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the fine Art of Disruption

Aimee Ralfini Verve Cover

The (fine) Art of Disruption

By Lizzy Dent for Verve Magazine

March 2020

To an outsider, the art world is exclusionary.  Great white walled, polished floor galleries and huge price tags intimidate the art-curious, and artists are largely kept away from the front lines. And, when most other sectors are working hard to diversify, many segments of the art market continue to be built upon the networks of the rich. So in 2012 when Aimée Ralfini launched herself into the New Zealand art scene with new, more inclusive take, her fresh approach caused such disruption, it left traditionalists struggling to catch up.

At a time when most artists and galleries were not properly utilising social media, Ralfini created the art activation model Art Ache, that centred around the cross-platform promotion via social media and press. She wrapped local artists in fully-fledged creative campaigns, applying all that she’d learnt from decades in the media industry to Fine Art.

“I looked at the art scene as it was back then, and thought things need to be way cooler …  So I began researching, sharing art to social media, I created the ELAM THE 90’s group, and went nuts posting art. One thing lead to another and before too long I was hosting art events at pubs.

We’d sell little studio works at low prices, people loved the direct connection with the artists in such a personal setting, they loved fossicking through the various studies and test-works the artists made available, I soon partnered with The Golden Dawn on Ponsonby (RIP) and started interviewing artists on the radio and it just built from there.”

Fast forward 8 years and Ralfini has held 22 art activations which range from events to billboard campaigns up and down the country. She paved the way for many artists on social channels through her own fearlessness, she made art radio genuinely entertaining and has interviewed and worked with many of Aotearoa’s top creative talent in the visual arts sector.

So how has the scene changed since?

“It’s changed a lot. Artists are comfortable and active on social media, Dealer galleries work harder for their artists, they reach out to press and are way more supportive towards each other, building a stronger community…” but there are still problems, she says,

…Professional wages are scarce to come by, making jobs only sustainable to those with additional support. There is a great divide between the boomer artists and everyone else, greed over art motivates some of the more established gallerists, who behave unethically, absorb Creative New Zealand money to advance their business’s and sabotage grass root initiatives. The secondary art market doesn’t give back to the wider art community which they profit off 100%.”

While some steps have been made to address funding issues, Ralfini believes the overall problem remains the same; most skilled experienced professionals simply can’t afford to work full-time in the arts, leaving start-up creative hubs wide open to poor management and a short shelf life, which invariably leads to a wasted return on investment for everyone involved.

Ralfini finds this frustrating. The contribution Art Ache has made to Auckland’s art sector and the wider grass-roots arts scene across New Zealand is quantifiable to over $1m, yet in the 8 years it has been running It has received less than $10k worth of funding, none of which was from Creative New Zealand.

“Culture doesn’t pay the rent (especially in Auckland). So the cycle repeats and the arts fall back into the hands of the rich. “

While Art Ache has been tough but rewarding, the project has helped Ralfini fortify strengths as a creative director, “I’ve learnt I’m much happier directing creatives, for me, translating an artist’s work into a campaign is my art. I much prefer painting the city with other people’s work, which the recent digital Billboard campaigns have allowed me to do. I like the idea of the city scape being a gallery that everyone can enjoy.”

And in the end, it’s liberating Art from its financial and social barriers, onto the streets and into people’s hearts that was always the main goal for Ralfini. Something her disruptive approach has helped achieve through Art Ache and the wider art community.

“I truly believe artists are the litmus paper of society, they feel things so deeply, they are curious and brave, and it is important that as a society we enable them to explore. I personally know of the ability art has to heal, and connect people, something that during these illuminated times is needed more than ever.”

Aimée Ralfini is a graduate of Elam School of Fine Arts and a regular contributor to Verves Monthly art guide. Art Ache regularly podcasts to iTunes and Spotify. For more info visit

More Info / on Aimee Ralfini / article source.

Art Ache podcasts on iTunes / Spotify

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Essay: Love Out Loud

ART ACHE Marie Shannon



An essay by Kelly Carmichael about Marie Shannons 2019 Digital Billboard campaign

Picasso famously declared “Sex and art are the same things”, and if you reflect on recent art history you might well agree. Indeed, untrammeled affairs and dangerous sexual frisson seemed to fuel the 20th-century avant-garde.

But what about love? What about art created not from tumultuous desire but instead from intimacy in all its different forms – romantic love, or the love between parent and child?

This is the subject of a 2005 photographic series titled Love Notes by artist Marie Shannon.

