When the 2023 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Arts Laureates are announced on September 1, they'll uplift and highlight practising artists whose hard work has had an impact on Aotearoa. As they do every year, up to 10 exceptional artists will each be awarded $35,000 to continue their mahi.
The laureates, and to a certain extent the broader art space in Aotearoa, are made possible because of benefactors and patrons who endow financial support to an arts cause or creator.
We asked a trio of female patrons who have made financial contributions to this year's laureates - Theresa Gattung (patron of The Theresa Gattung Female Arts Practitioners Award), Sonja Hawkins (patron of The My ART Visual Arts Award) and Jillian Friedlander (patron of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Award) - about how the historical patronage model is changing to align with the modern arts landscape, and what they personally view as their responsibilities as an arts patron.
Why do you give to the arts? Where does your sense of duty or altruism spring from?
Theresa Gattung: It’s not duty. I enjoy the arts – whether it’s visual or performance they enrich my life and everyone who lives in New Zealand. Like other parts of life, whether it’s business, or entrepreneurship – it’s difficult for women to be supported. That’s why I chose to support an Art Foundation Laureate who is an established female practitioner in the arts.
Sonja Hawkins: Sometimes the pure physicality of art will make my heart race, and there is pure awe. But beyond that, the arts are important to the creativity and belonging of a community. It is a mark of history for the future and a look back at our past at a moment in time. We are lucky that through business, we are able to give; it is the greatest joy, that feels purposeful and rewarding.
Jillian Friedlander: On a personal level, I value creativity because I’ve been a creative all my life. I’ve lived with colour all my life – dance, painting, music. That’s me, from the deep south! Then I married into a family who had a legacy of duty and respect for philanthropy.
To me, giving to the arts is about enabling others to thrive with equal opportunity. It’s never about ego. We used to give anonymously as we didn’t want to be recognised in that way – but we’re more open about it now; in part to speak more frankly about the impact of giving and shared leadership
What is the role of an arts patron? Is it about more than money?
TG: The role of a patron can vary a lot. My act of support is always in the context of juggling lots of things. At the very least my support involves some sort of financial contribution. Because I’m not an artist – I’m not an obvious person to connect people or help further their careers, except for my enthusiasm or passion for others. That can be influential with other people.
SH: We have enjoyed funding an Arts Foundation Laureate which enables us to meet the artists and get to know them more over time. This makes it real, and if we can help support them in other ways it's wonderful to watch their careers evolve.
JF: Money is the essential exchange – but beyond that it’s about seeing growth over time. As a patron you need to be genuinely engaged and passionate.
I’m drawn to how art reflects back at us the big issues of the day. For example, right now it could be climate change. Art helps us have those conversations – it enables a wider movement to happen. So, in that sense, by giving to the arts we become part of the movement – we help it to move! We’re part of the jigsaw. That’s very important to me.
As a country how could we be better valuing our artists? What could we be doing differently?
TG: More profile for more artists! We need to see and hear their journey and how they are making a difference, in particular. Supporting via Boosted helps artists feel seen and supported – for not much money.
SH: Central government should be putting more money into our arts organisations. Public art galleries are the experts and can invest in an artist careers but get very little support. If central and local government underpin support it is easier for philanthropists to complement over a longer period or special projects like taking NZ artists around the world.
JF: Listening. If you don’t uplift the arts, you don’t have a healthy community. Look at history! A flourishing nation is a creative nation. We need to pay attention to those advocating for the arts, and to listen to our creatives and hear what they have to say.
As young or emerging artists, how should someone go about establishing a relationship with a patron? What attracts you to certain artists?
TG: You’ve got to focus on your art and do great work first and foremost, but you can’t be shy to speak about your work. After that – it’s chemistry and being in right place at right time. Surround yourself with people who have different skills than you do. Don’t get too narrow too soon. You’re going to need that friend who understands social media, or can help connect you with others.
SH: This is a personal thing and will differ for each person, but for me as a maker, I am drawn to materiality and texture. I also love nature and works with reference to this. Using Boosted to fund your projects is a great way; the Arts Foundation makes sure their patrons are looking, as well as the artist needing to rally their crowd. There are some amazing projects on that platform.
JF: In the beginning a lot of artists went direct to patrons and patrons went to studios. Over time that’s changed – artists are under the wings of galleries.
