Jonathan Ward Knox, Hardly Held Lightly

The Contemporary Benefactors and members of the Chartwell Trust, enjoyed a sunny evening on the sculpture terrace surrounded by Jonathan Ward Knox’s new work, Hardly Held Lightly, a trio of super-sized sculptures, spun in the shape of giant spider webs.

Jonathan Ward Knox with one of the sculptures from his work Hardly Held Light
Jonathan Ward Knox with one of the sculptures from his work Hardly Held Light.
Shana Devenport with Jonathan Ward Knox work from the Hardly Held Lightly series, at Auckland Art Gallery
Rhana Devenport with Jonathan Ward Knox work from the Hardly Held Lightly series, at Auckland Art Gallery

The sculpture terrace at the Auckland Art gallery comes alive with John Ward Knox’s new site-responsive work, Hardly Held Lightly. Ward Knox transformed more than a kilometre of industrial chain into three vast weavings, imitating the webs of a giant spider. Joining the tree-tops of Albert Park to the building’s eaves, Ward Knox plays with a key aspect of our 2011 redevelopment – linking our Gallery building to the park.

Charlotte Swasbrook with Jonathan Ward Knox
Charlotte Swasbrook with Jonathan Ward Knox
The Contemporary Benefactor's Committee. Jane Browne, Nicky Pennington, Sue Waymouth, Kriselle Baker, Charlotte Swasbrook.
The Contemporary Benefactor’s Committee.
Jane Browne, Nicky Pennington, Sue Waymouth, Kriselle Baker, Charlotte Swasbrook.

The webs are not drawn from ancient cultural symbols of death or decay, or even Halloween. Instead, Ward Knox draws on an arachnid’s sensibility, by modelling the complex decisions about shape, link and length required to create a natural spider’s net. This intricate form of pattern-making which is rarely closely observed, hangs in tremendous weight and outsized scale and connects us to the natural beauty of the park.

Sue Gardiner from the Chartwell Trust
Sue Gardiner from the Chartwell Trust
Natasha Conland with Chris Swasbrook
Natasha Conland with Chris Swasbrook

This exciting installation is the latest in a series of commissions by emerging New Zealand artists for the level 2 space, thanks to Chartwell Trust and the Contemporary Benefactors.


Zara Stanhope, Principal Curator at Auckland Art Gallery
Zara Stanhope, Principal Curator at Auckland Art Gallery

24 October 2015 –  5 June 2016
Edmiston North Sculpture Terrace, level 2, amphitheatre and Albert Park

Image credit: John Ward Knox, Hardly Held Lightly, 2015, steel chain. Commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2015. Supported by the Chartwell Trust and the Contemporary Benefactors

Text credit; Auckland Art Gallery


Sydney Art Week – SPRING 1883

A citywide sweep of vibrant and diverse art events including art fairs, exhibitions, public programmes and performances, graced this year’s edition of Sydney Art Week. SPRING 1883, a satellite art fair that started as a rebellion to its more traditional counterpart, Sydney Contemporary, also comprised the abundant cultural calendar. A showcase for the latest visual art, current trends and emergent practices, SPRING 1883 was well worth the visit.


Following the success of the inaugural SPRING 1883 in 2014 at Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel, the fair expanded to Sydney’s Establishment Hotel this year, inviting twenty-five galleries to participate, with each one occupying a different room across four floors.

The three gallerists behind SPRING—Vasili Kaliman of Station, Geoff Newton of Neon Parc, and Vikki McInnes of Sarah Scout Presents—disregarded the familiar white booth in favour of small boutique hotel rooms. Drawing on the traditions of the Gramercy Park Fair in New York, this style of presentation prompted participating galleries to conceive innovative ways to showcase their art and address their curatorial and spatial concerns.

