Feb 05 2021


A monthly series featuring new independent writing on contemporary art.

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Feb 05 2021

ArtNow Essays is an online venue where writing’s imaginative potential meets editorial rigour. In its commitment to the essay, a form that can draw readily from journalism, criticism, and memoir, this site seeks to cultivate a culture of independent, critical and original commentary on contemporary art. Its aim is to deliver serious, well-researched, and intellectually stimulating writing to engage readers and build an informed audience for the visual arts.

Each month readers can expect an essay of 1,500 to 2,000 words, each offering a distinctively critical point of view on artists, art works, exhibitions, publications, issues or themes within the world of contemporary visual art.

ArtNow Essays is led by an independent commissioning editor who is invested in the craft and convinced of the value of writing as a device to connect artists and their practices with audiences and their contexts. They are in turn supported by an editorial advisory whose members are drawn from across Aotearoa New Zealand’s public gallery sector and with representation from freelance and emerging writers with diverse interests and backgrounds. This structure is designed to ensure independence but also secure a responsibility to the needs and aspirations of the culture.

ArtNow Essays is aimed at an audience of art experts, non-specialist but art-literate readers, and uninitiated but intellectually curious readers with interest in the visual arts. ArtNow Essays acknowledges the hybrid nature of the arts and seeks to cultivate audiences from adjacent fields including the performing arts, film, theatre, and music by covering points of common interest and convergence. Essays are free to download as PDFs and sharing is encouraged.

While based in, and committed to, the arts in Aotearoa New Zealand, ArtNow Essays understands there is a wider international context within which artists in and from Aotearoa New Zealand live and work. It seeks to keep doors and minds open and does not discriminate on the basis of age, class, race, gender, colour, belief, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation or geographic location.

Commissioning Editor

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Lachlan Taylor is the current editor of Essays on ArtNow.NZ, taking over from Tendai John Mutambu, who launched the new platform and saw it through its first six months until September 2021.

In taking up the editorship Lachlan acknowledges the landscape for writing in Aotearoa New Zealand has changed since the platform’s inception in February 2021. At that point there was a dearth of opportunities, with the collapse of print media in the wake of the pandemic. But now, as local publishing has bounced back, bringing new opportunities for arts writers, he plans to complement what is on offer by commissioning texts that “directly address the health, politics and future of our sector through the essay form”, by offering a supportive framework for nurturing new writers, and by tapping into the “world of brilliant writing and thinking in Aotearoa” both within and beyond the arts community.

At the outset of his role as editor, Lachlan offered the following position statement:

ArtNow Essays has published nine pieces since launching in March this year. As a collection, they have already moved in interesting ways and to unexpected places. Most have begun as direct responses to exhibitions or artists, but almost all have moved with their subjects into ground where good writing asks good questions—of being and belonging, sovereignty and representation, memory and understanding.

Of course, this isn’t an accident. Under Tendai Mutambu’s editorship, the platform has sought to elevate writing that goes beyond the simple explanation of the press release or the reactive opinion of the review. I’m exceptionally privileged to take up the work Tendai has put in to building and growing this platform, and to take it into a new phase.

The arts writing landscape has changed considerably since ArtNow Essays was conceived. A number of platforms have been established that devote regular space to arts coverage in Aotearoa. I don’t believe this fundamentally affects the kaupapa of ArtNow Essays, which remains to be a space for high-quality, independent arts writing in this country. But I think it helps to define our aspirations for the platform and the niche ArtNow Essays holds for the community. As commissioning editor, my aspirations for the platform can be split into two broad camps:

Capacity Great writing requires great writers. In the arts in Aotearoa, there is still so much more we can do to foster and support emerging writers. This platform can be a part of that process by bringing writers through a rigorous process with exacting standards. And by meeting our authors with genuine care—throughout the publishing process and after. I want writing for ArtNow to be the exemplar of what a professional arts writing commission should be like in Aotearoa.

Expansion This means multiple things to me. In one sense, it’s expanding our content by being ambitious about what a platform like this can deliver. Alongside the kind of response-based and personal essays that ArtNow has already published, I want to push the scope of our pieces into areas that directly address the health, politics, and future of our sector through the essay form. This also means expanding the kinds of writers we engage and subsequently the kinds of audiences we reach. I want to tap into the world of brilliant writing and thinking in Aotearoa that doesn’t come from directly within the fine arts community. There’s a lot of high calibre writing that goes on in this country, and if we hope to promote the best of its kind with this platform, I think that bringing different kinds of writer into this space is essential. What expansion doesn’t mean, is abandoning the core principles and purposes of this platform: a space for good writing about art, artists, and the sector.

