About Gus Fisher Gallery
Nau mai, haere mai ki te Gus Fisher Gallery
We think an art gallery should be socially responsive, inclusive and encourage debate.
Our curatorial vision is constantly evolving. When thinking about exhibition ideas, we always consider whether someone who has never walked into an art gallery before would be interested. What would capture their attention and what is it about the exhibition that might be relevant to them?
Our approach to curating stems from an enduring belief that art and creative practice has the potential to resonate with anyone if curated and presented in an engaging way.
We are passionate about art and bring our enthusiasm, personality and ambition to every project we work on. At the Gus Fisher Gallery, we want to take people on a journey and change how galleries might be perceived. Galleries don’t have to be daunting, white cube, silent spaces. They have many roles that are intrinsic to society – they are safe spaces where people can go and experience new things, they are hubs of knowledge and creativity and they are meeting places that offer dialogue, conversation and creative exchange. People should enjoy being in an art gallery, and artists should want to show their work there.
Artists help us to see the world in extraordinary ways. From emerging to internationally renowned artists, our vision is dedicated to supporting and showcasing artists’ work in the best way possible and to enable people to connect with and access their ideas.
We aim to curate colourful, visually stunning, fun and engaging exhibitions that celebrate artistic and social achievements in unique and surprising ways. Visitor-aware and always forward thinking, we plan to demonstrate cutting edge approaches through bold curatorial and engagement methods, from devising exhibition sound tracks to public space performances, to demonstrate the potential of art to resonate with anyone, anywhere.
Nā, Gus Fisher Gallery team.
Our heritage informs and inspires us
Located at the top of Auckland’s first main street, our gallery spaces in Shortland Street have been the centre of innovation and kiwi ingenuity for decades. Opened in 1935 as the Southern Hemisphere’s largest purpose-built broadcasting studios, 74 Shortland Street was home to the 1YA radio station. Described as a “magnificent broadcasting palace”, the studios were at the cutting edge of technology and architecture. A striking neo-Romanesque brick façade covered the outside of the building, softened by elegant and intricate Art Deco features inside. The 1YA Broadcasting Studios were the first of their kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
When experimental television transmissions began in New Zealand in the 1950s, 74 Shortland Street was deemed the ideal location for this new form of broadcasting. And for the first time in New Zealand, on 1 June 1960, a team of thirteen staff worked together to broadcast the first night of official programming live to the Auckland population from a rudimentary set-up in the Shortland Street Studios. The programme of local and international content was deemed a huge success by the media in the following days, and Shortland Street Studios became the home of our new form of entertainment.
Successful productions such as C’mon and numerous telethons were hosted in Shortland Street’s Studio One. Even with the introduction of the purpose-built facilities at Avalon for TV One, 74 Shortland Street persisted as an important centre for television right up until the late 80’s.
TVNZ eventually left the building in 1990s, but 74 Shortland Street continued to be a centre for innovation and entertainment. A variety of New Zealand musicians favoured the building’s recording facilities to create new albums, including Dave Dobbyn, Che Fu and the Muttonbirds. By the time the building was acquired by The University of Auckland, 74 Shortland Street had played home to a wealth of well-known, and loved presenters, performers, actors and musicians who have shaped our history as a nation.
In 2001, The University of Auckland’s decision to convert the building into their new performing arts school and art gallery ensured that 74 Shortland Street continued to be a home for the country’s emerging talent. Now, we aim to honour the progressive and pioneering broadcasting history of the building by showcasing contemporary art and a strength in artists’ film and video alongside relevant and socially responsive programming.
About Gus Fisher
Gus Fisher, ONZM (1920 – 2010)
The University of Auckland’s Gus Fisher Gallery was founded due to the generous support of local fashion designer, manufacturer and philanthropist Gus Fisher.
Gus Fisher rose to prominence as a fashion designer in the wake of World War II, when Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’ was sweeping through Europe and the United States. As Managing Director of his fashion label El-Jay, Fisher signed a deal in 1954 to produce Christian Dior’s designs under licence in Auckland through the El-Jay factory. At a time when conservative British fashion trends were widely worn in New Zealand, Gus Fisher’s innovative Parisian designs and partnership with Dior were pioneering in the New Zealand fashion industry. El-Jay produced inspiring and eye-catching clothing for 50 years, winning accolades such as the Best Pure Wool Garment, Best Wool Knit Garment, International Award at the 1971 EVE Fashion Awards for a black velvet full-length coat which the judges felt “would be acclaimed anywhere in the world”. El-Jay became the longest holder of the Dior licence in the world, reflecting the high quality of the clothing which the label produced.