Michael Lett joined forces with long time friend and gallerist, Phillida Reid, of Southard Reid in London, to present works by Hany Armanious and Edward Thomasson, among others. Spread out over two floors in a naturally lit corner room, the highlight was two video works by Edward Thomasson, an emerging video artist who has quickly established himself as “future great” of the increasingly popular medium. Thomasson’s meticulously constructed videos, typically set in institutional environments, oscillate between a small selection of characters, scenes and storylines, before culminating in a deeper meaning at the conclusion of each video. The artist employs amateur and professional actors to address the unspoken rules of social interaction, whilst also getting inside the characters’ heads through the projection of internal monologue.

 Edward Thomasson, Still from Find a Problem to Solve (2008)
Edward Thomasson, Still from Find a Problem to Solve (2008)

Several galleries resourcefully incorporated the bed into their presentation. Robert Heald Gallery presented a solo exhibition of large yet intimate works by Jae Hoon Lee. Lee’s lightjet print on metallic paper work, Cloud 4, took on the form of an intricate headboard. A selection of Paul Yore’s colourful needlepoint works were sprawled on the bed of Neon Parc’s room, while works by Trevelyan Clay, Dale Frank, Elizabeth Newman and others occupied the remaining furnishings, including the television stand, which had been tipped on its side. Over the corridor at Hamish McKay Gallery, watercolour works by Rohan Whealleans were neatly draped across the bed.

Jae Hoon Lee, Cloud 4, 2015, Lightjet print on metallic paper (edition of 5), 90 x 166cm
Jae Hoon Lee, Cloud 4, 2015, Lightjet print on metallic paper (edition of 5), 90 x 166cm

Sarah Cottier Gallery’s room was big on colour; the shower was illuminated with Brendan van Hek’s Arrangement #1, a repurposed neon light on a found lamp stand, while the walls were lined with Esther Stewart’s exquisite abstract boards. Works by Julie Fragar, Huseyin Sami, Jonathan Zawada, Matthys Gerber, Nicola Smith, Elizabeth Pulie, Koji Ryui and others were a visual feast for the eyes on every other surface of the room.


Hopkinson Mossman presented an exhibition of solo works by Fiona Connor, namely her recent Community Notice Board works, which provide a social commentary on a certain place and time—whether this be a church, a park, or a community centre—by replicating exact information from existing notice boards. The subtle presentation proved rewarding for those who took time to read the small text.

 Fiona Connor, Community Notice Board (Kaiseraugst), 2015, custom oak pin board, paint, silkscreen and UV print on aluminium plates, vinyl, pins, staples, tape, 740 x 420 x 40mm
Fiona Connor, Community Notice Board (Kaiseraugst), 2015, custom oak pin board, paint, silkscreen and UV print on aluminium plates, vinyl, pins, staples, tape, 740 x 420 x 40mm

In contrast, Darren Knight Gallery brought a full roster of artists, including Chris Bond’s Vogue Hommes oil on linen works, Jon Campbell’s enamel paint and cotton duck works (bearing irreverent phrases), Matlok Griffith’s colourful oil on cotton works, Rob McHaffie’s surrealist oil on linen portraits and James Morrison’s five panel Limmen Bright work. Upon closer inspection, Michelle Nikou’s intricate gold sculptures, Kenzee Patterson’s found objects (such as a stainless steel ruler) and Ricky Swallow’s magnifying glass with rope could be found.


With its quiet and serene hotel rooms, SPRING 1883 provided a welcoming contrast to the inherent spectacle of art fairs. Presenting art in hotel rooms, which is more akin to a domestic setting than the traditional white booth, activated the works in a different way. The private confines of the rooms also removed the friction often observed at art fairs when works of high value are placed beside those of lesser value, leaving visitors to make sense of it all themselves.

SPRING 1883 managed the unlikely task of presenting refreshingly emergent art that was both experimental and challenging without comprising on substance or standing. Here you could enjoy art and feel free from the pressures and tensions of larger, established art fairs.


