Saturday, July 30, 2011

Heads up

For all of you who were wondering how that incredible opera-stage-set-in-a-lake we posted on in April turned out, here you go.

Friday, July 29, 2011

On the road

OTN's seemingly endless series celebrating Ministry of Land Transport and Local Body support of New Zealand artists.
For others in the series hit the 'on the road' label tag below.

Heart of stone

Yet another example of the ongoing project advertising agencies have set themselves: to convince us that cars are created by artists and not industrial designers. Last year it was Hyundai claiming that its design philosophy was one of 'fluidic sculpture' (you can stop laughing now).

This time it’s Honda’s turn with a Jennifer Beals wannabe making out with a chisel like Michelangelo’s right there chanting, “Every block of stone has a car inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

At least is better than their infamous advert Cog. That was the one where they lifted Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s brilliant 1987 video The Way Things Go without so much as a credit. Fischli and Weiss threatened legal action. You can judge for yourself on that one. Watch The way things go here and Cog here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Slice of heaven

A big tempting slice of Guggenheim cake seen in a shop window in Paris.

Water, water everywhere

The City Gallery is full of surprises. For years they have restricted information about their forthcoming exhibitions like misers hoarding gold pieces so they can unleash a marketing blitz. That's changed if the up-coming exhibition Oceania is anything to go by. Not only is the web site already up and running, it includes a good range of images of items that will be on show (the exhibition is ‘shared’ with Te Papa – City Gallery new, Te Papa old) along with a blow by blow account of what you will see when you enter the galleries. Has this ever been done before? And we are talking good old fashioned narrative. “With their eyes closed, the subjects in Fiona Pardington's photographs embody the dreams, memories and imaginings of generations of Pacific peoples. … At the entrance to the gallery, Michel Tuffery's energetic O le Povi Pusa Ma'ataua … At the rear of the gallery is a different kind of group portrait. Paratene Matchitt's Taunga Waka…” OK the whole show isn’t notated like this but you can get a very good idea of what you will be spending your money on (Single adults $10, Kids under 15 are free).

The City Gallery will also be showing Ralph Hotere’s Black Phoenix. We've always thought this work should have been permanently installed when Te Papa opened (but they went with Jeff Thomson’s corrugated iron covered Holden instead.) From memory Black Phoenix has only had a couple of outings over the last 20 or so years since being purchased for the National collection back in 1988. 

For some inexplicable reason Oceania opens the same weekend as the Auckland Art Fair, 6 August.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Face off

An OTN reader sent us this Lucian Freud lookalike, Freud's portrait of QEII and the artist himself.

It’s uncanny. One minute you are looking at an old queen and suddenly it’s Lucian Freud.

Thanks S

Spaced out

Most public corporations create their art collections by buying off the top shelf. The Fletcher Trust Collection in New Zealand is a good example. Occasionally, however, corporate collections decide to push harder and theme themselves. This can result in strange and often hilarious gatherings of artworks about packaging, wine or earth moving machinery. Think of them as the corporate collection version of those 1970s themed exhibitions that always had clever titles (think Drawing the line (drawing about fishing), Animal alphabet etc) and that after a time in the post modern darkness, are once again wall fodder for the public art museums. 

In this match 'n' match category one of the oddest themed collections must be the one NASA has put together. The theme (how did you guess?) is space. You might imagine that a request from NASA to ‘do a space themed art work’ would get the short shrift from most artists and yet here we find Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol and yes, that’s one of William Wegman’s Wiemaraner dogs kitted out and floating in space. There is no shame.

Images: Top left to right, Jack Perlmutter's Liftoff, Peter Hurd's Skylab and Mitchell Jamieson's First steps. Bottom, William Wegman’s Chip and Batty Explore Space

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Peace and love

Imagine it. You’re the Government. “Get me the Ministry of Culture,” you bark down the phone. “Listen, I want you to get to work on how we'll celebrate this list of anniversaries over the next five years.” “Of course, Minister. Cultural events are they?” “Don’t be stupid.”

And here is the list that has been drawn up of government-approved New Zealand's anniversary celebrations for the next five years. There are 30 of them with 11 designated as ‘major’.

