by Anthony Byrt
I undertook this review with some misgiving. With no formal training in art or art history, and being an occasional rather than regular visitor to art galleries, surely I was under-qualified? But at least my reading should reveal how accessible the book will be to a wider readership.
Brief scenario: Anthony Byrt, Kiwi, returns to New Zealand after years involved in the art world overseas, and rediscovers the art scene and artists here. His own stated purpose for the book is to show what it’s like to spend your life chasing contemporary art and the people who make it, show readers why they should care about art, and show us why we should be interested in the way artists test boundaries where our bodies meet the world.
Relating to the first of those aims, he talks of visiting and speaking with New Zealand-born artists in many parts of the world. Places mentioned include Detroit, Houston, Sydney, Marfa Texas, Copenhagen, Berlin, Venice, as well as various spots around our own islands. It doesn’t seem like a bad sort of life.
His main subjects, each of whom he spends time with, are Yvonne Todd, Luke Willis Thompson, Kalisolaite Uhila, Shane Cotton, Fiona Pardington, Billy Apple, Steve Carr, Peter Robinson, Shannon Te Ao, Judy Millar, Ruth Buchanan, Simon Denny.
Byrt’s coverage of these visits concentrates on the artists’ works and purpose. The few biographical details are included to help reveal and elaborate. The illustrations, coloured photographs, are mostly of the artworks rather than their makers.
References to major recent events in relation to many pieces speak to the value of contemporary art as contributing commentary on the world and politics.
Byrt’s writing is confident and artistic in its expression, as would be expected from such an experienced art critic and journalist.
This Model World is a highly informed appreciation of the place and value of many of this country’s current artists’ contribution to the wider world of art. Time taken over reading and rereading each chapter will be repaid by a greater understanding of what the author set out to do – show why we should be interested in the contemporary artists New Zealand has produced.
Author: Anthony Byrt
Publisher: Auckland University Press
ISBN: 978 1 86940 858 9