A visit to Dunedin’s vibrant St Clair beach suburb is a treat at any time – but an added surprise awaits those who care to wander an additional 500 metres down the street from the hubbub of Saturday morning cyclists, café-goers, paddle boarders, and surfers to 30 Sandringham St. There, at Fe29 Gallery, you’ll find a warm welcome into the home – and art gallery – of Cecilia and Megan Mickelsen. It’s a unique situation where fine art meets domestic life in the most inspiring of settings.
Met at the door by Cecilia, I was invited to enter all rooms (with the exception of a private bathroom) of a home where art takes centre stage. It even adorns the walls of the couple’s bedroom and toilet – and a bright John Drawbridge canvas lights up the women’s open-plan kitchen. There’s something very comfortable and relaxing about viewing art in this situation – so much so that I feel completely at home opening drawers and cupboards filled with bronze medallions, diminutive sculptures, and silver jewellery.
Cecilia and Megan quietly come and go between the rooms, answering questions, providing snippets of information on the work on display, or pointing out an alcove or room one may have missed. It really does feel as if you are paying a personal visit to friends – with the added advantage that what you see around you is for sale, and you can size it up in a domestic setting and imagine how it might fit into your own home.
While the selection of works on display in Fe29 Gallery might suggest Cecilia and Megan have worked in and with art all their lives, the reality is surprisingly different. Cecilia’s previous career was as a management consultant while Texas-born Megan has degrees in Animal Science and Land Economics and Real Estate. A personal love of art eventually saw Cecilia offered jobs in major art galleries in Europe and Scandenavia, and she is now also an artist in her own right. The artists in Megan’s family are her introduction to the art world, and while she says she hasn’t personally produced works of art, Cecilia is quick to add ‘yet!’.
After taking my time to view the work in the gallery’s interior, I wandered outside to enjoy the front and rear gardens of Cecilia and Megan’s home. The incongruity of tubs of strawberries and a small raised kitchen garden sharing space with sculptures and exterior wall art only added to the interest and my sense of having discovered a truly eclectic gallery.
However, perhaps what most surprises and impresses visitors to Fe29 Gallery is the lineup of acclaimed international artists who exhibit in the gallery alongside some of New Zealand’s most well-known names. This, coupled with the warm welcome extended by Cecilia and Megan to what is both a home and a gallery, ensures that both seasoned art buyers, and also newbies to the art world, feel equally comfortable in this fascinating setting.