Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bird’s eye view

Feels like ages since we last featured animal art (painting flies don’t count) on OTN but you can still check out posts (one) (two) (three). Today we’re looking at bird photographers from the 1950s. This pigeon, who operated out of Germany, shot only black and white and specialised in aerial work.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pass it on

With exhibitions coming up for Seraphine Pick and etal. in Christchurch and Japan’s Yayoi Kusama in Wellington, you might think it’s the year of the woman artist here in New Zealand, but consider the Pompidou in Paris. They have just announced that they are filling their entire permanent collection galleries with works by women. Yes, the men are off to storage. The curator Camille Morineau says, “It’s a risk.” 500 works by 200 women. An OTN cap for the first museum director to do it in New Zealand.

Dalu Mncube 1983-2009

From a Tinks03 Tweet we learnt the sad news that it was Dalu Mncube, the senior cat handler at Zion Wildlife Gardens who worked on Javier Tellez’s One Day Sculpture Intermission at Everybody’s Theatre in Opunake, who was mauled and killed by a white tiger in Whangarei.
Image: Dalu Mncube at work on Intermission

Thursday, May 28, 2009


The Minister of the Arts has just confirmed that CNZ is primarily a performing arts organisation. It is probably time for the directors of the public art museums and other leaders in the visual arts community to take action. The visual arts have been sidelined.

$10.5 million extra support for the arts

Key artistic and cultural organisations get a boost of $10.5 million over the next four years in Budget 2009, Arts Minister Christopher Finlayson says.

This funding for Creative New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Ballet will protect New Zealand’s cultural assets during the economic downturn.

Creative New Zealand will receive an additional $7.1 million over the next four years. The extra money will support key music, dance and theatre companies so they can continue to provide New Zealanders with cultural and performing arts experiences.

“The Government is providing extra funding to protect national organisations - not only for their own benefit, but because they also play an integral part in supporting regional arts organisations.”

The Royal New Zealand Ballet will receive an extra $3.4 million over the next four years, Mr Finlayson said.

“This funding for the Royal New Zealand Ballet and Creative New Zealand will have positive flow-on effects for regional arts organisations such as the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vector Wellington Orchestra and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

“The current economic situation is putting pressure on sponsorship and donations given to arts organisations. “This additional funding will relieve some of that pressure,” Mr Finlayson says.
Image: Nero

On the road

On the road is an ongoing series celebrating the Ministry of Land Transport and Local Body support of New Zealand artists.
For others in the series search 'on the road' in the blog search box above.

By the numbers

1 The number of days left in the One Day Sculpture series.

1 The number of Michael Parekowhai guitars on offer at the Auckland Art Fair.

2 The number of celebration dinners arranged by the Witte de With in Rotterdam honouring Billy Apple’s solo exhibition there.

5 The number of artists represented by Sydney dealer Roslyn Oxley who have had major exhibitions at the Wellington City Gallery over the last five years.

7.2 The percentage of funds allocated by CNZ to the Visual Arts in its Recurrent Funding of arts institutions.

10 The number of times the word ‘contemporary’ appears on the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery’s home page.

41 The average age of artists who have represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale.

90 The number of exhibition catalogues published between 1954 and 1969 now available on the Auckland Art Gallery site.

120 The number of works slated for inclusion in Seraphine Pick’s survey exhibition opening 23 July at the Christchurch Art Gallery.

136 The number of students who graduated from the Elam School of Fine Arts in 2008.

50,000 The number of dollars Tourism New Zealand has spent creating a New Zealand reading room at the Venice Biennale

150,000 The approximate number of visitors Te Papa has reported to the exhibition Monet and the Impressionists.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A while back, when the Guggenheim Museum was being restored, we jokingly suggested a colour range they might like to consider. So how about this red Guggenheim proposal from Frank Lloyd Wright's papers recently displayed in New York.

