In booth artists’ talk by Raymond Sagapolutele. BERGMAN GALLERY/22120208
There’s a particular moment when a decision is made to purchase a piece of art. It can begin with a glance, a connection between the viewer and the work that invites a closer look. It can develop over time, an emotion evoked by the image and its story. Then there is the decision itself, the joy in knowing that this piece of art will be present to view every day. Such are the moments that mark the Aotearoa Art Fair, writes Rachel Smith.
range of work at this year’s art fair was extensive and varied, 40 galleries
and 180 artists participated in the five-day event from November 16 to 20. The
art fair is important business for the galleries and artists involved; in 2021
the art fair had sales of more than NZ$10 million with over 7000 visitors
of the art sold go entirely to the artists and their galleries, making the Fair
a significant cultural and economic event for visual arts in Aotearoa,
especially at a time when artists and galleries have been impacted by recent
global events,” said Stephanie Post and Hayley White, Aotearoa Art Fair
co-directors, following the 2021 fair.
Bergman Gallery returned to the art fair for the fifth time,
again the only representative from the Pacific Islands. The gallery’s stand was
substantialand the line-up of artists impressive, some
familiar names that have shown with the gallery previously and others that are
taking part in the art fair for the first time.
day before the official opening on Wednesday, November 16 and The Cloud on Tāmaki MakaurauAuckland’s waterfront was a busy place. Over the next
24 hours the blank walls of each gallery stand were transformed. At Bergman
Gallery, the feature presentation, Nga Meka – Tui Kura from Cook Islands
vaine Tungane Broadbent and Reuben Paterson from Aotearoa New Zealand, was the
first to be hung. The walls filled with colour - florals in fabric and glitter
that hold the eye, demand the viewer to stop and marvel at Broadbent’s
intricate tivaivai and the lush wonder of Paterson’s extravagant florals. This was
the second time the artists have been paired, the first, Today, Tomorrow and
Yesterday, at Bergman Gallery in 2017.
“The pairing of
Tungane Broadbent and Reuben Paterson is an intriguing blend of dualities. They
would seem to have little in common yet when you combine their distinct
artforms, these differences while at once highlighted, are cause for
celebration,” explained Ben Bergman, Gallery Director. “In Nga Meka – Tui
Kura,artists have together constructed a metaphorical garden of
flowers to deliver their narrative. Both artists are avid gardeners themselves.
From any garden comes an appreciation of nature, its beauty and fragility.
Gardens are complex micro ecosystems, they require time and patience, love,
respect, and consideration. They can teach us much about ourselves. These
pillars underpin the foundation of this presentation.”
Broadbent’s tivaivai are a
testament to her more than 50 years of the art practice. Her tivaivai manu (two
tone) and tataura (embroidery), feature kaute, orchid, tiare Māori, Christmas Lily and flamboyants. Each is
impeccably stitched and detailed, their beauty heightened by the understanding
of the hours that Broadbent has spent with this fabric in her hands. The
tivaivai was framed by Paterson’s glitter works, a technique specific to the
artist that has been developed over his long career. Alongside the tropical
florals and foliage were Aotearoa New Zealand’s native plants and flowers: raupō,
harakeke, kākābeak/ngutu kākā.
“The New Zealand
flora in these new paintings have been chosen for their declared spiritual
energy. The artist has even had physical remedies created from these plants and
literally imbued them into the canvases they represent. For Paterson, this is
an essential element, these paintings don’t just depict these plants and
flowers, they contain their healing and spiritual essence,” says Bergman.
for the group show, which make up the second half of the gallery’s stand, were
carefully unwrapped and decisions made by the gallery team - Bergman, joined by
Julian Zeman, media partner, Benny Chan, manager of the Auckland gallery and
Jade Cavalcante from SCAPE Public Art - on how each work would be displayed.
group show had a strong focus on Cook Islands vaine, with Mahiriki Tangaroa,
Sylvia Marsters and Nina Oberg Humphries, alongside artists Raymond
Sagapolutele, Telly Tuita, Shannon Novak, Benjamin Work, Gavin Jones, Heather
Straka, and Sēmisi Fetokai
Potauaine in the outdoor sculpture
space. Both Tangaroa and Marsters had coinciding solo shows - Tangaroa’s Kaveinga
– Angels of the Ocean showing as part of Personal Structures in Venice, and
Marsters’ E Moemoea Naku – A Dream of Mine, at Bergman Gallery Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.
For Tangaroa, this year marked
the fourth time she had exhibited at the art fair with Bergman Gallery. “The works on exhibition at the art
fair have become notable visual records of discussions, feelings and debate
which circulated during our Covid period here in the Cook Islands. It was an
intense time, whereas a vulnerable small island nation, we opened our borders
to visitors, friends and family from Aotearoa. With thanks, we’re now on the
road to social and economic recovery,” she says.
work at the art fair included her noted paintings of tiare taina and kaute. “Floral
paintings express my relationship with ipukarea, my ancestral home - hibiscus, primarily
for their iconic representation of the Pacific Islands, and gardenia, an
obsession throughout my art practice. For me they capture the vaerua, spirit, of
the Cook Islands,” says Marsters. “As an artist of Polynesian heritage, it’s
important to me, that my work is represented by a gallery located within the
Pacific Islands region. Bergman Gallery is very aware of its role in
representing contemporary Pacific art with respect, knowledge and integrity.”
Oberg Humphries flew from Ōtautahi Christchurch, bringing her art works with
her. Her circular intricate moulded works, constructed from FIMO and finished
in automotive spray, glistened against the white backdrop. Hung alongside were her
staff god sculptures.
atua were representative of family members or gods associated with a particular
practice,” explains Oberg Humphries. Traditionally used to provide strength and
guidance, these specific tāura atua were created without any particular person
in mind, instead inspired by the artists feelings in that moment and the memories
triggered by the ‘found’ Pasifika material used in their construction.
the five days of the art fair, thousands of people moved through The Cloud,
many visiting multiple times. At the Bergman Gallery stand, one viewer takes a
seat in front of The Child by Paterson, enjoying a long moment of
observation. Others pause in conversation in front of Broadbent’s tivaivai to
closely examine the detailed stitchwork. Many return for the gallery’s artist
talks from Sagapolutele, Novak and Fetokai Potauaine, each talk a conversation which enables
the connection between art work and viewer to deepen.
As the art fair closed, works were taken down and
re-wrapped, many going straight from the art fair to their new home. Bergman
Gallery is already looking ahead to the next Aotearoa Art Fair, a few short
months away on 1-5 March 2023. Preparations are well underway for what will
undoubtedly be another celebration of Pacific art.