bad month for art magazines. Art New Zealand has come to an end and although there was talk of Miranda Dempster (former art director for Art + Auction in NY) taking it on, nothing seems to have come of it. In Australia Art World has also stopped publishing a year and a half after its launch and it sounds as though its sister publication on Aboriginal art may be in the same boat. Publisher Steve Bush was the owner of the four Colin McCahon paintings that came up for auction in Australia last week. His lots included Let be, Let be that went for an Australian auction record for a New Zealand artist. Bush has also been involved with the Kaliman Gallery in Sydney that has represented Julian Dashper in Australia.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Over the years we’ve seen some surprising things in studios. Peter Robinson’s buried in polystyrene, a Harley Davison parked in Shane Cotton’s and Phil Clairmont shifting five or six paintings before you could even step into the small garage he used to work in when he was based in Waikanae.
A few weeks ago we had another great studio moment, this time with our friend John Parker, potter and stage designer. When we arrived John was working at his wheel while watching Dynasty (he was onto series six, or was it seven?). The reason he didn’t start at our sudden appearance behind him was a rear vision mirror attached just above the potting wheel. Years of jumping out of his skin because of unexpected visitors inspired the best studio appliance we have seen so far.
Image: John Parker at work in his studio
Saturday, August 29, 2009
From the same guy who took us inside the skeletal infrastructure of Koons’ Balloon Dog, the innards of another OTN favourite, the LEGO person. You can buy a poster here for $US59 and get to read all the captions.
OTHER OTN POSTS ON LEGO
Frank Lloyd Wright, brick guy
Beuys in bricks
LEGO snow job
Escher: build one yourself
Friday, August 28, 2009
Check out your Giacomettis.
A tip-off sent German police to a storage space in Mainz. On entering they discovered not one, not two, but 1000 fake Giacometti bronze sculptures. The lookalikes were being offered to the market for prices that got up to the millions. An art dealer and his partner are in custody with charges relating to copyright infringement and fraud in the wings.
Images: Left, Giocometti. Right, probably not
Thursday, August 27, 2009
You can’t keep a good record-breaker down. Back in 1996 New Zealand-born Australian art dealer Martin Browne caused a stir when he raised his hand and left it casually in the air until Colin McCahon’s Let be, Let be was knocked down to him for the astonishing record price of $704,000. Since then a number of McCahon works have fetched prices exceeded that figure in private sales, but last night it was Australia’s turn. If anything demonstrates the growing common ground between the two countries it would be the fact that Australia was considered a safe place to put such an important painting on the block. The final hammer went down at $A785,000 ($NZ955,000) an auction record for the artist being claimed by Deutscher and Hackett who did the business for the 50-year-old painting. No news on the buyer yet, but it would be nice to think it was Te Papa.
Years ago, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, we heard a curator describing a painting of an old shed painted by Albert Tucker to a group of visitors. “You can see,” she said, “how the shed is made out of traditional reepleen teen.” It took us a long time to realise she was talking about corrugated iron (rippling tin). The undisputed king of this material in NZ art is certainly Jeff Thomson. His tin-covered car (Holden HQ station wagon) was the pride of the opening exhibition and still stars at Te Papa and a road trip around New Zealand will introduce you to a number of his larger sculptures (you can catch his outsized gumboot in Taihape). We first saw Jeff’s work back in the mid-eighties when driving through the Manawatu. He had been making personalised letterboxes for farm as part of a large roadside project.
Driving down from Auckland a couple of weeks ago, and just before hitting Tirau, we came across the inevitable hi-jack of the signature style Thomson has made his own. Corrugated Creations was started eight years ago by Russell who has been producing corrugated iron signs for the locals and even further afield for eight years. “There are signs in Australia and our iron Pukekos are all over the world.” When we visited the establishment Russell runs with Steve, it was crowded with new projects including a life-size giraffe, giant lettering for MATAMATA and a large silver tree for a private garden. Their biggest commission to date is a 6.5 metre Volcano for, we might have guessed, the Volcanic Centre.
