New Groundplans: 34 Artists, 34 Years

An exclusive curatorial statement by Victoria McAdam on the upcoming Artspace Aotearoa exhibition series and fundraiser, When The Dust Settles.

Date 16 August 2021 Text Victoria McAdam Imagery Supplied

The visual identity of When The Dust Settles is designed by Extended Whānau.

Phil Dadson described Artspace in its early days as “feral, alternative and attractive.” He encountered the gallery in 1987 when he mounted Groundplans / Soundtracks, the first exhibition staged at Artspace’s original Federal Street location. Weeks prior, The Artspace Trust had been established with a raison d’être to support diverse artistic production through platforming the innovative and experimental. In the 34 years since, Artspace Aotearoa has presented more than 400 exhibitions by over 2,000 artists.

In early 2020, just before the first lockdown, the organisation began its third relocation, this time into a new street level site at 292 Karangahape Road. After 22 years upstairs, the goal was to improve access and infrastructure for contemporary art practice in Tāmaki Makaurau and wider Aotearoa. In planning for the new space, provision was made for a cinema and project space, a workshop open to artists and the public, and an international and local residency studio. Considering the organisations primary funding could not, and can not, be allocated to built infrastructure, the pressure to innovate would have to extend to fundraising.

And so, as Artspace Aotearoa celebrated its 34th anniversary of continuous operation, it began planning an ambitious and unconventional project: When The Dust Settles. This four-part exhibition series and fundraising auction sees 34 seminal artists return to the gallery, offering significant works for presentation and sale. The list of participating artists ricochets through the programming history of the organisation, calling on both foundational artists and more recent alumni, including Billy Apple®, Stella Brennan, Phil Dadson, Brett Graham, Nikau Hindin, Claudia Kogachi, Judy Millar, Dane Mitchell, Fiona Pardington, Peter Robinson, Yvonne Todd and others. Together, this cast articulates decades of shifting cultural dynamics, signalling who has championed, shaped and benefited from our contemporary art spaces, and those who will attend to their futures.

A fundraising auction is not a radical concept. Internationally, high-stakes auctions are embedded into the programming of not-for-profit institutions, while nationally, artists are inundated with requests to gift works as revenue for all manner of pursuits. But When The Dust Settles make two structural efforts to align with the kaupapa that Artspace has claimed: it honours the contribution of its artists through inclusion in the exhibition programme, and it proves the tenability of an arts fundraising model that remunerates participation. In acknowledgment of the personal costs incurred in creating the works on offer and maintaining the practice that generates them, all artists are offered 50% commission. The commission structure also acknowledges artists’ dealer galleries, and allocates funding to produce a publication that chronicles the relationship between these artists and Artspace, capturing the rich personal histories that permeate our organisation and wider arts ecology.

If it is successful, the payoff will mean securing the necessary funds to offer a greater and better aligned range of entry points for artists, curators and other cultural practitioners at Artspace Aotearoa. And success is promising, as the collector base is beginning to murmur about the opportunity to acquire a new and original work by Billy Apple® or Ava Seymour in an auction climate, or an artwork with significant exhibition history that has recently been out of sight in Yvonne Todd’s studio.

When, the first of four exhibitions mounted as part of this project, does not look like a 2021 Artspace Aotearoa show. And the peculiarity will continue creeping as we near the auction on 19 October. But there is a pleasurable hum to seeing work by these artists return to the organisation that took them in as plucky recent graduates, or mounted their first solo exhibitions in decades past. Time will tell if this unusual project is a success—if, when the dust has settled, a new model for fundraising will emerge that remunerates the generosity of established art world actors while generating resources for further, future “feral, alternative and attractive” pursuits.

An article on the first exhibitions staged at Artspace, published in the now defunct Auckland Star on 9 February, 1987.

Billy Apple® will contribute a new painting to When titled Apple Turns to Gold. The artwork harks back to Apple’s The Golden Apple collaboration with the Auckland Coin and Bullion exchange in 1983, which was recorded in Billy Apple’s 2004 Artspace exhibition Tales of Gold: The Tale of Ray, curated by Wystan Curnow.

Gavin Hipkins’ solo exhibition The Habitat originated at Artspace in March 2000, before touring to Adam Art Gallery, Pōneke Wellington. 16 works from The Habitat return to Artspace Aotearoa (nee Artspace) for When, alongside a work from Hipkins’ ‘Block Paintings’ series.

In 1999, Stella Brennan curated Nostalgia for the Future, a group exhibition that included her own artworks alongside those by Fiona Amundsen, Julian Dashper, Mikala Dwyer, Guy Ngan and Jim Speers. Brennan returns to Artspace Aotearoa for When, the first installment of the exhibition and fundraiser When The Dust Settles.

An article published before Artspace’s original Federal Street location was demolished pictures early directors William Somerville, Mary-Louise Browne, Wystan Curnow and Sandi Morrison.

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