Lydia Cowpertwait takes the reins at Sanderson Contemporary Art

We sat down with Cowpertwait to talk about her vision for the Auckland gallery.

Words: Erin Irwin

After being guided for many years by Andrea Jane, Auckland’s Sanderson Contemporary Art has announced that curator Lydia Cowpertwait has now stepped up as the gallery’s new Director. Cowpertwait has been with the gallery for two years as the Manager, having previously worked for the Whitechapel Gallery and Hoxton Art Gallery in London, as well as in international art consultancy.

Cowpertwait explains that this experience has proved significant in the development of her curatorial perspective: “The Whitechapel is a wonderful place. I learned so much while I was working in the curatorial department and it definitely impacted the way I view curating and the modus operandi around presenting artists work”.

“The curator’s focus was always to present artworks in a way where the public can really engage with the artist’s practice; and gain an in-depth understanding of their thought processes”, she says, “this is always at the forefront of my mind when putting on exhibitions. I want those who visit the gallery to really understand the artist’s work and the artists thinking”.

Since moving to Sanderson Contemporary Art, Cowpertwait has certainly been busy, citing the placement of a number of artworks within public collections as one of her biggest achievements. Several of the artists on the gallery’s roster have also been featured in public exhibitions across New Zealand, and she is particularly proud of the many exhibitions the gallery itself has hosted, such as its presentation of works by Simon Kaan and Wi Taepa ONZM, as well as Susurrations focusing on established and emerging female photographers.

But what is next for the gallery? Cowpertwait has hinted at new additions to the gallery’s stable, as well as an overhaul of the gallery’s digital presence. “The main goal is to keep working hard for the artists and to aid their careers in the best ways we can. I enjoy supporting emerging artists so we will continue our Emerging Artists exhibition every year and to support young artists through our programme”.

She emphasises that “supporting women artists and keeping an evenly balanced roster is also important to me, as is promoting Toi Māori, which is a fundamental part of Aotearoa’s cultural landscape”.

In terms of the gallery’s programming for the coming year, Cowpertwait has some big plans. “Our artists have solo exhibitions throughout the year and these always speak for themselves,” she says, “each of Sanderson’s artists have such a distinctive practice and they always produce something inspiring and new with each show”.

Collectors should look out for a group show curated by Jemma Giorza which will feature wearable art, as well as a presentation of work by Julia Holderness which will show concurrently with a public exhibition. Cowpertwait has also picked their artist lineup for Aotearoa Art Fair, which will include Wi Taepa ONZM: “we are looking forward to having him with us. We know he will impart his wonderful knowledge and wisdom to the visitors and collectors at the fair”.

It sounds like there are big things to come for Sanderson Contemporary Art, and collectors should have their eyes trained across the Tasman for what the gallery has in store.

This article was posted 9 February 2024.

Image: Lydia Cowpertwait. Photo: Olivia Hemus. Courtesy: Sanderson Contemporary Art, Auckland.

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