The protection problem

In 1978 Richard Killeen came up with a stand-out idea. In recent paintings he had been using the toss of a dice to determine the kind of imagery and where it would be placed on the canvas. Taking this introduction of the arbitrary a step further, he cut shapes out of metal and pinned them to the wall. The resulting cut-outs came with instructions like “hang in a group in any order” and questioned the neutrality of the white cube. If white walls make silhouettes out of paintings, as indeed they do, why not hang silhouettes in the first place? The frameless, oddly grouped, seldom random arrangements were a surprise and a delight. When asked if people could hang them badly Killeen would answer, in his way, “Some people hang paintings upside-down. What’s the difference?” The cut-outs did have one issue: their delicate surfaces. Painted with alkyd, a resin-based lacquer, they are easily scratched and finger-marked. Which brings us to the protection problem.

Many art museums have a troubled relationship with contemporary art, fuelled by their efforts to popularise and encourage young audiences. Understanding the point at which protecting a work of art compromises the artist’s intention is a real tension.

A good example is the current display of Richard Killeen’s cut-out Black insects, red primitives at Pataka in Porirua. The work is included as part of an exhibition called I see red thanks to twelve red shapes that are interspersed with its seven black insects. As you’ve probably guessed, this is a kid’s show. To protect the work the elements have been hung within a square shape and a sheet of Perspex placed over them. Black insects, red primitives has essentially been framed.

So here’s the question. Given that Killeen cut-outs are partly a critique of the frame, should cut-outs like Black insects, red primitives be displayed in a way that is so at odds with the spirit of the work? Protective coverings, stanchions, alarms and guards all come with a price. In the case of Black insects, red primitives, that price is too high.
Image: Left, a shaped painting by Gretchen Albrecht gets the pinned-perspex treatment. Right, a portrait of Nathaniel Webb by an unknown artists and Richard Killeen's Red primitives, black insects at Christchurch Art Gallery's exhibition I see red on show at Pataka.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wish you were here

The CNZ Venice blog is definitely worth a look with good pics and stories around installing the work.
Image: Installing Judy Millar's work at La Chiesa della Maddalena

Look alike: stupid division

Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope.
Thanks P (how many times can we say it)

The Tissot Identity

You can imagine our surprise when searching around the FBI art theft site (if only they had RSS) to discover the Auckland Art Gallery featured in the recovery section. There, in the bowels of the FBI, is the story of the theft of James Tissot’s Still on top in 1998. Described by the FBI as a “dramatic heist” they go on to detail the event with Ludlam-like breathlessness. “Armed with a SAWED-OFF-SHOTGUN and a crowbar! a career criminal BURST through the main doors of the gallery. He KNOCKED a security guard to the floor, tore the painting from its frame, and ran!!!! to a waiting motorcycle with the SIX-MILLION!! dollar painting UNDER HIS ARM.” (italics, exclamation marks and capitalisation are ours).

For those wanting the happy ending, the FBI continues, “A ransom demand was made from the thief for the return of the painting, but it was recovered eight days later in Waikaretu, New Zealand. The painting was badly damaged during the theft and a two-year restoration project was needed to repair the damage.” Given the image of the Tissot on the FBI page it was a miracle anyone found it at all. You can see an unscrambled version of the work here.
Image: Tissot’s Still on top as featured on FBI Art Theft.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Things you hoped you'd never see

Utopia artist Gloria Petyarr’s Bush Medicine Leaf Dreaming for Hermes
Image: Hermes scarf

Art movies

The Art Heist is a steal-the-painting action movie. So when it starts with four figures paragliding into the grounds of the Museum of National Art of Catalonia in Barcelona, you know you’re in for the usual diet of abseiling, red laser security systems and paintings cut out of frames. The basic story of Art Heist is of the steal original , copy original, burn copy, give original to evil collector variety. The plan would surely have succeeded if it were not for one of the cops who happened to be played by a Baldwin brother (William – it’s low budget).

The copy of evil collector’s El Greco’s Christ Carrying the Cross was created by Arts of Fairies Inc. who also mocked up all the paintings on view in the movie museum. As you can see, the Arts of Fairies version of El Greco would only pass muster with a drunk monkey in the low lighting of a watercolour gallery, but it fools the art expert in the movie, so there you go. In fact the fake theme is also in play in the Museum of National Art of Catalonia’s grand looking digs. They were in fact which built in 1929 for the Barcelona Exhibition.