Sophie Wallace

Gordon Walters

Gouaches and a Painting from the 1950s

On the evening of Friday the 23rd of September, the Contemporary Benefactors were treated to a private viewing of the exhibition and introductory talk by John McCormack. The show’s curator Laurence Simmons explains.

There are three important sources that inform Walters’ gouache works, which were mostly painted over a decade at night while he worked for the Government Printing Office during the day. First of all, Walters had worked his way aboard ship to London in 1950. In 1951 on a continental excursion, he was exposed first-hand to the geometrical abstractions of Auguste Herbin, Alberto Magnelli and Victor Vasarely at the Denise René Gallery in Paris; and then the works of Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg in The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Secondly, into this heady engagement with European modernity upon his return to New Zealand Walters was to inject his prior interest in the field of Maori rock art. During the summer of 1946-47 he had worked closely alongside Indonesian expatriate Theo Schoon recording Maori rock drawings in the limestone bluffs and shelters of South Canterbury, places which Schoon majestically described as ‘New Zealand’s oldest art galleries’. The rock-art depiction of human and animal figures with blank centres inspired the geometry and interlocking structures of stylized anthropomorphic figures that were to appear later in many of Walters’ gouaches. Thirdly, in 1953 Schoon had also introduced Walters to the work of Rolfe Hattaway, a permanently hospitalised psychiatric patient whose drawings made with a lump of clay on the asphalt of an exercise yard had captivated Schoon when employed as an orderly at the Avondale psychiatric hospital. Schoon provided Hattaway with art materials and later he and Walters copied Hattaway’s loopy tumults of line, in particular the repeated motif of a long open rectangle penetrated by a curving snake-like form. The importance for Walters of this positive form penetrated by a negative emptiness was now confirmed for him from an arresting double source: rock art and outsider art. These two tours de force dramatise the radical aesthetics of Walters’ fifties gouaches that willfully blur the differences between abstraction and nature.


Walters’ rapid study gouaches of the 1950s called for a certain tenacity of purpose, sustained analysis and prolonged concentration. They yielded a surprising narrative of astonishing range, providing images and compositions that would carry Walters through the decades to follow. Years later he was still using motifs he had stored in his visual memory from the fifties. For the paradox remains that in such an elaborated intellectual practice of painting as Walters’ so many of the key effects and decisions are derived from moments of pure coincidence and inspiration. Walters’ best works of this period are permanently embroiled in the present tense of their making; they would be just as fresh as if created today or tomorrow.


Laurence Simmons, September 2015

Gordon Walters is best known for his paintings employing the koru, the curving bulb form from Maori moko and kowhaiwhai rafter patterns. He is a revered figure in New Zealand, recognised for a long and productive career spanning four decades. The Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki presented a retrospective exhibition his work in 1983 and a survey exhibition Parallel Lines in 1994, and he has been included in many survey shows, including A Very Peculiar Practice: Aspects of Recent New Zealand Art at the City Gallery, Wellington. In 2014 Starkwhite and the Walters Estate presenteda small survey show of his koru paintings at Art Basel Hong Kong. Walters is represented in the country’s major public collections and his place in our art history is memorialised in the bi-annual Walters Prize exhibition and award at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.

Laurence Simmons is Associate Dean (Postgraduate) and Professor of Film Studies in the School of Social Sciences at The University of Auckland. He has written extensively on contemporary New Zealand art and photography and his latest two books areTuhituhi (2011), on the painter William Hodges who journeyed with Captain James Cook on his second voyage to the South Pacific, andBlutopia (2014), on the artist John Reynolds.

Located in New Zealand on Auckland’s Karangahape Road, Starkwhite presents a programme of artists’ projects, solo shows by represented and invited artists, and independently curated exhibitions.

Laurence Simmons

Please contact the gallery for further information and images.

Collecting Art Talk with Natasha Conland

The Auckland Art Gallery invites Contemporary Benefactors to a talk on, ‘an introduction to collecting art’ by Curator Contemporary Art, Natasha Conland.


