Dionne Christian is the NZ Herald’s arts and books editor

Auckland Artweek more colourful than ever before

Seeing the light: Artweek draws bigger crowds every year.
Seeing the light: Artweek draws bigger crowds every year.

Ever wondered what there is to see behind the doors of Auckland's smaller art galleries?

You'll have more than 100 opportunities to find out when the region's annual Artweek, now in its sixth year, begins next Saturday . More than 1000 artists, in 100 venues from Franklin in the South to Rodney in North Auckland, are taking part in exhibitions, art walking tours, workshops and talks.

Director Deborah White, of Ponsonby's Whitespace Gallery, says the week-long festival started to complement the city's Art Fair because there were more galleries and community art spaces than there was room at the fair.

"But it's now a huge festival in its own right and it's lovely that it has been embraced by communities right across Auckland. If you look at Devonport, perhaps because it's fairly self-contained, you can see businesses and community groups joining with galleries and really coming to the party."

Some galleries report more visitors during Artweek than they do in a month, possibly because there is a more relaxed atmosphere.

"I think in New Zealand the visual arts are still seen as elitist - people often wonder if they have to pay to come into a gallery and talk in hushed tones once they're here - because we're not brought up with it as part of everyday life. In places like Europe, visits to art galleries are part of everyday life so from a young age, people learn they are welcome in galleries.

"Artweek makes it easier for people to come in and ask questions. We've had people who come in as part of a tour, put their names on our mailing list and then start coming to openings; I've seen people arrive at a gallery on a bike tour and ride away with a painting tucked under their arm. The interest is there."

New initiatives for this year include Arting Zones, where architecture and planning students from the University of Auckland will set up interactive installations; Changing Lanes, which will see teams of artists transform inner six inner city laneways, and Electric Night on the (in)famous K-Rd strip where local galleries into Arch Hill open late and installations along the road can be explored on an electric bike tour.

Ms White is particularly excited about hosting New Zealand-born artist Chris O'Doherty. Better known by his pseudonym Reg Mombassa, he's a founding member of the band Mental As Anything and also produces brightly coloured and cartoonish designs for surfwear company Mambo Graphics. He's also paints landscapes and portraits and has work displayed in a number of Australian galleries.

Other Artweek highlights include:

• The outdoor exhibit GLOW in Devonport, where teams of students from Unitec School of Architecture presenting stunning light installations. Devonport Village becomes even more animated with exhibitions, art films at The Vic and special offers on dining.

• Newmarket and Parnell celebrate their public artworks and galleries with walks, talks, interactive shows and life drawing. Parnell will showcase its best from fine dining to a diversity of ethnic menus, food tastings to cooking classes to inspiring visual displays in the art galleries.

• Joining festivities for the first-time, East Auckland showcases two decades of dedication to graffiti and street art with TMD Crew celebrating their 20th anniversary ata group exhibition between The Good, The Bad gallery and Te Oro in Glen Innes. A late night at Te Tuhi in Pakuranga encourages visitors to get involved with artist games and activities.

• West Auckland events include Te Uru' Waitakere Contemporary Gallery hosts ceramic artist John Parker's survey show while there are further exhibitions, talks and open studios at Corban Estate Art Centre, McCahon House and Kumeu Arts Centre.

• Heading south, the Wallace Art Awards Exhibition is on at The Pah Homestead and there are panel discussions, exhibitions and workshops at Mangere Arts Centre, Franklin Arts Centre, Papakura Gallery and Fresh Gallery in Otara.

• Late Night Art is on Wednesday, October 12 with inner city galleries open into the evening, including Auckland Art Gallery.

Dates for performances, tours and talks vary and some booking is required. Visit artweek.co.nz for more information.

- NZ Herald

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