In summary there are:
21 associated with war
2 inspired by exploration
3 relating to Pacific Island affairs
1 Maori related
1 educational
1 for the Queen
1 for gold rushing

Of the 11 ‘major’ events all but one (you guessed it, the Queen’s one) are war related.

Images top, Rongopai marae built 1888, National Art Gallery established 1913. Bottom, National Museum established 1865 and Auckland Art Gallery 1888.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The can't read and can't write stuff

"I think illiteracy might be the problem.” 

Art Fair boss Jennifer Buckley in the NZ Herald explaining why some dealer gallery owners couldn’t understand the entry criteria for the Auckland Art Fair.

In the cut

You don’t see a room full of Woollaston paintings very often these days. Back a while nearly every exhibition was likely to have at least one of Sir Tosswill’s works included. Things change. And yet up at Wellington's Adam Art Gallery in an exhibition based on private collections, there are over half a dozen Woollaston works including one of his large landscapes. As the label explains, this mega format was suggested by art dealer Peter McLeavey and was determined by the maximum size of a sheet of hardboard. 

Hardboard was the a very common support for many years (particularly the sixties and seventies) when canvas could only be purchased in limited widths. The big sheets of hardboard (imperial size until around late 1969 when the most favoured sheet became 1200 x 2700mm) were usually cut into two pieces, one a golden square (see paintings by Michael Smither, Toss Woollaston, Colin McCahon and Jeffrey Harris) with a left-over narrower slice. 

This in turn couldbe cut into yet smaller pieces, McCahon’s Truth from the King country: load bearing structures (see note below) and many of Jeffrey Harris's iconic paintings from 1975 probably came from this cut. Finally any off cuts could used to make small panoramic landscapes like Michael Smither’s St Bathans paintings. 

It is the inter-related scale of these different slices out of a standard sheet of hardboard is unmistakeable. It is part of what gives so many New Zealand paintings of the sixties and seventies their distinctive look.

Note: One of OTN's eagle-eyed friends has told us that these paintings were actually painted on pre-prepared canvas boards. Still, you get the picture)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Damien Hirst meets Mr Potato Head

Thanks for this P, ever vigilant.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In Berlin we were thinking about Franz West

Don’t look up

The king of giant statues of celebrities and characters torn from paintings has to be Seward Johnson. He’s the guy who has made giant replicas of the two figures from Grant Wood’s American Gothic, the famous Times Square Kiss photograph and bizarre set-ups from painters with the authority of Manet and Van Gogh. But wait, there’s more. He’s also the man who was responsible for the largest sculpture of a molar in the world. 

Last week Johnson out-grossed himself (and probably the people of Chicago) by installing a giant statue of Marilyn Monroe. And not just any statue, but 15 tons of Monroe in her famous pose in the 1955 movie The Seven Year Itch. Why the people of Chicago would want an eight metre high statue revealing Monroe’s underwear to any unfortunate who looked up from her painted toenails is anyone’s guess, but they did. This monumental up-skirt set-up will be in place until 2012.
Images: Top the new Monroe sculpture. Middle left, Seward's versions of The Kiss, American Gothic (detail) and bottom Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe and a very big tooth.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Images: Top, new Auckland Art Gallery galleries 2011. Bottom Museum of Modern Art galleries 1929

Pick and choose

One of the big questions at the moment is: what do curators do? Not a bad question and one that has sent European uber-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist into a spasm of interviewing and publishing. Where he has got so far is that contemporary curation is about connecting people and ideas.

If you want a good example of how inventive curators can be with those connections, step over to the City Gallery in Wellington. As you will know if you have followed OTN, the City Gallery’s director Paula Savage was forced, against her better judgement, into taking on the Wellington City collection and part of the deal was the obligation to show it on a regular basis in the new downstairs gallery aka the Hancock. 

Trouble is, the City collection is a dog (you can see a complete-ish list here). The City Gallery prides itself on being “at the forefront of contemporary art,” but this stuff never was and never will be. So what’s to be done? Enter Aaron Lister and the small exhibition he has curated Colour/Field.