Thursday 11 June, 6–8pm
Members lounge, Level 2

‘Let’s talk about collecting’. So, you’re thinking about developing your art collection or going in a new direction? Are there questions you’ve always wanted to put to a professional, but were too afraid to ask? Are there grey areas of the art world you want to clarify? Come along to a light-hearted talk by Curator Contemporary Art, Natasha Conland on collecting contemporary art. Not just for the brave or obsessed, but also for the curious. Have a glass of wine and some nibbles. Enjoy hearing about buying art – insights and accidents!

Natasha has led the development of contemporary art in New Zealand’s two major public art collections for 14 years. She has also visited major museums of contemporary art internationally to meet with colleagues about collecting from TATE to the New Museum, through Asia and the Middle East, and has
visited many private collections during her professional life.


RSVP for numbers to 0273160332

Richard Serra

Feature Artist: Richard Serra

By Sophie Wallace 

“What interests me is the opportunity for all of us to become something different from what we are, by constructing spaces that contribute something to the experience of who we are.” –Richard Serra

richard serra 3
Richard Serra, Torqued Ellipses, Dia:Beacon. Photo by Sophie Wallace.

David Zwirner New York is currently exhibiting a new major installation in forged weatherproof steel by Richard Serra. Entitled Equal, the installation comprises a series of paired stacked cubes. Weighing at forty-tonnes each, the gallery was required to engage hydraulic gantries, bridge rollers and cranes to install them. David Zwirner, who was concerned about the weight of the steel cracking the gallery’s cement floor, had a sculptural on-ramp installed for the duration of the show, which acts as a bridge to lift the weight of the sculptures from the foundations.

Richard Serra2
Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York/London. Photo by Grady O’Connor.

Serra, who has been working with sculpture for more than thirty years, was prompted to consider “ways of relating movement to material and space” after watching contemporary dancers as a young artist in New York in the late 1960s. His series, Torqued Ellipses, on long-term view at Dia:Beacon, continues the artist’s exploration of movement and space through sculpture. Weighing at over twenty-tonnes each, the two-inch thick rolled steel plates spiral inwards, so that the viewer is taken on a journey towards the centre of each piece, confronted with a dramatic tension between one’s bodily awareness and one’s vision. Comprised of sixteen-foot sheets of steel—the maximum size available—there were only two rollers in existence that could execute the task of producing the sculptures.

Richard Serra
Installation view, Richard Serra: Equal, David Zwirner, New York, 2015. Photo by Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART. Artwork © 2015 Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

New Zealand is fortunate to have been graced with Richard Serra’s presence by virtue of his Te Tuhirangi Contour installation at Gibbs Farm. The large-scale site-specific sculpture contains 56 Corten steel plates that follow a single contour line across the landscape.

richard serra4
Richard Serra, Te Tuhirangi Contour, courtesy of Gibbs Farm, New Zealand.

Richard Serra was born in San Francisco in 1938. Serra’s first solo exhibition was held at the Galleria La Salita, Rome in 1966. His first solo museum exhibition was held at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1970. Since then, Serra’s work has been the subject of multiple solo exhibitions across the world. In 2005, the Guggenheim Museum Bibao permanently installed eight large-scale works by Serra and in 2007, the Museum of Modern Art, New York presented a major retrospective of his work.

Richard Serra: Equal is on view at 537 West 20th Street, New York through the 24th of July.

Thank you to Sophie Wallace, who is based in New York, for providing this article for the Contemporary Benefactors.


Mark Adams

Mark Adams

The Contemporary Benefactors shared an evening with New Zealand photographer Mark Adams at Two Rooms Gallery in Auckland. Gallery Director Jenny Todd provides an insight into Adam’s work and his exhibition “Nine Fathoms Passage”.

