Six artworks and one hole-in-the-wall gallery – download or pick up a copy of The Art Guide to discover the art at Britomart.
The Britomart Arts Foundation was formed in 2004 to encourage the community to engage with arts within the precinct. Its aim is to promote the precinct as an accessible urban environment where New Zealanders can experience, participate in and be educated about the arts, with Britomart considered a central-city ‘home’ for the dynamic creative culture of Auckland.
Across the precinct there are five very different, permanent art installations and a hole-in-the-wall gallery, all supported by the Foundation. There is also an independent hair salon, Ryder, that holds a significant art element and that Britomart is proud to call a tenant.
The vision for Britomart is for it to continue to be a place that expresses the spirit and identity of contemporary New Zealand by bringing together and celebrating its art, architecture, commerce, culture and heritage. To this end, there will always be art at Britomart.
THE RULES OF THE GAME BY MICHAEL PAREKOWHAI
For 25 years a quiet, collaborative, and somewhat unlikely relationship has unfolded and grown in Auckland, between one of the country’s most important artists and one of its best hair stylists.
Artist Michael Parekowhai and hair stylist Greg Murrell of Ryder salon hold a friendship that has seen Parekowhai display his work within the salon for many years. In 2017 Parekowhai installed “The Rules of the Game” in the windows of Ryder – a major work consisting of neon letters that spell out C-L-O-S-E-D and flash on and off. Parekowhai has said he enjoys having his work within a working space, not a formal art space, and that Rules is the sister work of a 2009 neon work called Yes We Are. “While that earlier sign was about the exploration and optimism of the open question, this sign is a different proposition. The sign draws you in with its colourful flashing lights, but tells you that you can’t enter” Parekowhai has said. Photo by Mark Smith.
SCOUT BY TIM GRUCHY
A fascination with 2001: A Space Odyssey is what inspired Britomart’s artwork SCOUT. SCOUT is an 8m-tall interactive installation by multimedia artist Tim Gruchy. It is designed to respond to its environment – changes in light, temperature, weather, sound, movement and touch – and communicate back via active screen and sound systems.
“‘SCOUT’ stands for ‘Sentient Co-relator Of Urban Transaction’,” says Gruchy. “I see it as a benevolent, non-human intelligent entity that engages with its environment and the people within it, transacting in the urban space. Its intrinsic mode is as a calming presence within the urban-scape.”
SEVEN POU BY CHRIS BAILEY
Standing tall together at Britomart’s Sanctuary Garden, Chris Bailey’s group of magnificent carved pou resemble nothing more strongly than a family. The differing heights, the marked physical likeness, the individual characters that nevertheless differentiate them, all speak of whānau (family) and the ties that bind us.
The symbolism of the work, entitled ‘Pou Tū Te Rangi’, is rich and many-layered, but the deliberate whānau grouping references some of its strongest themes. Waiheke-based artist Chris says the work explores concepts including te kotahitanga (being as one), te piritahi (coming together), and te mahi tahi (working as one).
PIPPIS & POP JETS BY CHAZ DOHERTY
One of the earliest artworks to be established at Britomart was Pipi and Pop Jets, completed by Chaz Doherty. It references one of the important early food sources for Maori in the area.
Located in the south-eastern corner of Takutai Square, the work consists of 16 sculptural stones, steel pipi shells embedded in the paving and 24 ‘pop jet’ fountains, represent the squirting of the shellfish
BRITOMART PROJECT SPACE
Britomart Project Space is a mini gallery that hosts a regularly changing line-up of work by new and established New Zealand artists. A unique art space in the window facade of newly refurbished heritage building Stanbeth House, the gallery can be viewed from Customs Street East. Four original 19th-century arched windows provide natural framing for the changing artworks within.
Each year, the space hosts several exhibitions of work in different media, ranging from the visual arts to performance art and multimedia installations.
Britomart Project Space is supported by the Britomart Arts Foundation, the charitable trust responsible for promoting the arts in the Britomart precinct.
FLOX MURALS BY HAYLEY KING
Auckland artist Hayley King works mostly in spray paint, creating large- scale yet delicate stencil-based work. Operating under the moniker of Flox, her murals at Britomart Car Park appear at each level of the building, featuring different New Zealand birds and their associated fauna. The Britomart project is one that she counts as a personal career highlight.
The brief was to beautify the car park and help create a sense of security for visitors, but the murals also have a more utilitarian purpose: helping drivers remember what level of the building they’ve parked on. “Sixteen murals, two on each level. It’s the biggest job I’ve ever done – definitely something I could sit back afterwards and think, wow, I can be proud of that” King has said.
HEAT HAZE BY SARA HUGHES
Through utilising patterns in space, artist Sara Hughes showcases the delight of crossing visual boundaries in everyday life. She is particularly interested in the transformative effect that art can have on our surroundings, and explores this idea in her Britomart installation, Heat Haze.
Commissioned to enliven Britomart Place, Heat Haze creates a vibrant landmark on what was once a dull corner of a busy thoroughfare. Hand-cut, hyper-thin sign writing vinyl is layered on glass in a multitude of tones and colours. Hughes likens this to dimensional painting and is particularly interested in the way that light activates the colours at different times of the day. When walking past Heat Haze in the morning, the colour is unapologetically vivid and at night, the work’s jewel tones peek subtly through the darkness.