Artspace Aotearoa says goodbye to Remco de Blaaij, our Kaitohu Director for nearly 5 years to date. Remco was our Kaitohu for the 2017- 2020 period, overseeing many changes and helping us to overcome many challenges, not least of which was managing a pandemic and several lockdowns. Remco was also here for the changing of our name from Artspace NZ to Artspace Aotearoa.
With strong leadership and clear artistic vision, under Remco’s leadership we were able to secure CNZ Toi Tōtara Haemata funds for 2020 - 2025. The increased funding enables Artspace Aotearoa to mature as an organisation and to begin to address some historical difficulties. While the CNZ Toi Tōtara Haemata funds focuses on artistic creation, expression and international connections, under Remco’s direction Artspace Aotearoa focused on building connections with communities in Aotearoa, and Tāmaki Makaurau in particular.
In 2020, we made the move from upstairs to the ground floor in the same building. This move provided us the opportunity to redesign our relationship with our audiences and communities, and radically change the accessibility of the space.
During Remco’s time as director at Artspace Aotearoa he has curated and overseen over twenty exhibitions, including Ex-Ante as the first exhibition, and Ex-Post as the last show curated for Artspace Aotearoa as our Kaitohu Director.
“I have particular fond memories of 'Ōtairongo', the first show we opened downstairs, and also working with Fiona Jack on her collaboration with Sue Bradley and bringing in international small arts organisations from the Caribbean and South America during 'Most Things Happen When I am Asleep'. Having 'Cooking Sections' here in Aotearoa for a month was a highlight as much as working with 'Slow Boil' and 'Forensic Architecture' in 2021.
I always tried to speak to paths outside the visual arts, seeking to develop projects and making connections with a bold political start, strong social imagination and looking beyond the disciplines of visual art alone. I looked to the programme to begin to change some of the infrastructure at Artspace Aotearoa.
With my small, temporary contribution I hope the team and I made our gallery more socially and critically aware, moved away from traditional leadership, and set Artspace Aotearoa up for a bright future in one of the most exciting places in the world.”
— Remco de Blaaij
“It has been a pleasure working with Remco over the last three years - perhaps the most challenging years in the history of Artspace Aotearoa: Moving premises, Covid openings and lockdowns. Plan B’s in all directions have been thrown at Remco and the team. Through it all, Remco has kept his eye on our collective mission, although there have been times where these challenges have stretched us all to our limits.
There are some great memories that I will treasure: the massive opening for the 'New Artists Show 2020', the 'Slow Boil' exhibition and whakawhanaungatanga, pulling off 'When the Dust Settles' and debating the right way forward. At all times Remco put his all into the task. As we move forward we will have new challenges, but Remco has left his mark on Artspace Aotearoa - most importantly, we are ready to face the future with confidence.
Ngā mihi nunui ki a koe mō tōu rangatira mahi.”
— Hamish Coney
In the spirit of the historical reflection and hopeful speculation that characterises Remco’s final exhibition Ex-post, we look in retrospect to Remco’s time and work here at Artspace Aotearoa, and prospectively towards his bright future. We give our thanks to Remco for all his work and dedication over the years in shaping Artspace Aotearoa into what it is today. We wish Remco all the best, and look forward to seeing what comes next for him.