Nine Fathoms Passage

24 April – 23 May 2015

Mark Adams is one of New Zealand’s foremost documentary photographers, with over thirty years engagement in our colonial and pre-colonial histories. His first journey to Dusky Bay in 1995 launched his exploration of James Cook’s landing sites. His portrayal of these locations responds to the vision of painter William Hodges who was present on the second of Cook’s voyages. Adams made further expeditions to Dusky Sound in 1997 and 1998, more recently returning in May 2014.

Nine Fathoms Passage, 27. 6. 2014 – 1. 7. 2014. After William Hodges ‘Waterfall in Dusky Bay with a Maori Canoe, 1775-7 11 panels , 11 metres long (Detail)

The inlet was first sighted and named by Cook during his first voyage to New Zealand on the Endeavour in 1770. On the second voyage in 1773 the Resolution arrived in Dusky Sound after three months skirting the edge of the Antarctic ice fields. Cook and his crew then spent two months exploring the Sound. Appointed by the Admiralty to record these discoveries was English painter, William Hodges. He produced many drawings on board and on his return created four paintings depicting Dusky Sound, with portraits of the local peoples, thought to be Kati Mamoe.

A soft golden hue imbues these paintings with the romanticism of a majestic and beautiful landscape. Idealised and sublime, these were the beginning of a European vision of New Zealand, in particular the South Island. For Mark Adams these paintings denote the start of our settler origins and our cross-cultural history with its attendant turmoil.

2014. Seaforth River, Supper Cover, Dusky Sound.

This exhibition is an extension of the work Adams began in 1995. It is the last of four works responding to Hodges’ four paintings made following the time he spent in this remote part of the world. Seen as a means to document our history rather than simply depicting the landscape, Adams places himself inside Hodges’ paintings and looks out from these sites to reassess the history of this singular landscape. He slowly reveals the character of the place, only discovered through sustained attention and many hours spent camping in these locations, often in extreme conditions.

2014. Broughton Arm, Breaksea, Dusky Sound.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is called, Nine Fathoms Passage, 27. 6. 2014 – 1. 7. 2014. After William Hodges ‘Waterfall in Dusky Bay with a Maori Canoe, 1775-7. Placing his camera at the point where Hodges painted the Maori canoe, Adams’ has taken in a 360 degree panorama, producing his largest work to date. Occupying an entire wall of the gallery, the eleven panel, eleven metre long panorama, is photographed in colour. Looking in all directions from a singular point, recorded over a period of time, this monumental artwork captures the eerie stillness of this historically significant New Zealand place.

Mark Adams
Nine Fathoms Passage, 27. 6. 2014 – 1. 7. 2014

The three earlier works from the Dusky Bay series: View in Pickersgill Harbour after William Hodges, 17 May 1995 (3 panels), Indian Island, 360° panorama after William Hodges’ ‘View in Dusky Bay’, 2 – 10 August, 1998 (8 panels), and After William Hodges’ ‘Cascade Cove’, 21 May 1995 (4 panels), are hand printed, gold toned silver bromide black and white prints and an edition of each is in the collection of Auckland Art Gallery.

Adams’ works have been exhibited and collected by Auckland Art Gallery; Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; Christchurch Art Gallery; Govett Brewster Art Gallery; and Queensland Art Gallery. Significant exhibitions of Adams’ work have been staged at the Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University of Wellington; Sydney Museum; Zelda Cheatle Gallery, London; The National Library, Canberra; Sao Paolo Biennale 1997, among other major museums.

Mark Adams acknowledges Creative New Zealand, who generously supported this expedition.

Written by Jenny Todd, Two Rooms Gallery, Auckland

Thank you to Two Rooms Gallery for hosting the evening.

More information on Mark Adams can be found on the Two Rooms website:

Billy Apple®

In May the Contemporary Benefactors spent a special evening with Billy Apple® and Wellington curator Christina Barton. Barton has had a long professional association with Apple and was the driving force behind bringing the largest retrospective of Apple’s work, The Artist Has to Live Like Everybody Else, to the Auckland Art Gallery.

