Lively look at Kiwi art world
Even with a bad case of the flu, Hamish Keith sparkles as he talks about his book The Big Picture.
Six months after its release it is obviously still a topic which excites him, which is no surprise for one of the country’s most wellknown and controversial art commentators.
The book captivated art enthusiasts around the country too, jumping straight to the bestseller list on its release in November last year.
Mr Keith says he is “enormously pleased” there’s still such an interest in the book.
“I think the book came out at the right time,” he says.
“It was the first attempt to put the story of New Zealand art together.”
The Big Picture is a commentary on the country’s art dating back to 1642, and was published to accompany a six-hour TV series of the same name.
Mr Keith will be giving a talk at the Auckland Art Gallery this Sunday where he will read and discuss the book.
He says he has been lucky to witness first-hand a revolutionary time for New Zealand art.
Not one to hold back on his views, he brings up issues such as the “shameful” treatment of Maori art such as the over-painting of carvings with red paint.
He says the book also challenges the New Zealand “search for identity”, arguing rather that our individual identity comes in the fact that we are so diverse.
“New Zealand is one of the few countries that has the opportunity to be all the different things it is,” he says.
“We’re a nation of travellers.
“We’ve always gone elsewhere and come from somewhere else.”
Rather than being a catalogue of artists, he says the book is the continuous story of New Zealand’s art and culture.
Mr Keith has been talking and writing about art and culture for the past 50 years, working with legendary artists such as Colin McCahon during his time curating at the Auckland Art Gallery.
Now he enjoys spending time in his Ponsonby home on Franklin Rd with wife Ngila Dickson, who won an Oscar for her costume design in Lord of the Rings.
He loves the area, describing it as “one of the last parts of the inner city which still has a sense of neighbourhood”.
Not one to sit back and watch, Mr Keith has just delivered the manuscript for his autobiography Native Wit, due out in September.
Hamish Keith will be speaking at the New Gallery this Sunday at 3pm as part of the Reading at the Gallery series this winter.
Challenging perceptions: Hamish Keith says we need to embrace our diverse identity.