Moving around Auckland in July 2019 are electronic billboards featuring five images from the Love Notes series, tender communications between Marie Shannon and her late husband the artist Julian Dashper. Originally conceived as unique, intimately-scaled silver gelatin prints, a selection of photographs has been combined and vastly enlarged for this exhibition in the public realm.

With their handwritten messages marked out in simple, delicate lines on gently creased sheets of paper, the photographs convey a profound sense of intimacy. But this evocation of affection and tenderness is in jarring contrast to its public location – a billboard along some of the city’s busiest thoroughfares.

‘I love you and sorry for being grumpy’ reads one billboard, while at first glance the cluster of notes on another are more cryptic. People on the daily commute or those in the street see only the initials ‘I L Y’ repeated across several notes but meaning starts to fall into place thanks to a generous trio of kisses that finishes one, or the reassuring ‘always’ added to the end of another. These notes feel intimate and tell of the private shorthand between lovers, their hastily written but heartfelt abbreviation a code, a visible form of the minute gestures and behaviours that shape the vocabulary of emotional intimacy. Shannon’s work has long been intimate, her autobiographical practice embracing the moments and spaces of everyday life.

Artists, who understand the economics of attention better than most, have a long history of playing with scale to affect impact and understanding. High above the streets Shannon’s notes are vast, yet also vulnerable. Love Notes has been exhibited before – to the typically small and self-selecting audience of galleries, and on lightboxes in Wellington’s Cuba Street – but never so boldly as this. Reconfigured for this presentation, the collage of notes forms new synapses and explores the urban media-scape as a site for art.

In reclaiming these advertising sites as creative space, Shannon’s work becomes a poetic musing on connection and communication across the most publicly extreme of mediums. Vastly enlarged to billboard format and with their private messages now public, the work’s reading alters.

It may seem a small gesture, to take these notes and re-present them larger and in a different context, but changing their size disrupts their interpretation. The tender words of Shannon’s Love Notes give materiality to the vulnerability required to make a success of relationships and the love or rejection we might receive. It is a metaphor for the same vulnerability art-making demands.

Romance, like art, impacts the way we think and the way we see. Pursuing either brings uncertainty and risk. Strong personal emotion is often expressed behind closed doors but presenting the work like this renders these private communications monumental. ‘A whisper has become a shout’, the artist observes.

Written by Kelly Carmichael, July 2019.

Additional material:

Podcast with Marie Shannon.

Marie Shannon is represented by Trish Clark Gallery

Campaign press release.

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Art Ache’s winter campaign 2019

Marie Shannon Art Ache

It’s ok if you’re grumpy, we love you.

Even the darkest winter’s day can be made bright with a little art.

Art Ache’s kisses – 2019

This season Art Ache has two offerings of visual delight on display for all to enjoy. Artworks from Marie Shannon and Vincent Ward will be reaching towards your heart from various digital billboard locations throughout Auckland during July and August.

Marie Shannon is one of New Zealand’s most singular and noted photographers. Art Ache presents works from her Love Notes (2005) series.

In this campaign, love notes shared between her and partner, artist Julian Dashper (now deceased), have been photographed and presented on black like visual memorials. Changing into artefacts of memory, love and loss.

Such personal content presented in such a highly public arena will undoubtedly engage emotions one would not expect to encounter whilst on the morning commute.

A podcasted interview with the artist can be listened to here.

Vincent Ward is one of New Zealand’s most renowned film directors. For Art Ache, he presents Membrane (2012), an image from his underwater series.

Taking the artwork out of context completely changes its intent. The severe crops applied for the billboard medium re-present the work majestically within the city landscape. Rich in aquamarines but still mysteriously shrouded, the androgynous human form glistens like a jewel against winter’s grey.

Details of work: On display 1st July–31st August 2019.
Located on LUMO Digital billboards in and around Auckland city. Locations will be changing weekly.
This week’s locations are 15-17 Sturdee St, 206 Victoria St West, and 319 New North Road, Kingsland. Keep an eye on Art Ache’s Instagram and website for location updates and other information.

Additional information:
Both artists are represented by Trish Clark Gallery.
Marie Shannon‘s survey exhibition is currently travelling the country, developed by Dunedin Public Art Gallery in 2017. Later exhibited at both Wellington’s Adam Art Gallery and Christchurch Art Gallery, Rooms found only in the home, is on display at Auckland’s Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery until August 25th.
Vincent Ward is currently exhibiting a new series Loom at Trish Clark Gallery. On until July 20th.

