Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Time to get moving

Robert Leonard’s inclusion of film alongside painting, drawing and photography in his exhibition Unseen city at Te Uru is right on the button. He’s also put Leon Narbey together with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in the City Gallery theatre screening. Mostly art museums have been slow to welcome the history of film into their galleries and so the idea of Len Lye’s films always being on permanent display in major NZ galleries in the same way Colin McCahon or Rita Angus would be is still some way off. Has Vincent Ward’s In Spring one plants alone ever been incorporated into a permanent display of NZ art? Time it was. The Pompidou Centre is ahead of the game in this respect. Most of the topic galleries have film incorporated as part of the display from very Len Lye-looking effort Ballet mecanique by Fernand Leger in 1924 to Marcel Duchamp and Isidore Isou. And the visitors? They just took the mix as the most natural thing in the world.

Images: film as part of the Pompidou's permanent collection display. Left to right top to bottom, Constantine Brancusi and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Dziga Verton, Marchel Duchamp and Nicholas Schoffer

Monday, June 29, 2015

To be perfectly Frank

Just when you think you never want to see another ‘iconic’ Frank Gehry building, he comes up with a truly great one. This time it's the Fondation Louis Vuitton that is the lucky recipient. It’s a spectacular destination building of glass and steel, concrete and wood looming over the Bois de Boulogne but also a building of thoughtfully proportioned gallery spaces, subtle pacing and a sophisticated flow between inside and outside throughout the building This culminates in an extraordinary series of ramparts and bastions on the roof with great views of Paris and plenty of room to sit down or for kids to muck around. And there’s some terrific art to be seen too. A set of huge Andreas Gursky photographs that are so poised inside the classical figurative tradition that it’s hard to believe they show pit teams swarming Formula 1 race cars. And lots of video of course from Christian Marclay’s explosive Crossfire to Sturtevant’s Elastic Tango which had people dancing in the gallery (literally). We’ve put up probably more photographs than is really necessary here on OTNARCHITECTURE.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Art at work

Sculpture working for free speech at Republic, Paris

Friday, June 26, 2015

If you snooze, you lose

Back in the sixties Georgina Masson came up with some outstanding advice in her classic companion Guide to Rome. When you visit the Vatican head straight for the Sistine Chapel. Her instructions were firm. Do not be diverted, forget the Gallery of Maps, ignore Da Vinci’s St Jerome, and go straight past the Raphael Rooms. We followed her precisely and earned an unimaginable 35 minutes alone with Michelangelo’s famous frescos. We pulled the same stunt today with Velasquez at the Grand Palais in Paris. Timed tickets meant around 200 of us all were let in together but Team V headed for the last three rooms zooming through early works, influences, his time in Venice and even the Rokeby Venus only coming to a standstill in front of the mighty portrait of Pope Innocent X. Francis Bacon might have given it a miss on his trip to Rome, but seriously, it was a mistake. Because of Masson’s advice all those years ago, we had the place to ourselves for half an hour which goes to show that guidebooks can change your life.

We’d like to say we went back to look at the early work at the end of our two hour visit but, between us, we didn’t.

Images: left entering room 11 and right Team V’s private audience with Pope Innocent X

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The vanishing

Message for Mona Hatoum. Message for Mona Hatoum…er…it’s called New Zealand and..um.. it’s just under Australia

Image: Mona Hatoum's Map (1999) currently on exhibition in the Centre Pompidou

Distance looks our way

You can’t beat the kick of going into a large exhibition space in an international art museum as important as the Pompidou to see a work by an artist you know and admire. This time it was Oscar Enberg in the sixth edition of Un Nouveau Festival titled Air de jeu that dug into the connections between art and games. But we're not talking about some dice and arcade cabinets showcase but games in the big sense. This one's got philosophers, dancers, writers and even OuLiPo and Alighiero Boetti all ‘playing and thinking’ as the Pompidou like to put it. Yes, Enberg is in very good company and also showing alongside another favourite of ours Jonathan Monk.  
Len Lye is in the building too and Peter Robinson’s interactive felt scatter piece has just closed. Then, still hanging in the sky above the square outside Piano & Rogers iconic building, is the ghost of Neil Dawson’s Globe the star of the 1989 Pompidou exhibition Magiciens de la terre 

All this NZ-in-Paris action comes just weeks after seeing Simon Denny knock them dead in Venice.  You’d have to lay a lot of this level of exposure on Creative NZ’s simple focus on success in its international funding. The fact is those Art fairs, exchange programmes, residencies, support for exhibiting off shore and bringing interested curators, writers and bureaucrats to NZ are all starting to make a real impact.