Driving on through Tirau, evidence of Corrugated Creations’ activities was everywhere. There were rippling tin signs on cafes, hair salons, garages, hotels and, in the centre of town, the giant dog information centre that got the whole business off the ground in the first place. Corro Street in the heartland of New Zealand.
Images: top left, Steve, middle Russell. Bottom right the dog info centre where it all began
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
When the City Gallery in Wellington opens in late September it will have three new gallery spaces. The two on the top floor will cover off the old Hirschfeld Gallery (once wonderfully named Chez Alcove by a local wit) and add a space for Maori and Polynesian art that, in a curious architectural metaphor, is at the back of the building and furthest from the front door. Downstairs a new Russell Hancock Gallery will “replace the former cinema and will showcase the Civic art collection in a light-filled extended foyer space.”
Since 1993 when it moved to its present site, the City Gallery has made much of being New Zealand’s only Kunsthalle-type gallery (a Kunsthalle is a visual arts institution without a permanent collection and dedicated to the display of temporary and usually highly contemporary exhibitions) so this new collection function significantly changes the City Gallery brand. Kunsthalles live in the moment, permanent collections soak up history and are forever.
It’s hard to understand why the City Gallery has chosen to go down this route, particularly when you consider the collection it is inheriting. The Civic Collection consists of bits and pieces that have accumulated over the years to furnish Council offices with the addition of 24 works from the Hancock collection. For the large part, the collection is small-town provincial, focusing on “Wellington artists or artists important to Wellington” with predictable results. As far as we can tell there is only a nominal budget for purchases, so any development into the sort of collection to be expected of a city like Wellington is a long-shot with further gifts and bequests the best bet. A draft list of all the works in the Civic Collection is here and includes the Hancock bequest collection which is also separately listed here.
Institutions shape collections and collections shape institutions. While the first exhibition of works from the City Gallery’s new permanent collection will not be held until next February – Yayoi Kusama will take the space from October through January – the Gallery now faces a major challenge: how to keep creating a dynamic first impression for visitors as it attempts to ‘showcase’ a pool of work that falls far short of the standard set until now.
Image: The new Hancock gallery in construction
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
If you’re in Provence, and who isn’t this time of year, there’s a chance to sit poolside with a Calder stabile. The luxury hotel La Colombe D’Or has been collecting art for many years and has now obviously past the point where they can see the hilarity in having a Calder sun bathing alongside the guests. You can book here.
If you’re going to start an art alphabet (and we are) what other word can you kick it off with? We did consider Attic. Even though we all love the idea of Damien and Jeff and Richard and Olaf being awash in cash, there's still a sneaking belief out there that a little hardship goes a long way in art production. A is for Animal art was another favourite, but after the embarrassment of the fake painting snail, no thanks. Go for A is for Assistant and you’re right back in the awash-with-cash bin. A is for The Agony and the Ecstasy was a front runner until we realised that Lust for Life is the best art movie ever made, and that starts with an L. So A is for Art.
Illustration: Pippin Barr.
Monday, August 24, 2009
“Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, gasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, rumbling, rambling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding grinding grinding away at yourself.”
Sol Lewitt to Eva Hesse
There was a time when a New Zealand artist heading off to live in Australia might as well have buried themselves in a hole in the ground as far as the New Zealand art world was concerned. This was an unforgiving place with no time for people who didn’t pay the ultimate price and live here. Talk to Jeffrey Harris, one of the pioneers. In the eighties he set up a studio in Australia, made an impression but nearly lost his audience and market here for his trouble.
Times have changed. For example, Ronnie van Hout, Daniel von Stermur and Patrick Pound have settled in Australia and continue to be shown, discussed and collected in both countries. This has largely been made possible through dealers like Darren Knight, Michael Lett, Hamish McKay, Roslyn Oxley, Starkwhite and others showing Australian and New Zealand artists with the same commitment.
A sign of this bigger cultural context tempered by the new financial environment is coming together today and tomorrow at Sotheby’s in Melbourne. Austcorp, an on-the-ropes Australian property developer, is auctioning its corporate art collection.
