ALL NEW ~ MEADOWLARK
Sep 08 2021
The Hamish McKay Gallery opened in 1993 representing leading artists from New Zealand and Australia. Tucked away on Jessie St in the heart of central Wellington, Hamish Mckay presents a regularly changing programme of exhibitions and installations, contributing significantly to the Australasian art scene, and the gallery scene here in Wellington.
The gallery has participated in numerous art fairs over the years such as the Liste Art Fair in Basel, the Frieze Art Fair in London, the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) as well as attending Fairs more locally across New Zealand and Australia. He is now most happy operating closer to home.
We love the work Hamish Mckay does for the art world here in NZ, so we got in touch to learn about the Good Shit that Hamish is getting up to.
What has been the effect on your business post-lockdown last year and what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced during this current lockdown?
Business has been very steady since post-lockdown last year, with a majority of sales made to buyers new to the market. Visitors to the gallery have been curious and considerate, more willing to take a punt. It’s as if the idea of having art as a part of your life is not so intangible, taking on a different meaning and personal value in these more reflective times.
I haven’t faced any particular challenge as such during this lockdown. A couple of upcoming shows are delayed, but I've been able carry on with business and related gallery activity from home, catching up on things you neglect when you’re busy, as I’m sure most people are.
Not being able to visit friends and family, some of whom have had a harder time of it, would be the most difficult aspect of this lockdown for me.
What’s the biggest revelation you’ve had during these times?
That people are still buying art! I can’t say I’ve had any major revelations this time around, though I’m at the age where I'm searching for one. Despite brushing up on some existential philosophy (I love the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer ... quite grim, no sugar coating with him, but excruciatingly funny) nothing has quite hit home yet, though I sense a life changing revelation in the air …. you’ll have to get back to me on that one.
If you had to lockdown with one celebrity/person of influence, dead or alive, who would it be?
Probably Charles Darwin…I’d be interested in his view on how we have evolved as a species since he was on the scene. I imagine bringing him into Good as Gold to check out some new sneakers!
Who are your inspirations?
I’m currently reading Tina Barton’s recent book Billy Apple: Life / Work, a detailed account of the artist's life and work over six decades. I’ve been working with Billy for about 25 years, though in reading the book, I have realised there is so much I didn’t know about him. A fascinating story of one of the truly ‘authentic’ artists and brilliant thinkers of our time. A man trading in ideas, Billy was at the spearhead of two major 20th Century art movements (Pop & Conceptual Art) in London & New York and a very influential figure in New Zealand Art.
Also ~ I was very lucky to see the Hilma af Klint exhibition in Sydney while it was on and was blown away by the experience (coming to Wellington’s City Gallery at the end of the year). It’s an absolute triumph she’s been put into her rightful place in art history ~ 100 years overdue. There are, and will be, plenty more examples of women making art in the 20th century who have yet to get the respect they deserve, but I can’t see any discovery on this scale happening again any time soon.
Since the conduct of this interview Billy Apple has sadly passed away, may he rest in peace.
Why did you choose Wellington to start your business?
When I opened the gallery in 1993 there was a vibrant art scene in Wellington with some great art being made and a lot of active collectors who were very supportive. It didn’t take long to gather momentum, and twenty eight years later, I still feel it’s a perfect place to operate my business. Wellington has a broad range of interesting people, and there’s no other city like it …. everything you’d possibly need for a stimulating life (if you know where to look), all in one neat compact harbour setting.
How can local people help your community?
It’s a truly weird situation we’re all in, so being aware and reaching out to others who might need some help or support is important. Donate to a charity if you can - one that helps those doing it tough out there (the Wellington City Mission do a fantastic job among others).
What is your quintessential Wellington experience?
A Saturday morning pear danish and coffee at Grace Patisserie on Tory St, before settling in for an exhilarating day at the gallery. Walks around the town belt, and harbourside with my wife and dog ‘Doug'.
Go to lockdown food/recipe?
Anything in Anna Jones' book One Pot, Pan, Planet. We’ve been using it a lot and I can thoroughly recommend any recipe in it. Also, an old 'stand by' for me is Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce recipe (page 165 in The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking). My copy is smothered in butter and tomato sauce stains from many years of use.
What local/New Zealand based artist should we be looking out for?
Levin based artist Chad Bevan. A Massey Graduate who I would describe as a modern day ‘regionalist’. Chad paints things like railway yards and churches from his small studio on Willis Street and rides the train to and from Waikanae to Wellington, taking the tickets to earn his keep. We have a show of recent work planned for October.
What are the challenges that artists and galleries currently face in New Zealand?
One obvious limitation is travel, and the isolation of NZ from global art world centres. In a rapidly changing market, art is largely now presented and perceived on-line, with an overwhelming volume of content. There’s a lot to keep up with, from NFT’s and block-chain technology, to on-line 'viewing rooms’ which can be daunting for those not comfortable in the digital arena. Nothing beats the 'real thing’, so it’s a creative challenge currently to navigate and conduct business outside our normal ‘physical' comfort zone.
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