Image: in the foreground Oscar Enberg's work in the exhibition Air de jeu

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mannequins for dummies

If you’re from NZ there’s a great big hole in the exhibition we saw today in Paris, Ronnie van Hout. A while back we published a list of artists names along with what they ‘own’. McCahon owns words, Albrecht owns hemispheres, that sort of thing. In that list van Hout owned models but given how his work has developed over the last five or so years now it would have to be mannequins. All that brings us to Silent Partners – Artist & Mannequin from Function to Fetish a remarkable exhibition which is now showing at the Musee Bourdelle. Essentially it was a history of the artist mannequin and their use from practical to creepy (we’re looking at you Hans Bellmer and you too Oskar Kokoschka). The exhibition kicks off with a composition ‘box’ staged with little mannequins used by Poussin and tracks the race to develop the most realistic mannequins for the huge creative industries of the eighteen and nineteenth centuries. The wooden mannequin used by Walter Sickert is a standout. Once the show hits Freud and his marrying of mannequins, toys and automata with the uncanny, the Surrealists take over. An amazing (unglazed) series of paintings by Giorgio de Chirico, Dali’s there (of course) as well as Man Ray and (new to us) the astonishing Jose Maria Sert. It was one of those old school no-photography shows unfortunately, but you can see more incredible images from the show via Google Image.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Putin it to them with Vladimir

If you think Auckland has a burr under its saddle about the Parekowhai Lighthouse, get yourself over to Moscow. Its citizens are facing the installation of a giant realist sculpture of Vladimir the Great (Russia’s patron saint) that stands at 25 plus meters (more than double the Parekowhai effort). And if you think the Parekowhai process is fraught, you can forget that too. We’re talking serious politics here. The St Vladimir sculpture is being used as a big up-you to the Ukraine. The thing is Vladimir’s power center was Kiev (now in present day Ukraine) and Moscow’s attempt to take over their much most loved Saint has not been lost on Ukrainians. Meanwhile, back in Moscow, the super sculpture is to be sited on Sparrow Hills making it visible from across the city and (what a surprise) it will be 16 meters taller than Kiev’s statue of Vladimir. More here in the NYT.

Images: top left, a model of the proposed statue by Salavat Scherbakov and right in progress
. Bottom the Kiev version.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Hide and seek

Back in August 2013 when Simon Denny and Robert Leonard were selected by CNZ as the team for the Venice Biennale 2015 we asked Creative NZ if we could have the names of the other artists and curators who submitted projects. Creative NZ said no. We argued that the decision making process could not be properly evaluated unless those who had put themselves into the running were known. Creative NZ said no again. The names, we were told, were confidential. Creative NZ believed that people would be put off applying if their names were made public and suggested we take the question to the Office of the Ombudsman if we wanted to take it further.

So on 13 September 2013 that’s what we did. After six months of silence we emailed the Office of the Ombudsman on 16 March 2014 to see if there had been progress. There hadn’t. Six months later again, on 15 October 2014, the Office of the Ombudsman emailed us. Our request was now with a new officer who would be ‘assisting in the investigation’ and who would ‘keep us up to date with progress’. Four months later, we are now at the begininging of February 2015, the Office of the Ombudsman wrote to say that our request was ‘still under consideration’. 

Finally, two months later on 24 March (19 months after our original request), the Ombudsman sent us her report. It turns out that Creative NZ asks anyone who it deals with it to sign confidentiality agreements and the Ombudsman felt these agreements took priority over public access to information. Now you know. The Ombudsman asked us to comment before the final report was signed off which we did, arguing that using confidentiality agreements as a gagging device was not in the spirit of open government. This response still waits somewhere in the Ombudsman’s long, dark cave.

So there you go. By tactically using confidentiality agreements Creative NZ can block attempts by taxpayers to examine or assess its selection process, a process that involves the expenditure of $700,000 of public funds. And remember all that was requested was names not the discussion or deliberations that went toward the decision.

