Why this year’s Auckland Art Fair needs to be added to your calendar

2 March 2020

As the curator of Projects, Michael Do says the Auckland Art Fair will showcase exceptional New Zealand talent generally unrepresented by dealer galleries


Tell us a little about yourself and your background. 

I’ve always been fascinated by artists and their ability to distill the ideas and issues of our time into powerful statements. Through gumption, luck and good counsel, I parlayed this interest into a career. I split my time across Sydney and Auckland.

Talk us through your curatorial role for the Auckland Art Fair.

As curator of Projects I facilitate – from conception through to delivery – the fair’s performance and installation program, which features the work of exceptional New Zealand talent who are generally unrepresented by dealer galleries. The initiative broadens the range of artists and types of art visible at the fair. This year, eight artists will develop new work in response to the guiding theme ‘Space as throughout the Cloud’ (where the fair takes place) and Britomart.

‘Lamp in Transit’ (2019) by Yona Lee.

The Fair showcases contemporary art of the wider Pacific Rim region. Which area or country do you see as emerging into its own?

Visual art is very much a global community. Aesthetic and theoretical practices in one community can directly influence and shape artists living on different parts of the globe. I don’t necessarily see one region as coming into its own, rather various discrete artistic communities across the globe – from Burkina Faso, to Bougainville Island to South Auckland – knitting closer together as part of a larger art world that isn’t divided by geographic labels.

Diversity across all sectors is key to not only being inclusive but relevant. Where do you perceive diversity in art currently?

While there have always been challenges to the [art historical narrative], the recent #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements have propelled museums in a very powerful way to rethink and reassemble what we call the ‘art canon’. However, like most industries, we’re still trying to navigate a path forward and how we achieve parity, diversity and inclusivity – without resorting to tokenism – is the question of our time.

Who are some of the upcoming artists you are currently following?

Besides the artists in the Projects, I’m looking forward to Yona Lee’s steel sculptures from Fine Arts, Sydney, along with Georgie Hill’s prints from The Auckland Print Studio, and Todd McMillan’s fields of blue from Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney.

‘Lull (II)’ (2019) by Todd McMillan.

What/who are you looking forward to seeing at the fair?

It feels remiss to single out something. Directors Stephanie Post and Hayley White have put together an incredible program of events, exhibitors, collaborators and ideas for 2020. But I have to admit, I always look forward to the spectacle of opening night – the outfits, the personalities and the politics. It’s never a dull moment.

Do you have particular curatorial interests you’d like to explore in future?

I’ve always loved working with artists, even on the difficult days. Listening to them, experiencing their art, sensing something special about artworks and believing we can find an audience for it. This is my main motivator for the work I do. At the heart of all curators is a desire to fight for an artist’s ability to express themselves how they want, within the limits of the law and good taste (whatever that might be).

I have always been a believer in artists and their convictions and remain so today. It’s an article of faith in a way. Maintaining this while working with new artists on novel ideas in novel places is what I most look forward to in the future.

Micheal Do is a curator and writer based in Sydney, where he currently works at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.

Auckland Art Fair
The Cloud, Auckland Waterfront
29 April – 3 May 2020

Photography by: Courtesy of the artists and Fine Arts, Sydney, and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney.

This article was first published in HOME New Zealand. Follow HOME on Instagram, Facebook and sign up to the monthly email for more great architecture.

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