Scott Lawrie is a gallery practice that connects hearts and minds to contemporary art in ways that are accessible, innovative, and fearless. The practice is built on the belief that art has great power to bring human beings together – in agreement and disagreement – to create new and meaningful insights into the extraordinary slice of time that we all occupy and share.
We are proud to work with a broad team of emerging, mid-career and Internationally-renowned artists in gallery shows, public events, innovative performances, and on our dedicated digital art platform, Fountain.
A Fond FarewellScott Lawrie Gallery has now closed in Aotearoa
"There are no hierarchies, no infinite, no such many as mass, there are only
eyes in all heads, to be looked out of." - Charles Olson.
6 years ago next month, I took over and rebranded The Vivian - a regional art gallery in Matakana. Two years later, I opened the Scott Lawrie Gallery in Auckland, first in Grey Lynn, and then here in Mt Eden. Next month, I head back to Scotland to live again, after 23 years away.
Although I'd spent a life involved in art, I had no experience of running a gallery. I had a small team, and just $10,000 of set up money. Both of which escaped from me pretty quickly. I also had one hell of a vision - to be the swankiest Gagosian-style gallery in New Zealand!
I'm honestly glad I didn't achieve it.
Instead, I got to know about art in ways that I never expected; uncovering remarkable human stories that had nothing to do with the money side of the business (which, looking back, I was never really that interested in tbh. Art and money is such a weird mix. Like oil and water they intermingle, but they're elementally quite different.)
I learned the importance of speaking up; of staying true, yet remaining open to new ideas.
I discovered unexpected communities, and artists whom I bonded with directly through their work. I have made friends for life from Australia, Aotearoa, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands and many more places around the world while being here. (I'm adopting Otara as my sister 'hood to Moredun). What a special gift to take with me.
I really enjoyed putting my weight behind emerging artists who may never have been given the chance. But the fact remains that I owe everything to the artists who were so brave to give me a chance. And in doing so, I think we opened new avenues as to what a model of an art gallery could be.
I was honoured to represent all my artists, but of course Patricia Piccinini and The Estate of Sally Gabori were pretty big responsibilities; I got very lucky and tried to honour their faith in me, as I did for every artist.
As the gallery progressed and evolved, I started to understand the fundamental truth of art and its transformational power. It became a practice, just like those of the artists I represented, and this shift in focus allowed me to ignore conventions, and question if there could be better ways. I remained fiercely independent, for good reason - I cherished my freedom to critique.
All up, I think we changed things for the better.
My thank you list is long and incomplete, it could take up pages. I'm half thinking of writing a book, so I can tell the whole story there and really demonstrate the vibrancy and dynamism in the Aotearoa art world. But here goes for now…
To the collectors, friends, and supporters - you are the reason we do what we do. Your constant engagement, encouragement, and even simply turning up for openings - was a huge validation for the artists and myself. We appreciate you.
To the technicians, hangers, tradesmen and women, you've all been instrumental in making the gallery look as good as it does month after month. Jamie Chapman in particular - easy to work with, gracious and humble - became a rock-solid part of the team. Lisa from the flower shed in Mt Eden made us look blooming marvellous every week. And Udi kept the cleaning up so the place sparkled.
To our sponsors, Sawmill Brewery, Daily Organics, Babich Wines and so many others in ways small and large - thanks for keeping our (often very large) crowds happy. Eke Panuku were terrific in allowing us the use of Silo6 for The Confessions, one of my proudest moments.
To all the writers and film makers I worked with - thank you for your illuminating words and images. Andrew Paul Wood, Tamar Torrance, Craig Ray, Myles Ray get special mentions for their hard work over the years. Craig alone spent thousands of hours filming, editing and composing gallery artist films that have now collectively been watched over 400,000 times.
… Actually, I should have a special shout out for Craig. I met Craig at The Vivian - he'd take the odd shots for social posts, and make little films, which became artist films, which soon became major documentaries. And we literally made hundreds of projects together. We're still making a major documentary about the legacy of Roy Good (self-funded, of course, but reach out if you'd like to support it.)