Back in a parallel reality, the most recent private owner of the El Greco’s Christ Carrying the Cross was Robert Lehman, founder of Lehman Brothers Investment Bank. The painting is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and you already know what happened to Lehman Brothers.
Images: From top left, left to right. The set-up - pinching the El Greco, one of our paintings is missing, and another, and another (this time with gratuitous nude included), found it! and the MNAC where the whole caper starts.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Being Frank with LEGO

A few of you sent in this story about Falling Waters in LEGO and we’ve just seen it on One Moment Caller so belatedly, here is where to place your orders for LEGO architectural masterpieces. LEGO Architecture is the first ever LEGO partnership with one of its fans (or as LEGO Central calls them ‘members of the LEGO Community’) in this case Adam Reed Tucker of Brickstructures Inc. Adam has kicked the door wide open for you LEGO art fiends out there. LEGO 7000 Oaks, LEGO Étant Donnés, LEGO The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living and LEGO Earth Room are all up for grabs and marketing (well, maybe not LEGO Étant Donnés).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Artists in Ad Land: Joseph Beuys

A couple of linden trees from Joseph Beuys’s famous Documenta work 7,000 Eichen—Stadtverwaldung statt Stadtverwaltung (7000 Oaks—City Forestation Instead of City Administration) were chopped down the other day, as Artforum relates. In this event lies a strange link to Ad Land. To pull together funds for this hugely expensive project (404 million DM in 1982) Beuys embraced the celebrity cash cow making-an-ad-in-Japan.

Look alike

Picture of Nicolas Cage installing Francis Upritchard's Orrery from today's DominionPost

Ham Solo

The BNZ is the latest to reach for the art cliché presenting its admittedly cute pig as an artist. It’s all trotters, palette, beret and brush along with the resulting “cubist” (read modern art, even if Cubism was a pre-World War I phenomenon) self-portrait. Why the pig is painting en plein air is anybody’s guess but it looks as if he’s set his easel up on the banks of the Avon River in Christchurch. Good to see a South Island artist getting some recognition.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


The edition owners of Jeff Koons' giant Balloon Dog, by the colour they chose.

François Pinault, luxury goods – magenta.
Dakis Joannou, construction – red.
Peter Brant, newsprint – orange.
Steve Cohen, hedge-fund – yellow.
Eli Broad, property – blue.
David Geffen - blue.

A cracker

Anyone who has walked past Anton Parsons’s sculpture Invisible city in Wellington must have wondered what the message in Braille says. Parsons apparently remains mum on its meaning, so it will remain a mystery until someone cracks the code.

And so we segue to CIA Headquarters at Langley.

There the sculpture Kryptos (named after the Greek word for 'hidden') by James Sanborn has been puzzling code crackers ever since it was installed in 1988. The code is in three sections. Two have been decoded by ace CIA operatives (the second only with the aid of a lot of computer grunt) but the third section is still holding out. A sample of the decoded text reads, "Between subtle shading and the absence of light lies the nuance of iqlusion." The misspelling is all part of the fun. Wired has the full story.
Image: James Sanborn's Kryptos

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

For the record

With the exhibition Andy Warhol Live currently celebrating the album covers designed by one of our favourite artists, spare a thought for the hidden heroes of art and LPs. Click images to enlarge.

The gloved ones

White gloves have played many parts. Mickey Mouse was given a pair to make his hands visible when they were in front of his black body; Michael Jackson used them to keep germs at bay; Elizabeth I drew attention to her best feature – her beautifully proportioned hands – with them.

There is a story, possibly apocryphal, that butlers started wearing white gloves so they could check for dust and dirt by running their fingers along difficult-to-reach surfaces. The white showed up the dirt.

In art museums a rather different approach has been taken to the white glove. For the last 25 years or so they have principally been worn to protect art works from dirty hands, although anyone who works in a museum will remember times when grubby gloves were used because the last load hadn’t hit the wash. Of course it’s an on-going irony that most of the works being protected by institutions initially come from studios that would make any clean freak bust out in a rash.

