Wednesday, November 30, 2011


A riff on Alfred Barr's famous where-the-hell-did-that-abstract-stuff-come-from? diagram, via I love charts
Click on image to enlarge


It’s not often that someone makes a fuss when they miss out on funding from Creative NZ (a public one anyway) so the Depot’s response is unusual. It has put out a media release expressing ‘dismay’ that CNZ has declined to fund a new round of its video interviews with cultural ‘icons’. The interviews are available free online and the production quality is excellent. We’ve watched a few of them over the year and while the content is variable some is outstanding. We were particularly impressed by Rodney Wilson’s interview of gallerist and auction guy Peter Webb.

So why wouldn’t CNZ fund a programme like this? 

A glance at the complete list of interviews might give you a clue to the possible reasoning behind CNZ’s “perplexing decision.” At a rough count, of the 41 interviews online so far, 33 of them are of white men. People of Maori or Pacific descent just don’t get a look in (which is odd as virtually all the interviewees live in Auckland). As far as the visual artists go, all but one are painters and six of the eight figurative, they include Nigel Brown, Dean Buchanan, Stanley Palmer, Alan Pearson and Claudia Pond-Eyely.

Creative NZ has made no secret that it is changing its focus and that recognising diversity is one of its fundamental values. The Depot’s selection has many virtues, but diversity is not one of them. Maybe the 20 planned interviews put up for funding were intended shake up the white-guy thing but judging from what has been done so far you can see why the Depot request could easily fail a CNZ funding tick.

A RESPONSE FROM THE DEPOT: ".... Our goal is to secure funding that enables us to carry out as many interviews as our community recording studio will accommodate and as our time to edit and download will allow. We feel perhaps that seeking sponsorship could be the best avenue for this and for ensuring that the great and rich diversity of cultures and disciplines, and gender balance, are represented.

The Depot has for fifteen years has honoured and sought to actively represent its philosophy, an aspect of which is inclusiveness, from which the Cultural Icons series originated." 

You can read the full response here on OTN Stuff

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oh, oh

“Consider this the official PR spin from the Te Papa Museum Building at this point in time, but the concept idea of a facility in Auckland that could potentially host items in the national collection is very interesting, surely sharing the national collection, and the expertise of the people caring for and learning from the collection is a good thing huh?... The point I’m going to proffer is, that as long as a collection is accessible to as many people as possible – then where it's housed should not matter at all, right?”
Te Papa’s Communications Department on the Te Papa blog

One day in the lab

G: Are they out there?

B: Yes, the waiting room's packed.

G: how many do you think?

B: Oh, I don’t know, more than 200, say 236.

G: Perfect.

(Time passes)

B: omg, look at that!

G: Unbelievable, is that six or seven times this morning?

B: Well, if you count the parking attendant it’s eight, but I’m concerned that will skew the stats.


G: The FA's are a bit listless this morning, don't you think?

B: Yes, a few of them did well last night but a lot complained of headaches.

G: A reaction to oil paint possibly?

B: Doubt it. Over 79 percent of them are conceptualists.

G: Right, not that then.

(later still)

G: The MA’s really are outstanding…

B: They certainly are. What are we talking? A two percent dysfunctionality, if that. 

G: … I mean that one over there, I didn’t even know that was possible.

B: Should I write it up into the results?

G: Yes, yes, do that and don’t worry about the tapes, I’ll hold onto them.

Behavioural scientists at Newcastle University have hypothesized that producing artwork functions as a mating display through investigating the relationship between mating success and artistic success in a sample of 236 visual artists. Their findings indicated that "more successful male artists had more sexual partners than less successful artists, but this did not hold for female artists." You can read more here.

Monday, November 28, 2011


On the Christchurch Art Gallery blog Bunker Notes Justin Paton joins the inspirational movement against boosting in art museum labels and promotional material. Paton also adds a kicker on the continual repetition of redundant statements. You can read Paton’s piece here and one of OTN’s sensational Best of the Boosters examples here.

