NZ FOLK ART
Once you get over the unexpected novelty of finding such a fabulous collection of art objects and curiosities in such an unlikely place, you discover there is a logic to Stuart’s choice of venue. First of all, it would be hard to afford such a beautiful old wooden church (circa 1920s) in downtown Auckland. And secondly, while Stuart has lived in New York for many years, and curated shows throughout the USA and Europe, he was weaned on the aesthetic of small town New Zealand A&P shows (Agriculture & Produce), and his gallery echoes that carnival atmosphere.
Now he has dropped the mild academic Clark Kent façade, and is the super man of New Zealand folk art. Three cheers for him. But what exactly is NZ folk art? In this case it is a unique art collection resulting from years spent trawling through the best museums and worst junk shops. Stuart is drawn to various outlets of local (folk) creative expression including old painted signs, letterboxes, medical models, puppets, and paintings of all kinds. You will notice a particular interest in objects from the 1930’s and 1950’s, as well as contemporary installations. In short, he displays whatever tickles his fancy, and the result is very entertaining.
He also features New Zealand artists that he has developed relationships with over the years…names that you probably haven’t encountered via the usual art institutions. There’s retired civil servant Ray Ritchie who recycles materials into quirky narratives; Robert Rapson, a self taught ceramicist specialising in table top ships, and Reece Tong who creates tribal pictograms. Stuart took the work of all three to the 2009 International Outsider Art Fair (sponsored by the American Folk Art Museum in New York). It was the first time New Zealand art had ever appeared, and Stuart was rewarded with an enthusiastic invitation to showcase more New Zealand art at the Fair the following year, while the artists were invited to showcase their work in other reputable galleries and museums throughout the USA.
And here’s some more examples of the art on show: