Thursday, 21 June 2012

High Demand for Craft Gallery Space

There is overwhelming demand for dedicated craft gallery space in New Zealand with 77% indicating this is the most preferred way to show and sell craft objects, according to Craft Aotearoa’s first online poll earlier in the year. By comparison, exhibiting at a multipurpose gallery was the least preferred method. Online exhibition and sales of craft were a strong second (49%), followed by craft fair/show (32%) and retail outlet (32%).

In light of these findings, Craft Aotearoa approached four craft galleries in New Zealand for a response. We received interest from Form Gallery in Christchurch and Objectspace in Auckland and would like to thank Koji Miyazaki (Director) and James Horgan (Senior Gallery Assistant) of Form Gallery; and Philip Clarke (Director) and Laura Howard (Programme Manager) of Objectspace for taking the time to share their thoughts with us

1. Were you surprised to learn that the most preferred way to show and sell craft is in a dedicated craft gallery space and why do you think craft practitioners prefer this option above others?

Form: Yes, Form was very surprised. In a dedicated craft gallery, there are a number of factors present which are missing from the other examples:

*  knowledgeable staff as first point of contact is vital (online there is a delayed reaction time to queries)
*  a dedicated space that allows individual works to be seen and touched (retail/multipurpose gallery’s sometimes feels cluttered and certain works are dominated by others)
*  a relaxed atmosphere where the client feels at ease and not pressured to buying (craft/fair).

Objectspace: No. This is understandable. Many New Zealand craft practitioners report that there are limited opportunities for them to show within the existing network of visual arts retail/dealer or public galleries.

Form Director Koji Mijazaki, Kim Henderson & Akane Nakao
2. Could you share with us your thoughts on the role of craft galleries – how do they contribute to advancing the NZ craft sector? Has this role changed over time or remained the same?

Form: The role of a craft gallery is to promote – the artist, the work, the gallery itself. To be professional in all its undertakings, to give knowledgeable advice and service to the client. To build up strong ties with its artists and relationships with its list of clients. The role of the gallery has changed slightly over the years; of course clients are becoming more knowledgeable and in a consumer environment, are looking for the best price. This only really becomes an issue when a practitioner begins to show their works in differing outlet types – ie. craft gallery as well as fair, online or multipurpose gallery. What we find is that it undermines the role of the dedicated gallery and its value that it puts on works.

Objectspace: We are dedicated to positioning making - principally in the fields of craft, applied arts and design - within a range of cultural, economic and social frameworks in order to provoke new assessments about the making, functioning and value of works and practices. We are unique in New Zealand in having this focus. If other parts of the visual arts infrastructure shared this aim, Objectspace may not need to exist but currently the profile and visibility that we give to contemporary practice and practitioners is not widely generated by other institutions working across the visual arts.

Objectspace opened in May 2004 as the result of practitioner-led efforts over many years to create a more supportive environment for innovative objectmaking in New Zealand. Following the 1998 Persuasive Object conference, a group of practitioners, curators, educators and sector supporters came together around a vision of a dedicated centre for craft that would be a new sort of hub for the craft sector. With the assistance of Creative New Zealand, the working party engaged Starkwhite to research the need for such a centre and how it might operate. The 2001 Starkwhite Report found that there was a need for such a centre and proposed options for its operation. In 2002 the working party became a legally constituted organisation with charitable status chaired by jeweller Warwick Freeman. Following the preparation of detailed strategic and business plans in late 2003 Creative New Zealand agreed to provide Objectspace with annual funding to enable us to present an annual programme of activities. Through a programme of exhibitions, events, publications and partnerships Objectspace aims to create new opportunities for outstanding practitioners, generate critical discourse, support professional development, connect communities of makers, writers, collectors and supporters and advance the interests of the sector nationally and internationally.

3. Are other methods of showcasing and selling craft (such as online, craft fairs, markets, etc) complimentary to craft galleries or tapping into a different audience?

Form: In some cases these methods can be complimentary, but in some cases ie. online – a prospective client uses a ‘search engine’ to find a gallery and this can be a bit arbitrary. Also, online negates the need to touch hold and be in the presence of the work.
'Come for a Cuppa' exhbition at Form Gallery, Christchurch.

4. What makes a good craft gallery space, and what are your gallery’s future plans?

Form: Again, good quality knowledgeable staff, a good list of artist and work, a space that allows the work to be viewed, touched and allowed to breathe. Form gallery, based in Christchurch, is currently working from the Director’s (Koji Miyazaki) home (following the Christchurch earthquakes).

Objectspace: A commitment to contemporary craft, expert knowledge of the sector and a commitment to widening the awareness of contemporary practice through exhibitions and publications.

5. From your perspective, how has the New Zealand craft sector changed in the time that your gallery has been operational?

Form: In the last 2O yrs of its operation, Form has seen many ups & downs. The biggest shift to date, as you can expect, came from the huge event of February 2011, with the loss of life, and loss of our city. Christchurch is rebuilding, but it is going to take a lot of time, effort and money to rebuild the confidence in our clients to replace, or reinvest in our art objects.

Objectspace: Many younger practitioners don’t particularly identify with the ‘craft sector’ but label themselves by their disincline and/or as an artist.

6. What do we know about buyers and collectors of New Zealand craft?

Form: We have found that NZ collectors & buyers are very loyal. This loyalty is to the artist that they feel they need to patronize, but also to the gallery, its owner & staff who introduced them in the first place. Once a gallery has built up a solid relationship with their client, then loyalty – in another words – friendship, is created and must be upheld by both parties.

Objectspace: There are a smallish number of very dedicated and knowledgeable buyers of contemporary craft. Most collectors, but not all, tend to focus their collections on one practice area.

7. Do you have any words of advice for craft/object arts practitioners?

Form: Once a practitioner begins exhibiting with a gallery, a relationship is born. This is a symbiotic relationship with both parties needing each other – without one, the other becomes pointless. A balance, as well as a good professional relationship is needed for both parties to work together, respect what the gallery does, and they in turn will respect you. 

Objectspace: Keep going!

8. What can we look forward to in 2012 at your gallery?

Form: As stated previously, Form gallery is currently working from the home of Koji Miyazaki. It has been over a year now since our necessary removal from our home of eight years, the Christchurch Art Gallery. We have been in negotiation with property developers over the last several months to return to the city, but with the continued demolition of our city it is proving very hard to find a viable, suitable place. If anything in 2012, Form gallery is merely trying to survive, hold onto the great artists that we have on our books, keep our clients up to date with our progress and hold monthly group exhibitions to show Christchurch that there is still something to enjoy in this broken city. Kia kaha!

Objectspace: This week we are presenting 7UP: a free talkfest for all with a stake in New Zealand's craft sector. Next is Contemporary Pattern (30 June – 1 September 2012), a curated thematic exhibition exploring contemporary pattern across craft and design by New Zealand makers and designers. Objectspace will then present Kobi Bosshard: Objectspace Masters of Craft from 8 September – 17 November 2012, which will tour nationally. This exhibition will be accompanied by Kobi Bosshard: Goldsmith - a substantial monograph authored by Dr Damian Skinner and published and distributed by Bateman Publishers, featuring specially commissioned photographs by Mark Adams of Studio La Gonda. As well as these Main Gallery events, Objectspace will continue to exhibit solo installations by contemporary makers in the Window Gallery and groups of work from private collections in the Vault. At the end of the year, we are staging Blikfang curated by Sheridan Keith which will explore the ‘eye candy’ quality of new and old objects. This exhibition is another example of our ongoing interest in the ‘consumption’ of craft and applied art, rather than being an enquiry into an aspect of contemporary production.

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