Making exhibitions out of the City collection is getting tougher as the ‘better’ works are quickly baggsed. If your show is number three or number four in line the pickings are lean indeed. Aaron Lister's strategy was to push the only-works-from-the-collection requirement. He ‘highlighted’ one work (a small Elizabeth Thomson) and and, on the opposite wall connected it with a large work commissioned by the Tauranga Art Gallery. Smart idea and the introduction (there have already been some wall works as part of other exhibitions) of wall works as a formal part of the Wellington City collection hangs may help save the day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Art in the workplace

Art at work in the world. Air New Zealand lounge Los Angeles


If you want to explore parts of a country that you'd usually miss, there's nothing to beat chasing up architecture. It certainly works in New Zealand where a pilgrimage to Rongopai in Gisborne, for example, gives you an extraordinary experience and gets you into one of the most fascinating parts of the country. 

Over the years we have been drawn into suburbs (Tadao Ando’s Church of Light in Osaka and Erich Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower outside Berlin), up into mountains (Peter Zumthor’s Kapelle Sogn Benedetg in Sumvitg) and right off the beaten trail (Louis Kahn’s Jatiya Shangshad Bhaban, Bangladesh’s General Assembly Building in Dhaka and Le Corbusier's urban vision for Chandigarh in India. 

Easier to get to is one of modernism’s greatest architectural triumphs, the Villa Savoye. A mere 30 minute train ride out of Paris (plus a short bus ride), the Villa still sits in beautiful grounds above the town of Poissy as it did when it was completed in 1931. Elegant and white it promises function and style in a demonstration of Le Corbusier's aesthetic manifesto: drive to the door in your automobile, wash off the grime of the road in the basin located in the hall, relax on the expansive roof gardens and at the end of the day sink into a coffin-like, tile-lined blue bath in the master bedroom. 

In fact the family that commissioned the house seldom did any of these things. The house proved damp and cold, leaks were endemic and Le Corbusier was less that excited about addressing any of the material and structural problems. In spite of all these tribulations the family's name lives on forever thanks to its association with a 20th century masterpiece.
Images: The Villa Savoye

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


When serial killer Dexter goes on an art rampage the designers reach for Jackson Pollock (who famously didn't use a palette) and probably because they hadn't heard of Lucio Fontana

Sorry sold out

How often do exhibitions at dealer galleries sell out? It happens (Shane Cotton has done it, so too have Jeffrey Harris and no doubt Bill Hammond) but not often. Then there is the even more exalted subset of the sell-out exhibition: the sale of an entire exhibition to a single collector. Now that has certainly happened in New Zealand at least once to our knowledge. In 1967 Michael Illingworth’s exhibition Paintings with no titles to obey was sold out at its opening at the Barry Lett Galleries (in fact, a few of the paintings had been presold before the opening but let’s not split hairs here). Legend has it that the solo buyer was an airline pilot.

Off shore Charles Saatchi is probably the most famous collector known for purchasing entire exhibitions. This habit has rattled some artists, nervous that it would give the collector too much power over their work. A few brave souls even told their dealers they weren’t interested in one client sell-outs. 

These reflections came out of reading about the mega sixties and seventies New York collectors Robert and Edith Scull. The Sculls were fanatical collectors of Jasper Johns, eventually owning 22 major works. Oddly, the Sculls had not purchased a painting from Johns’ first exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery but when he entered the second exhibition, Robert Scull informed Castelli he wanted to buy the entire exhibition. “That would be vulgar,” Castelli replied. So he didn’t.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pass it on

“People who buy these often end up with a lot of good luck in their lives because they have a lot of spiritual meaning."
Auctioneer Richard Thomson talking up C.F.Goldie in the Dominion Post

An eye for an icon

Look, up there in the sky… it’s…it' That is, sky where there should be Neil Dawson’s high flying sculpture Ferns. The work has been taken down for a check-up after some signs of metal fatigue were noted in its last annual inspection. Will it go back up? Of course it will. The sculpture has become an icon - the icon really - of Wellington. Its clear imagery, spectacular positioning and lightness of being have combined to make it what all public sculptors probably seek in their hearts to create: an object of love and affection. 