Now it wasn’t long ago that you’d expect the subject matter of those lots to be, well, Australian property, in the form of landscapes. Not so with this event that features both Australian and New Zealand contemporary artists. Many of the names that feature in the 246-lot catalogue will be familiar to gallery visiters on both sides of the Tasman and include Hany Armanious (lot 187), Patricia Piccinini (102, 188, 189, 195, 224), Tracey Moffatt (190,216), Callum Morton (197), Joanna Braithwaite (192), Bill Culbert (228), Mikala Dwyer (239) and Michael Parekowhai (175, 178, 194 and 209). Austcorp’s hubris is laid bare by Australian artist James Lynch currently showing at Michael Lett. His drawing, lot 240, is titled “Smash Capitalism.”
You can see the complete catalogue here.
Image: The Melbourne Age features Michael Parekowhai's Kapa Haka waiting to go on the block. Photo: Roger Cummins
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
The last sale by a public art institution a painting by Colin McCahon was initiated in 1999 when Victoria University decided to put Storm Warning (a gift by McCahon to the university) on the market. You can read an excellent account of what happened in Somebody say something by Gregory O’Brien. As you will guess from O’Brien’s title, there was not much support for holding onto McCahon’s gift. And, if you want to know how slippery things can get, the Vice-Chancellor at the time, Professor Michael Irving, claimed that the sale did not in breach McCahon's wishes because the new owners had agreed that the painting would be made available for public exhibition from time to time. Right.
Image: detail from today's DominionPost story
As the economic environment gets tougher, it was probably inevitable that sooner or later some enterprising Councillor would put up the idea of flogging the collection as a potential fundraiser for the City Coffers. That it has happened in Lower Hutt and is attached to one of Colin McCahon’s greatest works, Through the wall of death: a banner is deeply ironic. Back in 1978, after its purchase the previous year by then director Jim Barr, (God bless him) City Councillor Chen Werry claimed the painting was worthless. Now, 31 years later, a different set of councillors is complaining that it is worth too much (it was valued at $1.52 million in 2005) and should go on the block.
This coming Monday the Hutt City Council will decide whether or not to begin a consultation process that will release Through the wall of death for sale on the open market. (You can download the Colin McCahon paper for the Council meeting here.) Why this proposal has just been made public now is anybody’s guess as the push to sell the work started back when Tim Walker was director.
Through the wall of death was purchased in 1978 through a scheme run by the then Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council that offered public art institutions a dollar-for-dollar subsidy to buy difficult or expensive high quality works. This is something Hutt City Councillors might factor in when they cast their vote as to whether or not to cash up. This national support was the reason why they were able to purchase the work in the first place and demonstrates that these kind of works belong as much to the country as to the Hutt.
So what’s going to be done about this? You’d hope that the directors of the leading art museums (Jenny Harper, Chris Saines, and Paula Savage, the Dowse’s nearest professional colleague, in particular) will at least be sending a representative to the Council meeting to put forward a plan to keep the work in public hands. On the other hand, there’s every chance they don’t even know what’s going on – it’s that sort of profession.
Whatever they do though, it will be a tough sell. Over the years the Dowse has changed its contemporary art focus and made much of this new direction with major renaming and rebranding as The New Dowse. In the process Through the wall of death has only made rare appearances since the early 1980s when it was pretty much on permanent display. It’s not hard to see how Councillors who have been sold The New Dowse’s popularist approach “Creativity in progress” feel game to question why the Council should hold onto high value, high status paintings like Through the wall of death, paintings that now seem way off brand.
One thing is for sure, without a concerted effort by our cultural bureaucrats, backed by strong public support, there is every chance that Through the wall of death will go on the block. We need the people who run our public institutions to step forward on this one, they are the people we entrust to “conserve, preserve and protect” our culture.
Now would be a good time for them to stand up and be counted, before the dollars are.
