GO NZ: Dunedin’s must-see art gallery Fe29
Works by John Drawbridge and Tanya Ashken in the hallway of Fe29, an art gallery in the home of Dunedin couple Cecilia and Megan Mickelson. Photo / Supplied
Home is where art is at Dunedin’s must-see gallery, writes Yvonne van dongen
ART shouts the sign. Big traffic jams hit above a 1920s Dunedin bungalow. We watch it from the car as we leave the warm saltwater pool at St Clair. Such a bossy sign as it calls for investigation when you are on vacation. There are many. This is art. You could be forgiven for thinking that art is as prolific as mold in this country. We imagine a metal gecko or two, bright flowers, an eerie seascape, and a pair of driftwood sculptures. Still, the house looks lovely and who isn’t curious about the houses?
Everyone is. This is probably why one of the first things one of the owners tells us upon entering is “go to the room”. Cecilia Mickelsen says a lot more because she is incredibly talkative and possesses fierce energy, and also cuteness as she completely ignores our dripping hair and our stupid, stupid physogs and shows us around their gallery-cum-home showing some works. , retreating to drawers full of treasures and informing us of the legacy of almost everything we watch.
One could confuse brimming enthusiasm with expertise, which is how she was offered jobs at three major Danish galleries in the late 90s. Until then, she had been a management consultant working all over the world, raising two sons, but she had no training in art. Since then, his expertise has grown but his enthusiasm remains intact.
In 2000, she returned home and began a new career as a jeweler and artist. His greatest works of art were exhibited in his son’s Wānaka restaurant, called Cafe Fe because of its view of Mount Iron. After the death of her son, Cecilia moved to Dunedin to be close to her remaining son and opened a home gallery.
In 2008, Cecilia’s life took an unexpected but wonderful turn when she met her future wife, Megan Mickelsen. Megan has an equally dizzying array of diverse skills ranging from animal science, land economics, and real estate. Cecilia followed Megan to her Texas home where the couple ran a gallery, first in Austin, then home.
Finally, in 2015, the couple returned to Dunedin and established the Fe29 Gallery, attracting artists of the caliber of sculptor and jeweler Tanya Ashken, works by her late husband John Drawbridge, Robert Macdonald, Christine Hellyar, Marte Szirmay and Don Peebles. The name of the gallery is both a tribute to his son and a nod to the chemical references to iron (fe) and copper (number 29 of the periodic table).
The couple didn’t have to look for artists. One way or another, they all came about by word of mouth or by chance circumstance. For example, they both loved Marian Fountain’s work but knew she lived in Paris, so put her on the back burner. However, during a visit to the home of sculptor Hamish Horsely in Wanganui, he greeted them and added “Come meet my friend Marian from Paris.” Following this meeting, Fountain committed to providing work for their gallery.
But that’s not all – in the drawers are jewelry with Persian and Roman glass beads strung with amber and fossilized coral, dating back to 600 BC. Plus old prints including works by Rembrandt and Goya.
Everything that is not screwed into the interior of this house appears to be for sale. Also, outside, the lush greenery is punctuated with sculptures, which may or may not be permanent light fixtures. The only artwork people can’t live without is a piece the couple bought from the Drawbridge estate and a few prints.
All those strangers roaming your house, it must be a bit like an eternal open house that I venture out, thinking about all the cleaning and tidying up. But Cecilia insists that’s not a problem. They are both constitutionally sound. They also love to see the excitement on people’s faces when they visit.
“We like to support artists, many of whom are famous but not necessarily rich, and support Dunedin by showing work that is not available in other galleries.
“It’s not just a question of money. We have children who come to love it and also many old people who have no room for more art in their homes. For us, it’s about making sure that the people who come here benefit. tell others and the sales will eventually happen. “
It seems to be working. After Covid, the Fe29 Gallery lost its international visitors but benefited from home stays with disposable income.