Gus Fisher was also a keen lover of art, and extensively collected 20th century artworks from the early 1960s onwards. He collected numerous works by well-known New Zealand artists including Frances Hodgkins, John Weeks and Rita Angus, as well as contemporary figurative painters Pat Hanly, Jeffery Harris, Colin McCahon and Tony Fomison. In 2009, Gus Fisher became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to philanthropy. In 2010, he and his wife Irene received the fifth annual Arts Foundation of New Zealand award for their patronage and contribution to the national arts.
In 2010, the Gus Fisher Gallery held an exhibition celebrating the success of Gus Fisher’s fashion brand titled ‘Looking Terrific: The Story of El-Jay’, curated by Doris De Pont of the New Zealand Fashion Museum.
Alongside establishing the Gus Fisher Gallery as a leading contemporary art centre, Gus Fisher supported the establishment of the Kenneth Myers Centre, the Auckland Museum Redevelopment Programme, the Auckland Art Gallery, the McCahon House Trust, the Auckland Festival, and the University of Auckland Medical School.
Gus Fisher with his wife, Irene Fisher
Kete Aronui is our reading room space, designed for relaxation and learning.
Following the principles of manaakitanga, we’ve transformed our alcove into a warm, calm environment with soft orange armchairs and shelves of fiction and non-fiction books that respond to the themes of our current exhibition, with the generous support of Unity Books. Come in, sit down and help yourself to a steaming mug of free coffee courtesy of the great people at Kōkako.
We’ll be hosting Book Club events in Kete Aronui with the artists and thinkers involved in our shows. They’ll help us to activate the space as a basket of knowledge and a repository for discourse around the arts, and will enhance your experience of the exhibitions. Suggested reads by artists involved in our shows will also be available in the library to help our visitors understand the creative process behind each of their works.
Curator of Contemporary Art
With over ten years curatorial, programming and project management experience, Lisa Beauchamp is committed to the understanding of contemporary art as a valuable and fundamental tool that anyone can access and enjoy.
Prior to taking up her role as Curator of Contemporary Art at the Gus Fisher Gallery she worked at a number of UK arts institutions, most recently as Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery where she curated exhibitions with internationally renowned artists such as Jeremy Deller and John Stezaker, and significantly increased audiences for contemporary art by devising meaningful and relevant projects.
Governed by her dedication to Feminist frameworks and intersectionality, Lisa takes a fluid approach to curatorial exhibition making with an overall belief that galleries can be enjoyable, reflective and self-directed areas of experience as opposed to static white cube spaces.
Public Programmes and Engagement Officer
Robbie Handcock is an artist born in Olongapo, Philippines and currently resides in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. Since graduating with an MFA from Massey University, Robbie has exhibited and written for exhibitions across Aotearoa. He has developed his curatorial and programming interests as a facilitator with artist-run-initiative play_station, with involvement in projects such as Auckland Art Fair and HOBIENNALE in Tasmania, Australia.
In his own painting practice, Robbie is interested in representations of queer sexuality, taste and domesticity. He is also working on an upcoming curatorial project with Te Tuhi scheduled for May 2021.
Hannah is passionate about helping visitors navigate pertinent socio-cultural issues through contemporary art. Having recently graduated with a Master of Arts in Art History, she previously worked at the Wallace Arts Trust and as a teaching assistant in Art History at the University of Auckland. In 2018 she co-curated the survey show The Third Space: Ambiguity in the Art of Graham Fletcher at the Gus Fisher Gallery.
Briana Woolliams is passionate about arts’ ability to bring people together, nurture new learning and connect others deeper to the world around them. Since graduating with a Master of Fine Arts (first-class honours) at Elam School of Fine Arts, she has worked for art institutions, fostering her passion for working with people. Her various arts roles in public engagement and education have her work with a variety of children, youth and other community groups. Briana is also the Learning Experiences Outside of the Classroom facilitator at Te Tuhi Contemporary Art Trust.