Francis McWhannell Writer and exhibition-maker

To name and amend

How best to name him? In essence, he was my employer. But perhaps it is more accurate to call him a benefactor. We first met at a funeral. He approached me after the service and observed that he had been wanting to meet me for some time. The context was unfortunate, but you can’t always help context. He suggested that I might assist him with some tasks that needed doing. The pay would be good, the job flexible, undemanding. I was pleased. I was in my early twenties and looking for work that would allow me to concentrate on my university studies. This is the outward, generous face of the arrangement. The benefactor gives primarily to support. What is received in return matters little.

For years now, I have been waiting for something to come out. My experience was relatively mild. I have certainly never contemplated pressing charges. But, ever since it happened, I have been waiting for someone to speak up. I have always assumed that the benefactor approached me mostly because I was young and gay. An older man himself, he was known for enthusiastically supporting young gay men, courting them even. I was flattered. To be approached, I thought, meant to be desired and so desirable. …


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Header image: Richard McWhannell, The Big Cheese, 2018–19. Courtesy of the artist.

Francis McWhannell Writer and exhibition-maker


Francis McWhannell (b. 1985, Aotearoa New Zealand) is a writer and exhibition-maker based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. He is Curatorial Adviser for the dealer gallery Visions, and Curator of the Fletcher Trust Collection, a major private collection of Aotearoa art founded in 1962.