Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Land grab

An unusual exhibition opens tomorrow. It’s unusual not because it features work by Peter Robinson from the 1990s, but because it is being exhibited at Gow Langsford Gallery in Auckland. Most New Zealand artists do not have sole representation and work with two or three dealers spread throughout the country and perhaps one in Australia. That pattern makes Gow Langsford’s announcement of a solo exhibition of Peter Robinson news a nose job for Robinson’s long-time dealers (Sue Crockford, Peter McLeavey and Judith Gifford) as in, up your nose.

The title of the exhibition? Sold out. Very Tui.

This saga started last year when Gow Langsford heard that a European collector of Robinson’s work was willing to off-load a couple of key pieces, o.T(box) and The great plane race. The crate work was made by Robinson when he was living in Germany and the upside-down version of Te Papa’s My marae, my Methven was constructed in New Zealand and sold in Germany. Gow Langsford, not short on chutzpah, figured there was an opportunity and had them transported back to New Zealand.

This sort of colonisation of competitor’s artists is an unusual tactic, particularly when it takes a strongly promoted solo format and without the co-operation of at least one of the other dealers involved. Even the über-aggressive Larry Gagosian usually restricts solo shows to his own stable of artists or to estates. While most dealers are active in the secondary market, the contemporary resale market tends to gravitate to an artist’s current dealers or is handled by the auction houses.

While we’re on the C word (Colonisation), there was also the suggestion a while back that Gow Langsford were planning a resale solo show of Shane Cotton who left Gow Langsford for Michael Lett last year.
Image: survey peg