Rising costs, falling visitor numbers and inflexible spaces are forcing central city art galleries to move or close, according to one of the founders of the Auckland Art Precinct gallery group.
Jennifer Buckley says her own gallery Orexart is just the latest to move to the suburbs.
The Heart of the City business association’s Big Little City campaign promotes the precinct area as the “heart” of Auckland’s artistic community.
It is home to the Auckland Art Gallery, the city library, the Aotea complex and the Auckland Arts Festival village.
But Ms Buckley believes the precinct has never recovered from the disruption caused by the recent Auckland Art Gallery reconstruction.
And she claims the relocation of professional businesses to the waterfront has put a stop to the lunchtime visits that many galleries relied upon.
Those shoppers have been replaced by a growing student population, who are less likely to have the disposable income to purchase works.
She says the cost of operating an art gallery has doubled in recent years, and that has made central rents even harder to justify.
“We now have to provide a physical space and a virtual space, and we have to provide a bigger space for a lower cost.”
Eight of 11 galleries on Khartoum St have moved or closed in the last four years, she says.
While many galleries are opening in Parnell, Ponsonby and Devenport, Orexart has found a new start in Arch Hill.
Sarah Hopkinson, director of neighbouring gallery Hopkinson Cundy, says galleries are now looking for the right spaces, rather than the right central location – and Arch Hill is evidence of that.
Hopkinson moved from Karangahape Rd to Arch Hill, because the light industrial area provided an accessible and flexible space.
“It is increasingly about being a destination location – especially for dealer galleries like us,” she says.
Two Rooms Gallery director Jenny Todd, previously of London’s Todd Gallery, also chose the location because she found the right space.
“I found a warehouse that suited the kinds of things I was interested in . . . artists responding to landscapes.”
Ms Buckley says she and director Rex Armstrong moved Orexart to Arch Hill because they found a good space close to their clientele in Grey Lynn and the western suburbs.
They joined the neighbourhood – which includes dealer galleries, an art lender and an art disability trust – and will hold the opening of Regenerate on Saturday night.