Image: The wall of death, one of the inspirations for Colin McCahon’s great religious painting.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
More celebrity news. Two icons have come together to challenge the current recession in the global art market. Warhol’s portrait of the gloved one previously sold in 1984 for $413,000 and yesterday it changed hands for just North of $1.5million. Meanwhile at the Andy Warhol Museum they are still working their way through the time capsules Warhol left behind. Each box is filled with stuff that Warhol dropped stored at the end of each day. Recent discoveries includes a naked poster of Jackie O (seriously) signed by the naked one (again, seriously) and an envelope containing $US17,000.
Image: Warhol time capsules at the Andy Warhol Museum
For us the highlight of the recent New Zealand Film Festival was Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon. Haneke also scored for us with Hidden a few festivals back – in fact we like pretty much everything he makes. He also delivers an OTN Celebrity painter in the form of Juliette Binoche. Binoche starred in Hidden with Daniel Auteuil and another extraordinary French actor Maurice Bénichou and it turns out the between takes she keeps herself busy painting portraits of the directors and actors she works with.
OTN US readers, you can catch the Binoche exhibition in New York 10 September to 9 October at the French Consulate and the rest of us can read a Guardian story around the UK exhibition. Art goes to the movies, celebrities make art, art working for France, the first OTN Multitasking Award goes to… (open the envelope) … Juliette Binoche.
Image: Juliette Binoche’s portrait of director Michael Haneke courtesy of the Cultural Services of the Embassy of France
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Having spent a couple of posts on how artists can shape the landscape, we came across a head-turner in Auckland. Group theme shows are always risky. They tend to corral artists into neighbourhoods they don’t really want to settle in and/or narrow the range of interpretive space for the audience, but Te Tuhi’s current exhibition in Manukau From the depths of suburbia escaped both. Instead it’s engaging, affectionate and respectful. No patronising here, and that’s probably why we found ourselves winding through Panmure and Howick afterwards taking our own snaps of houses and gardens.
We live in the central city and usually leave the outskirts alone. Big mistake. People are creative by instinct and they really let loose when they are presenting around their homes. So thanks to curator Serena Bentley and the artists Edith Amituanai, Steve Carr, Conor Clarke, Sam Hartnett, Geoffrey Heath, Ava Seymour and Yvonne Todd for driving us out into the suburbs.
Image taken in Panmure
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
An unusual exhibition opens tomorrow. It’s unusual not because it features work by Peter Robinson from the 1990s, but because it is being exhibited at Gow Langsford Gallery in Auckland. Most New Zealand artists do not have sole representation and work with two or three dealers spread throughout the country and perhaps one in Australia. That pattern makes Gow Langsford’s announcement of a solo exhibition of Peter Robinson news a nose job for Robinson’s long-time dealers (Sue Crockford, Peter McLeavey and Judith Gifford) as in, up your nose.
The title of the exhibition? Sold out. Very Tui.
This saga started last year when Gow Langsford heard that a European collector of Robinson’s work was willing to off-load a couple of key pieces, o.T(box) and The great plane race. The crate work was made by Robinson when he was living in Germany and the upside-down version of Te Papa’s My marae, my Methven was constructed in New Zealand and sold in Germany. Gow Langsford, not short on chutzpah, figured there was an opportunity and had them transported back to New Zealand.
This sort of colonisation of competitor’s artists is an unusual tactic, particularly when it takes a strongly promoted solo format and without the co-operation of at least one of the other dealers involved. Even the über-aggressive Larry Gagosian usually restricts solo shows to his own stable of artists or to estates. While most dealers are active in the secondary market, the contemporary resale market tends to gravitate to an artist’s current dealers or is handled by the auction houses.
While we’re on the C word (Colonisation), there was also the suggestion a while back that Gow Langsford were planning a resale solo show of Shane Cotton who left Gow Langsford for Michael Lett last year.
Image: survey peg
Monday, August 17, 2009
When we developed the exhibition When Art Hits the Headlines, a survey of art controversy in New Zealand, we featured an incident in which a man punched sculptures at the Auckland Art Gallery. It happened at the Epstein survey show in 1961 and – after escorting the man outside –a gallery guard was quoted as saying, “The sculpture affects? different people in different ways.”
