Verve interviews art lover, Dona White about her and her husband Gavin’s passion for collecting art.
Tell us a bit about your background and your relationship with the arts in general, static arts in particular.
Gavin and I have always loved art and wherever we’ve travelled or lived in the world, we have visited galleries and art fairs. When we came to New Zealand in the late 80s we did the same, although we were young and starting out so not so much purchasing – more perusing! But it’s fair to say we are passionate about art.
For how long have you been collecting?
In earnest, around 15 years.
Did you collection grow organically, or was it more of a planned approach?
We were lucky that our neighbour Hamish Keith, who made his career in art, and has a wonderful collection himself – got us started. He introduced us to many wonderful New Zealand artists and art galleries – and guided us on certain early pieces in our collection. It does become a bit of a habit, and quite addictive.
Would you consider art collecting to be your hobby? Do you have other hobbies?
Let’s say collecting art is something we both enjoy and gift each other pieces on birthdays or special occasions. We get excited about art whether it’s a Bronwyn Cornish sculpture or a Tony Lane painting or a photograph, it’s something we do together, rather than individually and that’s why we love it.
We also enjoy sailing, and the outdoors, and feel so privileged to live in this beautiful country with access to it all: exceptional art, delicious food, and beautiful nature and surrounds.
How do you purchase the bulk of your art?
Since we bought Auckland Art Fair in 2015, and ran our first edition in 2016, I would say that most of our collection has grown from the fair now. We like to support the galleries who participate and plus, it’s a great environment to view a number of local and international galleries all in one place. We’re there for the full five days, with the gallerists and artists, and it’s really stimulating talking to them about their work – and of course makes it hard not to fall in love with new pieces!
We always use My Art when we buy something, they are one of the partners of the fair, and we think what they do is brilliant, and certainly makes it easier on us to purchase art. Basically you get pre-approved online (or at the fair) and if you buy something My Art pays the gallery in full, and then over nine interest-free instalments you pay My Art off for the artwork. It is a charitable initiative run by Sonja and Glenn Hawkins, who are themselves collectors and huge supporters of the arts, and the wonderful thing is you know that the artist will be paid up front for their work – it’s great!
Do you mainly collect New Zealand art?
We mostly have work by New Zealand artists in our collection, as well as few international pieces. One that I really love is series by Spanish artist, Carlos Aires, which we purchased from ADN Galeriá at ArtInternational Istanbul.
Gavin and I love having a mixture of international galleries at the fair, alongside the New Zealand and Australian ones – like Misa Shin Gallery from Japan or Totoral Lab from Chile. It makes visiting the fair more special because you meet new artists and galleries that you might not have already known or had the opportunity to. A lot of the time the artists are at the fair too, so you talk to them and learn more about their work, which is really special. Last year we purchased a drawing work by Taro Shinoda, a Japanese artist, represented by Misa Shin Gallery, and also a work by Sebastian Vargas from Totoral Lab.
What do you look for when purchasing a piece of art?
We buy what we love and I think that’s why we enjoy it so much! We never think, “Oh, we need something to go above the couch”, if we see something we like, and both agree, we’ll buy it and work out the logistics later.
Is art an important thing to have in life?
Yes I would definitely say so! Especially now in these troubling times of global isolationist politics, nationalism, and racist rhetoric. Artists can provide creative thinking for cultural change, and they approach it differently to how a politician might. There’s a real power in the way artist’s think, and how they communicate through their work.
The arts unite communities and cultures, challenge ideas, make you think, start new dialogues and bring attention to things in a new light. We couldn’t imagine not living with art and supporting these great thinkers of our time!
Tell us a little bit about three of your favourite pieces.
For my 60th birthday we purchased a new glasswork from Masterworks Gallery that is singing to me at the moment. It’s called ‘Woven Fish Trap’ by Luke Jacomb and Katherine Rutecki
I also love the Tony Lane work we have in our dining room, which we purchased from Black Asterisk in Ponsonby, it’s called ‘The Wilderness’. I love to cook and it has become the centrepiece to gatherings with family and friends.
The four collage works by Carlos Aires, which we purchased in Istanbul, are made from different currencies which have been cut and imposed with images from that show disasters, catastrophic events and wars that took place in the countries the banknotes belong to. The series questions the real and symbolic value of money and by cutting the bank note, which is illegal, he renders them useless. An ironic receptacle of our economic system!
Credits For Images:
Dona in her dining room. Painting in background by Tony Lane, The Wilderness, 2013.
Living room painting by Graham Fletcher, drawingby Taro Shinoda
Living room showing works by Tony Fomison, Jester to the current court of France (about Muraroa), 1981, and Virginia Leonard, Freshly Shaved, 2018.
Living Room, Various artists, Neil Frazer, Labyrinth, John Radford, Façade of John Logan Campbell Building, 191 Queen Street, Auckland, Glasswork, Woven Fish Trap by Luke Jacomb and Katherine Rutecki.
Above fire place Kim Meek, Harajuku, 2011, above TV, Rueben Paterson, Get down on your knees please
Janet Green, Imaginary Friends
Four Bulls Descending, a 3D printing gift I won, Karl Maughan, White’s Bay, Sculpture by Ann Verdcourt
Candleholder by Warwick Freeman, 2014, and Ao Hei Tiki, hand carved pounamu, from the South Island, NZ
Carlos Aires, Disaster series, 2013.
Robert Ellis, Maungawhai/Mt Eden and Jenny Dolezel, Like you, really.