Christina Barton talks the Contemporary Benefactors through the Billy Apple® show at the AAG May 2015

Billy Apple® was born Barrie Bates in Auckland, New Zealand in 1935. Having left school with no qualifications, he took a job as an assistant to a paint manufacturer while attending evening classes in graphic design at the Elam School of Fine Arts. In 1959 he left New Zealand on a National Art Gallery scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London alongside artists such as David Hockney, Allen Jones and Derek Boshier. Collectively, they would go on to spearhead the emergence of British Pop Art.

The turning point in Apple’s career came after he graduated in 1962 when he invented Billy Apple®, changing himself into a brand and an artwork. There was no turning back after this point; he altered his look by bleaching his hair, trained himself not to respond if people referred to him as Barrie and refused to contact his family. Apple says “I suppose it’s like coming out, it gave me freedom, I was my own subject matter. It was a brand new thing”

self portrait apple
Billy Apple® Self Portrait 1963
gold apples
Billy Apple® Bronze Apples

A pivotal event for Apple was the 1964 exhibition The American Supermarket, a show held in Paul Bianchini’s Upper East Side gallery. The show was presented as a typical, small supermarket environment but with the products created by prominent pop artists, including: Billy Apple®, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselmann, Jasper Johns, Mary Inman, James Rosenquist and Robert Watts.


Billy Apple® “The American Supermarket” 1964

In her talk Barton noted that “at art school Billy took a hands off approach to making art”. He gave away his camera, stopped drawing and painting and instead used specialised photographers, printers and typographers. It was very much like working as a creative director in the advertising world. As Apple says “I didn’t want to spend 10 years learning how to mould a peeled banana. There were people around who were fantastic at doing that.”

Apple also treated his clients as collaborators. Requiring them to enter into the process of creating the artwork while at the same time broadening the definition of art. For Apple, art was not about making objects, it was about generating ideas. “I was interested in ideas, the relationship between text and image, picture and headline. Advertising had a language that art didn’t have at the time, which gave it a structure” says Apple.

neon apple

In 1975 Apple returned to New Zealand for the first time in sixteen years. At his exhibition Art for Sale at Peter Webb gallery in 1980 he exhibited a series of paintings that were in effect receipts as payment to the artist. This was followed by a series called Transactions. The law firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, for example, has a number of canvases in the company collection stating the amount of credit extended to Apple over the years.


Billy Apple® “Art For sale” at Peter Webb Gallery 1980

In 2008 Apple was approached by the scientist, Craig Hilton, to create a project titled The Immortilisation of Billy Apple®, in which cells taken from Apple’s blood were scientifically altered using a virus to cause them to continue regenerating indefinitely. These are cells used for cancer and immunology research. The new cells are now available to other artists who may want to make them into art work (although Apple did point out that it would depend on what they wanted to use them for!). The modified cells are held at both The University of Auckland School of Biological Sciences and in the United States at the ATCC Global Bioresource Centre. This is the first time an artwork has been stored in such a way. Some of the cells are on show in an incubator in the Auckland Art Gallery exhibition.

In conjunction with Saatchi and Saatchi, Apple continues to extend his product range and has a special Apple cider and a Billy Apple® coffee blend.

cider apple
Billy Apple® cider

Even at 80 years of age Apple is still working on new ideas. In an interview with the art critic Anthony Bryt he commented ”I’m living in a 79 year-old body, and it’s hard. The mind’s quicker than the body. But the comforting thing is that, with the cells out there, there isn’t really an end for me. There is no final date. Can you name any other artist In the world who’s done that? Nobody”.

Billy Apple
Billy Apple®

With around 200 works, this is one of the largest survey exhibitions of an artist that has been shown at the Auckland Art Gallery.

For more information on Billy Apple® go to

Interview with Christina Barton

For the interview with Anthony Byrt

NZ Herald Interview with Greg Dixon

of the Auckland Art Gallery