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A movable feast

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

Brian King is an art collector, performance designer, and Senior Tutor for the Performance Design (Stage and Screen) programme at Te Kura Toi Whakaari o Aotearoa: NZ Drama School. He takes a moment here to talk community art initiatives, advice for upcoming art collectors, and medlars.

In what ways do you support the art community?

I work in arts education and volunteer in community art initiatives. We have a small art collective that contributes to sustaining a contemporary art community by acquiring the work of emerging artists. But acquisitiveness is becoming less appealing and our collective has moved to supporting artists through initiatives like the C Art Trust. The C Art Trust provides a unique opportunity for us to engage at a personal level with mid-career contemporary artists who are often creatively rich and time poor. The C Art Trust award of financial support over a 12 month period allows them to further their practice with less encumbrance.

What's the last show that surprised you and why?

ZERO at the Museum of Old and New Art [MONA], Hobart in November 2018.

This, our first experience of MONA, was surprising in the degree of active engagement that all the works demand of you. No passive viewing here and no substituting reading the wall plaque descriptions for viewing the work, there aren’t any! Think for yourself and vote on your iPad. If you hate it, they acquire it.

ZERO is like revisiting the birth of installation art. It is a retrospective of the 1950’s Zero movement, which still creates the feeling of breaching new boundaries through texture, light and movement activated by audience participation. The works remain as fresh and shiny today as the innovative contemporary materials employed at the time.

Who would you name a current ‘NZ artist to watch’?

The painter Anoushka Akel who has had a recent exhibition, Learners at the Hopkinson Mossman Gallery.

And in ceramics Oliver Morse who won the 2018 Rick Rudd Foundation Emerging Practitioner in Clay Award. His current work is showing at Kina Gallery, New Plymouth and will be shown at the Quartz Museum in Whanganui later in the year.

What are your favourite works in your collection?

Favouriting depends where I am standing, it’s a moveable feast. Currently, I am favouring Seraphine Pick’s High Rise, 1995 because there is an intimate and worldly story incised in the paint that has to be read in close up and a dream-like world in the painted narrative seen from afar. Advance and retreat and advance again.

We enjoy Victor Bright’s paintings for the startling intuitive colour field composition and the minimal suggestion of the human form. A self-taught artist, Victor’s work is unapologetic and unabased.

What advice would you give someone wanting to collect art?

Don’t collect as an investment – there are many more rational and less emotionally subjective avenues for investment.

Collecting to become the ‘proud owner of’ or to compliment the cushions disparages the opportunity to have a dialogue with the artist and their practice.

Do collect pieces that you can think of as friends who will continue to tell stories and reveal themselves to you over time. Friends who will be asking questions of you beyond the infatuation period. Questions that are insolvable and which goad you to confess yourself.

Do collect as a contribution to the development of contemporary art in New Zealand and to participate in the important conversations that art and artists initiate about our relationships with each other and our environment.

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What colour would you be and why?


Some days I slow down to stop and on others speed up to get through, I’m the conspicuity of astronauts and the (in)visibility of detainees, the amusement of Buddhist monks, the beta-carotene of geology in spurting magma and kumquat marmalade… I’m just a bit childish.

In 2 sentences, teach us something we might not already know.

Medlars, also known as 'openaers' [Romeo and Juliet (II, 1 34-38)] and Fanny Fruit or other names ‘more fit to be forgotten’, are not ready to eat until they are rotten-ripe, when the soft flesh, tasting of spiced and honeyed apple custard, can be sucked from the five large pips. The process of ripening or ‘bletting’ medlars involves spreading the fruit out, stalk upwards, in a single layer, on sand or straw in a well aired place and waiting for 2-3 weeks until browned, slightly wrinkled and soft.

There is a medlar tree in the front garden of the Katharine Mansfield Birthplace.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read or seen this week?

We heard Ashleigh Young reading her poem Turn Out to be Something from her brand new collection How I Get Ready at a Featherston Booktown Late Night Lit event.

Ashleigh’s arresting images attest to slowing down and waiting for meaning to emerge.

We do not read enough poetry, and we certainly do not read enough poetry out loud to ourselves or each other. Yeats felt his job as a poet was to clear 'out of poetry every phrase written for the eye, and bringing back to syntax, that is for ear alone'.


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