Wall-to-wall art plan for resort

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A Queenstowner’s made it his mission to spread art around the resort by giving more opportunities to both aspiring and established local artists. Philip Chandler visits Marc Blake at his temporary gallery in Frankton to get to grips with his big picture

A Queenstown artist is passionately pursuing a dream for a community arts hub in the resort.

In June, Marc Blake and friends opened a hugeground-floor gallery, called Queenstown Contemporary, in Five Mile’s Craigs Investment Partners building, which has already exhibited about 20 artists.

Blake says it only works because the 370 square metre space has been kindly gifted by the developer.

However he’s aware that the flip side is that the developer can take over the space any time he wants, and he’d then need to find somewhere else.

Since opening, Blake says he’s become increasingly committed to ensuring such a hub remains and expands.

“I see what Queenstown’s going to become, and I don’t want it to be left lagging in terms of what it’s doing for artists and the cultural scene.

“For me, art, and culture in general, is a key part of a healthy society.”

A professional artist since 2009, Auckland-raised Blake moved to Queenstown five years ago.

His motivation to help other artists came soon afterwards when his brother died and he decided to re-evaluate his priorities.

He says his prime interest is in allowing artists, including first-time exhibitors, a chance to show their work, however experimental it might be, without having to fit any constraints.

“I know there are lots of galleries around, but there’s nowhere where you can bring a whole bunch of people together at once, with their art.

“Every other place has some sort of agenda or aesthetic consideration.

“A centralised space or hub for new art that stimulates ideas, experimentation and education and offers a meeting space for writing, discussion and debate is virtually non-existent here, despite the billions of dollars of public, private and commercial investment going on, and I have now taken on this mission personally to try and help.”

Queenstown’s council, in partnership with Ngai Tahu, has long-term plans for a performance and visual arts centre on Stanley Street. Ironically, it could see the demolition of one of the resort’s rare public galleries, the small Cloakroom Gallery at Queenstown Arts Centre.

Blake says nothing gives him greater pleasure than helping new artists.

“It’s never been easier to survive, professionally, as an artist, in history, pretty much.

“You can do so much of it yourself, you don’t need dealers and all the rest, you can use your phone or a computer.”

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Marc Blake can be contacted by email at info@qtcontemporary.com