About Art Ache:
Art Ache’s ongoing quest is to engage everyday New Zealanders with Art and artists in a meaningful and relevant way. Art Ache places the artist first and believes at the core of every happy healthy society is a strong connection with its cultural ambassadors. Art Ache Manifesto

Art Ache would like to thank the artist’s dealer Trish Clark and the team at LUMO for being innovative art lovers and making this campaign possible.

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Podcast: The Archives

Art Ache Podcast Archive

Artist Podcast Archive

200 local and international artist interviews from 2014-2018.

Recorded live-to-air via 95bFM.


From highbrow to mono-brow and everything in-between, Aimée Ralfini hosted Who Arted on 95bFM until late 2018, interviewing artists, writers and creative types every week.

If you are an artist looking for your podcast, please email Ricky and he will help you find it or send you the original. Podcast Archives ––> HERE

Podcast Archives ––> HERE

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Art Ache Xmas 2018

Greta Anderson Art Ache

Gone but not forgotten

While people rush to get organized for Christmas and the new year Art Ache and artist Greta Anderson have covered the inner-city with blankets, creating space for pause and reflection.

Art Ache Xmas 2018

“This campaign acknowledges “The Blanket” as a cultural icon. For many this is a season of family time – the blankets are symbolic of children’s play, comfort and security, however, this series also acknowledges those left behind in the city where the billboards are located, the homeless and those without family.”Aimee Ralfini, Art Ache.

Artist Greta Anderson is a photographer who works with contemporary cultural icons. Items we collectively connect with, which inform our visual identity as a modern Aotearoa. The artist documents items such as blankets, marbles, horses and flowering weeds in an artefactual style reminiscent of National Geographic, awarding the often-overlooked items cultural gravitas.

“For me blankets connect all facets of our heritage, my Māori whakapapa to my Scottish ancestory. They are something we all relate to as New Zealanders connecting our many historical threads, some joyful, some painful – like most families. In this series they are held up proud as mid-century abstract paintings and celebrated as cherished items woven together from our collective heritage.”Greta Anderson, Artist.


The blankets history as a trade item used between early settlers and māori creates an additional layer of bittersweet irony when presented via a medium associated with advertising ‘trade’. Especially as the LUMO billboards are located in prime advertising real-estate. Notably, the Ports of Auckland billboard, where the blankets reside on the boundary fence, creating a space for conversation around the land owned by Ngāti Whātua Oraki and the reclaimed Ports.

Art Ache is an artist-centric movement in art communication. It aims to make art and culture part of the everyday conversation in New Zealand.
Art Ache believes at the core of every happy healthy society is a strong connection with its cultural ambassadors. Manifesto

For all those Aucklanders who enjoy the emptiness of the city this time of year. This is for you. Merry Christmas xxx

More Information on artist Greta Anderson: Instagram | Artists website | Dealer Gallery

For further enquiries about the artworks or the artist in relation to this project, please contact Aimee Ralfini.

For press, sponsorship and collaboration enquiries please contact Ricky Martin.

Locations of work: On display 24th December 2018 – 6th January 2019.
Located on LUMO digital billboards at  Victoria Park  |  Beach Road  |  Khyber Pass  |  Ports of Akld  |  Grey Lynn (Out)  |  Sturdee Street  |  Newton Road  |  Mt Eden (In)  |  Mt Eden (Out).

Special thanks to Kent and Jamie at LUMO digital.

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Vice: Hye Rim Lee

Hye Rim Lee Vice

This Kiwi Artist’s Warrior-Vixen Critiques the Portrayal of Women in Virtual Spaces

Welcome to Korean-New Zealander Hye Rim Lee’s fantasyland.

Written by Joel Thomas for Vice Art: Oct 11 2018
A bright pink bunny sits wearing a glossy crown. A pink dragon curls up on a box with a strawberry in its mouth, light shimmering through its scales like it’s made of glass. A woman, wearing a leather suit and bunny ears, sits on a strawberry. Her eyes are huge and her lips are bright red. Her leg is wrapped around the stalk like it’s a pole, with her high‐heeled feet dangling in front of us. Meet TOKI, the lead character in the 3D‐animated images of Hye Rim Lee, a Korean‐New Zealand artist finding success on an international level. Lee has exhibited in over 200 shows worldwide, but right now, until the 14th of this month, you’ll find a selection of her work on display in Auckland’s Freyberg Square as part of Art Ache / Artweek.
As well as making work that’s “rooted in the challenges facing the community of Asian diaspora,” and exploring “the experience of migration,” Lee uses her 3D animations to examine how women are represented in virtual spaces.

