Generous Patrons double donation to artists

Press Release – Arts Foundation of New Zealand

Gus & Irene Fisher are the recipients of the fifth annual Arts Foundation of New Zealand Award for Patronage. The Award is sponsored by Forsyth Barr. Honoured for their significant contributions to the arts as patrons, Gus Fisher is also well known …Art, fashion and money
Generous Patrons double donation to artists

Gus & Irene Fisher are the recipients of the fifth annual Arts Foundation of New Zealand Award for Patronage. The Award is sponsored by Forsyth Barr. Honoured for their significant contributions to the arts as patrons, Gus Fisher is also well known in the fashion world as the leader of the House of El Jay for 50 years.

To celebrate the Award, the Arts Foundation gave Gus and Irene Fisher $20,000 to donate to artists or arts projects of their choosing. As with previous recipients, the Fishers doubled the amount for distribution with $20,000 of their own and announced that they would make four donations of $10,000 each.

The donation recipients are fashion designers Beth Ellery and Emilia Wickstead. Also acknowledged are visual artist Andrew McLeod and posthumous recognition of painter Pat Hanly (1932-2004).

The Award was presented at the Gus Fisher Art Gallery, Auckland, which was founded and endowed by Gus and Irene. The ceremony featured a catwalk show of a House of El Jay garment from the 1980s. It was worn by Dianne Boles who also modelled the garment at its original release.

In addition to producing their own garments, the House of El Jay enjoyed the distinction of making and distributing clothes for Christian Dior in New Zealand. The upcoming exhibition Looking Terrific: The Story of El Jay, curated by Doris de Pont, celebrates Gus’ achievements as the head the House of El Jay (Gus Fisher Gallery, 4 June to 17 July). Gus Fisher received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Auckland for his contribution to the development of academic programmes and his key role in establishing the Kenneth Myers Centre. He received an ONZM in the Queen’s honours in 2009.

Ros Burdon, Chairman of the Arts Foundation, congratulated Gus and Irene for their donation recipient selections. “It is wonderful for the Foundation to celebrate Pat Hanly, who was one of our most significant painters alongside an artist in early career, Andrew McLeod. Andrew is a great talent with an exciting future. We are thrilled that for the first time we are honouring fashion designers as artists. Emilia Wickstead has an amazing international career and Beth Ellery is bursting out of the local scene. They are exciting selections and are typical of the insight of the Fishers.”

At the ceremony, Ros Burdon also announced Forsyth Barr as the inaugural recipient of the position of Honorary Lifetime Partner of the Arts Foundation. This permanent patronage position has been established to honour sponsors who have been partners with the Foundation at the highest level for five years or more and, most importantly, the partnership must have resulted in significant benefits for the arts. “With Forsyth Barr we have donated over $2.5 million to artists, honoured over a hundred artists and connected thousands of New Zealanders with artists at almost 100 events throughout New Zealand. Forsyth Barr has made a major difference to our artistic landscape, something they can be very proud of,” Ros said.

Sir Eion Edgar, Forsyth Barr Chairman, was honoured to accept the lifetime patronage. “The Arts Foundation launched with a bold vision: to bring patronage of the arts to life in New Zealand. This has been achieved, and we are very proud to be a part of it. Seeing the look on the faces of the recipients of donations and knowing that it is making a material difference to their lives, and that of their audiences, has been hugely rewarding for Forsyth Barr. It has strengthened our commitment to corporate patronage and why we are also very proud to be honouring Gus and Irene, whose support for the arts is also enduring”.

More information about Gus and Irene, the Award and the donation recipients can be found at from 29 April.

Gus and Irene Fisher

Gus Fisher and his wife Irene are well known for the contribution they have made toward the establishment of the Gus Fisher Gallery, which encourages debate on contemporary visual arts and culture and fosters creative and academic research in visual arts. The Gallery was set up by The University of Auckland in the Kenneth Myers Centre. Gus and Irene also provided significant support for the refurbishment of the centre, which houses the Gallery, performance, rehearsal and teaching facilities.