Show time

Why don’t more artists get to curate exhibitions? Many of them have the same academic qualifications as most curators and most of them have a distinctive take on the visual possibilities of the exhibition. If you want a textbook example, visit the exhibition curated by Eve Armstrong at Michael Lett in Auckland of her sculpture with Gretchen Albrecht’s paintings. Armstrong is right on pitch with tone and colour and brings Albrecht’s work into a focus it hasn’t received for over a decade. It’s hard to imagine an institutional curator having the nerve to pitch the transition between Albrecht’s smoky stained canvas Tongue and Armstrong’s scoria and furnishing based sculptural collage.

Over the years we have posted on a number of outstanding exhibitions that have set an artist’s vision and sensibility at their core. The juxtapositions, visual acrobatics and ideas about presentation that artists can bring to exhibitions are often the very things that fall victim to institutional politics and indifference to the viewer experience. History shows that most great curators have had artist friends as their visual mentors and used studio visits for an intellectual shake-up. It’s a great tradition. How about art museums enticing more artists into their exhibition making as devisers, curators and designers? Good for inventiveness, good for cut-through, good for audiences.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Turn up

Michael Parekowhai’s sculpture The World Turns, a three part work in bronze, has been selected for the Premier of Queensland’s Sculpture Commission. It is to mark both the fifth anniversary of the opening of Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art in December 2011 and 20 years of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in 2012. Submissions were requested from a shortlist of three artists. Parekowhai’s proposal was the unanimous selection of the committee chaired by Queensland Art Gallery head Tony Ellwood.
Image: a visual representation of The world turns showing the three bronze elements, a life sized elephant, a school chair and a small native rat.

Plink, plank, plonker

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lookalike: horror division

Images: Left Marina Abramovic, right Michael Myers

Man up

The days when the integrity of artists’ content was jealously protected by art museums has long gone. To think that there was once a time when simply putting type over an art work could cause an upheaval. Now it’s open slather. Sometimes the artists are into it and sometimes they just have to suck it up. Whether René Magritte is beaming or sucking is anyone's guess but the Magritte app from Tate (Magritte it) is certainly another step in the journey. Now you can make men in bowler hats cascade in front of any image you choose. There is also an animated version. We chose the face of Tate Director Nicholas Serota just in case René is after some payback.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

On the road

Yet another (number 55 to be exact) of our much sort after examples of the Ministry of Transport giving it up for artists young and old, living and dead, throughout the land

Reality TV

In Wellington there is a saying, ‘When they come, they will come from the North.' Never has this been so true than in the campaign to take Te Papa to Auckland, the ongoing push to share the loot of the National Collections. The media is all over it - more coverage than Venice already by our reckoning - and the tenacious TV3 is right up there on the front line probing and expounding. 

For instance a few days ago when TV3 “wanted to show [viewers] through Te Papa's storerooms to see what treasures could possibly be lent to an Auckland exhibition building", you can imagine their dismay when “Te Papa refused.” But hang on, Te Papa is always difficult about allowing film crews inside their building or allowing anyone to film ‘their’ treasures. TV3 was just getting a taste of that most puzzling of all experiences for media people, being treated like everyone else.
Images: Top to bottom, John Campbell is stunned, the reporter is horrified and Te Papa is unmoved.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

“For me an exhibition is never really a conclusion, it articulates something which is in process. If I show an artist’s work, it’s really about what he’s doing at the moment, within the long trajectory of his career, research, practice. And even for existing works, I really try to manifest their potential to be reinterpreted in a specific context. I want to turn exhibitions into sites of production, research, maybe exchange. It’s not only pedagogical in the traditional sense, it’s also performative.”
Hou Hanru who has been selected as curator for the 5th Auckland Triennial that opens at the Auckland Art Gallery 22 March 2013

The knock down effect

We followed the Art + Object's final art auction of the year online and from here the night felt like a struggle. For all the talk of auctions being completely transparent you never really know what's going on but the market does feel like it's shrinking. 

Who'd have thought that a Ralph Hotere window frame painting - Black Window: Mungo at Aramoana - would struggle to find bids and be passed in at $80,000? This is a good $90,000 below a high estimate that in itself would have been a bargain basement price back in the day. Will there be negotiations over the Hotere this morning? “Let’s split the difference at $100,000....” Negotiation is the name of this game. Auctioneer Ben Plumley ended the bidding on Bill Hammond's Boulder Bay II when it stalled at $105,000 ($30,000 shy of its low estimate) by telling the room, “It’s going to be negotiated tomorrow” and then by announcing that the top bid of $24,000 on Colin McCahon's Landscape - Northland was “closer than you might think” when the low estimate was $35,000 Maybe even the low estimates are now too rich for bidders. 

