New Zealand Artist goes to New York Part 2: Arriving and setting up

May 2017, New York City

After the four 4 months of frantic organization it is a relief to board the plane, engage in a monster movie marathon and let my body and mind let go for the duration of the flight as I knew that the pace would be intense as soon as we landed in NYC.

We checked in to our AirBnB apartment and met our lovely host Darrin. Unpacking was hilarious, as we had both gotten so excited about 5 weeks in New York, we had packed suitcases full of bright colourful city clothes totally forgetting that NYC apartments are tiny. How are we going to fit 3 suitcases of clothes into 10 inches of wardrobe space?!?!

I had chosen the apartment (also because it looked totally like an artist’s pad) as it was super close to the gallery, so we headed out, nervously, for our first look at Ora. Was it going to be what I imagined? Was the space going to fit all my art in it? Would the staff be the cliché uptight city gallerists? Questions/doubts/excitement, spinning in my head.

We walked the 7 minutes and dove straight in to meet Keke. I’d had been emailing her my images and hastags for social media and it was great to meet her. (She in also a NZ artist, but has been living in NYC for a few years now, a deeply determined and totally wonderful talented young woman, and cheeky to boot!)

To our relief the space look exactly as imagined, if a little larger than expected; a great high stud, with great natural light, excellent. We explored the area a bit and discovered a Birch Café that did a NZ quality flatwhite and a juice bar that made the hardest core green drinks, directly opposite Ora. Perfect, that will keep us in check!

Back to the gallery to met Giarna Tekanawa. Giarna has been living in NYC for over 25 years and has been running Ora as a Pop-Up gallery for NZ artists for the past two years, on top of her regular job! The three of us headed to her local for cocktails and dinner. Chatted all night long and by the end it felt like we had never not known eachother. It must have been fascinating living in NY in the 80s and 90s as a young kiwi (if I was to life my life again…ohhhh, but you can’t ski there...choices…)

We had the run down on how things will flow over the next month, we had keys and now we ready to get stuck in.

First thing the next day we got our dirty cloths on (ops, we forgot those in the excitement of packing for a city trip! A quick stop by a sidewalk trader and we bought African pants and white T’s for a bargain), met the Super and he let us in to the storage locker. We rounded up power drills and got to work unpacking the crates to be reunited with my babies. We had arrived a few days earlier just in case there is any damage done and I have tracked done the local supplier of Golden paints, so we are ready for anything!

The first of the crates - my fabulous husband Mark, oh did he know what he was getting in to with me?!

After a hot and physical few hours we were all unpacked…and a lucky run we had…no damage at all!! Only to the back on one crate where you could see the forks marks from the fork lift and they had ripped off the back bracing part and punctured slightly…but it didn’t reach the artwork (hoooray for that air gap in the packing we did, huge thanks to Pete, Taylor and Andrea for your epic help on crating day!)

On this day we were a bit extra lucky as it happened to be The First Monday in May….and we all know what that means. So we scrubbed ourselves clean, popped on wild outfits and went to stalk the opening of the Met Gala Opening. We joined the throngs and found a sneaky fence we could climb up on for extra viewing. It was surprising by how much you could actually see. A long line of big, black town cars were pulling up and one by one they would stop at the let the divinely clad stars out to roar of the waiting crowd. Once I awhile a huge roar would erupt further along the row of cars as an extra huge star had been spotted. We saw Jo Lo arrive, Ashley Graham, Justin Bieber, Karlie Klos (and yes, those legs truly go up that high!) My favourite was Zendaya in a stunning DG gown wioth parrots. It was all quite a buzz, if not a touch disappointing that they hadn’t really channeled that amazing inspiration of Rei Kawakubo of Commes Des Garsons that well, apart from Riri, she always steals the show!

The next mission was to get started on the printing of banners, decals and posters etc. We tracked down stores in the vicinity of the gallery, checked they could get it all done on time and email off the files that Dan had created. Then it is off to the hardware store (a cute local one only a few blocks from Ora) to get paint to refresh the walls, extra hooks and some new light fittings.

The next day the art was down and Ora was ours for the month. Mark and I got stuck in gib-stopping holes and painting a fresh coat of white paint onto the gallery walls. As soon as the first wall was dry we bought in the first of my artworks and started thinking about placements and lighting options. There are a few spots that had optimum visibility from the road so we wanted the most eye catching ones to go in these places. So we started with the Tribute to David Bowie in the centre of the main wall and then all the others pretty much fell into place around it.

Mark started into sorting out the lighting, putting more discrete wires up and adding a few extras while I focused on making up a list of artworks with a photo and dimensions, price, mediums and converting dimensions into inches for the American market. Mark’s favourite shop in New York is B&H (best camera shop) so he is always happy for any excuse to go there. Off he went to buy a simple TV screen, head phones and small projector that we would show the behind the scenes videos on and I went to the printers and came back with piles of goodies. It was deeply exciting seeing the set up progress. When I was on an errand outside and walking back toward the gallery, seeing my artwork going up in a space in New York, it was totally surreal! Is this really happening?!?!

After giving the windows and ledges a through scrubbing, it was time to put the decal up. We chose the placement, lined them up and on they went. If I wasn’t excited enough before…now this was totally thrilling!! It was the first time I had used decals for an exhibition and to see my name in glowing orange font on the gallery window, oh yeah baby!!!!

Next we climbed up the ladder outside and erected the banner across high above the sidewalk. (The scaffolding around the building came in handy here, lots of attachment points) I ended up getting a second one printed and we hung this so that it was visible from across the street as there wasn’t any indication from that distance that there was a gallery here. They looked fab! (When we came back the next day one had ripped in the wind so we reinforced all the corners and rehung, that’s what you get for choosing the cheap option!)

We wanted the gallery to have a bit of the feel of my studio so we had bought over a few props – coffee cups from my favourite café that fuels me back home, painted flowers and vintage bits and pieces. These I laid out in odd corners, and then got out a marker pen and wrote the artwork titles with prices etc beside each work. Mark had the TV system set up, I laid out all the printed matter, scrubbed the floor one last time, packed away our chaos and we were done!!!!

One of my dearest friends had flown in from Monaco. It meant the world to me to have Tony come over as he had been there from day one of my painting career and had even got me my first exhibition in the restaurant he was head chef in back home in Wanaka in 2002.

Sharing a bottle of delicious Central Otago Pinot Noir from our favourite Wanaka vineyard with Tony

The three of us went out track down some fine food in the city and had a fabulous catch up (but not too big as tomorrow was to be one of the most exciting days of my life!)

I could hardly sleep, going over lists in my head to see if I had forgotten anything…

And good night.... see you tomorrow for Opening Night of State a [a] dress!!!

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