All posts by contemporarybenefactors

Michael Stevenson

Michael Stevenson Serene Velocity in Practice: MC510 & CS183 11 November 2017–18 February 2018

Berlin-based artist Michael Stevenson presents his first solo exhibition for a New Zealand public gallery in over 15 years. For this occasion, Stevenson has developed the significant large-scale work Serene Velocity in Practice. This representation of a learning extension facility is based on two diverse and unrelated academic courses: MC510    & CS183. As the codes indicate, these were actual courses taught for a short time in Californian higher-learning institutions and both espouse a distinctly Californian way of thinking. Each was transformative in its respective field and each quickly developed a mass following globally, promulgating bestselling books, and a multitude of spinoff courses.

Mission class 510, or MC510, was the code used by the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, for a new course taught in the winter semester of 1982. John Wimber of the Vineyard Ministries became synonymous with this programme for four years, using it as a testing ground for his radical ideas in the experiential realm of miraculous healing and exorcism. Wimber ventured to redistribute the spirit world via practical sessions in this accredited course dubbed as ‘clinics’ for the willing. Twenty years into the future, in the spring semester of 2012, Stanford University’s Computer Science faculty employed Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel to teach CS183, the course code for ‘Startup.’ CS183 provided a forum for Thiel’s new intellectual framework in which he analysed case histories of failure from the tech industry’s recent past, while self-consciously modelling a future of exponential progress where miracles are worked in the space of technology.

These two courses have remained unrelated until now as Stevenson re-situates them, together, in a large-scale sculptural installation, or mini campus: two conjoined structures reflecting and illuminating each other. The historical legacies of these courses are united by the artist in a newly accelerated learning environment in which their endgames are tested. One is constructed from airline comfort blankets and elevated on large commercial aircraft tyres; the other built entirely from radiating black anodised aluminium heat sink. A familiar walkway based on the universal passageways of post-war educational institutions unites the two rooms and simultaneously disorientates the viewer.

For Thiel and Wimber the teachers, the repetition of received knowledge prevents the generation of real change, what Thiel calls ‘vertical progress’ and Wimber terms ‘paradigmatic shifts’. In order to grow and mentor new possible ‘communities of practice’, both MC510 and CS183 taught the abandonment of past (failed) models and the old institutions of knowledge, in favour of full participation in the mission for a radical future. For both parties, the quest for breakthrough (true entrepreneurship) would be won not in the ivory tower, but on the streets from Anaheim to Palo Alto. Not literal streets of course, but closer to what Californian educational theorists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger called the spaces of ‘legitimate peripheral participation’. Like much of the movement from ‘real world’ fact into the ctive space of the work, here Stevenson’s own hybridised aesthetic language models an addled pathway within the new learning facility beyond the here and now to wonderment.

Serene Velocity in Practice is curated by Natasha Conland, commissioned by the Auckland art Gallery Toi o Tämaki with commissioning partners the Biennale of Sydney, 2018 and Monash University Art Museum, MuMA.

Michael Stevenson (born 1964, New Zealand) has lived in Berlin for over 15 years. He is known for adopting an anthropological approach that often attracts moments of irrationality. His ambitious sculptural practice over many years appears to map historical narratives from certainty to ruin, mathematics to miracles, secrets and exchange. Signi cant recent projects have been seen at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2015) Dojima River Biennale, Osaka (2015), Sculpture Center, New York (2015), Liverpool Biennial (2014), Berlin Biennale (2014), Michael Lett Gallery, Auckland (2013), Portikus, Frankfurt am Main (2012), Museum Tamayo, Mexico City (2012).

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.


Born in Khagual, Bihar in 1964, Subodh Gupta has quickly risen to prominence as one of India’s leading contemporary artists. Despite formal training as a painter, the New Delhi-based artist experiments with a variety of media, including sculpture, installation, photography, performance and video.

Gupta’s current exhibition at New York’s Hauser & Wirth gallery demonstrates the great breadth of his practice, presenting works that encompass all of these mediums. The golden thread between them is that for which Gupta is best known – the “Duchampian” incorporation of everyday items and found objects into his art as a tool to emphasize the effects of cultural dislocation in the era of shifting powers; in particular, the impact of globalisation on the traditional values of everyday life in India.

Seven Billion Light Years, Subodh Gupta

Entitled Seven Billion Light Years—in reference to mankind’s current population and the incomprehensible distance between our mortal lives and the infinite cosmos—the exhibition continues the artist’s investigation into the mysterious intricacies of our daily lives.