One bright spot was a Parekowhai sparrow photograph Portrait of Elmer Keith no. 2 estimated at $10-15,000 that sold for $15,500, although a flower photograph Le Quesnoy from The Consolation of Philosophy bottomed out at $7,000, under half the top estimate. The night’s star turn Gordon Walters's Apu was knocked down ‘subject’ also at under half the top estimate of $260,000. There are plenty of people who will tell you the NZ art market has been overheated for a long time so maybe this is just a necessary correction to a time when you could hardly hear yourself think at an auction for the oohs and aaahs and wild applause.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where is Wally?

A reader R has suggested we start a new series called When artists get robbed of their dignity. Why the hell not. (Thanks R)

Show and tell

Artists are heading to Wellington as the City Gallery installs its latest Prospect exhibition. This time the curator is Kate Montgomery who has a solid track record in both curating and organizing exhibitions. A real shame the City Gallery has lost her to Creative NZ (good news for them though) after such a short run. 

It’s not often that we get a serious curated group show in Wellington and the list of artists is impressive: Eve Armstrong, Ruth Buchanan, Fiona Connor, Simon Denny, Selina Foote, Jacqueline Fraser, Robert Hood, Fiona Jack, Patrick Lundberg/Roman Mitch, Dane Mitchell, Kate Newby, Ava Seymour, Sriwhana Spong, Peter Trevelyan and John Ward Knox. It's hard to believe that only three of them have dealer representation in Wellington, although that in itself probably influenced Montgomery. One thing this selection does do however is put up a big challenge to most of our university art schools and to how well they are doing. 

First up, a big round of applause for the Elam School of Fine Arts (University of Auckland) that will dominate Prospect. Twelve Eleven out of the 15 artists in the show are graduates. Trouble is that doesn't leave a lot of kudos for any of the others. Ilam has just two artists included and even to get there you have to let them share Peter Trevelyan with Massey. AUT also has two (Mitchell and Jack) and Massey only the one. For the other seven art schools in NZ it’s a no show. 

Sure Prospect is only one exhibition but given Montgomery’s reputation and the stated aim of the exhibition being to find “artists producing some of the most thought provoking and confident work today” it's a big red flag for a lot of our art educators. No doubt it will be brushed off as one person’s opinion but the fact is that this exhibition comes at the very time potential students and their parents are weighing up which institution to sign up to and, even more meaningfully, pay for. Their future prospects in fact.
Image: Gold in a pan
COMMENT: Melissa wrote: "Hi, I thought I'd just point out that Fiona Jack and Dane Mitchell are AUT grads - still nominal, but bringing the total for AUT up a little"

Monday, November 21, 2011


We’ve always been interested in the use of gold frames as a metaphor for art but how about this? What looks like a bull in a frame shop is the illustration for a Deloitte’s Art and Finance Conference to be held at (why isn’t this surprising) Miami Beach. The subject? “The enhanced importance of art and collectible assets in wealth and asset management”. The conference is free for art collectors, people wanting to leverage art for loans or anyone thinking to invest in art for their future. Isn’t that nice of them.

The do Ron Ron

It’s the centennial of Ronald Reagan’s birth and the occasion is being taken up as an opportunity to lay flowers at - or in one case tie ropes around - statues of him throughout the world. The rope thing happened in California where a truck had a go at pulling the past President off his podium Sadam Hussein style, either in protest at Reagan’s contribution to the current economy or maybe to pig out on the growing value of bronze. Meanwhile Reagan statues have been popping up all over the place including a 1.1 million dollar one in D.C that is apparently one of three funded secretly by “four mystery donors.” The other two are in Simi Valley and Budapest (kid you not).
Images: Top: Ronald Regan leans to the left in Newport beach. Middle left to right, Regan takes a stand in London, the Ronald Regan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley Los Angeles, the Capitol and Ronald Regan airport in in Washington DC. Bottom in Covington (reputedly the largest RR statue in the world),Budapest, at his boyhood home and at the Ronald Regan library again.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Drawn in

