More news of people in the Christchurch art community. The following people have been contacted or sighted and are ok, in so far as you can be in Christchurch at the moment. You can see the full list HERE
“It’s an attempt to both blur and define the lines between different disciplines, between life and art, between art and popular culture, and between representations of the self as both performative character and as non-performative self.”
Academy Award presenter and artist James Franco describing his part as the serial killer artist Franco in the soap General Hospital shot at the MOCA Design Centre last year.
As the terrible number of lives lost continues to grow the best news you can get out of Christchurch at the moment is news that friends and colleagues are safe. We have heard the following people and their immediate families are ok, although in some cases there has been serious property damage: Andrew Drummond, Neil Dawson, Bill Hammond, Paul Johns, Tony de Lautour, Justin Paton and the staff of the Christchurch Art Gallery, Jonathan Smart and Heather Straka.
There has been some damage to work in the Christchurch Art Gallery but it has been limited and the hanging system ensured most of the works were secure even through the worst of the shaking. The Physics Room is closed until nearby buildings are stabilised and Scape has been cancelled.
We are happy to pass on any news about people in the arts community or help in any way. You can email us at the addresses on the right hand of the screen.
Images: The statues of John Robert Godley and Captain Scott toppled from their stands.
In 1975, 36 years after this New Yorker cover was published art dealer Peter McLeavey and artist Don Binney carry Toss Woollaston's painting Mapua across Wellington's Wakefield Street. Photograph: Dominion
Billy Apple and horses, horses and Billy Apple. You might recall we attached Billy Apple to a stolen horse story earlier in the year and now trademe is putting a Billy Apple rendering of the same sort of horse (artificial, fibre glass, life-sized) up for grabs (grabs worth more than $15,750 in this case. The shiny black horse that goes by the name of Billy is decked out in Apple red and green and sports an Apple logo. Billy is also in racing mode at the Dowse Art Museum where The Bruce and Denny Show is on display. You can bid on Billy at Trade Me here.
As of now, the highest bid is $10,000 so only another $5,750 to meet the reserve and be in with a chance to snap up the beast for your collection or just to have hanging round the house. The perfect pet: immobile, silent, never under your feet begging for food, and happy to stay home alone when you're on holiday.
You have until 12 March to get the funds together. Note most of the proceeds will go to the NZ Native Forests Restoration Trust.
This pasted up image currently on a wall in Wellington stands out from the street art crowd. Based on that well known Diane Arbus photograph of a young boy holding a toy hand grenade in Central Park, it brought back memories of the huge fuss the Diane Arbus exhibition caused when it was shown at the Dowse Art Gallery in 1979.
Lower Hutt City Councillor Ernie Barry threatened to close the show down and was almost single-handedly responsible for an unprecedented 30,000 plus people coming to see what the problem was. Strangely the show acted like some psychological mirror with many people finding their own demons reflected in the work. One person might strongly support showing images of disabled kids but be appalled at showing fat people, while another might take the completely opposite line.
The graphic in Cuba Street also reminded us how carefully Diane Arbus considered her proof sheets and made the choices from amongst the images she shot of any one subject. You can see more examples of Arbus’s selection process in the extraordinary book Diane Arbus: Revelations published by Random House.
Images: Top, Arbus mash-up in Wellington. Bottom, selection of images from Diane Arbus's proof sheet with her final choice top left. Click on image to enlarge.
No one wanted the Christchurch Art Gallery ever again to have to revert to its Civil Defence role but regrettably this has happened. Once again art will have given way to whiteboards, plans and office desks following a second large and vicious earthquake assaulting the city. The irony of Justin Paton’s De-Building exhibition being on show probably won’t be lost on the new occupiers. It’s clear from early reports that there are many fatalities and that buildings which managed to hold together during the last earthquake have been devastated by this one. Along with our concern and support for the city, a special thought for the arts community with our hope that everyone has made it through ok.
Image: Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker speaking from Civil Defense Headquarters in the Christchurch Art Gallery
When you’re talking giant sculpture - as we so often do - there’s nothing that the commissioners of these outsized sculptural signs like more than matching the content to local interests. That’s where New Zealand’s giant carrots, trouts and bottles of fizz come from. So if you’re in Vegas and you’re thinking big in a casino, what do you go for? A super-sized shoe, of course. And that’s exactly what The Cosmopolitan opted for. Via artist Roark Gourley.