Icon making is not easy. You can’t do it by just cobbling together a bunch of banal ideas as they've done for our $350,000 Rugby World cup eyesore. We've mentioned Len Lye’s Wind wand before as an icon for New Plymouth and going through Los Angeles airport we saw the stirring of what might become another icon for LA. It's Chris Burden’s installation Urban light outside LACMA that uses 200 traditional LA street lamps and is a great place to be photographed in (an important icon criterion). We've seen it featured in a number of articles on LA and there in the airport it was doing icon biz on a large light-box.
Image: Wellington’s Civic Square missing its key icon. You can watch Ferns being taken down here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Art in the movies

An oldie but a goodie from LA Story as Steve Martin talks up art.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Big ears

Was lending an ear during a docent tour of the Paul Thek survey exhibition at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

“The artist wants you to bend down and get real close to the work, see the detail, feel the texture.”
“Can we touch it?”

“Is this the Wednesday group?”
“No, it’s Tuesday.”

“If you look at the painting real close you can see much more than if you don’t.”

“There’s three more rooms to go.”

“What does pink mean?”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Advice to art students

Here’s a way to bring drawing back into your life and get fit at the same time. Ok, not very good drawing.
You can see more Figurerunning drawings here

True Lyes

Roger (Horrocks) and Hamish (Keith) and Wystan (Curnow) have been saying it forever, but you do have to admit Len Lye was one out of the box. We only met him a couple of times in the flesh, once at a talk he gave in Ray Thorburn’s living room in the seventies (a rush of strange ideas roaring above the clatter of a projector) and later at the Govett-Brewster as he fussed about for hours adjusting the swaying rods of his sculpture Fountain.

Over the last couple of months we've bumped into Len Lye from time to time as we researched the history of exhibition making in an extraordinary art library in Berlin. He seemed to be included in most leading edge group exhibitions right through the sixties and, as far as we could see, Lye made a point of being listed as a New Zealander in the catalogue entries.

It’s not always to your advantage when you are in the centre of things to remind people that you are from the edges. But Len Lye was nothing if not edgy.
Image: Len Lye featured (top left) in the 1961 Stedelijk exhibition Bewogen Beweging

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not fair

The Auckland dealer gallery Hopkinson Cundy certainly hit the ground running. Barely open (were they even open?) and they were at the Walters Prize presentation dinner sharing a table with Michael Lett and guests, including the Chair of CNZ. That certainly said something about a new way of operating with Sarah Hopkinson having worked for Lett and one of his rising star artists Fiona Connor having defected to her only weeks before. More recently Hopkinson Cundy has finessed a sell-out show at Liste, the youthful end of the Basel Art Fair, placing their entire Nick Austin exhibition with a Belgian collector.

So why, you might ask, is this gallery not got a berth at next month’s Art Fair in Auckland? They certainly applied to be included but were apparently told they were too young (that’s in gallery years). Too young? Feels kinda weird in a world where everyone is searching for what's new and interesting. The end result is that the Art Fair will open minus one of Auckland’s liveliest galleries.

And you have to wonder about the 'young-thing' as a criteria. Robert Heald's Wellington gallery opened just six months before HC and quite rightly got the tick from Art Fair bureaucrats.

Looks like if you want to get a full taste of what’s available in our contemporary art world come Art Fair week, you're also going to have to schlep over to 1/1 Cross Street off K-Road where Hopkinson Cundy will no doubt be open for business.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Above the fold

Here in LA the two most important things in the world are art and royalty.
Image: William and Kate mug for the camera in an inner-city art school on the front page of this morning's LA Times

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

Looking at some images from the movie Star Wars the other day, we were struck by the strange familiarity of some of the Battle Droids. The answer, when we found it, was in the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery. 

No doubt Epstein’s Torso in Metal from 'Rock Drill' will have a prime spot in the 3 September opening of the Auckland Art Gallery. It certainly represents a key moment in twentieth century English art (something we were rather transfixed by back in the fifties and sixties). And as you can see its influence lived on way past Sir Jacob Epstein's death in 1959. 

When he first made the work, back in 1913, Epstein had the torso that became the Auckland Gallery work attached to an actual rockdrill making it look even more like an armed and dangerous Battle Droid. As Epstein put it at the time, “Here is the armed, sinister figure of today and tomorrow.” Later, disillusioned by war, Epstein cut away the drill and cast the upper torso giving it the more abject appearance we can see in the Auckland work. It is one of three castings, the others are in the Tate and in the National Gallery of Canada with a later, slightly different sixties version is in the Museum of Modern Art.

