Words: Charlotte Middleton
The establishment of Season Aotearoa marks an exciting development for the Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland art scene. In some respects functioning as a commercial gallery while also maintaining a unique operating model, the space is currently debuting its first exhibition: Hono.
Season Aotearoa was founded by artist, curator and writer Jade Townsend (Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Ātihaunui-a-Pāpārangi), and writer and curator Francis McWhannell, both bringing extensive experience in the dealer and public gallery scenes.
Having first met in 2020 after the first Covid-19 lockdown in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, the pair decided towards the end of 2021 that they wanted to create an exhibition series together, and Season grew out of that idea.
“We kept making reference to our ‘first season’, or ‘Season 1’, and eventually the name stuck,” explained McWhannell. “The term felt appropriate in part because it gets at the notion of phases and flux. In 2022, it’s hard to know how anything will play out; we believe that it’s better to be responsive to whatever weather comes our way.”
Part of the Commercial Bay shopping precinct in the city centre, Season brings something different to downtown Tāmaki.
“Season is a gallery, and it’s commercial, but we don’t think of it as merely having that form,” said McWhannell. The gallery is not presently announcing representation of artists, and the relationships on which Season depends instead take a variety of forms.
Season 1 runs between February and June 2022 and includes four shows, all of which are polyvocal, including at least two artists.
“Our goal has been to create combinations of makers and works that are not expected but are marked by a quality of rightness,” commented McWhannell. “We wish to be maximally supportive of the artists we work with and maximally generous to our visitors.”
Bringing together work by co-director Townsend herself alongside that of renowned adornment artist Neke Moa (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Tūwharetoa), Season’s inaugural exhibition Hono explores concepts of cultural identity, place, and unity. Using diverse materials, each artist enacts their individual strategy for restoring spiritual connections to te ao Māori (the Māori world).
“Hono is a fitting beginning for Season; it acknowledges the centrality of Māori art and culture in Aotearoa and the importance of art as a means of healing, storytelling, and teaching,” said McWhannell.
“It has at its core a tuakana–teina relationship. Jade has learned, and continues to learn, from Neke. The two of them together create conditions in which all who stop by the gallery can learn.”
Hono runs until 19 March at Season Aotearoa, 6 Lower Albert Street, Commercial Bay, Tāmaki Makaurau.
To find out more, visit www.seasonaotearoa.com.
This article was posted 1 March 2022.
Image: Jade Townsend and Francis McWhannell beside work by Neke Moa in the gallery’s inaugural exhibition ‘Hono’.