The problem with wearing gloves when you are handling art works, particularly delicate ones, is that they insert an insensitive surface between the hand and the object, often adding clumsiness in the process. There’s also the fact that standard cotton gloves are extremely absorbent (both from the hand out and the world in) and you get to a reasonable argument that suggests gloves are more risky than sweat and oils from the hand are. In their influential article Misperceptions about White Gloves, Dr. Cathleen A. Baker and Randy Silverman conclude that well-cleaned hands out-gun gloves every time. When handling delicate antique books they suggest that, “Compared with the destructive effects of air pollution, heat, light, poor storage conditions, repeated folding, and internal acidity, the chemical deterioration caused by paper's contact with bare skin is imperceptible.” It is probably true of art as well.

Images: Top, gloved ones at the Auckland Art Gallery. Bottom gloving it at the Grand Palais in Paris and, at Washington’s Smithsonian, the new glove du jour for museums and art galleries in a smart blue.
Article used as background for this post: Misperceptions about White Gloves by Dr. Cathleen A. Baker and Randy Silverman appeared in International Preservation News. You can read the whole article here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No sloth

Francis Upritchard, one of the artists selected for New Zealand’s participation in the Venice Biennale, is featured in the next Saatchi Gallery sculpture survey exhibition and catalogue, Shape of Things to Come: New Sculpture. Upritchard is represented by three works. Save Yourself, a version of which was shown at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in 2002, Sloth, a similar (if not the same) Sloth that was the key work in her Artspace show in 2005 and Traveller’s Collection. You can see the page on Francis Upritchard’s work on the Saatchi site here and the other participating artists here.
Images: From top, Save Yourself, Sloth and Traveller's Collection.

Two degrees of separation

For the last 20 years a New York highpoint has been a tour of dealer galleries in the company of the New Zealand-friendly Artforum publisher, Knight Landesman. Every door opens, all back rooms are welcoming and even Larry Gagosian stops for a valuable fifteen seconds to say hi, ask where you come from and tell you that he’s always wanted to go to New Zealand. Knight Landesman is, as far as we could tell, welcome everywhere which seems to be as a reaction to his sunny always-helpful disposition and his job as ad wrangler for the magazine. Back in 1994 Knight visited New Zealand (Testrip seized the moment and produced the one hour Knight Landesman Exhibition) following up on earlier connections like Julian Dashper’s wry Artforum Cover Version in 1991. Robert Leonard (now IMA director in Brisbane) even got the opportunity to work in the Artforum offices for a while thanks to Knight. And now the appointment of his brother Broadway producer Rocco as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts,

Landesman has added another layer of influence to his already welcomed handshake.
The New York Times described Rocco Landesman as “neither a conventional impresario nor a conventional anything else. He is at once a scholar and a gambler, a bon vivant and an intellect. He is a singular figure in the artistic life of the country, yet he is in many ways a regular guy.” Besides how can you not warm to one of four brothers named Cliff, Wyatt, Knight and Rocco.
The NEA has taken a beating during W’s reign, and Obama seems to be betting on audacity to set it right, that plus US$161.3 million. That’s the amount he asked for the NEA in his 2010 budget request.
Image: Knight Landesman

Monday, May 18, 2009

Word play

Interviewer: What does painterly mean?
De Kooning: That you can see it's done with a brush.

You can see the interview with De Kooning here

Nip tuck

The historian Nikolaus Pevsner once described sculptures attached to architectural facades as “junk jewellery for buildings.” In Wellington the classic example remains the Guy Ngan pinned onto the old Reserve Bank Building on the Terrace. Now at the Fryberg Pool on Oriental Bay (no, it wasn’t an April the first gag) we have the body-adornment equivalent with Victor Berezovsky face-paint addition titled Portal. The Wellington Council called the work a “facelift” and followed up the metaphor by announcing it would “adorn” the building’s façade for five years.

Strangely, the Freyberg, designed by Jason Smith in 1963, (he was also responsible for St. Francis de Sales in Island Bay), is not registered or listed by the Historic Places Trust.

So who was behind this decorative facelift to one of Wellington's few elegant modernist buildings? The work was approved by Wellington’s Public Art Panel: Mark Amery, Alison Bartley, Tina Barton, Heather Galbraith, Rob Garrett and Karen Wallace.
Images: Left, jewelry. Right, facelift.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I thunk it up

“It’s a statue of a guy thinking.” That’s probably how the idea for McDonald’s latest TV commercial was first articulated but of course it has got history. The figure was originally modelled by Auguste Rodin in 1882 to represent Dante on the top of the Gates of Hell pondering the fate of the Damned as they passed on through. Gates of Hell / Golden Arches. You pays your money and you takes your choice.
Images: top McDonald’s thinking. Bottom Rodin’s The Thinker.

