Thursday, May 05, 2016

Balls up

Buying the art is one thing, owning it is another. The days when you just hung it on a wall and forgot about it (looking-after-wise) have long gone. Imagine, for instance, owning something by perfectionist Jeff Koons. His demands for his work are so extreme that the Guggenheim Museum once put off mounting a survey show because finding 'the technology to match Jeff’s vision became impossible.' And then we saw this version of Koons's Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tanks. The three basketballs are intended to be symmetrically suspended in the sodium chloride reagent. The basketballs are at such a specific point of equalibrium with the liquid they are immersed in that even the vibrations from people walking by can affect the balance. The solution has to be changed every time the piece is installed and constantly monitored if the work is to be presented as Koons intended. 'Oh, oh, Jeff’s coming. Get the pump.'

Wednesday, May 04, 2016


Here’s a public artwork for you. In the Palanco subway station in Mexico City an entire staircase leading up from the trains is a piano keyboard. Every footstep plays a note with the ‘music’ composed by the crowds rushing up and down the stairs. It's the work of Mexican artist Remo Saraceni who was into experience art early and who has since taken this idea to the world. You can hear the stairs and see them in action here.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Careful what you wish for

“You know, they’re buying their country houses and they’re putting their kids in private schools and they need money.”
Art dealer Larry Gagosian discusses his responsibilities towards his artists in the NYT

“Back then, a museum’s fundamental role was about taking care of and protecting the art, but this century it’s much more about the visitor experience.” 
Neal Benezra, director of the SFMoMA talks about 1995

Monday, May 02, 2016

Lip service

Now here’s something you don’t see every day (even in museums). Two of the guards kissing in the corner, well kissing whenever someone came into their gallery space anyway. And it's not just a peck on the cheek either, they were hard at it. We were in the Jumex Museum in Mexico City. This amazing private foundation is around the size of the Auckland Art Gallery (could even be bigger) and is showing selections from what they say is the largest collection of contemporary art in Latin America.

Kissing Guards is a work by the British artist Tino Sehgal. In 2010 he participated in the Auckland Triennial at St Paul's with a dancer slowly rolling and moving across the floor as visitors entered the space. In Jumex Sehgal's ‘guards’ performed their task right through the hours we were in the building and it looked like a relay team of performers were on kissing duty all day, all week.

In Mexico City Sehgal's work rather than being the experience of a moment in time felt like it had more in common with the work of Santiago Sierra. This Spanish artist (who visited New Zealand for the One Day Sculpture series in 2008) has hired poor laborers of many kinds to be tattooed, stand in lines, be walled up in art gallery spaces or undertake other menial tasks as his commentary on capitalist based inequality.

Friday, April 29, 2016

With knobs on

Spend a day with the artist Fiona Connor in LA and you’re going to see some good art (and we did) but there's more. We also got to visit some of the stores that Fiona uses as references for her work - those sources of hard-to-find details like an unusual hinge or decorative lighting panel. The epitome of this kind of place is Liz’s Antique Hardware in mid-town. This large store is packed floor to ceiling with every item that ever went into fitting out houses in LA from around the 1920s on. The proprietors not only know exactly what is in their remarkable stock but they can lay a hand on it instantly. If you’re into replicating architecture, as Fiona often is, or you're home decorating or you just want to experience one of the great visual treats of LA, Liz’s is the go-to place.

Images: top, Fiona Connor at Liz’s. Middle, the shop on 453 S. La Brea and all the keyholes in the world and bottom, ‘electric candles, you want electric candles?’

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Battle of the bands

A couple of weeks back two people put 686 rubberbands around a watermelon and 800,000 people went crazy. They even stuck around for 45 minutes to watch it explode online. Since then millions more have gone to BuzzFeed to catch the big bang. We mention this because there is an art connection. Last year Steve Carr used the same idea for his video work Watermelon which is currently on view at City Gallery. As many of these melon sites (there are a lot) have gone over a million viewers, and one over 15 million, it’s interesting to consider how the Carr version differs. It comes to context and presentation. BuzzFeed very strongly signals what you should be feeling with a near-hysterical build-up of will-it-won’t-it-squeals-of-anticipation from the crew. It's more about what we should be feeling than what we are looking at. In contrast, Carr offers a more objective and formal presentation with few emotional signals. Last week we watched people quietly sitting  through Carr’s Watermelon having just spent about the same time looking at his slow-mo bursting balloons. No commentary, no directives, limited framing. So maybe there's a bigger point here. You can hype and pre-condition your audiences expectations like BuzzFeed does, or you can leave some space for people to figure it out for themselves. As Te Papa leans more toward the BuzzFeed model, it’s good to see the City Gallery sticking with art.
Images: watermelon madness top, BuzzFeed and bottom City Gallery

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


So what are thoughts of the Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry on the problem of diminishing funding available to the arts from Lotto gambling funds?