This Saturday two OTN interests collide on the streets of Sarasota in Florida, drawing and LEGO.
Other OTN LEGO stories: 
LEGO Farnsworth House
LEGO Serra
LEGO tattoo
LEGO Escher
LEGO inside story
LEGO Flat architecture LEGO Le Corbusier
LEGO Leonardo
LEGO Beuys
LEGO Hirst
LEGO photography

Friday, November 18, 2011

Better get your skates on

Young Sun shines

You do remember that ex City Art Rooms curator Young Sun is battling it out in the American art reality TV show Work of art: the next great artists? Of course you do. The show completed its sixth episode yesterday and Young Sun is hanging in there. He has been the winner in three episodes (ep 3 creating a piece of Pop art, ep 5 making a work that comes out of a newspaper headline and now ep 6 doing a piece of Street art), the only contestant to do that so far.
You can follow the fun here on Wikipedia or battle your way through the Work of art site here.
Images: Left, Young Sun’s contribution to episode 3 and hard at work in episode 5.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lean pickings

Although only three and a half years old, the Gallery Apartments in Christchurch is on a post-earthquake lean and has to come down. The block is cheek by jowl with the Christchurch Art Gallery and fears that the building could collapse onto the Gallery have strained nerves and demanded the time-consuming relocation of the collection to the other side of the building. Now a crane is in place and the unpicking of the 14 storeyed building will begin. You can keep up to date with developments on Notes from the bunker, Christchurch Art Gallery’s entertaining blog.
Image: the Gallery Apartments and Christchurch Art Gallery

Sun spotters

When we interviewed Rudi Gopas for Contemporary New Zealand Painters Vol 1 in February 1979, he had spent the night before staring at the moon through a hand-built telescope. It didn’t make for a very restful session with him as he had gone beyond tiredness into a frenetic state of rapid fire talking and extravagant gesture. Gopas's real obsession though was with the sun. His study of this star had resulted a few years before in his best-known series of works Paintings for the sun. In them he tracked an imaginary trip out into the universe, around the sun and back to what he considered our bankrupt world. 

For the past couple of centuries research into the sun has progressively reduced its mysteries. The British scientist William Herschel was the first to recognise the sun as a solid object with a surface and this discovery in turn influenced the great artist JMW Turner to paint the sun in a completely new way according to his biographer James Hamilton. The sun was on its way to becoming a knowable object. The knowledge Rudi Gopas sought was not one of this kind. He set out to explore the power of the sun as one of life's mysteries - even if such close-up and unprotected study put his eyes at risk.
Image: Rudi Gopas, photographed in his studio in February 197, looking at the previous night's moon-shots

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

On with the show

The artist Giuseppe Ghezzi was probably also one of the first art exhibition curator/installers in the world. In 1676 when an exhibition was needed in to celebrate the miraculous arrival in Loretto of the House of Nazareth, the word went out, “Get Giuseppe.” Ghezzi immediately got to it and borrowed an exhibition’s worth of privately owned works by Venetian masters to exhibit in the cloisters of San Salvatore in Rome. It was Ghezzi who also gave us what might be the first ever list of things to remember when you are putting together an art exhibition.

1. Sufficient quantities of damask are to be hired as soon as possible.
2. Use damask to cover existing gaps in the church façade.
3. Use tapestries to cover rough brick facades.
4. Remember size is of chief concern when borrowing pictures.
5. Try to produce a striking effect at the end of each corridor.
6. Allow two days for set up.
7. Make loan requests a year ahead of time.

Many of the ideas behind these tips will be familiar to anyone setting up an exhibition in a public institution although the set up period of two days would cause heart attacks in our two-to-three-week-minimum age. On the other hand, the seventeenth century didn’t have to worry about extended labels, wall texts, graphics or audio tours. Just art.
Image: the sort of hammer that was used to bang a nail in a wall in the late seventeen century. Source: List from Francis Haskell's The ephemeral museum.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shock of the new

Here's something you don't see every day.