These ideas are best culminated in Gupta’s large-scale installation in the main gallery space. Comprised of hundreds of tarnished aluminium and copper kitchen utensils—pots, pans, buckets and vessels—This is not a fountain (2011-2013) stretches twelve feet across the gallery floor. Multiple faucets are placed throughout the installation, releasing a constant flow of water over the utensils. The installation references the prevalence of class inequality in India, despite the country’s continued growth and modernization.

On view through April 25, the exhibition runs concurrently with After Midnight: Indian Modernism to Contemporary India 1947/1997, a highly anticipated exhibition at the Queens Museum of Art that features a major work by Gupta.

Photo 4 Photo 5

Works from the exhibition Seven Billion Light Years.

—Sophie Wallace, February 2015

Feature artist: David Hockney

“When I’m working I feel like Picasso, I feel I’m 30.” –David Hockney

It would be inaccurate to say that David Hockney has made a recent comeback. Still prolific at age seventy-seven, he has managed the unlikely task of staying relevant throughout his entire career – which now spans more than five decades. It would, however, be accurate to say that he is having a “moment.”

Hockney created a ripple through New York’s art world this October with an exhibition of his iPad prints; a pioneering mode of art that he conceived of in its entirety. The Arrival of Spring–which also featured charcoal drawings and a nine-screen video installation–drew large crowds to Pace Gallery and topped multiple “must-see” exhibition lists from prestigious publications.

David Hockney Exhibition Installation

The exhibition was directly followed by Some New Painting (and Photography), also at Pace, this time featuring twenty-two of Hockney’s most recent figurative works; seated portraits of individuals, a series of paintings that recall Matisse’s masterpiece Dance, and a selection of photographic drawings displayed on high definition screens. Playing with perspective, time, space, movement and–most notably–technology, Hockney demonstrated his longstanding commitment to depicting the human figure and to exploring the intersection of art and technology.

In addition, a new documentary directed by Randall Wright, which provides an intimate account of Hockney’s life in art, was released in December. This monumental event was preceded by the release of Christopher Simon Sykes’ second biography of Hockney just weeks prior.

Hockney’s prodigious and varied output continues to delight admirers of his art, who eagerly wait to see what he will produce next.

Sophie Wallace, December 2015


Discussing Mo‘ui Tukuhausia
Over a two-week period, from 19 March to 1 April 2012, artist Kalisolaite ‘Uhila lived homeless around Te Tuhi’s building and surrounding parkland. ‘Uhila experienced and received numerous responses, from overwhelming generosity, in the form of food donations and friendship, to venomous discrimination such as verbal abuse and being spat on. The following conversation between curator Bruce E. Phillips and ‘Uhila took place on the day after the performance ended. Continue reading WALTERS PRIZE FINALIST: KALISOLAITE ‘UHILA

Engaging with our neighbours in South America

What do we generally know about South America? In April I was able to spend a month researching art in three countries in South America in preparation for an exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery. This was a long awaited trip as my last visit to the continent was in 2006 when I co-managed the project TRANS VERSA, artists from Australia and New Zealand, with Danae Mossman, which resulted in the presentation of artworks at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Galería Metropolitana and Centro Cultural Matucana in Santiago, Chile. Continue reading Engaging with our neighbours in South America

Ron Brownson In Conversation With Dame Jenny Gibbs

Ron Brownson, Dame Jenny Gibbs, Charlotte Swasbrook
Ron Brownson, Dame Jenny Gibbs, Charlotte Swasbrook

In February the Contemporary Benefactors were welcomed to the home of Dame Jenny Gibbs for an informal ‘in conversation’ with Senior Curator Ron Brownson.  As well as generously opening her home to us, Dame Jenny shared insights into the continuing evolution of her exceptional collection, and described how much fun she finds her ongoing involvement with contemporary art and philanthropy. Continue reading Ron Brownson In Conversation With Dame Jenny Gibbs

Benefactor Offer: Visit Frieze London

Visit Frieze London, 15-19 October 2014


You are invited to join a specially curated programme for New Zealand collectors to visit Frieze London, one of the world’s most respected international contemporary art fairs and at the same time, experience the art world of London, through a programme of visits to galleries, museums, studios and private collections. Continue reading Benefactor Offer: Visit Frieze London