The Auckland Art Fair lists 30 New Zealand dealer galleries – a total that matches the list of gallery links on John Hurrell’s site, eyeCONTACT. Of course there are many more dealers in business but around 30 with a commitment to contemporary art feels about right. There have been a few closures but most of those preceded the bite of the recession so the group of 30 range seems stable although they may sometimes feel a little exposed.
It’s a very different picture to the one that would have faced you 30 years ago. There would have been only 10 galleries on the list back then – with two of them (Peter McLeavey and Brooke Gifford) still in business. In those days across the hall from McLeavey was the Bett-Duncan Gallery that showed, amongst others, Alan Maddox, Phil Clairmont and Tony Fomison. Not an occupation for the faint-hearted.
Another big difference between then andnow was that Wellington was home to the same number of dealers as Auckland: four each (now it’s 18-5 to Auckland using the Auckland Art Fair listing) with the Brooke Gifford and Bosshard Galleries divvying up the South Island. In Auckland Barry Lett (now a full time artist), New Vision and Denis Cohen have all gone, although Peter Webb is still on board wearing his auction hat. Thirty years from now how many will there be? An OTN hat for the most creative answer.
Image: Wellington's 331/3's paint job lives on but the gallery is long gone, along with dealer galleries only charging one third commission on sales.