The problem was that drunk (and sober) guests spent quite a lot of time clambering into the shoe to have their photographs taken and do other stuff that you do in shoes when you’re drunk. The casino brought in high level museum experts to advise them on how to stop people touching the art (and each other in the art) and came up with the barrier system shown above. It didn’t work. Guests just climbed over or crawled under the ropes. Casino management is now deciding whether to hire a guard to stand next to the sculpture and tell revellers to - like - shoo.
Is this shopping trolley chained to a pipe on a Wellington street art? It's been there for over a month now and there are precedents for this sort of thing. Guess if it stays there another three months, or if more of them turn up we'll know.
Way back, Christchurch Art Gallery’s senior curator Justin Paton fronted a documentary based on his Awa Press book How To Look At A Painting. Like so many of these ‘serious’ projects, the finished product has sat on TVNZ’s shelves while they tried their best to come up with a satisfactory time slot. After a full year (how hard can it be?) the job is now done and a time set.
So you put a big red ring around 9 PM on 4 March. But what channel we hear you ask. TV1 or TV2? Well, neither. If you have Sky you will find How to Look at a Painting on channel 97. That's the one between the RT channel (Russian Television) and the Weather Channel on TVNZ’s dumper bin for old people - TVNZ 7.
So let’s get this straight. The visual arts' most personable representative travels the nation looking at New Zealand art to demo why he believes 'painting matters to everyone, not just a cultural few' resulting in a documentary series based on his award winning, best selling book, and TVNZ chooses to treat the result with distain and play it on a wilderness channel.
OK, so here’s a big opportunity for Creative NZ.
CNZ states in its own strategic plan that its job is to be 'the national arts development agency developing, investing in and advocating for the arts.' To quote their Chair Alastair Carruthers, “We have a big mission. Collectively, art-lovers, art makers, patrons, and sponsors must help the audience for the arts to keep growing, and ensure new generations come to them. The digital age both threatens the arts and magnifies the changes to reach audiences and create new work."
Well, now’s a good time to advocate. How about CNZ stepping up and saying this is simply not good enough? How to look at a painting could be used as a major ‘audience development tool’ for the visual arts. How can the NZ arts become 'strong and dynamic' when a TV show made for a wide popular audience can be dumped on the channel nobody's watching on a Friday night.
For anyone considering going over to Venice to catch Michael Parekowhai's astonishing installation for the Venice Biannale, brace yourselves for the battle being fought between art and advertising. Score so far? Advertising 10 - Taste and dignity 0.
In Wellington there are more public sculptures than you can shake a stick at (and many of them respond well to the stick metaphor too), so whenever we come across a wrapped-up bundle like this one, we wonder if there is an art work in there waiting to get out. We’ll let you know.
One of the most riveting artist videos we have ever seen was also one of the simplest. The American artist Richard Serra had his hand filmed as he attempted to catch chunks of lead dropped from above. Sometimes he managed to grasp the lead as it flew past, sometimes he didn’t. The tension created by such a simple effect was extraordinary. If you want to watch it you'll find it here (unfortunately you can't see it without going to YouTube for the privilege but, hey, at least it’s available).
But nothing is sacred. One video we would be able to show directly on OTN is mynameischarlie’s effort showing all the bits of the Serra film where he fails to catch the lead. In deference to the great Serra though you'll just have to catch up with Hand not catching lead on YouTube too.
Image: Still from Richard Serra's A hand catching lead
One of the works in Justin Paton’s exhibition De-Building at the Christchurch Art Gallery is Gordon Matta-Clarks film of the construction and destruction, of his work Conical Intersect made in 1975. The piece was created by cutting a series of large holes into an old building that was marked for demolition on the Rue Beaubourg to make way for the public plaza in front of the Pompidou Museum.
The site of working-men hanging out of these gapping holes way above ground coupled with the slowly evolving shapes forming in the building's side caused quite a stir for passers by, most of whom stopped to have a look. One thing that stands out however, is that no-one photographs the extraordinary scene.
Passers-by look, point and often comment to the person standing next to them, but then walk on, the only record locked in their minds. There's not a camera to be seen. You can imagine the whirr and clicking that would accompany that sort of event today, and the subsequent rush of images to Flickr and FaceBook.
So in the spirit of our 21st century photograph-the-hell-out-of-everything culture here is photo of the event shot off the screen showing the film at the Christchurch Art Gallery.