“My 3D‐animation project is a fantasyland where dream and reality mix. It speaks to the manipulation and perception of female sexual identity worldwide and virtualised images of women.”

Lee seeks to create a nostalgic paradise, mingling the world of her childhood with an inorganic cyber world of fantasy, dream and virtual relationships. She’s building a fictional world around her own myths, using “symbols of Asian identity and culture,” familiar virtual iconography, and TOKI, a “highly stylised curvaceous, warrior‐cum‐vixen” to critique virtual worlds.

Conceived in 2002, TOKI parodies the idealised female forms found in “Asian manga and anime culture, computer gaming and cyberculture,” and her name—Korean for rabbit—brings to mind both the innocence of childhood pets and Playboy bunnies. The relationship between sexuality and innocence, reality and fantasy, western and eastern, are all key themes in Lee’s work.


Virtual worlds are often fantasies constructed by white men, and Lee examines the potentially problematic ways they influence us, all the while keeping it personal.

“My work is an unnerving mix of cutesy, saccharine imagery and sexual undertones. My images insert fantastical narratives from my childhood fantasies into a computer-generated Eden-like space,” – Hye Rim Lee.

Written by Joel Thomas for Vice NZ Oct 11th 2018.

Original Article

Further reading: Artists website  |  Instagram.

Subscribe | Shop Art Ache.

Art Ach Event Press Release.

Art Ache Collection Artwork.

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RNZ: Standing Room Only

RNZ Art Ache 2018

Radio New Zealand | Standing Room Only

Lynn Freeman interviews Art Ache curator Aimee Ralfini

From Standing Room Only2:49 pm on 7 October 2018 

Auckland’s about to experience it’s nineteenth Art Ache, which brings together emerging artists and potential buyers, but not in the traditional dealer gallery setting. Design creative and curator Aimée Ralfini came up with the idea to encourage art lovers who aren’t sure where to start by introducing them to a wide range of artists from here and overseas. Aimée studied Fine Arts at Elam and believes that art has an important role to play in keeping communities happy and healthy, The theme for this Art Ache is ‘our future utopia’ – images on this page. This is the first time Aimée has included Art Ache within Auckland Art Week and renowned painter Karl Maughan is pitching in this year to raise the event’s profile. It’s come a long way in the six years since she started it. Art Ache is on the 9th of October part of Artweek Auckland 2018.

Standing Room Only is literally radio with pictures… and arts, theatre, film, comedy, books, dance, entertainment, pop culture, and music – all the things, in other words, that make life worth living.

Listen to the interview |  Source.

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Art Ache Artweek

Art Ache Artweek 2018

Art Ache – 9 Oct 2018

As part of Late Night Art, Artweek.

With support from Heart Of The City.


With a focus to encourage conversation around our future utopia, Art Ache presents the following artists for its final showcase of the year: Karl Maughan, Hye Rim LeeLayla WalterZammia Weatherall and Evie Kemp.

As well as the studio experience during Late Night Art, Art Ache will also have a number of Installations from each artist illuminating Freyberg Square in the evenings for the duration of Artweek Oct 6-14.


This event has been curated by Aimee Ralfini. Of her curatorial direction, she writes:

“I have specifically chosen artists who illuminate a pathway forward through their work. It’s time to focus on the positive potential of the future and look towards the light”

“The motivation of this Art Ache is to encourage people to imagine a utopian future that we can work together to achieve, rather than a doomsday future, which feels like the current climate is often geared towards. All of the artist’s work in a way which denotes a different (better) reality. It’s humbling to have such a wonderful line-up.”

For those who can’t make the event or who live outside Auckland, specially commissioned Art Ache Collector archival prints will be available online for a limited time for $60.00 via the Art Ache Store.

In an effort to make art and culture part of the everyday conversation in New Zealand, Art Ache provides young art lovers and future patrons a rare opportunity to meet a selection of this country’s brightest creatives. We believe at the core of every happy healthy society is a strong connection with its cultural ambassadors. Through Art Ache, we aim to assist intellectual and creative development, for the betterment of the local community and wider society. Manifesto.

For press enquiries regarding all artists please contact Ricky.
Full artist press packs with bios and imagery are available on request.

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Verve: Art Investment


Art Investment Do’s and Dont’s

Written for Verve Magazine by Aimée Ralfini.

