A series of conversations around workplaces, daily rituals and inspirations with friends of Harris Tapper.
Up first, Lauren Tapper talks with Associate Director Bonham Art and Design, Anita Tótha.
Vivian Top with Crimped Skirt (left), and Belle Dress (right).
Tell me about your professional life. Where did you study? What lead you to the point in your career you’re at now.
I grew up in New York and attended the School of Visual Arts, notable alumni include Keith Haring, Sol LeWitt, Sarah Sze, David LaChapelle to name drop a few. I couldn't believe I was admitted - this is where I really homed in on my interest in photography and art. The lecturers there were working professionals themselves, working for W Magazine, Vogue, The New Yorker for example. I managed to secure an internship with artist Simen Johan and afterwards at Yossi Milo Gallery. I interned (worked really hard for free) at the gallery for 8 months before it turned into a full time role. Everything I know about art, collectors and gallery management I learned from my peers at Yossi Milo Gallery, incredibly grateful to them. I stayed for about 5 years before moving to Aotearoa for love reasons. Upon arrival, I managed to maintain a career in the arts through roles at Whitecliffe College of Art & Design, Remote Photobooks, Auckland Council and Sanderson Contemporary.
Has there been a person or a moment who’s impact has changed the course of your career?
So many I lost count - I am lucky to have crossed paths with many amazing people in my life. My mom, who is creative herself, always encouraged my art-making and visual perspective. My parents never forced me to become a doctor or a lawyer for financial security; they instead encouraged me to follow my path. Also, I had a teacher tell me that I might be better in arts management rather than becoming an artist. I hated him for it at the time, but guess what? He was right! I really enjoy managing the artist-gallerist-collector relationship and where that has taken me in my career.
What rituals take place in your daily life that help balance the personal and the professional?
Who/ what is inspiring to you?
From a very young age, I remember being inspired by history, geography, art and photography. I had a very visual way of thinking and was never interested in science and definitely not math (made high school interesting to get through!). My nationality is Hungarian - arts and crafts were constantly encouraged as a means of maintaining traditions and cultural heritage. As kids, we are always making, we were never idle - this is somehow lost these days. Within the Hungarian community and my family, we were taught felting, egg carving for Easter, folk dancing and singing. These customs have helped shape my identity and what I am energized by. I am wholly inspired by nature, artists, thinkers and people trying to make a difference in this crazy world, but for me, true expressiveness comes back to actually standing in front of an art piece and experiencing its 'aura' in person. This is something that still can't be done virtually. There is a painting imprinted in my subconscious by a Hungarian painter Csontvary entitled 'The Lone Cedar' that I saw in Hungary circa 2001. It's a large painting, the use of vivid colour and how the artist has isolated the tree in the landscape is just astonishing - to be able to look at it in person and have a visceral response is what moves and inspires me to keep looking and searching. Also, my partner Carlos owns Hèlmut Salon and he inspires me (how cliché!) with his vision for finding beauty and elegance in the everyday.
What project are you working on right now?
I am working with the amazing team at Bonham Architecture & Interiors on a new venture Bonham Art & Design, which explores the fluidity between fine art and sculptural furniture. My role as Associate Director is to showcase the best offerings from our roster of international artists, designers and artisans in a gallery-like setting, within the Australasian region. Many of these artists and designers haven't been seen in this part of the world - it will be exciting to introduce the work of these incredible makers to our clientele. We currently have an online gallery website presenting our pieces and our flagship gallery is due to open in Arrowtown next month. We also offer an art advisory to source fine art and sculptures for our New Zealand and Australian based clients - researching and sourcing international art and artists has also been a fun part of the project.
Images shot on location at Hélmut Hair Salon in Mt Eden, Auckland, by Apela Bell and assisted by Synthia Bahati. Thank you to Carlos Elias & the team at Hélmut.