"the balls might just roll our way"

You can check out more of the Culture Minister’s profound interest in the arts on her home page. For example, watch the video of her 10 minute contribution to the Prime Minister’s debate - a few seconds praising the Government, 9.01 minutes on conservation, 16 seconds on Heritage and 33 seconds on senior citizens. Or you could follow up on the five highlighted news items (four on Conservation and one on senior citizens) and perhaps dip into her biography where the only mention of art is the fact that her partner is  ‘Grant Kerr, a consultant, lawyer and avid collector of contemporary New Zealand photography.’ Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

You say rod with a circle on the end of it and I say rod with a circle on the end of it

In the land of lookalikes, how astonishing is this? In 1956 Brazilian artist Ivan Serpa was experimenting with the idea of a series of rods ending in circles. According to the Auckland Art Gallery this was the same year that Gordon Walters made his first koru studies in New Zealand. Serpa and Walters both used gouache and cut-out paper collaging and they were both intensely interested in the earlier Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943). Other examples of Serpa’s work indicate that he came to the rounded end via a more abstract path than Walters’ reimaging of the koru form. With Auckland's exhibition of recent art from South America opening soon, perhaps there will be other examples of artists living in distant and very different countries coming up with similar solutions to formal challenges.

Images: top to bottom, Ivan Serpa  Gouache1956, Ivan Serpa Formas 1951 and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Composition 1931

Saturday, April 23, 2016


North and South's latest issue channels German artist Gregor Schneider in an illustration for Supermarket fatigue.

Images: top, North and South, bottom Gregor Schneider's Tatort Museum 2001-2003 in the collection of the MMK, Frankfurt

Friday, April 22, 2016

Duck and cover

We mentioned a while back that a copy of Michelangelo’s statue of Moses had been toured through New Zealand by the department store Milne and Choyce. In 1967 the company also toured Michelangelo’s David (those were the days) and we tried to find out whether or not it was fig-leafed. No luck. The reason for this interest is discovering (via Andrew Paul Wood, thanks) that the V&A owns a relevant fig leaf. It was custom made in the mid nineteenth century to protect Queen Victoria’s eyes and, we assume, mind, from the David’s carved equipment. A cast of the famous statue that stands at over five meters high was sent to Queen Victoria as a gift (er…thanks for that…) but she smartly handed it on to what is now known as the V&A. When the diminutive royal got her first eyeful of the David she was so shocked that this fig leaf was made to ensure future visits would be less stressful.  

Image: Plaster cast of a fig leaf, perhaps by the firm of D. Brucciani & Co, London, England, UK, about 1857. Collection: Victoria and Albert Museum, London. More here.

Here are some other OTN posts on Michelangelo's David
One day 

End of days
Moving along
Giving a fig 

David in adland

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Time lords

The amount of cash Creative NZ has to fund artists may decline, but the number of artists applying for it is headed in the opposite direction. In the last five years, for instance, the number of applications for the round of Quick Response grants held each March has increased from 52 applications to 86. That’s around a forty percent increase. This is not a big surprise given the number of artists being churned out by the 18+ art schools operating in NZ currently and it isn’t going to do anything but increase year by year.

So here's an idea. Creative NZ might like to investigate an application process that is working for the National Science Foundation (for Earth Processes to be precise) in the United States. It found that by getting rid of deadlines for submitting grant proposals the number of submissions dropped of its own accord by 59 percent. A pilot of the process that resulted in a 50 percent drop has remained at that level for the last five years. What seems to happen is that people put more time and effort into their proposals and the ones that are hasty or ill-considered simply never get submitted. The hope is ‘that the change will filter for the most highly motivated people and the ideas for which you feel the most passion.’ Research has also shown that the reduction in numbers in an ‘anytime submission’ process had no effect on the demographic mix of people submitting. So there you go.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Room with a point of view

