When it comes to art galleries, Aucklanders are spoilt for choice. With close to 100 gallery spaces in the Auckland region, narrowing it down to ten of the best was no easy feat. But it was a great excuse to check out new galleries and see some great art along the way. While the Auckland Art Gallery and John Leech Gallery deserve a special mention for their long standing support of New Zealand art, we felt the ten galleries selected below should reflect what's new, what's hot and what's next in the local contemporary art scene.
A big thanks to art lovers and supporters, Beck's Beer, and of course The Shutter Pirates, who lovingly provided us with the images of what we consider Auckland's ten best art galleries.
26 Lorne Street / corner Kitchener and Wellesley St, Auckland CBD, Auckland
Topping the list is city favourite, Gow Langsford. Started by Gary Langsford and John Gow in 1987, the gallery has earnt itself a reputation as being one of Auckland's finest and most influential. Their two sites on Kitchener St and Lorne St make it hard to walk past without noticing what's in the window. And it's always worth a look. The exhibitions at Gow Langsford range from painting to photography and sculpture, and include work from leading contemporary artists, both local and international.They represent Max Gimblett, Dick Frizzell, Reuben Patterson and Judy Millar—to name but a few. They've even got Andy Warhol. Who can argue with that?
Two Rooms. It's got number two written all over it. Jokes aside, Two Rooms' placing is well-deserved. This chic gallery is setting all sorts of trends in its converted warehouse space on Putiki St, a new hub for Auckland art galleries. With one large gallery on the ground floor and a more intimate space upstairs, the diversity of Two Rooms makes for a dynamic exhibition calendar. It leans towards the more conceptual and features an eclectic mix of artworks and styles, including video and installations.
Artspace takes out spot number three for its dedication to keeping things fresh. Being non-commercial and non-collectors, Artspace has the freedom to stay true to their ethos of 'risktaking', bringing us work from the frontiers of creativity, challenging our perceptions of art and fostering critical debate. They empathise with square pegs, advocating the experimental and providing a space for art that doesn't necessarily fit anywhere else. Don't expect pretty pictures, but mental stimulation is guaranteed.
If you like your art wearable, functional and in three dimensions, then Object Space is where it's at. Showcasing primarily New Zealand makers, Object Space is the only gallery in the country dedicated to exhibiting contemporary craft, design and applied arts. Works range from more sculptural objets d'art and installations, to beautiful jewellery and other handcrafted pieces, such as Jo Torr's 'Islander' garments.
Slotting in at number five is the multi-faceted Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts. Te Tuhioffers more than the usual in terms of art education. Te Tuhi is a creative hub for the community. Their programme includes shows from local and international artists and free public events, like talks, performances and open discussions. Te Tuhi also hosts a variety of art classes and runs a year-long course to help you get to grips with understanding contemporary art.
Still standing as it was originally built in 1877, the Pah Homestead is now the site of the TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre. The Homestead hosts exhibitions curated from the Wallace Art Collection, as well as touring shows. The collection is a treasure of our time; a historical and cultural resource of over 5,500 pieces and a good indicator of who's making an impression in the contemporary art scene. The homestead alone is worth the visit—lovingly restored to pristine condition, complete with a cafe and sculpture garden.
Level 1, ANZ Building, Cnr East Street & Karangahape Road, Newton, Auckland
It's a treat to head up off busy K'Rd into the inviting calm of Ivan Anthony. On the upper floor of what was previously a bank, you'll find a gallery space that somehow manages to have the comfortable ambiance of someone's home. Exclusively representing New Zealand talent, Ivan Anthonyhosts exhibitions of contemporary painting as well as installation shows, like the weird and wonderful creations of Francis Upritchard and Ronnie Van Hout.Ivan Anthony's books boast a number of Walter's Prize Winners—artists who are definitely going places—and well-established favourites like Bill Hammond and Richard Killeen.
Tucked away behind the main Parnell drag is the light and airy space of Bath Street Gallery. Though much of the art in Parnell is mainstream, Bath Street Gallery goes out on a limb, adding richness and diversity to the Auckland art scene. The range of works on display may be of familiar mediums - ceramic, paint, photographs, but not like you've ever seen before. Bath Street Gallery represents artists who are taking a contemporary approach to making. It's interesting and inspiring to see traditional methods and materials married with modern technology in new and unexpected ways.
Ozlyn, on our culturally rich K'Rd, takes number nine. A newcomer to the scene, opening in June last year, Ozlyn has made its presence felt. Ozlyn is unlike most dealer galleries in the city, exhibiting artists with avant-garde practices. With its 'art first' direction and independent program of exhibitions, Ozlyn is definitely a gallery on the rise. It houses the next up and comers before they are up and coming (as I am sure they will), which makes it an ideal place to shop. Even if you are browsing, it is worth a look. After all, this is the future of New Zealand art.
Last, but definitely not least, is the very new and appropriately named Fresh Gallery. Otara's not the usual place to go looking for an art gallery, but that's what makes Fresh Gallery all the more interesting. Fresh primarily supports emerging Maori and Pacific artists and hopes to engage with the community through exhibitions inspired by the local area and residents. The council funded gallery is taking a fresh perspective on the role of gallery within a community, aiming to make it accessible to everyone.