Laura Howard previews the Auckland Art Fair 2013, which showcases artworks by more than 180 artists, presented by 40 participating galleries from across NZ and Australia. This year’s Fair includes commissioned works, as well as a public programme of artist talks and panel discussions.

In a fortnight, Auckland Art Fair 2013 opens to the public. A weekend-long showcase of contemporary art by emerging and established artists, the Fair is back in its fifth iteration at a new venue: The Cloud on Auckland’s waterfront.

Art fairs have burgeoned worldwide in recent years, as a platform to support the role galleries play in the nurturing of artists, and for the development and promotion of the visual arts. They play an increasingly important role in today’s event-driven culture, as a place to view new artworks conveniently displayed in one location, and as a point of convergence for artists, collectors, gallerists, curators and other arts professionals, to look at and talk about art. Rather than aspiring to emulate the size of the major international fairs such as Art Basel or Frieze, which some of the exhibiting galleries take part in, Auckland Art Fair remains boutique in scale and presents a select contingent of galleries. Established in 2005 in order to support the primary market, it offers the opportunity to view and purchase new art from our corner of the world.

While many galleries will exhibit work by a range of their artists, others are set to present solo curated projects; a trend increasingly seen overseas which can be a welcome point of focus amidst the buzzing setting and sometimes overwhelming salon-style hangs. Michael Lett’s presentation will focus exclusively on a new body of work by Michael Parekowhai titled The Past in the Present, while Masterworks Gallery will show jewellery by Lisa Walker, one of only two New Zealanders to win the most prestigious international art prize for contemporary jewellery, the Francoise van Den Bosch Award.

A highlight of this year’s Fair is the commissioned projects, which augment the exhibition programme and are sited both within and outside The Cloud. Alex Monteith’s dual channel video work based on the Rena disaster will be projected onto the outside of two back-lit shipping containers near the Fair’s entrance. Inside The Cloud, projects include new and some reinterpreted works by leading artists including: Bill Culbert (currently New Zealand’s representative at the 55th Venice Biennale), Dan Arps, Israel Birch, Scott Eady, Niki Hastings-McFall, Rohan Wealleans and Seung Yul Oh, whose quirky gargantuan red and yellow balloons will be located within The Cloud.

Art Fair visitors can participate in a public programme of daily artist talks, guided tours and panel discussions with national and international speakers, which offer great professional development opportunities. Panel discussions will consist of a revolving mix of artists, curators, collectors and cultural commentators who will discuss collecting new media art, and new directions in the visual arts scene locally and internationally. Public programme highlights include the panel discussion Collecting and Curating New Media, and Speaking Photography with Ron Brownson, who has also written for the Fair’s catalogue.

The public programme has been developed by the NZ Contemporary Art Trust as part of its commitment to promote understanding, awareness and appreciation of the visual arts through engagement with artists and arts professionals. This year’s Fair even has a studio channel, with Letting Space’s Mark Amery and Sophie Jerram conducting on-camera short interviews with artists, dealers and collectors, direct from the Art Fair floor.

Alongside the range of photography presented (including the welcome re-addition of McNamara Gallery which was notably absent last Fair) the Fair’s keynote speaker is Sandra Phillips, senior curator of photography at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Phillips has curated critically acclaimed exhibitions of works by some of the world’s leading photographers during her long tenure at SFMOMA, including the recent exhibition Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870. Phillips will also take part in one of the Fair’s panel discussions, What photography sees? on August 8 from 2pm.

Hot off the press in time for the Fair is a 144-page catalogue designed by inhouse, featuring each of the exhibiting galleries and the artists they represent, the commissioned projects, and an essay by Ron Brownson, My Photography Addiction.

This year’s Auckland Art Fair promises to be a whirlwind of talks, tours and throngs of viewers. Hopefully we’ll all have time to experience the art.

Auckland Art Fair 2013 runs from August 7 – 11.

Originally published 25 July 2013 on The Big Idea