Francis McWhannell

Writer and exhibition-maker

Latest stories

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...

Oh the humanities!

On the state of arts study at New Zealand universities


‘The building is crumbling round us—which is scary, coz I just got in the elevator.’ This comment was made to me the other day by fellow art writer Lucinda Bennett. Those of us whose careers are hitched to the visual arts are accustomed to thinking of our positions as vulnerable. The notion of the struggling artist, slaving away as a dishwasher to support her practice, is so well known as to be a...

Critic’s choice


Independent writer and curator Francis McWhannell looks at five artists with a commitment to community and compassion. These five artists from Aotearoa New Zealand span different generations and backgrounds, and employ diverse media in their respective practices. They were initially chosen for the simple reason that their works caught my attention and refused to let go. However, points of...

All together, at once

Morning/Homework Town by Robert Fraser


Robert Fraser’s Morning/Homework Town brings together two distinct bodies of work: Morning, a group of three square-format paintings with a central motif evocative of a box, and Homework Town, a series of nine smaller rectangular works that feature band forms derived from the width of the masking tape habitually used by the artist. At first blush, the paintings seem easy to locate, to grasp. They...

A gentle communion

Considering Sleeping Arrangements


I sit in the gloomy, almost oppressive environment of the Blumhardt Gallery at the Dowse Art Museum, in which a small but dazzling piece of curatorial handiwork is on display. Beneath me is a bench covered in pale-green vinyl, patterned with spots that are rough to the touch. The surface feels non-slip. It would not be amiss on the floor of a bathroom. I quickly think of urinals and just as...

Projects 2018


Projects 2018 includes work by 18 emerging and established artists based in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia, complementing the selection offered by the 45 galleries participating in Auckland Art Fair. The result of an open call, the presentation aims to showcase a broad range of art unburdened by a prescriptive theme or curatorial conceit. Comprising installation, jewellery, painting...

There’s nowt so queer as folk

A note on the paintings of Laura Williams


On Instagram, Laura Williams goes by ‘takingthepastiche’. The moniker could hardly be more appropriate. Williams’ practice is grounded in pastiche, voraciously sampling art, design, and popular culture from different periods in time. A quick look a clutch of her paintings reveals a Hieronymus Bosch creature, a Frida Kahlo self-portrait, a Meissen-style figurine, a Richard Parker pot, a wartime We...

Passion project



Kay Abude’s LOVE THY LABOUR explores conceptions and conditions of work. The ongoing project stems from the experiences of the artist and her family. Relocating to Australia from the Philippines in 1986, Abude’s parents moved from white to blue collar jobs. Her mother worked in an electrical factory, supplementing her income by bringing components home that were assembled by members of the family...

A competition of ideals

A review of Simon Denny’s The Founder’s Paradox


While I really want to draw attention to certain arguments and things I think have a lot of cultural importance in the world, to say something resolute—like, this is this way or that’s that way—I find really hard to do. I don’t interact with the world like that, and I don’t feel like that about things in the world. My craft is exhibition-making. That is really what I do … I really value art, and...

The importance of experience

On the paintings of Denys Watkins


If his destiny be strange, it is also sublime. —Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea You read about it—how, as he grew older, the 16th-century Venetian painter Titian increasingly abandoned the mimetic precision of his earlier works in favour of a more impressionistic and visceral style. Reproductions can hint at his bravura application—how, with his brush, he created clumps and...

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.