Artist Fred Graham's new Kaitiaki at the Aotearoa Art Fair

By Stefan Dimitrof

Ninety-four-year-old sculptor Fred Graham is being showcased at this year's Aotearoa Art Fair in Auckland.

The art fair offers a wide variety of art from throughout the country, including Toi Māori artists in many disciplines.

Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukara, Waikato Tainui) has created a 4.5-metre-high version of his sculpture Kaitiaki, which stands at the entrance to the art fair.

The original large public commission Kaitiaki, 2004 by Graham in the Auckland Domain, supported by the Edmiston Trust, stands proudly at nearly 12 metres and has become a much admired and loved landmark watching over the city like the Kāhu, which feature as kaitiaki in the oral histories of Ngāti Whātua.

Many artists who attended reflected on Graham's works and talked to teaomā about how his work influenced their own journey in art.

Sir Derek Lardelli said Graham was the exemplar of excellence, "the way in which he carries himself, the pride of his iwi, Tainui, and the humble nature of the man and the work is stunning”.

Robert Jahnke who was a teacher at Mangere College used to use Graham as an example and positive role model to work toward.

The co-director of the Auckland Art Fair said the fair has many art mediums and that “you will absolutely see every type of art”.

Jahnke said that this is the first time that Toi Māori has been involved which he considers a significant step because of the exposure of contemporary Māori art of today to the local populace and the visiting international audience.