Written by John Williams
It’s the country’s premier showcase for contemporary art, bringing together 40 galleries from Australia, New Zealand, South America and the Pacific. One of the 40 exhibitors showcasing their artists is Anna Miles, a fervent art dealer and part-time lecturer in visual arts.
Anna opened her gallery in 2003, on High Street. She absolutely loved it there until the street’s retail tenants were lured away to the Britomart. For Anna, who never intended moving from her elegant west-facing room in the Canterbury Arcade, this set off a search for a new home. It turns out she didn’t have to look far.
“When we first moved into our townhouse, just off Upper Queen Street, I had no intention of opening a gallery at home.”
“But, when I thought about it, I was living in a gallery district and no longer working in one. Something had to change; I decided to relocate my business to home. I had the room, I had the light, and I had the outlook.”
Anna’s light-filled, first-floor gallery looks out over the tranquil remnants of Symonds St cemetery. It’s safe to say you wouldn’t stumble across this living room-sized gallery unless you knew it was here. “It’s a destination, not a walk-in,” she smiles.
“This is such an interesting area, historically,” says, Anna. “Before the motorway, in the 1950’s, K Road was a central meeting point for many Aucklanders. It was the go-to part of town with department stores and five cinemas.” And it’s set to become that again. The mass of new apartments along the ridgeline and the regeneration of old housing stock is bringing people back into the area.
Anna loves the architecture of St Kevin’s Arcade, and the Green Dolphin second-hand bookshop and Fort Greene sandwich shop within. Her two young boys go to school in neighbourhood, and there are a host of great galleries, all within a ten-minute walk of her front door.
Taking things back, I ask Anna where it all began?
“I’ve been an art critic and I teach art. I decided that I didn’t want to become a full-time academic, and that it would be more critical to be a champion than a critic.”
“I went to art school, but didn’t have the right focus to be an artist. You have to be utterly fascinated by your own work and committed to it – to the exclusion of much else. Incredible conviction is required. I was always very interested in everyone else’s art. I started writing a lot about art and realised it was the connections that really interested me.”
Anna has kept teaching and is very interested in staying involved with art schools and really young artists. So is that where she finds new talent?
“No, it’s not actually. I don’t think art schools are particularly happy hunting grounds for dealers. I completely pursue what I want to do. I show the work that I think is important to show.”
Some of Anna’s most recent artists have interesting histories. Currently showing at her gallery is the debut exhibition of Sara McIntyre, a district nurse and photographer in the King Country, born in 1951. Anna shows, Lucien Rizos, a highly regarded photographer who has been a violin player in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra since 1974; and Patricia Bosshard Browne, a successful South Island art dealer who became a weaver after closing her gallery in 1990. At Auckland Art Fair Anna will show a painting on 99 pipi shells by Sarah Hillary, Principal Conservator at Auckland Art Gallery.
“I’m committed to working hard for the artists and championing them until they get taken seriously.”
"I work with the Wellington ceramic artist Richard Stratton. When I first met Richard, in 2005, he was sort of marooned, in the sense he didn’t have a foothold in the visual art world, but I thought his work was extraordinary. He’s gone on to make incredible work and is now represented in many museum collections. He’s gone from strength to strength, and I think that’s fantastic.”
As you would expect, the rest of Anna’s home is as much a gallery space as her studio – only certainly not as restrained. Is she a collector, herself?
“The reason I value art is because it gives you an opportunity to see things from the point of view of another. I’m interested in artists as individuals. I’m not interested in artists who are fashionable.”
“I live with an absolute passionate collector, and I have editorial tendencies, too” she laughs. “When the acquisition impulse visits me, I’m always delighted because it’s a very special thing. It’s quite rare, takes no account of budget, and is based on a deep-seated need to connect with something.”
Auckland Art Fair runs from May 25th to May 30th at The Cloud
This article is part of a series brought to you by Angela Saunders featuring some of the characters and personalities that live and work in our neighbourhood.
Anna’s Auckland Art Tour.
Auckland Museum Te Paenga Hika
2 Kitchener St
Sir George Grey Special Collections
Second Floor, Central City Library, 44-46 Lorne St
71 Upper Queen St
Level 1, 312 Karangahape Rd
486 K Rd
8 Ponsonby Road
Gus Fisher Gallery
74 Shortland St
Cordy's Fine Art and Antique Auctioneers
180 Gt South Rd