Craig brought a creative intensity to the gallery and a brand presence that was unlike any other gallery in NZ. We even gave the institutions a run for their money at times with our brand presence. Along the way, Craig has become an integral part of my life as has Rachel, his wife, (who became the manager of The Vivian - and did a bloody good job given my admin skills are a single micron above incompetent) and Myles, their son, who I've witnessed growing up. Like so many artists, they've now become my family.
To Joan Vujcich, our gallery angel and self-described 'water lady' (and also a fabulous collector) who served drinks at every opening for the past 2 and a half years. I can't recall ever being shown such kindness and loyalty in my entire career. On behalf of the gallery artists and of course, for all your personal support for me. Thank you.
To Mark and Deb Bower - it was you who convinced me to kick start the gallery in Auckland. And you looked after me in the new space, and helped build the gallery in Mt Eden. I am so grateful to you and the family.
To the partners of the artists. I know what you go through. And I know how hard you do it behind the scenes to help make things happen - especially when the pressure is on. Your dedication is worth celebrating too. Thank you.
To the team of branding and design gurus at Moffitt.Moffit in Sydney - we couldn't have come this far, nor stood out from the pack, without you. We've loved the journey we've been on the past 6 years with you, and it's not over yet. Thank you for your tireless efforts (and for ignoring my suggestions, which would have looked awful haha!)
To the gallerists in an industry I have been known to critique - you are some of the hardest working, most determined, and visionary people I've ever met. There's a lot to improve on. But you are so undervalued in a country, where you should be absolutely cherished. You offer the most important platforms - often at great personal cost - which support our artists in ways that allow them to flourish. I know how hard most of you work, and frankly - you deserve more support. That's not my battle now. But at the very least you should unite as one industry voice sooner rather than later.
And finally…. to the artists.
Thank you for the experience of a lifetime. You speak to us through your work. And it's a conversation I'll enjoy for the rest of my life. YOU are where art begins and ends. It's only because of you that Scott Lawrie Gallery could go from a me, to a we, then an 'us.' We achieved something unique and incredibly special. You took a great risk. You were brave. And that's such an important ingredient in all art making.
You have so much to be proud of. Without your rich imaginations, we'd all be so much poorer. Paintings are portals, and artists are Time Lords. Art is about people, not money, or status, auction prices or daft art prizes (what Charles Ives called 'badges of mediocrity' lol).
The money bit was really tough at times. How independent galleries survive here is beyond me. Honestly, the costs just piled in and quickly piled up. I remortgaged the house, never took a salary, worked two jobs, and 7 days a week to try and make a difference to the arts here. Every single project, every single show, every single event we did was self-funded by the gallery. It was a massive struggle at times, but I never took a dollar of CNZ or taxpayers' money for any of my projects, nor was I ever offered anything. The gallery ran on sales and dedication alone, and I think that's an important point to make; people assume dealers are rich. It's so far from the truth.
Scotland beckons; here's hoping I can make a mark there. But whatever I do, I promise to be a loud and proud ambassador for the arts of Aotearoa, Australia and the wider Moana region. It will be my honour.
On that note, I'll leave you with one of my favourite poems. It's written by the great radical Scottish poet, farmer, socialist, and republican, Mr Robert Burns in 1795. Still feels relevant to me...
Until next time,
A Man's A Man for A' That
Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward-slave, we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.
What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.
Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that,
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that,
The man o' independent mind,
He looks an' laughs at a' that.
A Prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that!
But an honest man's aboon his might
-Guid faith, he mauna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities, an' a' that,
The pith o' Sense an' pride o' Worth
Are higher rank than a' that.
Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth
Shall bear the gree an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's comin yet for a' that,
That Man to Man the world o'er
Shall brothers be for a' that.
(If you want a breakdown of what's being said, you could try this!)
THE CONFESSIONSClick to enter mini-website 10 - 23 July 2022I have something of an obsession with the infamous Scottish witch hunts conducted in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were desperately cruel, barbaric events of mass hysteria and misogyny...