So should we just trust Creative NZ and its current processes to give us a fair result? Well no, not if the selection of Judy Millar/Francis Upritchard (additional representative added after the panel had made its decision) and Michael Parekowhai (no selection panel) are anything to go by. And is it reasonable to believe that the Official Information Act is designed to 'promote access to information held by various Government agencies'? No, it really isn’t.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The art thing

"The positives of Rembrandt Remastered far outweigh its minor setbacks."
Emma Jameson describing an exhibition of Rembrandt reproductions in EyeContact

“If that’s not a fake it’s a damn clever original.”
Groucho Marx

Friday, June 19, 2015

Another brick in the wall

More up on OTNARCHITECTURE today. A couple of anon entries (a sailors shrine in Gozo and a brickworks in Bangladesh), well someone made them but we couldn’t find out who they were. Then there is the V C Morris shop designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in San Fransisco the only building he made there and a precursor to the Guggenheim, Louis Kahn’s masterpiece the Parliament building in Bangladesh’s capita Dhaka and the strange utopian city Acrosanti deep in the desert designed by Paolo Soleri.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Just saying

“a remarkable collection”
“an unparalleled collection”
“this magnificent acquisition”
“representing high points in the artist’s achievement”
 “the most comprehensive representation of his oeuvre held together in any single collection”
“important masterpieces have been added”
“especially strong in late masterpieces”

The James Wallace Trust pumps up its collection of works by Tosswill Woollaston in a recent 500-word PR release.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

One day in the surf board development office

Director 1: Have you noticed how many board riders are fascinated by medieval art?

Director 2: I have, it’s a global phenomenon.

D 1: And Bruegel, what’s it about Bruegel that so particularly interests the surfing set?

D2: I suspect it’s the way that he set out to create a kaleidoscope of genres so focused on communicating his intentions to his implied viewers.

D1: Could be, could be.

D2: Why do you ask?

D1: I thought we could do a Bruegel Board

And they did. (It was Hieronymus Bosch, but what the hell did they know?)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What webs they weave

Over the last year a number of dealer galleries have clustered (as they do) on Arch Hill. Originally dominated by Two Rooms the area is anchored by the Great North Road. With typical perversity, Michael Lett chose last year to return from his Great North Road location to K-Road. And not just to K-Road but as a very close neighbor of Ivan Anthony and just across the road from Artspace. Anyone who visits this area will have seen another large empty space lurking on K-Road itself. Lett used it for a one-night dinner at the opening of his Implicated and immune exhibition as it’s part of the same ex-retail bank space he occupies. Now it seems another gallery is set to open its doors. Webb’s loss looks as though it might be K-Road’s gain as a couple of ex-Webb people are rumoured to have just signed the lease. As the current Webb’s current staff list has no head of department for fine art, and no one at all for wine, we’re guessing Charles Ninow will be one of them and probably Simon Ward the other. (Turns out the Simon is actually Simon Bowerbank who used to work for Ivan upstairs and also for Webb's - ok that makes us the simple ones, sorry Simons) What sort of gallery would these ex auction guys run? There is certainly room in the secondary market, especially to discreetly place high-end work. Watch that space.
Image: the K-Road site back in the days when you could bank on it being....a....bank.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Smoke and mirrors

The mainstream media has never had such a positive relationship with art, and contemporary art in particular, but last week the Waikato Times made a grab for the golden ring. 'Another slow news day, let's ramp up that Parekowhai thing again. 

And so the headline ‘Calls for city council to rethink Parekowhai sculpture’. But it turns out it was not 'calls' so much as a couple of private conversations, an ex Mayor chatting to some old mates on council. Even she admitted that she'd only 'raised these concerns behind the scenes …' and, backing down somewhat, was 'simply passing on comments that had been made…' Turns out that she’s not even opposed to the sculpture personally ('I think it's quite jolly'), just to where it's to be sited ('It’s such a huge big thing').

Then the Waikato Times promises 'A stoush is brewing among the city arty types' but again they're just blowing smoke. A stoush, for all of you who love dictionary definitions, is a fight or a brawl. So you have to ask, as the Parekowhai sculpture has passed through all the Council processes, who is the Waikato Times suggesting is going to line up on the other side of their ‘stoush’?  Of course the ex Mayor also has some skin in the where-do-you-put-public-sculptures game. She's a member of a group that has just commissioned its own public sculpture a large (one-and-half times life size and sit on a two-metre high base) realist bronze statue of a war artist.  And what-do-you-know, it’s real close to where the larger, brighter, more commanding Parekowhai will be located.

So please, could you all move away, there’s nothing to see here, just 300 words trying to rekindle a fight probably in the faint hope it might give the Waikato Times a real story to report.