If only we had heard of Stendhal Syndrome when we wrote the catalogue. It may sound like a Robert Ludlum novel and was indeed the title of a hyper-violent Dario Argento movie in 1996, but in fact it is a recognized syndrome for people who are weirdly affected by art. It's named after the famous French writer who personally experienced the effects and is also known as Hyperkulturemia. The symptoms present as an increase in heart-rate and disorientation when someone is exposed to art, particularly when the art is overwhelming in its beauty.
Taking into account his ranking in the beauty stakes, linking the guy boxing the ears of Epstein’s busts with Stendhal Syndrome may seem a stretch, but the French police would have no such difficulty. They are considering Stendhal Syndrome as a possible trigger for a Russian woman who threw a ceramic cup at the Mona Lisa last week. She might as well have thrown a cup at a Presidential motorcade for all the damage it did to the bullet-proof glass. The Mona Lisa has had things thrown at her before (acid and a rock). Both events happened in 1956, a vintage year for Stendhal Syndrome.
Image: Not the cup that was tossed at the Mona Lisa
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Next time the weather turns nasty and you’re stuck inside wishing you could create some Young British Art, instead of shrugging your shoulders and picking up a good book, why not whip up a frozen blood head – Marc Quinn-wise. You will be able to do this with ease because you’ll have visited iArtist and sent away for their handy DIY pack. Later in the day you might like to whack up For the Love of God, a Damien Hirst-like product that is also on offer. Is this a scam? Not at all, but as iArtist say “you get what you pay for.”
Images: iArtist kit-sets for Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God and Marc Quinn’s Self.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Not many visual artists have been knighted. We’d like to think it's because most of the artists offered Knight and Damehoods told the Government of the day, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Toss Woollaston was the last one who accepted that we recall, but there may have been others. Now Robin White, Peter Siddell and Doreen Blumhardt have opted to join the ranks of those addressed as Sir or Dame. Already honoured by New Zealand, they and 78 others have opted to go to St Paul’s Cathedral in Wellington tomorrow so they can get a title.
So let’s applaud all those in the arts who said no to this retro and idiotic attempt to pretend we are still British.
It’s an honour to have you amongst us.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The B of the Bang is a public sculpture in disgrace. Created by artist Thomas Heatherwick for the city of Manchester its pointy spikes were intended to represent the energy of a sprinter coming out of the blocks. Its terrible title comes from sprinter Linford Christie who once said he took off from her blocks on the B of Bang. Unfortunately the spikes had a habit of plummeting to the ground, a habit they formed only days after the sculpture was launched. Although no-one was impaled Omen-like it was considered too arbitrary and too controversial to have a public sculpture taking occasional pot shots at anyone fearless enough to take a stroll under its spiky presence. Taking the 56 meter sculpture apart has been a gas-axe job from heaven and the spikes have now all gone to recycling. All this, one suspects, was a cheaper job than the $3.5 million dollar commissioning cost and run on maintenance of around $750,000. The City did manage to claw back $4.2 million from the contractors but it has been bad PR for the sculpture industry. A local MP got about as much as you could hope from the mess saying, “It's been a very expensive waste of public money. But it's certainly been a topic of conversation for a lot of people, so in that sense it's been a successful piece of art."
