Remember back in the day when New Zealanders rushed to the Basel Art Fair like lemmings to a cliff? The Trip of a Lifetime crowd, how they loved Basel. ‘We need to be here’ they clamoured to CNZ. ‘We absolutely agree,’ CNZ chorused back. The harmony was, well, unusual is as good a word as any.
Now skip forward three years and try to get funding for an international art fair. You’re lucky to get $7500 here and $7500 there, bit of a change from the $90,000 they put up for Art Basel last time. There’s more support at CNZ for the Melbourne (is it still happening?) Art Fair adding up to what is not exactly the most dynamic overseas strategy. This year at Basel there is barely a government paid New Zealander to be seen.
This is all very unfortunate because Sriwhana Spong’s installation at the Basel Art Fair’s Statements exhibition is outstanding and attracting a great deal of attention. The problem is, from CNZ’s point of view, it might as well be the sound of a plinth falling in a forest. If CNZ really believes in the power of international connections (and they said they did, didn’t they?) one or two of them really need to get over to see what’s going on. Would some of us then call them out as junket travellers? Possibly, but they need to do it anyway.