Friday, June 06, 2008

Hide and seek

If we were to make a list of the most compelling spaces in New Zealand, right up there would be Peter McLeavey’s stock room. What was in there was the subject of many, many conversations and only a rare few were allowed to squeeze in and check it out. Add the stock room upstairs that nobody ever seems to have entered and the sense of mystery was complete. Guessing what was in Peter McLeavey’s stock room or pretending to have insider information about it became part of an elaborate game with Peter and his artists playing centre court.
We were reminded of this experience and the allure of the unknown at the Basel Art Fair as we watched selected collectors ushered into small backrooms constructed in some gallery booths. More than stock rooms many of them were private selling areas. Not all dealers used the mystique of the back room to entice sales though. Larry Gagossian, one of the most powerful people in contemporary art, spectacularly did his business from a desk in the front of his booth, in full view of anyone who walked by. But then, that has a mystique all its own.
Images: Larry Gagossian where everyone can see him. Right, backrooms.