Monday 8 August 2011

At the art fair

This year's Auckland Art Fair felt bigger and lighter (almost scarily so - the sunshine pours into the new Viaduct events centre, often making it hard to get a good look at anything behind glass, and I imagine meaning a lot of the works on paper that dealers took along will be recuperating in a dark room for some time) but also somehow less exciting. Perhaps it was because the 2009 edition was my first art fair; perhaps because in general dealers opted for a tasting platter / stockroom approach and there were few big ticket items (large Robinsons, Parekowhais, Picks or Cottons) in evidence.

Having said that, there were some doozies. Michael Lett, as Over the net noted on the opening night, had another stellar showing. Giving over the whole space to Campbell Patterson, Lett festooned the walls with Patterson's blotchy, scabby, sultana-bran-and-spit spotted towels (you've gotta love something so determinedly hard to preserve being offered up on this occasion). Patterson's new video work - a tight close-up of the artist's head on its side on a concrete floor, mouth jammed with three ever so slowly melting yellow iceblocks - was transfixing.

Robert Heald
laid out my favourite stand - a stripped back presentation that both captured his aesthetic and the programme he's putting together in Wellington, and formed the best example of an actual show at the fair. A wall where two new Patrick Lundberg painted 'shoelaces' were punctuated by two small examples of Lundberg's found objects with carefully excised paint layers was restful, thoughtful, and good to look at, while three of John Ward Knox's light and airy canvases held the back wall.

Hamish McKay also went for the curated approach, while still managing to create a joyous jumble, uplifting a decent chunk of work from the recent collaborative project by jeweller Karl Fritsch, furniture maker Martino Gamper and artist Francis Upritchard and laying it out again in Auckland. Fond as I am of these pieces, it's now the third time I've seen them, and as a spoiled art viewer I would have liked to see something new. Then again, the collaboration is so damn appealing you can see why McKay wants to spend as much time with the works as possible - and to get them in front of Auckland eyes.

Of the dealers who took the stockroom approach, Darren Knight Gallery used a monochrome palette to bind together the work of a number of artists, including a covetable watercolour portrait by Ricky Swallow and an interesting new work by Michael Harrison. I also would have liked to have gotten a closer look at the new Fiona Pardington photos at {Suite} Gallery which were suffering a little from the glare issue: big, dark pulpy images of dramatic artificial flowers that seem like the plus-size of the series of small, sexy cigarette-card sized works she made a few years ago (a pair of plush lips, a bruised overblown rose, a sparrow in a fist). Kushana Bush had a nice selection at Brett McDowell's stand (another of the more restrained and more coherent instances at the fair) and I've also given my abstract-loving heart away to Selina Foote, who had two works at Sue Crockford.

But some of the best stuff was back at the dealers' actual galleries. More on that later this week.

No comments: