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Auckland Art Gallery curator Sarah Farrar on Artweek & art in the city centre

News story
Tuesday 8 Oct 2019

Photo: Auckland Art Gallery

Ahead of Artweek in the city centre, we caught up with Auckland Art Gallery's Head of Curatorial and Exhibitions Sarah Farrar.

History, heritage and culture are brought to life at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Founded in 1888, it remains New Zealand’s largest visual arts experience and is a must visit if you're visiting the city centre at any time of the year, but even more so during Artweek this October, when the city centre celebrates all things art - from Late Night Art to unlocked collections, special tours, activations and more. We asked Sarah about her career background as an art curator, her favourite current exhibitions at the gallery right now and what she's looking forward to most this Artweek in the city centre.   

Tell us about your role and how you got there?

In my first year at university I decided I wanted to work as a contemporary art curator and, since then, I’ve worked in art galleries here in New Zealand and overseas. I’ve also taken time out to pursue further training in Amsterdam and last year I completed a PhD in Curatorial Practice at Monash University, Melbourne. I’m currently the Head of Curatorial and Exhibitions at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Before working here, I spent eight years in the curatorial team at Te Papa, with the last six years as Senior Curator Art.

What does a typical week at Auckland Art Gallery look like for you?

There is something different happening each week, so it’s hard to describe a typical week! I oversee the Gallery’s exhibitions, research, publishing and collection development programmes. Our department also runs the E H McCormick Research Library, which holds one of the country’s best collections of art books and art archives. I spend a lot of time working with my colleagues to prepare upcoming exhibitions. We are working on exhibitions up to two or three years in advance. Or we might have an artist visiting, a new publication to launch, or a new artwork coming into our collection.

What do you love about the city centre’s art scene?

One thing I love about living in Auckland is that it is home to so many contemporary New Zealand artists, designers, actors and musicians. Within walking distance of Auckland Art Gallery there are many great galleries – both public and commercial – with lively programmes.

What do you love about working in the city centre?

As someone who has recently moved to Auckland, I’m really enjoying exploring the city: it’s cafes, noodle bars and proximity to the harbour. There’s always something to see and do.

What are you looking forward to during Artweek?

I’m excited about BodyCartography Project’s work Follow being presented at Auckland Art Gallery as it is a work that I originally commissioned for Te Papa. It’s a one-to-one performance that offers an unexpected and surprisingly moving way to experience art and the Gallery as a whole. I also think the walking tours will be a great way to discover galleries and street art throughout the city.

What can audiences expect from Late Night Art at Auckland Art Gallery?

Late Night Art is a great opportunity for the public to experience the Gallery. I think at night you can better appreciate the Gallery as social space to visit with friends or family. On the night, we will be activating the whole Gallery with dance performances by the BodyCartography Project and The Pacific Dance Choreographic Lab, poetry readings with Courtney Sina Meredith and friends, and the chance to view art after-hours, all for free.

Tell us about some of your favourite exhibitions on at Auckland Art Gallery right now.

Right now, we have A Place to Paint: Colin McCahon in Auckland, which is really special as McCahon worked here at the Gallery as a curator and deputy director. We currently have his largest painting, The Wake, 1958, on loan from the Hocken Collections in Dunedin. This work was actually painted by McCahon in the Gallery’s attic. Another favourite at the moment is Living Portraits: Mata Raurangi, an exhibition that includes iconic portraits of Māori by Goldie and Lindauer alongside contemporary Māori art.


Photo: Auckland Art Gallery