The art and Soul of the city
There's no airy-fairy talk or extending of little fingers in this art gallery.
"We're a little bit alternative over here. Or we like to think we are," says Soul Gallery's owner Lisa Voight. She's laid-back, understated, and has a very Kiwi approach to art.
"I really care about it . . . I know that sounds a bit dumb, but I love it."
On Friday night, Voigt and her two staff officially opened the extension to the Barton St gallery, effectively doubling its size and providing a space for exhibitions.
The opening was celebrated in style, with an event for customers and friends of the gallery.
"It's really just a big ‘thank you' for all of them, because without all of them we wouldn't be able to do this," says Voigt.
The new room is connected to the original gallery, with the wall between the two stores removed.
"We found out the tenants were leaving about a month ago and we moved very quickly and took over the space."
Voigt says she has been looking at ways to expand the gallery for a while.
The extension is a sign of good financial times, and an opportunity to try something a little different.
The room will be used for single-artist shows. Voigt says although Soul's shows are often successful, sometimes not much sells. She likes to hold on to the art, because people often come back and ask about an artist after the show is done.
"We have a huge amount of stock available at all times."
When Voigt took over three years ago, Soul was a combined shoe store and art gallery. Now it has all kinds of New Zealand art and jewellery, with price tags from $10 to $11,000.
Voigt had been a jeweller for 10 years and a contributor to the gallery. When it came on the market, she saw the potential.
"The opportunity was there and I thought: ‘Damn it, I'm doing it'," says Voigt. "I bought it because nobody was bringing contemporary Kiwi art to Hamilton."
As well as an appreciation of art, Voigt had business experience. She is a former corporate account manager for Telecom.
"I kind of left my big corporate job in my 30s and went to art school," she says.
The art-business combo seems to be working.
"As a business it's very successful," says Voigt. "Ninety per cent of my time is outsourcing new work. However, now we've reached a point where artists are coming to us."
She says Hamilton is more cultured than its reputation might suggest, and art is in demand.
"You've got a lot of new people moving into Hamilton at the moment. Rototuna is booming.
"There's a lot of new houses with no art on the walls."
The gallery also gets a lot of business from corporate clients looking to decorate buildings and offices. The business model targets private local and international customers as well, because the main source of revenue is constantly changing.
"There's no rhyme or reason to it. I've analysed it till the cows come home and it's just random," says Voigt.
"We're just enjoying the ride of success at the moment. And long may it last."