Published 08.08.18

Like art but don’t know where to start? Aimée Ralfini asked for some tips on what to do and what to avoid from a selection of Auckland’s top art insiders, here is their advice.

DO >>>>

Anna Jackson – Director, Gow Langsford Gallery

“Do your research! Visit lots of galleries, build relationships with dealers and get to know the artists they represent. Once you find artists that you like, follow their careers and consider what they have already achieved. How long have they been practising for? Does the artist have an established exhibition history? Are they included in exhibitions at public institutions? Which collections hold their works? The more of these boxes you can check off, the more information you have in deciding the level at which you are comfortable investing.”

Jenny Todd – Director, Two Rooms Gallery

“Always buy large and typical of an artist’s work – you have to love it. Investments may be short- or long-term so you want to be able to live with it happily.”

Dr Maria Walls – Head of Postgraduate Studies, Media Design School

“Consider why you want to collect art —well beyond interior décor. Art leaks into life — your buying decisions eventually affect culture.”

Deborah White ONZM – Director, Whitespace Gallery and Artweek

“Look, look and look again. People spend so much time researching a car or fridge before purchase and yet rush into buying art. Read about the work or ask the artist or the dealer, understand what’s behind their ideas and concepts. Always buy what you love, what uplifts you every time you look at it. If you are lucky it may also appreciate in value and you have had the pleasure of living with it every day.”

AVOID >>>>

Jenny Todd – Director, Two Rooms Gallery

“Buying anything you don’t like. Make sure the work has enduring material qualities, ie. it doesn’t physically change over time.”

Anna Jackson – Director, Gow Langsford Gallery

“Rushing! It’s worth investing the time to get the right piece. Most of all don’t buy anything you don’t like.  It’s not all about the money, art is for enjoying. If you wouldn’t like to see it on your wall every day, it’s probably not for you.”

Dr Maria Walls – Head of Postgraduate Studies,  Media Design School

“Don’t buy art on a whim. Visit and re-visit the work/s you have in your sight. Seek informed and critical feedback on the item you have in mind.”

Deborah White ONZM – Director, Whitespace Gallery

“Good art never goes out of fashion – never buy an artwork because it is currently trendy.”

Upshot >>>>

I wish I had asked for this advice before I broke some of the cardinal rules laid out here. I am very guilty of buying art on a whim, however, I am also guilty of buying exquisite works of beauty, which fill my mind with joy and create new pathways of pleasure every time I look at them.

So my top tip on investing in art? Read the advice given here and know this:

“The best investment in art is to live with it and get involved with it because it will nourish your brain more than dollars in the bank ever will.”

Written by: Aimée Ralfini for Verve Magazine.

Read original publication

Featured image (widget): André Hemer. Big-Node-#36, 2016. Courtesy of Gow Langsford Gallery.

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Art Ache LOT23

Art Ache at Lot23. 2018

Art Ache returns July 26 at LOT23

With an intimate performance by Julia Deans

It is a great pleasure to announce our line-up for Auckland’s Winter Art Ache.

Headlining artist Judy Darragh will be supported by artist’s Paula FriisKatharine Atafu-MayoOlyvia HongKaren Rubado and Greg Page.

Julia Deans will also be performing a selection of songs from her latest album, including The Panic, the video for which consists of hand-drawn animation by artist Greg Page about the discovery and management of anxiety.

The event has been curated by Natalie Tozer.

“Natalie has brought together a comprehensive collection of striking artists, who present an interesting story around the discipline of career creativity, the obstacles faced by ever-reducing institutional support, and the reality of making ends meet. This, in turn, reiterates the point of Art Ache – to generate a wider awareness of artists’ work and share their story, in order to aid them in their creative journey.” – Aimee Ralfini

WHEN  /  5:00–8:00pm, Thursday 26th July
WHERE  /  LOT23, 23 Minnie St, Eden Terrace, Auckland
ON-SALE  /  Selected artworks, studio treasures at entry level prices. Limited Art Ache collector prints are also available nationwide for $50 each, from Sunday 8th for the month of July at

This event is FREE entry and non-ageist. BRING CASH.

In an effort to make art and culture part of the everyday conversation in New Zealand, Art Ache provides young art lovers and future patrons a rare opportunity to meet a selection of this country’s brightest creatives. We believe at the core of every happy healthy society is a strong connection with its cultural ambassadors. Through Art Ache, we aim to assist intellectual and creative development, for the betterment of the local community and wider society.

For press enquiries regarding all artists please contact Aimee Ralfini.
Artist Bios and imagery can be supplied on request.​