An­thony Byrt

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The writer trav­elled to Whanganui to meet with artists and gal­lerists and re­port on the town’s ac­tive art scene (p.64).

You trav­elled to Whanganui for this is­sue. What did you find? An al­ter­na­tive to art-city life, and a high-func­tion­ing one at that. We’re un­usu­ally blessed with our pro­vin­cial art in­fra­struc­ture – places like Whanganui, New Ply­mouth, Nel­son. It’s one of those strange lega­cies of the colo­nial era, when galleries and mu­se­ums were built in what were of­ten pretty wealthy com­mu­ni­ties. It’s nice to see the con­tem­po­rary scene start­ing to embrace this.

Can you be an artist in our cities now? It’s the ‘mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion’, right? Hon­estly, it’s pretty bloody dif­fi­cult. I espe­cially feel for art stu­dents – young peo­ple have a right to live in cities so they can find them­selves, and their peers. When our mak­ers and cre­ators can’t af­ford to be in our cities, our col­lec­tive cul­tural life re­ally suf­fers.

What was the last piece of art you bought and why did you buy it? The last thing I got was a lit­tle work by Shane Cot­ton. Shane and I worked pretty in­tensely to­gether while I was writ­ing about him for my book This Model World. The things I have on my walls are mostly me­men­tos of close friend­ships and work­ing re­la­tion­ships like this.

Tell us about your res­i­dency at the Michael King Writ­ers’ Centre. I’m work­ing on a new book about a re­la­tion­ship Billy Ap­ple had with a bril­liant young nov­el­ist called Ann Quin, when he was at London’s Royal Col­lege of Art – the scene they were part of, and how it changed the di­rec­tion of Bri­tish art. It’s a very dif­fer­ent re­search process from my last book – lots of time in ar­chives, lots of read­ing. The res­i­dency is amaz­ing for that: I can shut the door, put my head down, and just get on with it.

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