On the Edges: Tairāwhiti Gisborne

Struggling to explain to people at international art fairs where exactly Gisborne is, Matt Nache of Paul Nache Gallery has settled on telling them he is from the future: “I wake before you, I eat before you, I dream before you. The first city to see the sun in the world, I live in the land of light,” is his pitch.

This mystic way of explaining the world Nache says amplifies why he chooses to live in Tairāwhiti, or Gisborne.

Always moving, yet making isolation a strength also marks out Matt Nache’s quite extraordinary practice as a contemporary art dealer. His gallery Paul Nache, established in 2009, is Gisborne based, but also highly mobile, representing artists from around New Zealand, Australia and even Las Vegas. Gisborne affords Nache a nice big light-filled space in the middle of town to exhibit, but he’s just as likely to be elsewhere -  most recently showing Wellington based, Tolaga Bay-born artist John Walsh’s paintings at Art Central Hong Kong. Nache will be at the Sydney Contemporary Fair in September.

Nache has entrepeneurial flair and cheek to burn but its coupled by a strong appreciation of artistic excellence and what is good dealer practice. It seems matched by a generosity and grounding in his place, which sees plenty of local activity at the gallery as well. It’s no easy thing to hold both local and global positions as an art dealer. Out in the world the gallery exists more as a brand.

“The nature of a gallery space has evolved,” says Nache, “whether it’s a physical museum or gallery or an international art fair, a private residence or an online exhibition. It’s my job to provide the space for the artists to create in.

“The isolation of Gisborne allows me to keep resetting the focus of what I’m trying to do with artists - it is really hard to keep up with the bigger galleries and institutions. Gisborne gives me the time and freedom to rejig it.”

Gisborne was a natural place [for Nache] to return to after gaining a Bachelor in Design in Wellington. It’s his place of belonging.

“No matter what else happens I am myself here. It was important for me to reconnect. But it was a really difficult business decision to establish in a small provincial city. There hadn’t historically been a contemporary art dealer here and its highly unlikely there will be one after me. It’s a very slow progression in terms of the economy and population growth, especially one which could support creative industry.

“Gisborne is unique. It’s like Jurassic Aotearoa, you come here and get a sense of what New Zealand was like. I love the rawness and the purity of that. It teaches patience and perseverance. Exhibiting art here you don’t get away with much either, people are upfront and honest and don't hold back in their evaluations of new things. Artists and collectors will fly in on invitation from across the country and mix with our local audience and community, often for extended periods, due to our incredibly above average weather. It’s a really honest way of working. It’s a dynamic experience and I’ve proven with others that if it can work in Gisborne it can work anywhere in the world.”

Nache says that Gisborne is currently planning for the 2019 sester-centenary of Captain Cook's landing - the first meetings between Māori and Europeans. Local Iwi, Council and the Te Ha Trust, are fuelling a lot of creativity through open dialogue and initiatives, which is healthy for both the arts community and local economy to engage in.

“Taking the time and following the passion, that’s what survives out here.”

Interview with Matt Nache, exploring how New Zealand’s edges can also be our arts centres, written by arts writer Mark Amery.