Friday, May 15, 2009


This sculpture has almost universally been described as “Grotesque” by international media. But to anyone familiar with contemporary sculpture it's an equally familiar take on the human form and could easily be passed off as an early Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore or Kenneth Armitage. In fact it is the earliest sculpture ever created. Recently discovered, the sculpture is carved in Mammoth tooth and is 6 cm high. It was made around 35,000 years ago, too early even for Moore.


There is a German word schadenfreude which means, loosely translated, to delight in the misfortune of others. Anyone connected with the visual arts recognises schadenfreude as one of the standard media postures. When Damien Hirst glutted his market by selling 200 new works in one day for a record-breaking £111 million, this is not factored in as one of the reasons for Hirst not selling well in a recessionary market.

“In March, Hirst consigned three big new works direct from his studio to Sotheby's first auction in Doha. None of them sold.” Reports the NYT. And why would they? No one but a lunatic optimist would expect them to when every Sheik and nearly every Russian Oligarch already owned one – or possibly half-a-dozen.

Here’s how the international media headlined the Sotheby’s evening contemporary art session on Tuesday. They came at it from all directions.

Sotheby's Sale Fails to Meet Low Expectations – WSJ
Bidders Respond to Lower Prices for Contemporary Art - Reuters
Sotheby's Contemporary Art Sale Slumps 87% From Year-Ago Record – Bloomberg
How the Contemporary Art Bubble Burst - Times
In ‘a Recalibrated Market,’ Auction Buyers Take Over - NYT

The biggest art's-in-the-rubbish-bin story was Jeff Koons’s Baroque Egg With Bow (Turquoise/Magenta) selling under its $6 million low estimate for a ‘mere’ $5.4 million to dealer Larry Gagosian. Sounds like bad news until you hear its owner, a hedge fund guy, purchased it five years ago for $3 million and had made at least $2 million profit.

They say the international art market is now back to 2004 levels. Still that's somewhat better than the US stock market which is slumped down to 1997 levels and the Japanese market at 1983 levels. Watch this space.
Image: Sotheby's Tobias Meyer in front of Christopher Wool's painting Comedian

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Time out 2

People overcome by art in public institutions.
Leopold Museum, Vienna

The Luna day

For anyone who has pushed for Te Papa to take itself out into the rest of the country, check out the James Luna webcaste that is on throughout today (yes, it’s a One Day Sculpture). On our machine anyway it’s a smooth running opportunity to drop in and out of a long performance piece (whenever we feel like it), that we would never have the time to sit through.

Object of desire

Size is not something that puts off the determined art collector. The painting half-hidden by a door because it takes up an entire wall, the sculpture on a lean because it’s too tall to stand upright, the installation work still in its crate in the garage waiting for a space to come free – we’ve seen many of these let's-just-get-it-back-into-the-house-and-see-how-it-goes art works in collector's homes over the years.

If you want to catch a great example, head to the The New Dowse and catch Peter Robinson’s argumentative installation The Uncertainty Principle. Then figure out how you would fit that in with the TV, couch, coffee table and random friends. Forgetting its size for a moment (and that’s not easy, it being around 2.5 meters high, 5 meters wide, sticking out three quarters of a meter from the wall and including a suitcase full of small objects) imagine living with something this noisy. Hectoring placards, porno imagery and dramatic graphics all shouting for attention like CAPS in a text. But did that put Celia Dunlop off? Apparently not.

Celia Dunlop lived in Wellington and a good sample of her collection is on show at the New Dowse. It is a very distinctive concoction of jewellery, ceramic, glass and art with the determination to connect them all through personal identity. The Uncertainty Principle takes up most of one wall of the three spaces devoted to the exhibition. It is so unlike any of the other works that you wonder what inspired her to take such a leap, particularly as she was apparently unable to display it at home. Maybe it was a mix of panic that an important work might not be sold and then scrapped with the absolute certainty that this was something that had to be part of a her future. Whatever latched Celia Dunlop on to The Uncertainty Principle it had more than a touch of recklessness, a lot of courage, and absolutely no uncertainty.

