Artists collective to farewell iconic pub with exhibition 'departure lounge'

A collective of Auckland artists with lifelong connections to the legendary Kings Arms Tavern will stage a month-long exhibition to farewell the hotel before it shuts its doors for the final time in February.

The Kings Arms is one of Auckland’s oldest hotels and has long been the city’s home of live music. Its demise will be felt by crowds who have flocked to bands as beloved as the White Stripes and The Black Keys, and who recall some of New Zealand’s wildest onstage gigs.

The artists - Jean Stewart, Rachael Burke, Jamie Wardale and Gerry Copas - have created a series of diverse works to reflect the spirit of the hotel and its creative patrons. The idea for the exhibition was conceived on a night watching Peaches perform on stage. Says painter Jean Stewart: “Knowing that the noise and old wooden floor vibrations would wind up soon was quietly defeating. All the people that had moved through the place, the effort, the energy, the audience, the walls, the carpet; it all demanded acknowledgement.”

Each of the artists has approached the project differently to reflect their own relationship to the Kings Arms and their individual art making process. Stewart has painted recent gigs live from the floor, meshing the images together in her seaside studio in Cornwallis, Auckland. Copas, a text-based artist whose works reference the hard-edge painting movement of the 60s, has appropriated the scrawled art and conversations that line the toilets of the main bar.

Collage artist Wardale has used the pop cultural images and references of the 70s/80s to celebrate the frenzy of rock’n’roll while Burke, the recent recipient of the Emerging Artist Award at The Upstairs Contemporary Gallery Waitakere, has created a series of mixed media works deconstructing imagery from music magazines and album covers to reconstruct the energy of the counterculture playden.

The artists say their mixed media works will pay homage to the grande dame of Newton gully as a thank you for decades of revolution and artistic innovation. The event opens on 7 February and will remain until the doors close for the final time.

Departure Lounge, a mixed media exhibition by Auckland artists Gerry Copas, Jean Stewart, Rachael Burke and Jamie Wardale.

Kings Arms Tavern, 59 France Street, Newton, Opening Night Wednesday 7 February, 6pm until late.