Over 214,000 visitors have walked through the Auckland Art Gallery doors during the first five months of this year, more than doubling the annual estimate. Hordes of them have been rediscovering themselves before Grahame Sydney’s intense landscapes at the gallery, over 25,000 so far, making it one of the gallery’s great success stories. Which is curious because Sydney paints Otago, especially Central Otago, and his is an empty landscape without people. “Maybe they believe that’s what the heartland is,” says gallery director Chris Saines. “They know it in their hearts if not through actual experience.”
Saines notices a different kind of art lover dreaming before Sydney’s paintings. “They are striking a chord with ordinary New Zealanders as opposed to the highly educated audience which is interested in art.”
Sydney has scored beyond the cool.