Images: Top, the B of Bang coming down (Photograph by Mike Peel - www.mikepeel.net). Bottom left, glory days, right, weirdly prescient Omen priest, attempts to ward off fast approaching steeple lightening rod.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
“Imagine painting. But you’re 200 yards away from the canvas, and 80 people are holding the brush. And you’re on a walkie-talkie going, ‘Need a little blue there. No darker blue. No DARKER BLUE!’” - David Fincher on directing
Portrait of David Fincher by Merrick Morton
Thinking more about how artists can define landscapes, we left Highway 1 on a drive south to check out Mangaweka and see if the Puha Palace, once owned by poet Sam Hunt and the subject of one of Robin White’s most famous paintings, was still standing. It was. In fact the place is still much as White left it except the truck with Mangaweka painted on its side is long gone. On the side of the building we saw that someone has attached a Robin White mash-up, a painting/sign that combined bits from the Mangaweka work, Morris Commercial, Hokianga and This is me at Kaitangata. We figured it might have been an entry, or perhaps a winner, in the annual 2008 Mangaweka Visual Arts Festival themed Painters and Poets. That the 2007 theme was Fakes & Forgeries probably had something to do with C F Goldie (the name change chosen by art forger Carl Fedora Sim) setting up shop further down the main street.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Following up on last week’s bull story, a reader pointed us to a New Zealand copyright case that hung on the same issues. In 2007 sculptor John Radford took clothing manufacturer Hallensteins to court for using a photograph of his work Tip in Ponsonby’s Western Park on a t-shirt and breaching his copyright. The court decided that although a 3-D copy of the work would be a breach of copyright, a 2-D reproduction was fine. Auckland law firm Hesketh Henry neatly sum up the New Zealand situation on their website, “For the ordinary person this means you can take photographs of famous (and not so famous), buildings, structures and sculptures in the public domain and be comfortable that, if you use this image on a plate, T-shirt or postcard home, you are entitled to do so.”
Thanks for that B.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
If you’re a sculptor, one tried and true method to make a work go public is to lend it to a city. Worked for the leaning-guy sculpture on the Wellington wharves and there’s bound to be others. The cheekiest example has got to be the way Arturo Di Modica plonked his now famous Charging Bull outside the New York Stock Exchange in 1989 without permission. Weighing in at over 3000 kilos, no one was about to shoo it away. The bull was eventually moved to a less prominent position in Lower Manhattan where it has been there for 17 years - the gift that keeps on giving. You’d think that having made such a public gesture, Di Modica would be relaxed about his gift bull being photographed and the images used for whatever purposes struck the photographer as worthwhile. Not so. When Random House used Charging Bull on the cover of Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers Di Modica saw red. The dispute is in progress. Di Modica has chased up copyright infringements before, challenging the common assumption that artworks in public places are fair game.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
In September this year it will be 55 years since Colin McCahon exhibited his announcement notice board for the exhibition Object and Image. The hand-painted board is probably his first word painting, a pre-cursor to paintings like I am that were made the following year. In March 1954, a little earlier, at New York’s Sidney Janis Gallery, Magritte’s Word vs. Image was another impressive exhibition that was to prove a huge influence on younger artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Magritte introduced writing into his paintings in the mid-1920s and the 1928 painting Le paysage isolé (The lonely landscape) included words within a voice balloon, an idea to be echoed by McCahon in his 1947 Crucifixion according to St Mark.
1954 was also the birth year of Mike Kelly who was included in the 1990 exhibition Word as Image: American Art 1960-1990 at the Milwaukee Art Museum. If you want to rent an exhibition called Object and Image, you can do it here (you'll need to open the link Man Ray Prospectus NEW.indd). The exhibition will cost you $120,000 and features surrealist photographer Man Ray. Or you could get in touch with the British Arts Council who have an Object and Image show on tour right now.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
When we visited Auckland a month or so ago, we stayed at Bethell’s Beach where we found an instantly recognizable landscape. We knew it from the Don Binney paintings we had seen over the years. It’s a mixed blessing when an artist captures the spirit of a place. It’s hard to drive through Central Otago without Michael Smither at your shoulder or through Hawke’s Bay without Rita Angus and impossible to be on the cliffs at Murawai without seeing the Tau cross of McCahon or Moby Dick wallowing west of the surf. Iconic landscapes are in a cycle of invention and reinvention – Shane Cotton has more recently made us see the low-slung hills around Palmerston North in a new light. Still, now and then you do wonder what you might have made of some of these incredible landscapes before they were captured by these powerful visions.
Image: Don Binney's old studio and the view at Te Henga
Posted by jim and Mary at 6:52 AM