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Always in the art department

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Laree Payne is a curator who owns and operates Hamilton gallery, Weasel. Here, she answers a few questions about jumping feet-first into the art world, frizzy hair, and braces at fifteen.

How did you get into the business side of the art world?

I’d always dreamed of being a part of the art world, but I struggled to identify what my participation and contribution would look like. I knew I wanted to work with people and with art but without knowing what the end goal was, it took me a while to get started. After years of sitting on it, I found my way in through a Masters in Arts Management, which was more of a ‘follow your nose’ move. Living in Hamilton, I knew that there were gaps in our art offering, and I began thinking about how I might fill some of those. Hamilton’s art scene has been damned by some for a long time as a place which is ‘full of conservative farmers’ and ‘too close to Auckland galleries’ to be successful. Weasel Gallery was built on the belief that neither of these things are true.

What is your favourite show you’ve seen lately?

Towards the end of last year I took myself on a day trip up to Auckland. I visited several dealer galleries before finding myself at the Auckland Art Gallery, looking at the finalists of the Walters Prize. It was the work of Pati Solomona Tyrell that really stole my heart; I found his photographic works to be utterly enthralling. Pati’s highly considered works spoke to the past and the future, they were elegant, strong, personal and excellently executed. I then entered the room showing Pati’s video work, and whilst there, Judy Darragh entered and sat down beside me. We were both completely taken and Judy mentioned it wasn’t the first time she had come to view the work.

How do you measure the success of an exhibition or show?

Coming from a sociological perspective towards the arts, accessibility which enables audience engagement is really important to me. Successful exhibitions at Weasel Gallery look like high visitor numbers, people asking questions and wanting to learn more about the artist and their work. Inevitably sales are important as they enable the Gallery to continue to survive but I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing people spend time with and engage with our exhibitions here.

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

Naturally, I am biased as I frequently initiate conversations with artists if I have been watching and enjoying the development of their work for some time. The current exhibition at Weasel Gallery is a solo show by self-taught Auckland based painter, Laura Williams. Her work is spectacular. Naïve, super decorative and jam-packed with references to artists, authors, and our socio-political climate, Laura’s works continue to give beyond their immediate aesthetic value.

Some of the other artists I am really enjoying at the moment are Maioha Kara, Peata Larkin and Meighan Ellis.

What advice would you give emerging artists trying to identify a gallery to represent them?

There’s a lot to consider when identifying which galleries you would like to be represented by. My advice would be to visit the gallery several times over several months. Get a feeling for the space, the type of work they are showing, the director, and the staff. Think about how your work might look in the space, who the audience of the gallery is, how they promote their artists, where they do their promotion, and what the gallery is able to offer the artists they work with. Following this, think about how you think this ties in with your practice, your work, and who you are. The dealer / artist relationship is a special one: it takes time, honesty, hard work, and commitment from both parties. It’s important to invest some time in it.

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

Payne’s grey - Moody, timeless, coincidentally my last name.

What were you like at 15?

Ha. Frizzy hair, braces, always in the art department.

Money is no object, which priceless artwork do you buy?

Something by Egon Schiele… there are too many to choose from.

Artist credit, top to bottom, left to right

- Weasel shop front.

- Chauncey Flay, Bunker, 2019, greywacke.

- Sharon Gleeson, Little Village, Series #1, acrylic and marker on paper.

- Telly Tuita, A Professional Brown Man, 2018, photographic work.

- Laura Williams, Demise, 2018, acrylic on canvas

- Telly Tuita, Last Dance for Old Gods, 2018, digital print, acrylic and oil pastel


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