Monday, August 24, 2009

Waltzing Matilda

There was a time when a New Zealand artist heading off to live in Australia might as well have buried themselves in a hole in the ground as far as the New Zealand art world was concerned. This was an unforgiving place with no time for people who didn’t pay the ultimate price and live here. Talk to Jeffrey Harris, one of the pioneers. In the eighties he set up a studio in Australia, made an impression but nearly lost his audience and market here for his trouble.

Times have changed. For example, Ronnie van Hout, Daniel von Stermur and Patrick Pound have settled in Australia and continue to be shown, discussed and collected in both countries. This has largely been made possible through dealers like Darren Knight, Michael Lett, Hamish McKay, Roslyn Oxley, Starkwhite and others showing Australian and New Zealand artists with the same commitment.

A sign of this bigger cultural context tempered by the new financial environment is coming together today and tomorrow at Sotheby’s in Melbourne. Austcorp, an on-the-ropes Australian property developer, is auctioning its corporate art collection.

Now it wasn’t long ago that you’d expect the subject matter of those lots to be, well, Australian property, in the form of landscapes. Not so with this event that features both Australian and New Zealand contemporary artists. Many of the names that feature in the 246-lot catalogue will be familiar to gallery visiters on both sides of the Tasman and include Hany Armanious (lot 187), Patricia Piccinini (102, 188, 189, 195, 224), Tracey Moffatt (190,216), Callum Morton (197), Joanna Braithwaite (192), Bill Culbert (228), Mikala Dwyer (239) and Michael Parekowhai (175, 178, 194 and 209). Austcorp’s hubris is laid bare by Australian artist James Lynch currently showing at Michael Lett. His drawing, lot 240, is titled “Smash Capitalism.”
You can see the complete catalogue here.
Image: The Melbourne Age features Michael Parekowhai's Kapa Haka waiting to go on the block. Photo: Roger Cummins