Art-world powerhouse recognised by Kea

19 June 2018
Jennifer Flay © KAMS
Jennifer Flay © KAMS

Art-world powerhouse and Arts alumna Jennifer Flay is one of six New Zealanders to receive a 2018 World Class New Zealand Award (WCNZ) from Kea.

Jennifer, described as "a fierce intellectual with periwinkle eyes" by Parisian newspaper Le Figaro, is the General Director of Paris's international contemporary art fair Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain (FIAC).

She was recognised by Kea for the huge contribution she has made to fine arts and the renewal of FIAC — now one of the most prestigious art events in the world.

"I am profoundly moved to be receiving this award from my home country," she says.

"International contemporary art has been the focus of my professional life. It is the education which I received in New Zealand, and more specifically at the University of Auckland, that provided me with the skills I needed to decipher, comprehend and analyze successive phases in this unfolding history."

Born in 1959 in Auckland, Jennifer studied Art History and French at the University of Auckland, graduating in 1980. From 1982 to 1987, she worked for major contemporary art galleries (Galerie Catherine Issert, Daniel Templon and Ghislaine Hussenot) and was actively involved in artists' relations, the programming and preparation of major exhibitions, and participation in leading international art fairs.

In 1990, she opened Galerie Jennifer Flay (1990-2003) in Paris, which made its name as one of the most important of its generation. Then in November 2003, Jennifer was appointed Artistic Director of FIAC, Paris. In 2010 she became General Director and has since pursued the restructuring and development of the event, reinstating the original configuration of the architectural ensemble as it was conceived for the 1900 Exposition Universelle by creating a pedestrian esplanade between the Grand and Petit Palais across the avenue Winston Churchill.

The WCNZ Awards were presented on Thursday 21 June 2018, and Jennifer visited the University on Wednesday 20 June 2018 to appear in conversation with Associate Professor Linda Tyler, Convenor of our Museums and Cultural Heritage programme, at a special event at Old Government House.

"We were delighted to host Jennifer, who left New Zealand in 1980 when she won a French Government Scholarship to undertake doctoral studies with French Dada expert Michel Sanouillet (1924-2015) at the Université de Nice in France," says Linda.

"Since that time she has risen to the very top of the art world in France, becoming an internationally recognised gallerist, and now the Director of the Paris art fair. She completely reinvented that event, contributing hugely to the Parisian economy and culture in the process, an achievement that was recognised by the award Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government in 2015."

Linda spoke to Jennifer about her role with FIAC and also about her ethical commitment to art's transformative power.

World Class New Zealand Awards