Image: Elisabeth Pointon, SOMETHING BIG. (video still), 2020. Courtesy the artist.
The Auckland Art Fair has officially kicked off for 2021, one of the many events happening in Aotearoa this weekend following alert level changes (Auckland Pride’s march is also happening on Saturday).
Last year’s event was cancelled and went digital (you know, because of Covid), but 2019's event reportedly generated more than $9 million in art sales. It has become a highlight on the local arts calendar and this year especially will be important to local artists and galleries who had been impacted by lockdowns and the pandemic.
This year’s event brings together 38 galleries and more than 180 artists, both leading and emerging, with work available to purchase alongside various social events that bring the often intimidating and exclusive art world to the masses. There’s the Art Party on Friday night with DJs, food and drink, panel talks throughout the weekend and an outdoor sculpture space at the end of The Cloud. We like that it makes art a little more accessible (this year there is also an ‘under $5000’ initiative, targeting new collectors).
The Fair, run by friends Hayley White and Stephanie Post, also helps spotlight new and emerging artists.
An ‘In Residence’ initiative run by Becky Hemus (also of the May Fair Art Fair) offers support for emerging artist-run spaces to be part of the Fair, while ‘Projects 2021’ is a curated exhibition featuring commissioned works from six early career female artists - with a concept based around traditional artist exchanges.
Curator Micheal Do explains that “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”.
We love the brainy humour and whimsy of Elisabeth’s work, which is on show at the Art Fair and within the Tiffany & Co. boutique in Britomart. Often working with text, her new work includes an inflatable WHOEVER., as well as a video piece called SOMETHING BIG. - at the Fair cards featuring stills from the work are available alongside light boxes, which you can take to Tiffany & Co. store to be stamped as a memento.
She’s also a bit of a word and grammar nerd; making specific use of the full stop as an exploration of language.
“The sentiment reads slightly sarcastic, and even aggressive. I have found that by simply making the full stop a feature, a subversion takes place that allows for a more open reading.”
Ashleigh’s serene and thoughtful work will be displayed within local brand Yu Mei’s Newmarket store, an installation titled One that focuses on Māori connections to place. Sand from beaches Opoutere, Onemana, Whangamata, and Whiritoa is housed in welded vessels, alongside Ashleigh’s poetry. “The work is a process of self-reflection, combining the two ideas of One to investigate how I - as a wahine Māori - am able to trace my lineage back to the sands of the Hauraki coast,” she explains. The interactive part includes a poster that visitors are welcome to take home.
“For thousands of years, garlic bloomed as a core ingredient of Jewish culture - a cheap food with which to fill a poor stomach, a food of celebration, a food of good health. Garlic is also, however, bound to anti-Semitic propaganda within the concept of foetor Judaicus (‘Jewish stink’): a devil-like, sulphurous, garlicky scent supposedly emanating from every Jew.”
NZ-born, Chicago-based artist Casey explores the power of smell and symbolism with their large-scale ‘smellscape’ and textile installation knobl—soup, which combines onionskin, avocado, garlic-dyed cotton, ceramic, thread, garlic, wood, and steel. The work will be ‘activated’ at specific times throughout the Fair, with small cotton ‘blotter strips’ or patches that have been scented with garlic given away to visitors.
A timely exploration of hygiene, public spaces and everyday objects, Tanya’s work of a dilemma features an installation presented throughout the Fair: hollow steel structures akin to steel handrails and pipes that also feature kelly green soap.
“We wrap commodities in sterile plastic to prevent cross-contamination. This is a way we sever one network while continuing another. Pieces of non-biodegradable plastics, or microplastics, have been discovered to be cycling through weather systems around the globe, and will likely continue in perpetuity. Reciprocity is also practiced in nature, in the water cycle of evaporation and precipitation. What we’ve introduced into the world is being returned to us. Scientists have found microplastics in soil, air, and in drinking water.”
Tanya has also created decorative soap medallions for visitors to take home.
We spotted Lucy’s work last year, captivated by her quite weird but mesmerising video work Loaf - an hour-long film of birds eating snail-shaped bread in her parent's garden. Her work for the Art Fair continues that wit and connection to animals: called Local Branch, it features a deconstructed fallen bird’s nest catalogued in a publication - and the audience can apply to have a particular twig returned to Lucy’s yard. So far, so trippy. She’ll also be on hand, “in Local Branch-branded attire”, and handing out catalogues.
“When the nest fell down from the tree in the backyard, I searched for eggs inside and around it and was glad not to find any," she says of this work. "The nest was perfect though, with rougher layers of dirt and twigs supporting finer fibres at the centre. It looked very sturdy and seemed to have been constructed over the course of several years. I kept the nest in the garage for two seasons out of indecision and guilt. Pill bugs would occasionally roll over to it for an investigation. Mostly though, it was left alone to sag and subside on the concrete floor next to the garden implements and the extra soil.”
Becky’s ceramic installation An Egg, A Seed, A Stone is described quite charmingly as a “therapeutic experience”. More than 500 handmade stones, eggs and seed pods have been crafted over six months, and will be displayed at the Fair as a sort of interactive installation. We think Becky, who is also the editor of Ceramics NZ magazine and a gallery assistant at Objectspace, explains it best:
“These objects are singular, graspable, and mobile; each one formed between my hands, to fit in the hand of another. Eggs, stones, pods, seeds, created so they may flow out into the world, tumbling through the small, repeating circles and cycles of the everyday. For a hand, for a pocket, to be tucked in a tote bag or slipped under a pillow. Each object may take on a nuanced role, in accordance with the needs of its holder.
They might act as anxiety pacifiers, worry absorbers. Hold the object in one hand, lower your gaze, take three deep breaths, then slowly think through every stressor of that day – imagining as you do so, that each worry is passing through your skin, leaving your body, and storing itself in the held object.
Find one that fits comfortably in your hand. Use it as you see fit.”
The Auckland Art Fair runs from February 24-28 at The Cloud in Auckland; general entry from $27.