“I think the only way of arguing that the blockbuster show is a good way of viewing art is to say that the crowd is part of the experience. If you can convince people that they're paying a lot of money in order to see art alongside a lot of other people – and that's part of the joy of the experience – then you're OK. But I don't think that is what ticket buyers are led to believe. I think they're hoping that they will be able to have an intimate, individual experience of the art on show. And, too often, they're disappointed.” 
Miranda Sawyer in the Observer

Going soft on the hard copy

Another smart catalogue from Art + Object in the mail yesterday (it's their 50th auction) but this time round we had already looked through it a few days ago online, and the experience was just as good. How long can the paper version last? Hard to see why trees have to be cut down when the online copy is even more alluring than the paper one. Would people pay to get it online? Sure, if it arrived a few days earlier and came with a video backgrounder. Assume it would be cheaper too.

As to the line-up, it’s much as you would expect. Paintings by guys make up 75 percent of all the works with low estimates of $50,000 or over, although when you get to the $100,000 and over mark, Rita Angus and Frances Hodgkins push the female percentage up to 22.

Most left-of-field lot? Probably Ted Bullmore’s Astroform No 1 which comes from the same series as the Clockwork Orange work we posted on some time ago.

Best spurious provenance? Definitely, “Purchased by the current owner from the medical staff room in the Princess Margaret Hospital, Christchurch in 1963 on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22 for twenty five pounds”.
Image: A+O catalogue showing Bullmore Astroform No 1 and right Ian Scott, Picasso and cubist man

Monday, November 14, 2011

The fundraising guy

This post is all about the header. OK, there is this master class being held today by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. A master class for what you ask. The viola, voice projection, glazing? Not at all. It’s for raising money by Guy (that’s the pay-off) Mallabone from Global Philanthropic Inc. in Canada. It will be a “practical opportunity to develop strategies and maximise income from major gifts.” One grim note in the blurb claims that “Depending on the size of an organisation, a major gift could be anything from $500 to $5,000 or more.” This does seem to be setting the barrier a little low when the entry fee for the master class is $389 per person i.e. only $111 shy of one of those small gifts you’d no doubt learn to land. You can check out the GPI site here.

Postcard from Wellington

If it’s not on Google Images it never existed. That might turn out to be the end of the road for a whole heap of art that happened before the internet got up and running. Take One Day Sculpture in which the works only existed for 24 hours. It only happened once and that was over two years ago but it is still very well recorded online. Then try googling Neil Dawson’s temporary sculpture Get the picture that was attached to the Wellington Railway station for about a month in 1989 and see how far you get. “Why cant you get the picture: Photos from Alex Dawson” or a picture of hunks and hunkesses from Dawson’s Creek, that’s how far. So here’s a pic of it from our files to put it into that space.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Flat out

Today is the 164th anniversary of the first use of chloroform by the British physician Sir James Young Simpson. To mark the occasion, here are four sculptures of men unconscious on the floor.
Images: Top Portrait of Ai Wei Wei by He Xiangyu. Middle left Gregor Schneider Man lying down with stiff cock and right, Maurizio Cattelan’s La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour). Bottom, Ron Muek’s Dead Dad

Friday, November 11, 2011


Images: top, DOO from John Radford’s TIP installation in Auckland. Bottom, Architectural Fragment by Petrus Spronk in Melbourne

Dot ball

The date today being 11.11.11 we thought we should front up with a cricket theme. While the game has not had much recent play in NZ art, back in the late eighties the Auckland Art Gallery toured an exhibition called NZXI (really) to Australia. Our cricket team was doing better in those days so the title wasn’t the put-down it might be today. You can see from the list of artists included how things change and how central the Sue Crockford Gallery was at this time. The 1988 NZXI were Bill Culbert, Neil Dawson, Jacqueline Fraser, Jeffrey Harris,Christine Hellyar, Megan Jenkinson, Richard Killeen, Denis O’Connor, Maria Olsen, James Ross and Boyd Webb.

For a different team of artists taking up positions for a day in the field how about:

First slip: Kate Newby
Second slip: Francis Upritchard
Keeper: Fiona Connor
Out field: Simon Denny
Out field: Alicia Frankovich
Out field: Michael Stevenson
Cover: Ian Scott
Silly Point: Dane Mitchell
Forward: Rohan Wealleans
Deep: et al.
Spin Bowler: Michael Parekowhai

Image: an hour after writing this post we visit a friend and find Ian Scott’s painting featuring NZXI. Spooky.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Enough already

“For me, retirement is just another stage in my development: I know myself better, and I also know that I don’t want to follow certain practices that seem widespread nowadays. I don’t want a team of 40-odd assistants. I’ve never had one before and I don’t see why I should start now.”
Maurizio Cattelan who has said his survey exhibition now showing at the Guggenheim Museum marks the end of his art making career.

