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How Artspace Aotearoa is changing Karangahape Road’s art scene

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Artist Jimmy Robert at the opening of Joie noire at Artspace Aotearoa on Karangahape Road. Photo / Ben Dickens

Artspace Aotearoa, a non-profit contemporary art gallery is thriving with its newly opened exhibition on Auckland‘s Karangahape Road, bookmarked between the bustling restaurants, nightlife and opshops of the eclectic road.

Artspace Aotearoa was founded by a group of artists in Tāmaki Makaurau in 1987.

There was seen to be a gap in contemporary art opportunities at the time and Artspace, as it was formerly known, came in to provide a space for contemporary art to flourish. When kaitohu/director Ruth Buchanan took up the role in late 2022, she was struck by the similarities seen between the notion of exchanges and messaging of a post office and a contemporary art gallery.

Artspace Aotearoa on Karangahape Road. Photo / Ben Dickens
Artspace Aotearoa on Karangahape Road. Photo / Ben Dickens

Artspace Aotearoa was originally located above the former central post office at 292 Karangahape Road. In 2020, it moved to the ground level, taking over the site.

Buchanan reflects on the similar roles a post office and art gallery have.

”Both contexts are working with the whole of life, when you think about what was happening in the site as a post office. There were love letters, bills and calls to jury service. The spectrum is really wide.”

Kaitohu/director Ruth Buchanan at Artspace Aotearoa on Karangahape Road. Photo / Ben Dickens
Kaitohu/director Ruth Buchanan at Artspace Aotearoa on Karangahape Road. Photo / Ben Dickens

Artspace Aotearoa continues to be a central point for contemporary art with the opening of Joie noire by Guadeloupe-born, Berlin-based artist, Jimmy Robert.

Robert was hosted by Artspace Aotearoa in New Zealand for two months on a visiting arts practitioner residency offered by the Goethe-Institut New Zealand. While here, he worked on his recently opened solo exhibition, which is on show until July 13.

The exhibition is an interpretation of a performance piece by Robert, first performed in 2019 in Berlin. The title, Joie noire, is French for black joy.

Artist Jimmy Robert at the opening of Joie noire at Artspace Aotearoa on Karangahape Road. Photo / Ben Dickens
Artist Jimmy Robert at the opening of Joie noire at Artspace Aotearoa on Karangahape Road. Photo / Ben Dickens

”I’m very interested in the way representation as a whole, or as an idea, plan to fail,” Robert says when prompted about what Joie noire focuses on.

”I think it’s trying to bring two things that seem separate into one space. It’s basically the idea of celebrations, nightclubs and partying, but also the idea of memory, loss and absence. What happens when the party is over?”

This immersive audio and lighting-based exhibition is Artspace Aotearoa’s second exhibition of the year. Each year, Artspace Aotearoa focuses around one question. In 2024, they ask: “Do I need territory?”

With Joie noire, gallery visitors are invited to explore this exhibition as participants of Robert’s performance.

The opening of Joie noire at Artspace Aotearoa on Karangahape Road. Photo / Ben Dickens
The opening of Joie noire at Artspace Aotearoa on Karangahape Road. Photo / Ben Dickens

Buchanan explains to the Herald: This question was set about a year ago, and of course, under the current circumstances, the broader geopolitical scenario that we are asked to live in in 2024 means that the question has taken on new and challenging implications.”

”Whether this question has an answer, that’s over to you.”



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