Image: Peter Robinson’s The Uncertainty Principle pictured in the book Thrill me Every Day: The Celia Dunlop Collection which is on sale at the New Dowse.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Advice to collectors

"There is one truth in this business: if you have a really great piece of work, it's going to find a buyer... at the end of the day, the extraordinary work finds another owner."
Art dealer David Zwirner in an interview with Kelly Crow for the WSJ

look alike

Images: Top Auckland. Bottom, Sydney. Thanks G

Party on

When Te Papa’s first exhibition Pictura Britannica turned controversial, the project curator told The Sunday Times that in future Te Papa would undertake a risk assessment before accepting international contemporary art exhibitions. Maybe their assessments all gave the thumbs down, because they’ve never taken another one. Risk Management figures high in art institutional thinking, and a great example is CNZ’s recent press release for the Venice Biennale. Sent out as a media release online, it appeared on RSS around 10.08 on Tuesday. One of the items within the 300+ word release read as follows.

5-7pm opening exhibition party for Francis Upritchard at Fondazione Claudio Buziol
 7-9pm opening exhibition party for Judy Millar at La Maddalena

Sounds good.

But two minutes later the same release is sent out again. Well, not quite the same.

5-7pm opening exhibition event for Francis Upritchard at Fondazione Claudio Buziol
 7-9pm opening exhibition event for Judy Millar at La Maddalena

Ok, in this instance CNZ was unlucky, they haven’t quite caught onto how RSS works. What it does show, however, is an institution trying to manipulate how we will perceive what is going on. Not a party (fun, drunkenness, staff taking their clothes off) but an event (speeches, handshaking and muted conversation).

You can see the full list of the seven generally accepted rules of risk free communication here on OTN Stuff. The two CNZ have trouble with are:

• Accept and involve the public as a legitimate partner.
• Be honest, frank, and open.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Copy cat

A local Wellington sports store does Dali's Lobster telephone.


A while back we told you the story behind a sculpture that a local supermarket was putting up. Well it is there now so thought it only fair to show you what it looks like. As you can see it is kinda literal. A fish, we assume is to represent Wellington harbour, the end point of the pure water spring, the divining rod obviously stands in for the discovery of said spring, and the bottle of fizz was made from the water that flowed down the valley that twitched the rod that found the spring that flowed to the place where the fish are. The naked woman? Not sure, but possibly referring back to the invention of supermarkets in 1916, when statues of naked women to amuse men waiting for their wives to finish the shopping, were more common.
Image: Paul Dibble sculpture installed at Moore Wilson's in Wellington

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rescue me

For anyone who has played the “what would we grab if there was a fire” game, here are a couple of guys doing it in earnest, rescuing an Eames chair as fires race through modernist homes in Santa Barbara.
Images: Mike Meadows and Mark Ralston

I think therefore iPhone

Of course we are Apple people from way back, so anything that mashes art with the iPhone gets our instant attention. Strangely there were two examples sent to us this weekend. The first was stills from the Paris-based collective Claire Fontaine’s DVD of an iPhone being trashed. Not good. Our message to Claire Fontaine – lay off Apple. The second was news of David Hockney making art on the iPhone. This time it’s not so good in the art department (he even made a small easel for his iPhone transforming it into some weird kind of canvas substitute) but better for the iPhone. Hockney rather sweetly said, 'I like to draw flowers by hand on the iPhone and send them out to friends so they get fresh flowers. And my flowers last!' You can read more here.
Images: Top, iPhone bad by Claire Fontaine. Bottom, Hockney ♥ iPhone

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Getting into shape

So you all love the idea of belting out a good Tree song in front of a Calder do you? OTN is happy to present this DIY kit so you can do just that in the comfort of your living room. All you need is wire, card, scissors, a boom box and a good strong light.

Instructions (from Popular Science Monthly, 1954 )

1. Cut abstract shapes from cardboard or light-gauge sheet metal.

2. For the arms, bend the ends of soft 16-gauge wire into loops and attach the cut-out shapes.

Images: left, all you need. Right, Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump with finished product c.1963.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world.

