A gallery on Auckland’s Karangahape Rd brings a fresh approach to contemporary art. Discover how Māori ideas and values are at the heart of Mokopōpaki
Mokopōpaki is the fresh new gallery on Karangahape Rd you need to visit
Why did you open Mokopōpaki?
I like asking questions. As a space, Mokopōpaki asks questions. Lots of them.
There are no white walls in the gallery – why?
Natural inclination and colour cards by Corbusier. Intuitively, conventional all-white felt too cold, too clinical and too unfriendly. Alien to me, actually. Mokopōpaki wanted to be a warm and welcoming space where everyone is invited in.
Colour aside, how is Mokopōpaki different?
Mokopōpaki is an inclusive place with Māori ideas and values at its centre. We are a critical collective or whānau who want to make ‘art for people’ accessible. We apply Māori approaches to exhibition-making and the production of artwork. We work together to encourage and support emergent and established artists from across the generations. Although we argue and often disagree, we are able to get over ourselves and problem-solve best as a group. At Mokopōpaki we laugh and have fun but we also look after each other and find ways to keep the creative fire going, no matter what. Our project has to be commercially viable. We see ourselves as the sleek, new dealer gallery on the sunny side of Karangahape Road.
There are two exhibition rooms, what do they do?
The grey room is an informal space called the Salon des Refusés. It’s our shop or retail front and is a testing ground or laboratory where artwork and objects tend to come and go as a kind of ever-evolving group show. Although the salon can be a rowdy place, its purpose is to offer a diverse and articulate introduction to members of the extended whānau at Mokopōpaki. The Brown Room is a formal wharenui-like exhibition space. This is where Mokopōpaki invites artists into a Māori centre and asks them to produce work that responds to this condition. It’s a kōrero and conversation.
There’s no booze at Mokopōpaki.
Mokopōpaki is alcohol-free. Booze is no good for the iwi whānui. At our openings and events we offer tea and sandwiches (or cake if you’re lucky). So come on in
for a harirū and ‘how do you do?’.
Who was Mokopōpaki and how does the name relate to the gallery?
Mokopōpaki was the name of my Māori grandfather. Pōpaki means ‘clear, fine night’ and is echoed in distinctive symbols borrowed from a Māori lunar calendar used in our identity.
How do you find your artists?
Networks – existing relationships that members of the whānau have with others. An open door is good, too.
454 Karangahape Rd, Auckland
Photography by: Patrick Reynolds.