Art in Auckland

In a happy coincidence, when I was in Auckland this July, I was able to attend the opening of Jasmine Kamante and Jesper Sundwall‘s art show, Florence to Auckland. They are both Classical Realists, and their detailed, touchable work applies the techniques of the Old Masters to postmodern subjects – shearing tools, streaked resin bottles, skulls. Personally, I collect paper-based works, loving their clean lines, and Kamante’s pastel and charcoal sketches combine richness and delicacy.

The morning after, I went to the revamped Auckland Art Gallery. In its previous incarnation, this gallery didn’t require anything special for a visit. Now, you need to wear walking shoes and give yourself a solid three hours to take it all in. It would take too long to list all the works I adored. I’m deeply pleased that now, when friends of mine visit from overseas, I can share with them why I am so excited by New Zealand art through this museum. The building itself is noteworthy. After its $125-million renovation, the enclosed Victorian building has been unfolded into a global-level art showpiece, incorporating the huge and beautiful trees of Albert Park through windows and terraces.

Only the Henry Fuseli exhibit left me cold, and that was an issue of context. Normally, I adore 18th-century drawings and engravings -I love getting lost in a Hogarth cartoon. But, after the vividness and power of the rest of the gallery, especially the HOME AKL exhibit, I wasn’t feeling it. Also, in the battle between accessible NZ art and providing a generic “art museum gift shop” experience for New Zealanders, the museum’s gift shop has chosen the latter. Disappointing, after I’d fallen in love with the New Zealand art and architecture throughout the gallery.

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