Hint to collectors

Yesterday the Auckland Art Gallery announced the incredibly generous gift of the Julian and Josie Robertson collection. You can read a summary of gifts to the gallery over the years here, and see the paintings that have been gifted here.
Image: Henri Matisse Jazz 1947. Thanks J and J

Downwardly mobile

Has an art work ever played a sexier role than the Calder-like mobile in Mark Robson's 1967 movie version of Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls? Probably not. Susan Hayward plays the ‘yellow pill’ popper Helen Lawson, “A gut fingernail and claw fighter who went down swinging.” In a musical interlude and right out of left field she starts belting out “I’ll plant my own tree” in front of a Calder-like product (designed by art director Richard Day whose most famous credit was On the Waterfront) casting disco colour effects. "I'll plant my own tree / and I'll make it grow. /My tree will not be / just one in a row" – you get the picture. Catch a cheesy vid of Judy Garland (incidentally first choice for the Helen Lawson role) singing the tree song here.
The ‘dolls’ in the movie’s title are uppers – the drug of choice when dancing with a Calder. As they say in the trailer, “Drugs are the instant turn on for instant love.”

Video: You need to go about half way into the clip to catch the Calder

Thursday, May 07, 2009

South Bank Show 1978-2009

The South Bank Show has been canceled. First screened in 1978 it took all the arts, high and low seriously. Here is the familiar opening credit music starting up a programme featuring Dusty Springfield. As we say, high and low.

When good sculpture turns fluey

Image: Adelaide swine sculpture
Thanks J

Photo op

Today at 1pm Two Rooms in Auckland is having a talk by Australian artist Tracey Moffat. How so? Video conference. Now you’re talking.

The 62 percent solution: cutting the CNZ pie

In Auckland we had a chance to talk over with Alistair Carruthers, Chair of Creative New Zealand some of the things that drive us mad about the organisation. The good news is that he is someone who can genuinely listen to opposing views without feeling personally affronted and (witness the release of the budget for Venice) is also a staunch advocate of greater transparency around government spending.

He has a tough job to unravel a knotted-up and defensive organization that seems to us to be more comfortable working with institutions that can mirror its own processes and language rather than with individual artists. Even more problematic from the visual arts perspective is that CNZ has been leached of anyone with expert knowledge.

A good example of the challenges facing the visual arts with CNZ as a funding body can be seen in one of its recent publications New Zealanders and the arts: Attitudes, attendance and participation in 2008. The devil is always in the detail so we started with the basics and counted the images. Of the 12 full page images, nine are of the performing arts, one for literature and two for the visual arts. So that’s 75% performing and 16% visual.

This visual representation is backed up by CNZ’s allocation of funds which roughly break down to: visual arts 24% and performing arts 52%. Even participation at the Venice Biennale, as pricey as it is, comes in at only 17% of the annual theatre budget. You can see CNZ's distribution chart here.

The questions arise though when you look at the place of the visual arts in the publication New Zealanders and the arts. CNZ states that it commissioned the research to “…allow the measurement of changes in attitude, attendances and participation…” so that the findings could “…inform the development of New Zealand’s policy and implementation. This makes the report important as it will be used as a reference source and a way to justify future decisions.

So did New Zealanders over the age of 15 feel that the performing arts were over four times more important than the visual arts as suggested by CNZ’s funding allocation? Well, no, they didn’t.
First, in terms of attendances the visual arts and the performing arts are equal. 60% of people over 15 attended an event over the last 12 months of the research period, although it’s interesting to note that the category Performance/ performance arts/stage shows/live shows/performances was down 3% when compared with the previous research done in 2005 while the category Painting/drawing/different painters/visual arts had increased by 7%

Second, 61% of people surveyed thought that the visual arts best represented their idea of what the arts are. This is in contrast to 27% for ballet, 27% for theatre, 12% for drama and 16% for performance in general. (For younger people the percentage in favour of visual arts is even higher.)