By the numbers

 1.65    the number of dollars in millions that Creative New Zealand has given to the arts people and arts organisations directly affected by the Christchurch earthquakes since September 2010

2.5        the average number of years the four Heads of School at the Massey School of Fine Arts have remained in the role

3          the number of people visiting the Oceania exhibition at Te Papa at 1 pm on Saturday 29 November

3          the number of weeks the City Gallery is taking to install its next exhibition Prospect: New Zealand Art Now

4          the number of people who traveled to Venice last month to look for the exhibition venue for 2013

19        the number of cultural organisations funded by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage

41         the number of minutes a Wellington fireworks display would last if you had the CNZ's Venice Biennale budget to spend

80       the percentage of women in the audience at the opening event of Massey University's seminar Where art belongs / Exhibition as medium

400    the numbers in thousands Te Papa claims go up to the fifth floor to look at the art each year

1029   the average number of people from outside Taranaki who the Govett-Brewster reported as visiting the Gallery each week in the last financial year

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Well that worked

The price realised by Christie's on Louise Bourgeois' Spider sculpture was $13.5 million.

Tired and emotional

Last month we mentioned E C Simpson's terrible bollocking of Colin McCahon in Arts & Community in 1971. Turns out an apology, albeit a grudging one (the just-trying-to-get-some-discussion-going standard), was offered up in the next issue. You’ll recognise it as the same sort apology recently offered up by Tiger Woods' caddy Steve Williams who played the “joke” card.  
Thanks W

One day at the auction house

CEO: Things are looking grim. If our next sale isn’t a sensation we’ll have to shed staff. So (looking around the room) knock ‘em down or don’t stick around.

Head of Print Department: Excuse me, but that doesn’t even scan. (long pause) He leaves.

CEO: Here’s the thing. I’m wanting ideas. Big ideas. Ideas that will supercharge bid battles into the stratosphere.

Head of Impressionist Art: Free drinks?

CEO: We already do that.

HoIA: I was thinking bigger glasses. Bowls even.

CEO: Yes, yes, but what I want are big IDEAS. Damien Hirst cutting his dealers off at the knees kind of big.

Head of Contemporary Art: How about going a little theatrical?

CEO: I'm listening.

HoCA: Oh, I don’t know, have someone like that British actor Terence Stamp read from Cezanne’s diaries.

CEO: Did you say Spiderman?

HoCA: “No sir, I said Stamp.

CEO: Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Spiderman. How did you even think up something like that?

HoCA: Terence…. Stamp.... 

CEO: (on the phone) Get me Foxwoods Theatre on Broadway.

Image: Spiderman star Craig Henningsen in full SM rig shills a Louise Bourgeois Spider sculpture for Christie’s in New York

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Do it for Leo

A selection of the 241 Leonardo items available at the National Gallery shop during the Leonardo: Painter at the Court of Milan exhibition.

Old school

Last week Hamish Keith tweeted, “My Listener column on Bill Culbert choice for Venice Biennial will not make me popular but I think it has to be said.” If only. Instead the selection has been swallowed whole without so much as a burp. 

Exactly when was it that we decided to change why we send artists to the Venice Biennale? Who was it that decided we stop supporting and internationally spring-boarding artists in mid or early career as we have done so far, and instead artistically ‘knight’ an artist at the end of his working life? 

Stumping up with over $600,000 (44 percent of the entire CNZ international budget) to give a one-off honour to an artist at the end of his career (Bill Culbert will be 78 when representing us at Venice) can hardly be described as either a medium or long-term investment in our contemporary culture. Wasn't that what Venice was supposed to be about? When you consider that the Laureates Awards are only $50,000 each and the Icons are just given a gong and a pin for the honour of it, this is a huge call.

While on one hand CNZ constantly tells us they are investing in the future of New Zealand art, Commissioner Jenny Harper claims that "Venice is a wonderful platform for us both to celebrate his [Culbert's] individual achievements and to continue to present the richness of this country’s visual arts practice." In reality Culbert is to all intents and purposes an 'English' artist who hasn’t lived in the country for over 50 years and didn’t start regularly exhibiting in New Zealand until he was 65. This surely undercuts his ability to present that richness.

