Denis O'Connor

THE ARCHIVE WINE BAR - headland sculpture on the Gulf 2015

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Over the last forty years I have made many works that explore Waiheke social history - the evolution of the wine industry here has been an on-going subject of this archive of artworks.

In the mid 1990s I created a fictitious vineyard named 372 Estate - named after our signature telephone identity code.  Occasionally I would release 'wines' in the form of engraved labels in slate / onyx / quartz / agates. These works riffed on the language of wine culture: terroir; varietals; taste signifiers etc, as a device to explore aspects of the regional history of the Hauraki Gulf.

Significant historical figures, like Charles Goldie or Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompellier have made cameo appearances as a result of my research into our locale.  Local politics too!  These wall pieces were shown over twenty years in solo shows at Goldwater Estate and Te Whau Vineyard.  My working life here roughly parallels the development of a distinct wine region, but these artworks would be known presently to only a few.

With your support  I will be able to complete this work for all to share and celebrate our rich Waiheke history as part of headland Sculpture on the Gulf in mid January 2015.

My sculptural proposal - THE ARCHIVE WINE BAR is a walk-in diorama that takes its inspiration from:

  • road-side pop-up cantinas
  • wunderkabinets / cabinets of curiosities
  • paste-up band poster hoardings

I remember the implement sheds on vineyards in Champagne when I was Möet & Chandon Art Fellow in 1996 completely festooned with circus posters.

A selection of my engraved Gulf News fake front-covers which honour diverse narratives will also be reproduced.  All will be printed out-size to fit the scale of the plywood structure, creating an album-rich glossary.  This interior will also feature two bottles of wine from every vineyard on Waiheke (36 at last count) as a focal centre behind the bar.  At the centre of this wine shelving is a picture that was painted in 1963 called 'Mother Nature', by a retired Yugoslav gum-digger named Joseph Alach - a friend of the Gradinska family who planted our first vineyards on Waiheke and sold fortified wines until the early 1960's.  I purchased this painting from Mr Alach's widow in 1979 when she related its genesis as the Ostend vineyard of the Gradinska family.  It has never been displayed publicly and I consider it a talismanic image that foretells our now thriving wine culture.  Only a high resolution print will be on display.

With thanks to the mysterious Boosted Angel (whom I do not even know!), for matching every dollar gifted by you all up to the goal of $10,000. To Two Rooms Gallery for their ongoing support, the Waiheke Vineyards for the inspiration and of course to  you all for your  contribution. I am gratified to know that you walk beside me during this project.


  • Nearly there ...


    Works are progressing for the Wine Archive Bar and I have completed a dozen new works to be photographed for my salon/saloon/cantina.  Thanks to all of you who have supported this project.  I simply could not have completed this social archive without your input.  Let me know when you are coming over and I'll be there to those of you who have supported me.  We can raise a glass together to the Wine Archive Bar - Denis

  • Thanks from Denis


    Thank you all so much for your contributions to The Wine Archive Bar. It is both thrilling and surprising to watch the donations build. Work is progressing really well.  I had a professional photographer Ken Downie come over to Waiheke to photograph my Social History works on roof slate and the prints look superb. They're soon to be blown up many times there original size...

    Warm regards to you all, Denis