Image: People not photographing the dramatic he destruction of the building at Rue Beaubourg and with it Matta Clark’s Conical Intersect. You can get a taste of the Matta-Clarks film here.
Forces are amassing in the global battle to allow photography in art museums. From the dark side the Musée d’Orsay in Paris recently decided to ban photography in its galleries. Not so fast has been the reaction of a newly-formed group Orsay Commons. It has dedicated itself to appearing at the museum once a week to photograph anything and everything to be seen. So far the museum has struggled to enforce the ban making only token efforts to stop the protestor shutter-bugs who intend keeping up the ban-busting until photography is allowed again.
If you’re talking about an artwork that features the Pope flattened by a falling asteroid, it's hard to think how you could possibly intensify the drama. Looking through the book With by through because towards despite about curator Harald Szeemann (Foundation selector of the 2002 Walters Prize), we came across some people who did just that.
This incident sparked by Maurizio Cattelan’s work The ninth hour took place back in 2000 in Warsaw. Two Catholic members of parliament (belonging to the right-wing League of Polish Families political party) attempted to lift the ‘meteor’ off the stricken Pope and stand him up as security guards rushed to the scene. You can see two of them here attempting to seize MP Witold Tomçzak who is on the right. Cattelan’s response? “In the end it is only a piece of wax.”
Coincidence or a piece of drollery? A stack of barrier stands huddle under the stairs of the Christchurch Art Gallery and just out side the De-Building exhibition where Peter Robinson plays his own games with this art gallery standard.
Large public art museums are not usually big fans of process. It wasn’t always so. In the mid-1970s many of the art museums in New Zealand invited Billy Apple to serve up a dish of corrections to them as he toured around the country. His critical process became their opportunity to shape up, and many of them did. But today the agenda has changed with the emphasis shifted inwards to the institutions' processes rather than the artist's. Advance planning - with the growing role of marketing and design – damp down the potential of opportunities coming as artists work out ideas inside the gallery spaces. When outcomes are nailed down ahead of time in the project plan the chances of surprises are slim to non existent.
An exciting exception to this rule has been played out in the Christchurch Art Gallery exhibition De-Building curated by Justin Paton. Here artists and the Gallery have worked together to create an exhibition that speaks both for the artists' process and the processes of the Gallery itself.
Billy Apple, as we mentioned earlier, is the father of this kind of shenanigans and he’s there, of course, respectfully placed at the head of the exhibition. Peter Robinson continues his run of successful large-scale installations with Cache where multiple shaped metal rods discipline the sheets and blocks and curves of polystyrene into an imposing walk-through environment.
Robinson’s cavorting and Callum Morton’s massive attention seeking crate are beautifully off-set by tiny (we missed them on the first pass) lookalike raw plugs made of turquoise sunk into the wall. Turns out they custom-made by UK artist Susan Collis and come accessorised with a white gold self-tapping screw complete with sapphire stud.
Fiona Connor's installation What you bring with you to work (purchased by the Christchurch Art Gallery) has been installed into walls that were built for the Ron Mueck exhibition. Looking through her windows (based on the bedroom windows of guards working at ACCA in Melbourne) you can see the art gallery’s process laid bare for all to see in bits and pieces left behind from the Mueck exhibition, nail holes, fittings, dust and debris and, on one exposed wall a sheet of instructions left over from when the Gallery was commandeered by Civil Defence during the early days following the Christchurch earthquake last September. In this context the reveal felt acutely personal, although maybe more the remnants of a nightmare than a dream.
Image: Left, detail of Fiona Connor’s What you bring with you to work and right, Civil Defence notice revealed by the window through the wall.
When director Oliver Stone wanted to represent the culture of greed in his 1987 movie Wall Street, he asked around his collector friends and assembled a collection for Gordon (greed is good) Gekko that looked appropriately deep-pocket eighties. Now in the $US70 million sequel WS2: money never sleeps, Stone reached out again for art as the metaphor that keeps on giving.
This time most of the artwork in play is owned by the new big dog on the street, Bretton James (played by the great Josh Brolin). His gentleman’s club-like apartment has at least one Warhol (a tondo Jackie that may or may not be an original) and Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son that Bretton claims is a ‘study’ for the famous painting. Some way into the movie the billionaire grabs the painting in a fit of pique and - in a $US100 million plus gesture -slams it against a table ripping it to pieces (OK, that one’s a prop).
