Nine Wellington dealer galleries and six public galleries have joined together in a unique collaboration to establish a new visual arts festival celebrating New Zealand portraiture past and present. Taking place over four days, 27-30 May 2021, Face to Face: Portrait Festival will bring together some of Aoetearoa’s most celebrated portrait artists alongside early and mid-career artists.
Founded with the aim of demystifying and increasing access to contemporary art, Face to Face encourages the public to venture into the city’s visual arts precinct to uncover and learn more about one of society's most enduring art forms.
Through a programme of free exhibitions, collection tours, talks, studio visits and performances the public will be able to go behind the scenes, meet with artists and curators and discover galleries, that – despite long histories, dating back more than 20 years – they might not have visited before.
A highlight of the Festival is a Late Night event on Saturday 29 May. Taking cues from international events such as Art Night in London, the dealer galleries will stay open late (5-9pm) and host performances by an exciting line-up of Wellington’s best musicians and performers. Programmed by the award-winning team behind CubaDupa, the performances – curated to reflect the individual exhibitions – are a collaborative initiative to foster stronger links across Aoetearoa’s creative community. Armed with a map and a schedule of performances the public will be able to walk freely between the galleries experiencing something new at each one.
Face to Face coincides with the New Zealand Portrait Gallery’s inaugural Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Award, which encourages emerging Māori artists to create portraits of their tūpuna (ancestors), and includes programming dedicated to investigating Māori portraiture traditions – both historical and contemporary.
Launching at a time when questions of identity and representation are at the forefront of our collective cultural psyche, Face to Face will delve into questions surrounding historical and contemporary portraiture. What is the role of portraiture in the age of smartphones and digital technologies, when everyone can take a portrait? Whose portraits are celebrated? What counts as portraiture? How can portraiture be used as a symbol of power? And, in the words of Art History Associate Professor, Erin Griffey, how do official portraits function to articulate and justify ideals of leadership? These questions and more will be explored in the weekend talks series with discussions by artists, academics, writers, critics and curators.
Established by a coalition of Wellington dealer gallerists, Face to Face presents a new, collaborative format with exhibitions and events spanning dealer and public galleries. Breaking away from the established format of biennales, triennales and art fairs, which necessitate large crowds, Face to Face proposes a decentralized, cellular model with events taking place across the city, making use of existing infrastructure.
Funded through WCC’s City Recovery Fund, which is intended to support and boost the city’s economic recovery from the impacts of Covid-19, the Festival has been designed with the specific challenges of producing art events in a post-COVID environment. The format allows for interactions and meetings on a smaller scale at numerous venues – a flexible, innovative post-COVID response, which could be scaled up or down for future cultural events and used as a vital tool in Wellington retaining its status as Cultural Capital.
The full Festival programme, including exhibitions, talks, collection tours, studio visits, workshops and performances, will be announced in April 2021.
Visit portraitfestival.co.nz for more information.