Why does this matter? We believe that for some time CNZ has systematically elevated the performing arts by its funding priorities, areas of staff expertise, selection of board members and communication focus. The primary affiliations of most CNZ’s board members and staff seem to be to the performing arts and this focus is reinforced as the mainstream culture of the organization. Does CNZ have a mandate to shift public perceptions of the arts over time or a duty to reflect what their own research shows? The Colmar Brunton research shows that New Zealanders might expect more of CNZ’s funding to be allocated to their idea of the arts – the visual arts. It’s definitely time to have another look at the pie.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Advice to collectors

Good works still achieve good prices.

Last night in New York the Sotheby’s sale, with its meager 36 works, was hoping to bring in a minimum of $81.5 million. It managed $61.3 million. This compares with 45 lots auctioned six months ago for $223.8 million. On a brighter note, the stunning Mondrian, estimated at between $3million and 5 million clocked $9.2 million.
Image: Tobias weaves his magic

To Di for

Princess Di playing ping pong in heaven. What great artist would come up with something incredible like that? For the full catastrophe check out OTN Stuff.
Thanks M.

An exhibition of prints

You may have noticed our (small) ongoing thing for art and shoes. We once considered constructing a chart to track the increasing quality of curator/dealer shoes against a decline in artist footwear over the past ten or so years, but there were too many variables so now we’re sticking with anecdote.

Shortly after we put up our Auckland Art Fair shoe alert we dropped into Gambia Castle for Andrew Barber’s latest exhibition. You can see some images on the Gambia Castle home page, and shortly on Andrew’s section of it here. The paintings continue Barber’s wrestle with abstraction, but for us the horizon line won this particular skirmish. Show these paintings in the US and the idea of landscape probably wouldn’t even come up, but here it is very hard to avoid.

While preparing the space for the show Barber had sanded the ceiling and the effect of the soft coat of white plaster on the floor was so strange he decided to leave it. As people walked in they left behind them the traces of their soles, summoning up the ghost of Andy Warhol’s Dance Diagram paintings from 1962.
Images: Footprints at Andrew Barber’s Gambia Castle show

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Vote damn you

News from the Film Archive that Ronnie van Hout's 1982 video for The Clean's track Getting Older is in the top ten of their 100 Classic Kiwi Clips. Every vote counts. Get over here and do your bit for RVH.

Advice to collectors

"Does this work do something I like, or does it simply refrain from doing everything I hate?"
Dave Hickey offers up a great question in the letters section of April's Art and America.

Days of our lives

The Auckland Art Fair opened on a Wednesday evening. According to some of the people who were there it was all go, with a dog and some Australians as entertainment. That is when a lot of the big sales happened and by the time we turned up on Friday there had already been swarms of special groups through at unlikely hours like 8.00AM to get a sneak peak at the goods. Strangely, at the early-bird session the dealers were not present, which having heard some of the stories about the party on Thursday night, was probably just as well. And yes this is going somewhere.

The thing about attending art events in another town is that you really need them to be on a Friday or during the weekend. Unless you are on the tax payer or rate payer dime, a day off work is a big price to pay, and two or three all but impossible. And this Wednesday night opening trend is catching. We had booked well ahead to get cheap fares so we could catch what was to be the tripartite opening of Pick, etal. and van Hout at the Christchurch Art Gallery in July. Now we hear the date for two of the shows has been changed from Friday to, you guessed it, Wednesday.

If art museums are really interested in going beyond the local (and why wouldn’t they?) the Wednesday opening idea needs review. If there’d be a local revolt if the openings are on Friday, OK, the rest of us will have to suck it up, but it’s hard to believe. As we out-of-towners say, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” (and, for the record, “Friday’s child is loving and giving.”)

Image: Jason, Patron Saint of Friday openings

Monday, May 04, 2009

Big Ears Part 2

At that Fair again.

Man on phone "Well, if you could just remember which one you liked, then I could go buy it for you...."
Thanks C

Big Ears

Overheard in the aisles at the Auckland Art Fair.

“What are you doing?”
“I’m transfixed.”

“I can’t believe they’ve opened the Art Fair on the first day of the duck shooting season.”

“He’s young.”
“How young?”
“Cheap young.”

“It looks like a stock show.”
“Is that bad?”

“She says it’s too big but he said that’s the way he likes them.”

“It was all fine until we had to deal with the artist.”

“They say they’re selling everything.”
“Well everything they don’t like.”