Monday, September 09, 2013

Play time

Something that isn’t often mentioned about New Zealand’s Venice Biennale efforts is the disinterest of the Auckland Art Gallery. This looks like it's about to change.

There has never been an AAG curator involved in any of the Venice outings so far but given that five of our eight Venice artists have been based in Auckland you'd think that the AAG might have exhibited their work when it finished up in Italy. Not a chance. Indeed in the case of et al (even Te Papa refused to show it even though it had exhibited and purchased Venice installations by Stevenson, Upritchard, Millar and Parekowhai and will probably do the same for Culbert) the installation was only in the end exhibited in Auckland thanks to Artspace although in fairness the AAG did finally purchase the work.

This lack of involvement verges on the bizarre when you take into account the strong private support for Venice from Aucklanders. The patrons group for Venice almost replicates the AAG’s own key support group. So it seems that apart from the many artists, patronage has been Auckland’s great contribution to the Venice projects with Jenny Gibbs, Dayle Mace and Leigh Melville all key players.

Now there are signs that the Auckland Art Gallery with its new director Rhana Devenport is going to change all that. Word is that the projects of two AAG curators are going through to proposal stage and, more dramatically, that the director herself has submitted not one but two expressions of interest that have also been accepted to proposal stage. This is a big change in commitment and strategy. It could herald a shift from Te Papa’s domination of the event at home and, who knows, the possibility of someone from the AAG curating the next artist to represent us in Venice.