An Art Space with a Difference
2 April 2003
Michael Lett, the dealer behind the venture, has felt the need for a different type of gallery for some time. His aim is to establish a place where younger artists who may never have exhibited before can show work alongside those who are better-known. International artists will be included, such as Sydney-based Hany Armanious, who has work in the Chartwell Collection, as well as New Zealanders such as Michael Parekowhai.
Lett is open to exhibiting film and installation pieces, media many dealer galleries shy away from since it is difficult to sell. He believes it is important the gallery has an element of experimentation.
"The artists are free to make work that is outside the usual confines of an exhibition in a dealer gallery. In this sense, I see Michael Lett as a combination of slick gallery and artist-run space."
K Rd is not usually associated with fine art, but it was the only place Lett wanted to locate his gallery.
"If you look around this area you can see it as edgy, vibrant and unique. The kind of people I see walking down this road are the kind of people I'm interested in, and the people who will hopefully be interested in this space."
Not unlike some renowned art areas in major cities, K Rd, a once-notorious neighbourhood, is beginning to get a reputation for progressive art galleries. Lett reckons "some of the best work in New Zealand is shown in K Rd".
Lett has worked in private and public galleries for the past seven years, but his love of art goes back to his childhood. He was an early fan of artists such as Julian Dashper and John Nixon, seeking out and purchasing artworks whenever possible. He affectionately recalls a visit to a dealer gallery, Sue Crockford, when he was 15. He went there specifically to buy one of his first pieces, a John Reynolds painting, which he paid for with hard-earned pocket money. The experience highlights his attitude towards buying art.
"I like the idea you don't necessarily have to be rich to buy art - it's not just for the wealthy - anyone can live with and own works of art."
The first exhibition features the work of Steve Carr, a 26-year-old artist and graduate of the master's programme at Elam. Carr was co-founder of the Blue Oyster Gallery, a celebrated artist-run exhibition space in Dunedin.
The show, entitled Dive, consists of sculpture and film. Lifesize replicas of fire extinguishers, finely made in glass, will be exhibited along with a film showing 12 models floating about in a swimming pool. Carr is also present in the pool, in scuba gear, watching what is happening around him. The apparent erotic nature of the display is played down, leaving a work that is humorous, a little naughty and ambiguous.
Lett has admired Carr's work for some time. "His ideas are contemporary yet elusive. There are many layers but they are visually beautiful. Steve is serious about his practice and produces art on a level with many senior artists. He is making work unlike anyone else."
* Michael Lett, now showing the work of Steve Carr, until May 3, 478 Karangahape Rd.