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Promoting modern Pacific art in Auckland

Saturday 28 May 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Business, National


Promoting modern Pacific art in Auckland
Bergman Gallery director Ben Bergman. Photo: SUPPLIED/22052706

Art dealer Ben Bergman is expanding his operations to launch the first Pacific Island-based art gallery in Auckland.

For Ben Bergman, establishing a new gallery space in Auckland was a “no brainer”.

The gallery, which will be based on K-Road, will offer a regular Pacific focused exhibition schedule including paintings, photography, sculpture, installation and video.

Bergman says they are constantly exploring new opportunities for the artists that they represent. The new exhibition space in Auckland evolves the gallery mission to develop and exhibit Pacific artists on a domestic, regional and international level.

In addition to its physical exhibition calendar in two countries, Bergman Gallery will also broaden its digital and social media presence.

Sylvia Marsters in Rarotonga for the opening of her exhibition Tiare Taina in 2019. 21081310

“I think it made sense. Auckland is the largest Pacific (by population) city in the world. The fact that it did not have a contemporary Pacific focused dealer gallery always struck me as odd,” Bergman explains to Cook Islands News.

“Over the past 10 or so years I have waited for one to appear, it didn’t, so I’ve done it. The mission of Bergman Gallery has always been to elevate the recognition and exhibition of Modern Pacific Art.

“We also look forward to being part of the history of K Road, with its unique connection to the Pacific and LGBTQIA+ community and position within Auckland’s art gallery forum.”

Bergman says over the past seven years, Bergman Gallery has enjoyed the support of a fantastic core group of Cook Islands and Pacific artists who are aligned with the Gallery’s philosophy to broaden recognition of the modern Pacific art form.

“We all feel that it has a pertinent message and can speak at global level of exhibition, our recent effort in Venice with Cook Islands artist Mahiriki Tangaroa is an example,” he says.

“Our new space in Auckland allows us to further that conversation, in addition to increasing our artist representation, exhibition calendar, creating a new physical and digital audience and giving us further opportunities within regional/global markets.”

Mahiriki Tangaroa with her triptych 'Earth, Wind & Fire … Irrespective of Place' exhibition piece. 19071716

Bergman Gallery regularly participates in the Aotearoa Art Fair (formerly the Auckland Art Fair). Most recently, the Gallery featured in the European Cultural Centre’s curated project Personal Structures, Venice, Italy with Cook Islands artist Mahiriki Tangaroa.

Bergman Gallery opened in Rarotonga in 2016, evolving from its former incarnation Beachcomber Contemporary Art (BCA).

“Where ever we go, we are always asked where we are from. Bergman Gallery was established in Rarotonga and will always carry that recognition and brand wherever we go,” Bergman says.

“The fact that we now have a gallery in Auckland extends the recognition of the Cook Islands as a contemporary art destination. The Cook Islands boasts many fine artists, musicians, producers, directors, actors, digital content creators, writers, poets and film makers. That fact needs more recognition and public financial support. The creative industry is a huge national asset and prime area for development.”

Bergman arrived in Rarotonga in 1976 with his family. Raised and educated between the northern and southern group of the Cook Islands, he completed his education in Auckland, graduating from the University of Auckland in 1992.

He is director of Bergman & Sons, Cook Islands Black Pearls and Bergman Gallery.

Artist Andy Leleisi'uao (left) with Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright, who will open the exhibition for Leleisi'uao's work titled Mangere Aroha. 18030701

In 2001, he established Beachcomber Contemporary Art Gallery (BCA), which delivered exhibitions of Cook Islands and Pacific art in Rarotonga, New Zealand and New York City; co-curating the travelling group show MANUIA in 2010 and appearing at the VOLTA Art Fair in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Bergman has contributed articles to Art News NZ and Art Monthly Australia and currently sits on the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council.

“On behalf of the gallery and our artists, I would like to thank and acknowledge the phenomenal support of our many sponsors, patrons and clients. Our shared belief in Modern Pacific Art is about to evolve into an exciting new chapter,” Bergman says.

“I am also delighted to introduce our new Auckland Gallery manager Benny Chan. Benny is a graduate of the University of Auckland, Bachelor of Visual Arts, 2009. He has previously worked with the Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tāmaki and Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery. Benny’s experience and love of Pacific and New Zealand contemporary art is warmly welcomed.”

Bergman Gallery Auckland will open 25th June, 2022 from 2:30-5:30pm. The inaugural group show will feature new works by Mahiriki Tangaroa, Andy Leleisi’uao, Sylvia Marsters, Telly Tuita, Nina Oberg Humphries, Benjamin Work, Raymond Sagapolutele & Kulimoe’anga Stone Maka.

The gallery space will be officially opened by Caren Rangi, chair of the Arts Council of New Zealand, Toi Aotearoa. A welcoming blessing will be conducted at 2.30pm.