The Gekko has moved offices to London so he’s togged out in Brit art, most notably sculpture by Antony Gormley. These include a wire sculpture that Fanny Pereire (the art wrangler for the movies) claims, “hints that the character has been chastened but not beaten by his eight-year prison stint.” If you believe that you’ll believe anything. Art as metaphor, metaphor as art.
Image: Top, Gordon Gekko, Gormley and Jake Moore. Bottom, Bretton James trashes Goya
While we’re on a Clairmont jag, here’s a book that would have been sent straight to his studio bookshelf if it had been published in the late seventies. Francis Bacon’s collections of paint-smeared, beaten-up photographs, ripped articles and newsprint images influenced a generation of students at art school and far into their careers. Now all this tattered, grubby, fragile, besmirched imagery is available in the high-end coffee table book Incunabula from Thames & Hudson. Gentrification by publication.
Greg Burke, who was Director of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery until leaving to become director of Toronto’s The Power Plant in 2005, has announced he will leave that position at the end of May. Burke remained a strong supporter of New Zealand art while in his Canadian job including Michael Stevenson in the exhibition Not Quite How I Remember It and writing for the Michael Parekowhai Venice catalogue. No news at this time as to where he is off to.
Over the years we have commissioned a number of artists to do a work on a specific subject. In the mid-seventies we asked Philip Clairmont to paint the interior of our living room. We had always liked his paintings of this subject matter and he was still working with the idea so it seemed like a good idea.
A few weeks passed though and no word from Phil. When we did get together he told us that he wasn’t very good at house painting and that he wanted to pass on the job. Right. Once that was sorted out, he suggested that instead of an interior he made a double portrait of us based on a photograph. Over the next 10 months we spent many weekends out in Waikanae visiting Phil Clairmont, his wife Viki Hansen and their daughter Melissa and watching the painting take form, change radically and radically change again.
One week, early in the process, we went into the studio (the living room at that time, later Phil would move into the garage) and saw the portrait rich with smoldering blacks, sparks of yellow and highlights of ultramarine and deep cobalt blue. It was sensational. We loved it and subtly - and then not so subtly - suggested to Phil that the painting was not only finished, it was one of his great works. Big mistake. The painting was to go through many, many more changes, some we liked, some not so much. The final result had Jim glowering and Mary scrunched up grinning to herself.
But Phil liked the painting a lot and asked if we would lend it to his Barrington Gallery exhibition. It was shown there and that was pretty much the last time it was seen. Where is it now? Safely tucked away in a place that won’t be readily discovered (think of it as archived with a physical embargo on it). One day, far into the future, someone will find it again. “Look, there’s a painting here of a smiling woman and some guy who looks like Hitler!”
Images: Top left, In the studio August 1974. Top right, Philip Clairmont with portrait November 1974. Bottom left, Philip Clairmont with portrait January 1975. Bottom right, February 1975
Direct to you from the department of why-the-hell-didn't-we-think-of-that-first? comes Matt Akehurst's very smart and thought provoking sculpture You are here. You can catch it at Headland Sculpture on the Gulf (Click on image to enlarge)
reckless guesswork, insinuations and possible inventions that have turned up in otn's email: ian wedde is off to teach curating in auckland • carla van zon head of the cnz international programme is bailing out of cnz in march after two years in the job • chris saines is set to decamp from the auckland art gallery soon after the opening of the new building, possibly to work for the mega-city • art consultant rob garrett is spearheading the exciting hairy maclary project in tauranga • the topline marketing consultant cnz brought in to secure sponsorship and funding for venice has already left the building with nothing much to show for her efforts • alan gibbs has ordered up more daniel buren fence posts for his farm sculpture park • any missing details, changes to outright lies, indignant denials or embellishments gratefully received and have been known to be lavishly rewarded.
‘We're proposing a new piece of arts "furniture" in the Sunday Star-Times - basically an occasional column of bite size, quirky, newsy pieces from the worlds of visual and performing arts. The emphasis would be on the odd (and the funny and the gossipy and the behind the scenes).’ – scatter-gun email from Kim Knight at the Sunday Star-Times to selected members of the artworld
Kim: “Are we going to run with this ‘painting monkey’ story?’
Kim: “Ok, Ok, how about these photos of things lying around a construction site that look like contemporary art?”
Editor: “Hmmmm ... let me think ... no.”
Kim: “Right. Hang on, here’s one from a reader who has a three year old who sculpts in bronze.”
