Highlights from the Auckland Art Fair 2021

Five artworks that still resonate.

DATE 8 MArch 2021 words becky hemus photography supplied

Brent Harris

This artwork combines the flatter elements of Brent Harris’ paintwork with a very gorgeous interaction between two almost celestial figures.

One of my favourite parts is the yellow curtain on the left, caressing the side of the canvas like a wave of golden hair. I also love the silhouetted figure that levitates forward, conical arms haplessly outstretched. The surface is matte and slightly cloudy, intriguing from a distance and absorbing on close inspection.

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Brent Harris, Untitled, 2020–2021. Courtesy of Robert Heald. 

Michael Parekowhai

Particularly elegant, this Michael Parekowhai bronze sculpture is visually weighted down by the lemon tree that sits on one side. The piano stool looks almost velveteen, the texture rich and warm. Referencing the artist’s 2011 presentation at the Venice Biennale, the artwork quotes European paintings, such as Paul Cezanne’s The Card Players (1894) and Georges de La Tour’s The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds (1593–1652), but with a sense of trickery within the Aotearoa colonial context that is quintessentially Parekowhai. 
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Michael Parekowhai, The Card Players, 2020. Courtesy of Michael Lett. 

Nayan Patel

There’s something about the gauche appeal of faux fruit that draws me in. This suite of candles by Nayan Patel is too good to burn (although if you do then the faint scent of CK One will start to haunt the air). They are slightly sticky and gloriously formed, with a ghostly sheen that absorbs and emits surrounding light. 

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Nayan Patel, Untitled (Candles), 2021–2021. Courtesy of Parasite. 

Inspiration Group

A friend described these artworks by Inspiration Group as “truly frightening”. Composed of synthesised faces of (mostly) white celebrities blended to look like criminal composites, the uncanny features jump out at you and loom over the room in a pretty scary way. When walking around the mezzanine area of the Auckland Art Fair, I kept feeling Britney Spears’ eyes following me and then being unable to pick out which artwork she was hiding within.
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Inspiration Group, I Don’t See Colour, Installation view, Auckland Art Fair 2021. Courtesy of Satchi & Satchi & Satchi.

Priscilla Rose Howe

My personal highlight from the Fair! I curate a gallery project called Wet Green with my colleague Eleanor Woodhouse, and we presented these drawings by Priscilla Rose Howe. I’ve never seen anything like them. They are nuanced and technically brilliant, capturing an array of melancholy and poignant characters that riff on performance and surrealism to explore a queer experience.


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Priscilla Rose Howe, Installation view, Auckland Art Fair 2021. Courtesy of Wet Green. 


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