Gus Fisher was a pioneer of the New Zealand’s fashion industry. He headed the House of El Jay for close to 50 years and in that time contributed to a broadening of the New Zealand fashion perspective by looking to the couture of Paris, interpreting it and making his version of European style available to women in New Zealand. His annual travel to Paris, to see first-hand the new designs and fabrics, let to a keen awareness of the latest trends and also to relationships with Paris couturiers. El Jay became the New Zealand licensee for Christian Dior. A tribute exhibition, curated by Doris de Pont, is scheduled for June 2010 at the Gus Fisher Gallery.

“Near enough is not good enough, you must always strive for excellence.” It is this philosophy of always seeking to achieve the best quality possible that has informed the philanthropy of the Fishers. They choose their causes with care and donate generously so that their gift offers the potential to achieve excellent outcomes.

In 2005, Gus Fisher received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Auckland for his contribution to the development of academic programmes, the Fisher Parkinson’s Fellowship, research and infrastructure at the university, and his key role in establishing the Kenneth Myers Centre. Gus Fisher was also one of the founding donors to the Hood Fund, which enables leading academics from New Zealand and abroad to share their research knowledge.

The Fishers have also made significant donations to a number of organisations, including the Auckland War Memorial Museum and community drug education and rehabilitation programmes.
Beth Ellery

Focusing on new constructions, new patterns and new details, Beth Ellery strives to be an innovator who contributes to fashion design. An Auckland-born New Zealander, Beth graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from The University of Auckland before starting her own clothing label in 2002. Working under the watchful eye of Marilyn Sainty, Beth has grown into a force to be reckoned with in her own right. Now 30, she sits alongside some of the world’s best labels in Sainty’s Scotties boutiques including Comme Des Garcons, Issey Miyake, Anne Demuelemeester and Lanvin.

Beth’s modus operandi comes from a very grounded and honest approach to fashion.
“Instead of developing a collection based on a look or narrative, I aim to produce work that is more about the wearer and less about the development of a theme. “I always have people’s figures in mind when I design, which I think is a matter of respect. I do not think of women as a vehicle for advertising my name or label – I prefer to think that my label could be a way to emphasise the best aspects of the women themselves. That is something I think about at every point in the design process”.

Pat Hanly (1932-2004)

Described as “the jester of New Zealand” painting by Pat Hanly’s paintings are about passion and protest, light, love and life. Hanly’s luminous, life-affirming works from early in his career had series titles such as “Pacific Ikons”, “Figures in Light” and “New Order”. A self-styled scientist, in the late 1960s he “discovered” physics, prompting his Molecular paintings, exploring the premise that matter was not exactly solid. The vibrant, lush “Garden” series drew inspiration from the surroundings of his home in Mount Eden, where his small backyard studio was situated.

There he would experiment with unusual materials such as enamel paints and recycle everyday materials as tools for his art. To one visitor admiring the technique used for a monoprint, he revealed that it was a rolled-up sock. Yet he was highly self-critical, destroying many works he considered unsatisfactory, occasionally buying them back to be altered or destroyed. To Hanly, whose paintings “come hard and leave me hard”, the after-life of his works was important. He wanted them to be enjoyed, not displayed as a status symbol.

Andrew McLeod

Andrew McLeod is an Auckland-based artist whose work draws on a range of influences, from modernist to Heavy Metal. Combining geometric abstraction with illustrative figuration, McLeod aims to appeal to multiple “visual cultures” while observing the fine-art sensibilities of form and composition. Since graduating from Te Toi Hou, the Maori arts section of the Elam School of Fine Arts, McLeod has exhibited extensively throughout New Zealand and has been included in various international shows, including the 27th Bienal de Sao Paulo in Brazil. McLeod’s other projects include artists books, designs for t-shirts and rugs, and – in his spare time – making music with his partner, fellow painter Liz Maw.

Emilia Wickstead

Fashion designer Emilia Wickstead has established herself in London after building up a loyal client base at her home town of Auckland in New Zealand, her second home Milan and then New York where she spent some time working for a number of renowned fashion designers including Giorgio Armani, Luella, Proenza Schouler and Narciso Rodriquez. Now based in London, Emilia is focusing on her own designer label and is quickly becoming one of London’s rising stars. She has already emerged as the talented designer; she is in Vogue and Tatler UK


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