Rosanna Raymond convened the first meeting of the SaVAge K'lub at the 2010 Auckland Art Week. Under its rules a group of Polynesian artists reinvent the British gentlemen's club of the same name.
But while the Savage Club was exclusive, admitting men only, the k'lub welcomes all comers and runs according to the Samoan cultural concept of "va". This is the philosophy that the space between people and things is what defines their relationships, instead of separating them from one another.
At present, the k'lub is having another meeting as part of the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane. The event is a major showcase of contemporary art in the region, attracting around half a million visitors.
What of the "va" of Australian and New Zealand art? Sometimes considerations of the two canons give way to glibness with the bright, confident continent to one side and the intense and brooding smaller cousin to the other. The plentiful similarities probably stop many even thinking about it.
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Perhaps this is the reason that until very recently the Art Gallery of New South Wales rather oddly had 10 works that paid direct homage to Colin McCahon, but no actual McCahon.
However, that situation began to change 18 months ago at the institution with the arrival of a new Head of International Art. New Zealander Justin Paton, who had previously worked at the Christchurch Art Gallery, was forced to think of the work of his homeland as "international" art. The curator set about filling what might be considered a fairly major hole in the Sydney collection. The first major acquisition was McCahon's Teaching Aids 2 (July) 1975.
The push has continued this year with the launch of a group called the Friends of New Zealand Art or FONZA, which began with gifts or pledges to gift 15 works from the likes of Frances Hodgkins, Len Lye, Gordon Walters, Richard Killeen and Michael Parekowhai among others. The gallery has a very active foundation proudly boasting not to have received a single cent of public money to buy art since 1991. I understand around $75,000 has been raised already to make another significant New Zealand purchase, with a shopping trip to the Auckland Art Fair planned for next year.
It is hoped the generosity of donors will be followed by further gifts and a formidable body of work will be built up over time. There are many great things about what is happening in Sydney. One is that it places our art again in an international context " not as a token gesture " but confidently beside the big names. McCahon " a great Australasian modernist " is there in the same collection as work by Cezanne and Bronzino.
The move is just another progression creating critical mass behind our art. Perhaps the significance is best understood using the idea of "va". For a collection - particularly in this part of the world - to be considered truly international in 2015, it must not just have work from Paris, New York and Berlin, but also New Zealand.