Editor: “I don’t think so.”
Kim: “Street names that are the same as the names of well-known New Zealand artists?”
Editor: “Come on, don't be juvenile.”
Kim: “Here's some gossip that reckons Chris Saines is leaving the Auckland Art Gallery after the new building opens to take up a senior position in the City Council?”
Editor: “That's more like it. Can you verify it?
Kim: “How about something on those art works that you see in the background in movies?”
Editor: “No one is going to be interested in that.”
Kim: “Profiles on artists who have been forgotten?”
Editor: “Forget it.”
Kim: “Artists with tatoos?”
Editor: “Look, that's enough. We’re journalists running a quality newspaper, not some flakey anything-goes blog.”
Source: You can read the full Sunday-Times email here
Following up on our don't-anyone-make-balloon-dogs-or-I'll-sue Jeff Koon's story, balloon dog lovers will be pleased to hear Koons has folded. In a legal arrangement with the shop that sold mini balloon dog bookends Koons has agreed to no restraint of trade so long as his name is not associated with the product. As this was never the case things should go swimmingly. Gentlemen, start up your balloon dog productions.
Is there anyone in New Zealand doing stranger work than Rohan Wealleans? His layer, cut and paste technique has driven him from the unnerving gashed and pinned works of the beginning of this century (love saying that) to the weirdly believable objects that constitute his current focus.
Creating a convincing object has always been a benchmark for sculptors (not as easy as you would think), but it is a goal that can be easily subverted or at least made even trickier by uncanny surfaces. Surfaces that don't add up as far as the human eye is concerned but just keep on looking weird. Now we discover that maybe Wealleans' surfaces aren’t as strange as we thought but more like spooky echoes of shapes and surfaces hidden from normal vision.
That’s certainly the impression you get when you visit subblue, Tom Beddard’s blog where his animations of fractals programmed to mimic natural terrain are featured. You can see Beddard’s videos (and possibly a fair rendition of Rohan Weallean’s dreams/nightmares) here.
A note from the curator of the Crown Lynn exhibition at City Gallery in response to our previous post, tells us that there is a room sheet for the show, but it ran out on the opening night. She attached one that had a full list of works. It’s a shame though that the sheet doesn’t include any system of marking locations which could make for some confusion, particularly if you start at the wrong end of a display.
Still, with a bit of patience, it should be fairly easy to work out what everything is and who has done it. Besides, a bit of guesswork shouldn’t do any harm to what is a very impressive collection. If you want to know more about the work on display, check out here for details on talks by collectors and other experts. With luck, City Gallery will get someone with a handheld camera to record the talks and put them up on YouTube as Hamish McKay Gallery did with an insightful Peter Peryer talk to begin to add even more of that context and history.
A classic art put-down is to claim a work has been made or purchased to ‘go with the curtains.’ Although the phrase was usually reserved for people involved in more populist art, in the 1980s at least one prominent New Zealand artist had a career bruising when word got out that a colour range had been worked out in advance with a high flying celebrity client. Hard to think of this sort of snobbery being such a big deal now in an artworld where fashion, design, celebrity and art are so closely aligned.
And it is in that spirit we are posting on Georgina who specialises in fashion sets based on artworks on Polyvore. It's a website where you can mix and match clothing and accessories from stores and designers around the world. It’s a bit like a web-based clipart scrapbook that lets you grab and drag items to make fashion collages. Georgina uses a mix of popular and famous paintings as her inspiration. You can read a New Yorker article on Polyvore here, check out more of Georgina’s art sets here and give it a go yourself here.
Images: Georgina’s fashion riffs on top, Modigliani and Vermeer. Bottom, Picasso and Magritte
You only have to be in Auckland a few days to know that a lot of the art world’s attention is taken by the Artspace Stakes set to run early this month. As in past events, offshore horses are well represented on the card with the smart money being almost evenly divided between the Spanish filly Mercedes Vicente and New Zealand bred horse Simon Rees currently stabled in Lithuania. Both have been trained at Govett-Brewster, an outstanding stable that has brought many of its colts through to some big wins in meetings in Dunedin and Wellington over the years. The only other horse sparking any action at the tote is Heather Galbraith. Recently taken on by the Massey stables she is an unlikely starter, but as punters have discovered in the past, this horse can often be a surprise late entry in feature races and should certainly not to be ignored.
Image: the American horse B Butler winning the 2006 Artspace Stakes