I’m excited about this platform, what it’s already achieved and its potential for the future, and its role in shaping how we think about arts writing and its place in Aotearoa.

Lachlan Taylor

Lachlan is currently completing his MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. This is providing him with new technical and creative tools as a writer to add to the skills he has developed since completing a Masters in Art History also at Victoria University in 2018.

Following his role as the inaugural Adam Art Gallery Intern, working towards an exhibition and publication on the New Zealand works of Christopher Perkins, Lachlan went on to take up the Assistant Curator role at Artspace Aotearoa in 2019, and then worked at Michael Lett until returning to Wellington Te Whanganui-a-Tara. His writing has been published in Art + Australia, Art News New Zealand, Art New Zealand and The Pantograph Punch.

Tendai John Mutambu, the first editor of the ArtNow.NZ essays, is a curator, writer, film programmer, and editor based in Tamaki Makaurau Auckland. He is now contemporary curator at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery. Until his return to New Zealand in 2021, he was Assistant Curator, Commissions and Public Programmes at Spike Island in Bristol, UK. He has previously worked as Programming Fellow at Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival where he curated Artist in Focus: Marwa Arsanios; and as Assistant Curator, Contemporary at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre. Projects include: The Conch #22 at South London Gallery (forthcoming, March 2021); WE ARE HERE, a series of five film programmes and installations of Artists’ Moving Image from the British Council and LUX collections touring internationally from 2019 to 2022; Twenty-Two Hours at ICA London as part of the BFI London Film Festival (2018); Sriwhana Spong a hook but no fish (2018), David Clegg loca projects / correction (2017); Projection Series 8: The Long Dream of Waking (2017) curated with Sarah Wall; Projection Series 7: First as Fiction, Then as Myth (2017) curated with Sophie O’Brien; Potentially Yours, The Coming Community (2016). Tendai has written for Frieze, Ocula Magazine, Runway Journal of Contemporary Art, ICA London, the British Film Institute, LUX Moving Image, Art News New Zealand, Art New Zealand and several exhibition catalogues including, most recently, Zac Langdon Pole’s Art Journey (2019).


Editorial Advisory

–Christina Barton, director Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi, art historian, curator, writer and editor based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington

–Anthony Byrt, writer currently working with Alt Group, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

–Abby Cunnane, director The Physics Room, Christchurch, writer and curator based in Ōtautahi Christchurch

-Sophie Davis, recently appointed manager and curator Hastings City Art Gallery Te Whare Toi o Heretaunga

-Simon Gennard, writer and curator, assistant curator at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Ngāmotu New Plymouth

–Hiraani Himona, director Te Tuhi, Pakuranga Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

–Stephanie Post, co-founder and co-director of ArtNow

–Hanahiva Rose, curator Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, and writer based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington


Essays has been made possible through the support of Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa and members of the Aotearoa Public Gallery Directors’ Network (APGDN). APGDN is an informal consortium of publicly funded galleries from throughout Aotearoa New Zealand the directors of which meet occasionally to share knowledge and advice about their operations and find collective means to improve their organisations’ visibility, support the arts ecosystem in Aotearoa New Zealand, and foster audience engagement.

The idea to establish a digital platform for good, independent art writing in partnership with ArtNow.NZ was conceived during the 2020 lockdown due to the COVID pandemic.

Participating Galleries

Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi Victoria University of Wellington

Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History

Artspace Aotearoa

Blue Oyster Art Project Space

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi

Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Enjoy Contemporary Art Space

Govett Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre

Gus Fisher Gallery, The University of Auckland

Te Whare Toi o Heretaunga – Hastings City Art Gallery

New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata


Pātaka Art + Museum

Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui

ST PAUL St Gallery | Auckland University of Technology

Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga

Te Manawa

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Te Tuhi

Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery

The Dowse Art Museum

The Physics Room

The Suter Art Gallery

Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato and ArtsPost Galleries & Shop

Wairau Māori Art Gallery

Whirinaki Whare Taonga

ArtNow Essays is independently commissioned by the editor. The views expressed on ArtNow Essays are the authors' and are not necessarily held by ArtNow.NZ, the commissioning editor, editorial advisory, participating galleries, APGDN, or Creative New Zealand. While this platform does not publish readers’ comments, constructive feedback is welcome. Send your feedback to