And if we're talking about celebrating the individual achievements of our senior artists there's a long queue of worthy candidates starting with Apple (Billy) and heading right through the alphabet to Webb (Boyd). Then if we step back from the seniors (sorry about that Boyd), there is a whole raft of established artists who would benefit long-term from such a huge investment. 2013 is the final year that the Government has committed to supporting Venice so there is more than a good chance we can wave attending post 2013 Biennales goodbye. It's a failure of nerve that artists like Shane Cotton, Brett Graham, Gavin Hipkins and Fiona Pardington to name just a few are now unlikely now to be given this opportunity. Any one of them would certainly better deliver on CNZ’s requirement that Venice participation ensures “New Zealand’s distinctive voice is heard overseas.”

Monday, November 07, 2011


"We now have a collection of posters that would do justice to any primary-school art wall. What next, an opening ceremony that consists of the lights going on and off?"
Stu Roberts of Kington, Hereford raging against the new London Olympic posters

Out of the cold

This month’s Frieze magazine has a four-page article on Michael Stevenson. Over the last few years Stevenson has shown at Tate Modern, the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands, Art Unlimited at Basel, the Arnolfi in Bristol and was recently given a survey exhibition at the MCA in Sydney.

They’ve got game

The posters for the 2012 London Olympics have just been released. Organisers had spread the load and got 12 artists to do posters around the theme of the Games (what a pack of wimps, we would have commissioned Dick Frizzell to do the lot). Anyway, things have sure changed in the London Olympic Poster game as you can see.

And, along with his poster, there'll be a huge bonus on the first day of the Games when Martin Creed's work no. 1197 will be performed: bells all around the UK will be rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes.
Images: Top left and right London Olympic posters 1908 and 1948. Middle 2012 posters by Rachel Whiteread and Tracy Emin, bottom 2012 posters by Martin Creed and Howard Hodgkin.

All rights over the Olympic Games and associated Olympic Properties are held by IOC. Olympic Properties includes the Olympic Symbol, Flag, Motto, Emblem, Flame, Torch etc. as per the Olympic Charter. This blog is not associated with the IOC or any of the organizers in any manner. The information provided here is merely for educating people and spreading awareness.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

If it ain’t broke don’t clean it

Who’d want to be a cleaner in a contemporary art museum? You walk in and there’s mess all over the floor, but tidy it up and all hell breaks loose. We’ve mentioned before the story of Billy Apple’s sculpture Neon Accumulation (a scattering of broken neon tubes that cascaded down the stairs of the Govett-Brewster) being thrown away by a cleaner when she found it stored away in a cardboard box. And so it goes. 

Now in the city of Dortmund in Germany a cleaner has taken to a Martin Kippenberger sculpture worth around $870,000 with a scrubbing brush. Trouble is that Kippenberger intended it to stay dirty and hinted at that in the title When It Starts Dripping From The Ceiling. The hapless cleaner has been labelled as “over-zealous” by most of the media when all she was doing was just doing her job. Over-zealous would have seen her putting the whole thing in the trash like Neon Accumulation. Unfortunately the Kippenberger installation was on loan from a private collector (whoops). 

The museum apparently has a Cleaner Instruction Manual that requires cleaners to remain at least 20 cms away from any artwork. They might have been better off with the instruction most private collectors use. “If you can’t figure out what something is or figure out what what it might do, it’s art. Leave it be.”
Image: Kippenberger’s sculpture When It Starts Dripping From The Ceiling

Friday, November 04, 2011

On the road

Another of our much sort after examples of the Ministry of Transport giving it up for artists young and old, living and dead, throughout the land

Wonk world

The Greens, Labour and National all released their arts policies this week in the run up to the elections. By the numbers Labour wins the page race at 13, the Greens weighed in with six and National confidently fronted up with two (plus a one page special giving Labour a not so friendly kick in the nuts). But if you’re after new ideas or leadership, don’t hold your breath.

As you might expect all three start off with a brisk round of the usual: the importance of creativity, inspiration, innovation, challenge (GO ART!), the contribution of the arts etc to economic development and not to be forgotten in this post Helen Clark era our unique and distinctive identity as kiwis.

