Art is everywhere in my hometown of Auckland, New Zealand. Sculptures pop up randomly on streets and in parks. Walls outside building sites have murals on them that have been sponsored by local businesses. Coffees come with designs on top, constructed by what must be obsessively careful steamed milk pouring. It is all very lovely, and picturesque, and important*.
And if all this art somehow isn't enough, you can go to the Auckland Art Gallery, which has been newly renovated, and see more. For nothing. It's totally free.
That fact was amazing to H1 and me when we ventured there on our recent trip to New Zealand (yes, the stuff on the streets was plentiful but we will always choose more art over less art). Quite embarrassingly so, actually. We stood in the lobby for a good fifteen minutes or so, trying to work out where to pay, and whether we wanted to pay, then eat at the Gallery cafe, then see the art, or leave for another cafe and return later to hand over our money and see the art. Eventually, H1 pointed out that the only sign that referenced paying was for a specific exhibition, and other people were just walking in...so slowly, eyes darting from side to side, feeling as if we were shoplifting, we followed them, braced for someone to step out of nowhere and tackle us to the ground.
Clearly, we have lived in New York for too long, where the majority of the art galleries and museums will set you back at least $20 each, and guards aren't afraid to hurt non-payers.
The fact that the Auckland Art Gallery is free became our main topic of conversation over lunch (which was excellent, by the way - our concern was totally unnecessary) and, if I'm honest, for a fair bit of our walk around the place. We focused on seeing the New Zealand art, reasoning that pretty much anything else can probably be seen in New York**, and had many thoughtful discussions about the depiction of the Maori in early European settler art, the changing face of New Zealand over time, the irresponsible destruction of much of Auckland's early architecture, and, of course, which pieces we'd like hanging in our own home***.
Art is glorious. In Auckland, art is also free. It's a winning combination.
*Especially the coffee.
**For the low low price of $25 or so, that is.
***None, because we are responsible.