A true patron is someone enjoying and supporting someone’s work in the background – a quiet observer and champion. If you’re interested in giving to the arts, your best bet is to be part of networks that help connect you to artists, like galleries, or organisations like the Arts Foundation
Are there projects or recipients that you feel special pride in having helped in some way come to fruition?
TG: I’ve supported five Laureates over the past five years. I also support the Arts Foundation through their intimate dinner parties which is a great way to get to know artists in a quiet way. I’m an active Boosted giver, often for young dancers or film projects.
I like to buy art to support visual artists. I buy what I love (light and bright). When I was CEO at Telecom we supported Telecom Prospect, the annual contemporary arts exhibition at the City Gallery (Sir Roderick Deane set up the partnership). The Telecom Prospect exhibition was very influential in my interest in the arts.
SH: As well as supporting the Arts Foundation and other organisations, being a patron of a residency or a programme like the Venice Biennale has been very rewarding. The process can start some years out culminating in a show on the world stage, and visiting with other patrons is hugely gratifying. Giving artists an international platform is also a massive boost.
JF: Everyone is equal. Everyone has their own modality. It’s been a gift for our family to support many artists over the years – through the Friedlander Foundation, through my mother-in-law’s passion for Pacifica art and now through my own personal giving. From filmmaker Florian Habicht to painter and poet John Pule to jeweller Areta Wilkinson, taonga puoro player Ariana Tikao, dancer Lucy Marinkovich and composer Lucien Johnson... they all stand out.
Has the way you view your arts patronage role changed over the period of your involvement?
TG: No, it hasn’t changed. It’s always been about women.
I do think when women get into mid-life they can become invisible. That’s one of the reasons I choose to support a mid or late career female artist for the Arts Foundation.
It’s interesting that over the past five years it seems mid-career female artists are starting to receive good profile – for example Fiona Pardington and Lisa Reihana. And also older woman artists. It’s delightful to see the likes of Maureen Lander, Louise Henderson, Jacquie Fahey being celebrated and represented by gallerists. The importance of their work has been reframed in the last generation
JF: I’m lucky as I had 25 years of observing others give, and it gave me a cornerstone to understand philanthropy. I learnt to remove ego. If ego is why you’re in it, that’s not right. There should be no expectation to get back – what you get back is watching an artist grow and represent their ideas and their country, and they ultimately give back to their own community.
Over time my role has shifted from being an observer and then working alongside Sir Michael and the trustees of the Friedlander Foundation. That means a responsibility to carve new opportunities, but also honour the intention of those who came before. It’s like that phrase, I stand on the shoulders of giants.
SH: I guess there was always an assumption you had to be super wealthy to support, but we have learnt there are little ways to give, that can have a big impact. Our initial involvement was going to the Auckland Art Gallery and then dealer galleries. Meeting Leigh Melville (Managing Director and part-owner of Auckland auction house Art+Object) and going to Venice as part of that Patrons programme was the eureka moment. I’d read about the Venice Biennale with the amazing work of Dayle Mace growing the patron support, and Mike Parekōwhai's amazing presentation in 2011. It felt foreign to me – and not for us – but then we experienced it, and it enabled us to see NZ on the world stage and in a bigger perspective of the arts in NZ. It was transformative.
We became involved in the NZ at Venice Patrons programme, and got deeper into the arts. We’d got to a stage in our life where we had both found success through our business, and decided it was time to share that success. We started My Art to do just that. We were at an opening one night and the audience was loving the work – but we could hear lots of people say they couldn’t afford to buy anything. This got us thinking: How could we help this gallery sell this artist? Supporting the gallerists and the artists and newer buyers – in one whole ecosystem. Helping people own and live with art is a great way of giving back - and we hope we’ve created a system that keeps giving to many.
How do you see the Aotearoa arts scene evolving in the next 15 years?
TG: One of the great indicators of what is happening is that the wonderful Chelsea Winstanley is a co-chair of the Arts Foundation. Internationally successful, she’s chosen to live here and lead here. So inspiring to young wāhine Māori women.
The cultural institutions are changing and adapting and starting to reflect the country – that will encourage everyone to be involved. A bit like the way Black Grace made it cool for men to dance.
SH: If support comes, it could be vibrant to see the next generation of artists give us their view of the world. If nothing changes, it will still be tough.
JF: From a philanthropy perspective, I believe we need more people giving in smaller bites – rather than the silver bullet of a major gift. Let’s allow all people the opportunity, to give in the capacity that they can. That’s how we’ll continue to grow a culture of giving and engaging in the arts in New Zealand.