Let's start with the party with the most to say, Labour. When it comes to (their few) policy initiatives they start strongly with a stiff “LABOUR WILL…” but for anything beyond yet another review they lame out with, “…over time and as resources allow." One thing Labour is hot on though is the establishment of “a network of Children’s Art Houses.” These are kids' clubs “where the only rules are to love art and to be kind to each other." If you want to see how truly idiotic that is you can go here.

On a more positive note they do use the hilarious acronym that the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museum sector have taken to using. GLAM. that’s spelt WTF. They also come up with the best sentence from a political party starting with the letter L. “Labour will support the development of a Memorandum of Understanding with Te Papa to improve relations.” Yes, Labour is determined to make Te Papa share. So good news for potential Te Papas North, South, East and West.

As for National, they have boldly stepped up to the plate and offered… business as usual. So look out for more institutions to be funded from the same amount of money. Less is definitely going to be more, and if you insist on more you’re going to have to come to the table with your own philanthropist. Oh, and National will make Te Papa share too (it’s an election theme).

The Greens on the other hand are going to “establish an arts and cultural promotion unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade”. Where do they get these ideas from? They will also “make contributions to bona fide artist organisations tax deductible along the same lines as charity donations” which pretty much happens already and a bee-in-the-bonnet issue probably from their Arts Spokesperson artist Mike Ward, to “ensure that copyright of a commissioned work is retained by the artist, not the commissioner.” Whatever.

If you were thinking of letting the visual arts guide your voting pattern in these elections, you'd probably end up staying at home. Still as W C Fields once famously said, "I never vote for anyone; I always vote against."

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Copycat: election edition

Images: Top, Kelvin Davis, standing for Te Tai Tokerau in Mana channels Parekowhai’s Portrait of Ed Brown, bottom

Studio visit

In the late 1970s we got to visit many studios as we worked on the book Contemporary New Zealand Painters (vol 1) with photographer Marti Friedlander. Most of these painters were working in converted garages or the front room with their work seldom supplying a full time living. That has changed a lot. In the weekend we visited a studio in a large Auckland warehouse with a forklift in one corner and large paintings hanging off industrial shelving. On the other hand, the artist did have a sleeping berth in the studio and nearby was something that has been typical of all painters' studios for centuries: that fascinating bunch of brushes, tubes, bottles and palettes that painters accumulate. In this case the artist has been far better known in another visual medium (here’s a clue – movies). At the end of the year you can see a large body of this painter's recent work taking up the entire Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Step on over here for the name of this artist.
NOTE: The Govett-Brewster tells us that there will be a Len Lye exhibition in the bottom two galleries but that (spoiler alert) Vincent Ward's exhibition will fill the rest.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Just don't

From the Land of Labels this what-is-it-about-don't-touch-you-don't-understand? example from our OTN reporter stationed in Venice (thanks H). The sculpture, part of the Czech Republic's representation at the Venice Biennale, is by Dominik Lang.


In 1971, exactly forty years ago, the Auckland Art Gallery was also opening a new gallery. To celebrate the occasion an exhibition called 10 Big Paintings was organised. Ten artists (half of them from South of the Bombay Hills, something that wouldn’t happen these days) were asked to prepare large works. The canvases they worked on were supplied by the Gallery and designed to just fit into the big new spaces. 

One of the artists was Ross Ritchie, who was also working at the Gallery at the time, and it was his previous experience as a billboard painter that no doubt helped inspire the idea. Ritchie had painted many oversized realistic renditions of tractors, cars and bottles onto 20 feet long 10 feet high (6 x 3 meters) billboards and knew how they were constructed from four fabricated panels. 

We were reminded of this local history when we saw these photographs of American artist Jim Rosenquist working high above the streets of New York on large scale advertisements. It turned out that he was learning how to construct the kind of images that were to appear in his sixties paintings, works that would constitute such a significant contribution to Pop Art.

A few of the super-sized canvases from the 10 Big Paintings exhibition have survived. Don Driver's is in the collection of the Govett-Brewster, Milan Mrkusich's is safely tucked away at Te Papa and Colin McCahon's was famously purchased by Victoria University in Wellington.
Images: Left Rosenquist at work on a billboard c.1958 and right a finished billboard worked on by Rosenquist.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Protesters channel Don Binney on the Kapiti Coast