Ruth Buchanan for Artspace Aotearoa: 292 Karangahape Road

At regular intervals, artists redesign the café at the GfZK – Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig. Its interior design, name, and sometimes even gastronomic offerings change in the process. The new café was conceived by artist Ruth Buchanan as an outpost of the Artspace Aotearoa, which is run by the artist.

Ruth Buchanan’s artistic work includes exhibition-making, writing, design, and teaching. Since November 2022, her practice has primarily revolved around her role as the Kaitohu Director of Artspace Aotearoa. Founded in 1987 by artists and arts workers, the publicly funded contemporary art gallery is located in the heart of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Each year the entire programme orbits around one central question. In 2024, Artspace Aoteaora asks: “do I need territory?” Taking this question as a point of departure, Buchanan declared GfZK’s café to be an outpost of Artspace Aotearoa and named it after the gallery’s address: 292 Karangahape Road. By transferring details from the artspace’s structure, colours, and graphic design to the café, Buchanan invites visitors to participate in a speculative exchange that unfolds over time between Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and Leipzig.

The café’s redesign was realised as part of the INFORM Prize for Conceptual Design 2024, sponsored by Dr Arend Oetker. Situated at the nexus between graphic design and art, the prize has been awarded since 2007.


A letter from Ruth Buchanan, March 2024

Purpose-built in 1973, the building in which Artspace Aotearoa is situated is the former central post office for Aoteaora New Zealand’s largest city. When I took up my role as Kaitohu Director of Artspace Aotearoa in late 2022, what I found striking was the notable similarities between the work of the post office, and the work of a contemporary art gallery. Both contexts are highly rooted in the current moment, navigating and connecting complex scenarios—sometimes painful, sometimes joyful—, attempting to bring this diversity of lived experience together in some clear expression or another and then to communicate, to send a message. Love letters, bills, certificates; the film, the poster, the sculpture all capture the fullness of life.

Locating the central post office and the core electrical mainframe at this site, 292 Karangahape Road, was no accident. As a ridge with a wide sightline, this place has always been a central artery to those living here: arriving, travelling, celebrating, trading, mourning, living, moving in, being moved out. In 2024, this same breadth of human experience is visible out on Karangahape Road.

Considering this, what is the message sent from our address to your address? What parts of our lives, the world, are boundless and allow us to be in exchange today? What parts of our lives, the world, are constrained and make being in relation impossible?

For now, our message is formed through colour and shape and textuality, as we do here in the gallery. The large type font, accessible to many different readers, is organised to differentiate which language is for what; the bright red used by the gallery is a nod to the colours used by NZ Post when they occupied the building; the arches are there because it just feels so good to be around that shape, to consider the curve; yellow is used like a highlighter pen, used to identify areas of focus, areas of importance; the tone of grey used is produced by a New Zealand paint company where it is standard to use an emotive word rather than a code to name the colour—in this case the colour is called “Surrender”; silver curtains because I have them in my own home; because where we gather is always part home, is always precious.

Message sent.

Loading …