon at the helm.

How does it work?

Each gallery gets a booth where a selection of work from the artists they represent will be on show. Though most are New Zealand galleries, the fair has shifted focus since it was last held in 2013 so galleries from Australia, South America and the Pacific Islands are also visiting.

It’s a chance to walk around and look at the work our contemporary artists are producing and, if you like what you see, to buy a piece or two. Some of the artists are well-known – think the likes of Gretchen Albrecht, Billy Apple, Nigel Brown, Dick Frizzell, Marti Friedlander, Richard Killeen, Fiona Pardington, Lisa Reihana and Emily Siddell. But, a fair number are emerging artists who are just starting to establish a reputation for their work and include people like Claudia Jowett, Matt Arbuckle, Roberta Thorley, Chris Carson-Scott, Emily Hartley-Scudder and Milli Jannides. If you’d prefer, you can take a 45-minute “highlights” escorted tour of the fair.

These are on daily from Thursday at 11.30am and 3pm and cost $30 per person. There are also a number of artist talks; for dates and times see artfair.co.nz/at-the-fair/#eventsatfair

What’s Ngatahi Editions?

Ngatahi Editions involves nine not-for-profit galleries: Artspace, Corban Estate Art Centre, Gus Fisher Gallery, Malcolm Smith Gallery, McCahon House, Objectspace, St Paul St Gallery, Te Tuhi and Te Uru. They’re selling limited editions (reproductions of a print or object limited to a set number of copies) or multiples (a series of identical art objects produced by an artist) to fundraise. This work is priced between $100 and $2000.

How much might an artwork cost?

For starters, there may not be price tags on the work. There are a number of reasons why some artists are reluctant to put a price tag on their work, meaning you may have to ask those staffing the booth how much a piece will cost. As above, buy work through Ngatahi Editions and you may pick something up for $100, but when it comes to larger-scale works by well-known artists, you could be looking at several thousand dollars. If you think something sounds expensive, don’t simply take a deep breath and move on; use Auckland Art Fair as a learning experience and ask: “Can you tell me a bit more about the artist and the work, please?” and you might discover new information about the person behind the work, their processes and techniques.

Should I buy as an investment?

First and foremost, buy what you like and do it with your heart and not your head, thinking a piece might be “a sure thing” for future resale. You have to live with the art you buy, so make sure you love it and remember, a “sure thing” may turn out not to be so certain. If you’re just starting to build an art collection, one way to begin is to look for works by younger and emerging artists or to buy limited edition prints and photographs. My Art will also be at the fair. The company offers interest-free loans up to $25,000 and requires a 10 per deposit followed by nine equal monthly payments to clear the loan.

Can I bring the kids?

You sure can. Those aged 5 and under get in free and, during the weekend, there will be a kids’ area.

Will I be able to get something to eat?

Chef Peter Gordon is organising four pop-up restaurants: the Oyster Shack with fresh oysters, smoked salmon and champagne; Bellotta, serving drinks and tapas; C’aaf with salads and light meals and Savour, the main restaurant offering his signature fusion food – you’ll need to book for that, so email savour@artfair.co.nz or call (09) 363 6242.

And there’s a bookstore?

That’s right – there will be a temporary bookstore bringing together a range of local publishers to provide an overview of the diverse nature of art, culture and design publishing in New Zealand.

When does Auckland Art Fair start?

Opening night is Wednesday, May 25 from 5pm-8.30pm and tickets are $95 but you’ll get the first opportunity to view and purchase artworks and unlimited entry to the fair on Thursday and Friday (11am-5pm) and at the weekend (10am-5pm). General access tickets are $30, giving entry to the fair, the free talks, panel discussions and other special events, as well as access to Peter Gordon’s eateries.

What’s the Artists’ Party?

Planned for Friday evening, it’s a more informal event than the opening night where art enthusiasts and collectors can meet and talk to artists, gallery directors, curators and industry professionals. The restaurants will be open; top New Zealand DJs will perform throughout the night.

What’s so special about an art fair?

According to Dick Frizzell, one of the country’s most celebrated artists, whose work features on our cover: ” … I remember walking round the last fair and feeling a keen sense of … I don’t know – fellowship? It’s a weird and beleaguered scene, the art scene – tribal warfare and internecine rivalry based largely on smoke and mirrors. But, as I say quite often, the art world drives me nuts, but it is my world and I love it. Mostly.

“The Auckland Art Fair is a celebration of that; a bit like an opening – on a good night – a celebration of several months’ lonely work at the coalface. It must be fun planning it. Who gets put next to who, etc? Can you imagine the discussions that go on? But somehow they manage it, shuffling all the dealers around until an agreement is reached where the least blood will be shed.

“You pull your best frock on and rock on down for the bunfight. It’s some kind of validation for all the introspection and angst. For better or worse, we are in it all together.”

Emma Fox and Sarah McCrory, Fox Jensen Gallery: “It focuses people’s attention on what we do, and delivers an audience that is already primed to look. Gallerists and artists generally work in a vacuum of their own making, so it is great to be among colleagues, all striving to promote what they do to the best of their ability. For the audience, it offers the convenience and excitement of seeing works from all over in one place. The fair offers a whole range of insight into the world of art and artists, and if you are able, gives you the chance to acquire something you will cherish for a lifetime.”

Samantha Ferris, Galerie Pompom: “We’re a young Sydney-based gallery and this is our first international fair where we’ve got our own booth. We’ve got contacts in New Zealand so it’s a good opportunity to catch up, to build on those relationships. To fly across the Tasman isn’t as risky as further afield and I get the impression the fair will have a boutique feel to it, which is good – otherwise they can become big and unwieldy. We represent 18 artists and we’re bringing work by five of them.”

Need to know

What: Auckland Arts Fair
When: Wednesday, May 25-Sunday, May 29
Where: The Cloud. See artfair.co.nz.

Isaac Julien's Echo (Stones against Diamonds), 2015.

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