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Untitled, 2005 - Michael Stevenson

about this work

This edition is based on a smaller sized 2004 photograph Making for Sheppey, which is part of a bigger project entitled The Gift: the form and reason for exchange in Archaic societies. Here, Stevenson explores the story of Mr. Ian Fairweather, a remarkable artist whose post-Gauguin/proto-hippy exploits locate him beyond the conventional market economy. Stevenson's main interest was in Fairweather’s remarkable passage back to London from Australia in 1952. It was a voyage that exceeded all convention: in mode and, not in the least, because it was most probably made entirely without monetary exchange.

Fairweather, a Scottish born artist spent much of his life roaming the colonial world, destitute, on the very fringes of society. In the 1940’s he settled in Australia. His return to Britain in the 1950s began in Darwin, on Australia’s northern coast. At the free public library he read Heyerdahl’s Kon-tiki Expedition. Fairweather was at this time living on the beach where, perhaps inspired by Heyerdahl, he collected drop tanks, torpedo-shaped aircraft fuel tanks that he used as flotation aids to build his own raft. Fairweather’s raft was essentially these 3 aluminium drop tanks and a parachute for a sail: materials that quite literally ‘fall from the sky’. After 17 days at sea he made landfall on the edge of the Indonesian archipelago, the local police eventually interned him but, after claiming British citizenship, he was finally deported to London. In southern England he did hard labour to pay his debt to the British crown. Throughout this process it seems no money changed hands.

The raft replica on the photograph was built as a workshop with a group of Sea Scouts, then exhibited, and was finally sold to a group of collectors. 


about Michael Stevenson

The practice of Michael Stevenson, consisting of paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations and film, embraces both conceptual and object art. He is particularly interested in historical moments that demonstrate the interaction between art and economics, often starting from a singular story concerning intersecting figures and events, both public and private. As his work delivers traces of those stories in a manner akin to archaeology, Stevenson has often been described as an ‘anthropologist of the avant-garde’.

Michael Stevenson has had numerous solo exhibitions, including shows at SculptureCenter, New York; Portikus, Frankfurt am Main; and CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco. His work has also been shown in several group exhibitions at venues such Tate Modern, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; MACBA, Barcelona; and The Power Plant, Toronto. He participated at the 8th Liverpool Biennial; Berlin Biennale 8 & 6; the 2nd Athens Biennale; and represented New Zealand at the 50th Venice Biennial in 2003.

His work is also present in many important public and private collections, such as National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; and Museum of New Zealand, Wellington.

Michael Stevenson is represented by the following galleries;
click through to discover more of his work.

Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney

Michael Lett Gallery, Auckland

Carl Freedman Gallery, London

Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington

You can find more works by Michael Stevenson on his own website.

Learn more about this artist