Tuesday, November 01, 2016


For New Zealand’s size there have been some pretty substantial philanthropic contributions made to contemporary art. Some obvious starters: Charles Brasch, Jenny Gibbs, Alan Gibbs, Robin and Erika Congreve, Denis and Verna Adam, James Wallace and, top of mind today, Fiona Campbell. Later today A+O will auction most of the works Campbell and her team toured to schools over the last ten years. 

Who’d have thought that Trade Me would have ended up sending contemporary art to school kids around the country. Thanks to a windfall from the sale of the online market place, and after asking herself ‘what the hell am I going to do with all this wealth?',  Fiona Campbell decided to deck out two trucks, fill them with contemporary NZ art and drive them round the country.

It wasn’t cheap. The total enterprise cost around $7.2 million. That represents an investment of $33 a head for each of the 216,611 students who got to look inside the trucks on the 708 school journey. The art was a mixed bag. Campbell has had two constant advisors - artist Rob McLeod, ‘who pretty much hates everything’, and curator Gerald Barnett, ‘who pretty much loves everything’. Presumably Fiona Campbell herself worked with these two extremes to assemble the collection.

Apparently the work the kids loved most was Andrew McLeod’s A Cautious Paralysis and this is one that has been held back from auction. Perhaps it was a favourite of Fiona Campbell's too along with a few other works not for sale including Fiona Pardington’s Solitary Female Huia and Michael Illingworth’s Girl In The Blue Hat (After Matisse).

Sources: A+O catalogue, rnz interview (Kim Hill and Fiona Campbell) 2011