One of the big changes in the past decade has been the way dealer galleries have muscled into what was once the undisputed territory of public art museums. With no necessity on them to entertain their audiences, charge at the door or provide child friendly environments, dealers have expanded the services they offer their artists and the opportunities the give their clients and would-be clients. Starting at the top, take the Larry Gagosian global empire. It frequently presents serious, museum-quality exhibitions with many works borrowed from leading art institutions like MoMA or Tate. Research facilities, archives, publications, magazines, many dealers not coming close to the scale of Gagosian are jumping in to ramp up the credibility and accessibility of their artists. And then there is the controversial border crossing into the commercial sector by those who once were public art museum curators. They are rewarded with extraordinary curatorial freedom as long as they are happy to open their Rolodexes. Here in NZ dealers are starting to play the same game. The most recent example opens today in Wellington. In a spacious well-lit room above Suite Gallery on Cuba Street, you can access an extensive Ans Westra archive and rotating display of images. Westra's own record in media clippings of the infamous Washday at the Pah controversy is a highlight along with an extensive library of books and journals illustrated with Westra images. Or, buy an Ans Westra photograph. There you go.

Images: Westra museum at Suite in Wellington top to bottom, memorabilia and prints, illustrated books, Washday at the Pah clippings and exhibition space

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

If it’s broke, fix it

For around 15 years now the Colin McCahon online catalogue has had pretensions to being to a catalogue raisonnĂ© of the artist's work setting out to ‘catalogue McCahon's complete works’. An alternative attempt to research and publish a print catalogue was superceded by the current digital project with the understanding that professional cataloguing standards would be followed. Initially the site was to include commissioned essays and commentary on McCahon’s work but that never happened and eventually essays from a survey catalogue were dumped to bulk things up. For years the information in the Colin McCahon online catalogue has been scrappy at best. In 2010 an attempt was made to put it into some sort of order and improve the quality of the records but it was short lived and inconsistent.

Does this even matter? Given that the catalogue is hosted by New Zealand's national art institution, provides the document of record on McCahon and is the primary source of authentication for both institutions and the market, yes it does. Recently, when we were writing about McCahon’s waterfall mural held in the University of Otago, we looked up some details in the catalogue and also checked out how it was developing.

And it has to be said, it is not developing well at all. In this one entry we found -

•  The title of the painting is wrong. Whoops! It’s Waterfall Theme (and variations) not Waterfall theme & variations

•  The date is incomplete. It’s May–August 1966 not 1966.

•  The number of hardboard panels the painting is made up of is not noted.

•  The dedication to Mary de Beer which can be seen in an inscription on the work is not noted nor is the fact that the de Beer's and Charles Brasch funded the work for the university.

•  The inscription ‘As there is a constant flow of light and because of perceiving, the power of light with uninterrupted force, we are born into a new land’ is not noted.

•  The illustration of the work, as you can see above, is so poor it's barely worth publishing. There are no detail images available.

Pedantic? Sure and probably only of interest to a small number of people, but if this Online Catalogue is to be the primary record of McCahon's work it really is time to take it seriously after so many years of neglect.

Image: Colin McCahon Online Catalogue illustration of McCahon’s 7.3 x 3.31 metre mural Waterfall Theme (and variations)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Fair enough

The Auckland Art Fair has announced the dealer galleries that will be participating in the 2016 fair opening on 25 May. The dealers have also named the artists they'll show. As you'd expect, it’s mainly an Auckland affair with nearly seventy percent of the galleries based there. Fifteen galleries are coming in from overseas of which 10 are from Australia and three from the South Island.

The male female ratio varies greatly between dealers with overall 63 percent being male. Just three galleries are exhibiting only women artists and they are all one person presentations. Eight galleries have only male artists on show.

This year you can also take advantage of My Art to grow your collection. The offer is that with a $2,500 deposit you can get a loan to buy up to $25,000 worth of art. Of course you have to pay it back at $2,500 per month over nine months. Nothing's perfect, but the payments are interest free. You can see the full list of galleries and artists here.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Patrick Pound Pics

Last month we were in Melbourne and visited our good friend Patrick Pound. Like a number of other NZ artists, Patrick has made his life in Australia and it's been a long haul to get the recognition he deserves. At the time he left New Zealand in 1989 he was one of a number of artists who were getting a lot of attention. You can see this buzz reflected in Auckland Art Gallery’s collection database where 11 works are represented. To decide to leave this support and set up shop in Australia was not easy especially when he moved from his collecting informing his practice to collecting being his practice, as he recently told Serena Bentley. 

After decades of making connections, curating, collecting, writing and lecturing, the context of Patrick's work changed dramatically when he was invited to make an exhibition as part of Melbourne now in 2014. His eccentric, eclectic Gallery of Air combining elements from the National Gallery of Victoria’s collections with his own was a huge hit. And there's no stopping Patrick from collecting or showing his collections, so there's plenty more where that came from. On OTN:STUDIO we have just put up photographs from two visits one in 2013 and one this year.