You almost sound ridiculously blessed, has everything always fallen in to your lap?
Oh you’re very kind. I am blessed, terribly blessed, with wonderful parents and family and children. It also wasn’t always so easy. I divorced when the boys were two and four and that was pretty rough, to say the least. That was certainly a very tough time and very much a fork in the road – should I go back to New Zealand or stay? Probably very foolishly, I was very stubborn and didn’t want to go back as a failure. That was tough. I also broke my back ski racing, although I believe I was blessed because I broke my back and could have become quadriplegic, but didn’t.
When you were quite young?
I was 17. I was on the New Zealand ski team. I spent three months in hospital. Then I was supposed to present a National Ski Cup four years later and ended up going in the race … and came runner-up. So, I sort of fall on my feet, but do stupid things. I can’t tell you how many bones I’ve broken – most of them, but I keep going somehow and I am blessed. Having parents that went through World War II … My father’s a Holocaust survivor. He lost his mother, father and brother through the war. Anything other than that we’re all blessed. Now, becoming older and seeing friends whose parents have Alzheimer’s or children who are autistic … I must be very bad at cards and I don’t know about love, so who knows [laughs]? I think we’re all blessed. I’m very grateful.
Did your father talk much about being a Holocaust survivor or was it just something you always knew but didn’t talk about?
He didn’t talk about it much. He was interviewed by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation and he was terrible. He just wasn’t interested. He pushed forward in life and he could do so because he had my mother, who was also, is also, from Holland. They’re a real team – when one inhales, the other exhales. My mother was an only child, her parents divorced when she was two. She was living on the outskirts of Rotterdam when it was bombed. Both my parents had nothing really, and finding each other in New Zealand was a fluke, but they really are an incredible model of how you’d like it to be. That’s what I’d hoped I could find in a partner.
Having seen it, doesn’t seem to make it any easier to find it, does it?
No, not at all! No, but you know it’s out there. I hope I will recognise it … no doubt when it hits me over the head. My parents say, for every pot there’s a lid. In the mean time, I think, to be surrounded by very good friends and to love what you’re doing. I love being in the art world and I think it’s important to have programmes that engage the community. Every Friday, at the Westport Community Centre, I make blueberry scones, or blueberry-peach scones, or date scones, or whatever, or muffins rather, and we review the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, Artsforum, whatever it is. I have a community there of 20 to 30 people every Friday – not just artists, they could be retired CEOs, or limo drivers … It’s a very relaxed group, but the idea is to engage them in a very sophisticated arts dialogue and get their feedback. It’s easy to be provincial, wherever you are, but it’s important to make sure you’re not and to be informed. I was thinking again tonight, listening to the Secretary General, how vital it is to be interested in what’s happening outside America, if you’re American, or outside Australia, or outside New Zealand. I think New Zealanders and Australians get it because we’re so isolated and when you’re somewhere else you know to access it. My living here is still very much on the premise that it could go tomorrow, I could be back in New Zealand, and it wouldn’t be so easy then to get to the Whitney, or the Guggenheim, or the Met. I go out of my way to see things, like a tourist. Tourists come here and see everything, but when you’re living in a place you become lazy. You say, “Oh I read about that but didn’t see it.” I try to keep that mentality of being fresh, being a tourist, because it might not be there tomorrow. Like, my boyfriend and I decided to go to Coney Island on the weekend, I’d never been there. He wanted to go to a Russian restaurant, so he Googled ‘Russian restaurant Coney Island’ but what he forgot to do was say a descriptor like ‘Best Russian restaurant Coney Island’ [laughs]! So we ended up at somewhere that was like $3 for a main course, which is great, but they didn’t like us and we didn’t like them so we had to go somewhere else! We went to some very crass Wedding/Bar Mitzvah place called Rasputin’s. It was great. But I do love it when I’m in New Zealand, because my friends who are artists or in the art world, are so abreast of what’s happening internationally. There’s a real sophistication that I don’t think was there 25-30 years ago.
It was that much harder before the internet wasn’t it?
Yes, what’s changed since I left 26 – I don’t know how many – 28 years ago, is that, and there’s also excellent coffee in New Zealand now [laughs] … Very good espresso machines. People are very fond of New Zealand here. If you say you’re from New Zealand it’s, “Oh, we always want to go to New Zealand!”
They certainly love the accent. I’m fascinated to know what you see as some of the over-arching trends in the art world at the moment, or at least what’s exciting you about the art-world at the moment. I think what’s interesting is the need to have the public or the audience engaged with the work. We’re in an age of information so you can go around the Pace Gallery [in New York], which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and you can have an app on your iPhone so you can listen to the artist speaking about the work, or curators speaking about the work.