Images: Top left Epstein’s Rock Drill and right a Star Wars Battle Droid. Bottom left the version of the Epstein sculpture in the Auckland Art Gallery and right more droid. To compound matters you can see the LEGO version here and Star Wars' Battle Droids in action here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

By the numbers

2       the number of auctions left on the Ocula auction site

5       the number of couples represented in the top ten list of global art collectors

9       the number of jobs currently available at Te Papa

24     the number of hours covered by Christian Marclay's award winning video The Clock 

33.4 the amount in millions of dollars that is being raised by the Auckland Art Gallery Foundation for the completion of the new building

130  the number of pages in Creative New Zealand’s guide for contestable funding for artists and art organisations

338  the number of artists represented in the Chartwell Collection

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Inflation saves the day

The ship is sinking. All the other passengers are slipping below the waves, sharks taking them before they reach the sandy ocean floor. But not you oh Wise Art One. You have clung onto your inflatable Van Gogh. A ship appears on the horizon. You are saved.

Friday, July 08, 2011

In Berlin

Thinking about et al.

Sole mates

If you love shoes with red soles you’ll already know about Christian Louboutin. This year the magic Christian has teamed up with photographer Peter Lippmann and a bunch of dead artists (Whistler, Corot, de La Tour and Co.) to recreate paintings with living models

The results are fashionably spooky and often, as in the case of Arrangement in Grey and Black, weirdly perfect (until you check with the original side-by-side that is). Back in the day (the early 19th century day) Tableau Vivant was all the rage as a public spectacle and parlour game. “Hey Jess, let’s get the gang together and do the raft of the Medusa” sort of thing. Now it’s down to advertising snazzy shoes. That's entertainment.

Images: Top, Peter Lippmann’s version of James Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black and bottom Whistler’s effort.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

And the Award goes to...

For best view from the interior of an art museum, Quai Branly in Paris.

Prints Charming

We were updating on the art editions available from various galleries and became fascinated by the number and value of Dick Frizzell prints in the editions section of Gow Langsford’s site. No-one has so effortlessly straddled the high and popular art worlds with such finesse as Dick Frizzell and nothing illustrates it better than the GL site. It looks as if all the Frizzell prints currently for sale (plus a few sold out editions) are there in editions between 60 and 100. That means if the full editions of the 45 prints on offer from the last ten or so years were sold, they'd bring in just under four and a half million dollars.

Given Frizzell's huge success in the art print business his print set for the Rugby World Cup feels strangely out of touch with his market. It seems too obvious, we'd have thought, for the art market and too weird for the sports folk. But, who knows. The RWC prints are also on sale at the Gow Langsford site and, if the 300 limited edition boxed sets do go out the door, they'll rack up $1.8 million plus. Just counting.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Art on the doll

If your daughter’s room is already chocka with Muka prints and you can’t get her interested in any of the Walters Prize winners, try brightening her day with an art doll from Mattel. We’re not talking regular dolls here but rather, as the Mattel people say, “an amazing fusion of fashion and fine art.”

In the recently launched Art Museum collection you can choose from three Barbies inspired by Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt or Leonardo da Vinci. The Van Gogh model is basic blonde (both ears intact) in a Starry Night dress but the Klimt makes an attempt to go for a Kiss hair-do along with the well-known patterned gown. The da Vinci Barbie could be any brunette American Mom waiting at the front door in her housecoat.

And if architecture is your thing there is also a Barbie channelling the Sydney Opera House.
Images: Front to back, Barbie Klimt, Barbie van Gogh and Barbie da Vinci

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

In Paris and Berlin

Thinking about Michael Parekowhai
Images: left, Paris. Right, Berlin


The new print of Martin Scorsese’s feature film Taxi Driver has gone global for the 35th anniversary and you can catch it at the New Zealand International Film Festival. In the run-up to the launch, Columbia Pictures released some memorabilia from the movie, including the driver's licence Robert De Niro used when playing the role of Travis (you talking to me?) Bickle - and here it is.

One of our own artists was a number one Scorsese fan and could in fact recite the entire Jake LaMotta dressing room speech from Raging Bull. We’re talking about Julian Dashper. In his early days a taxi driver himself, he took the name Travis as his nom de taxi - as you can see.

Monday, July 04, 2011

When you’re in a hole, fill it.

If there is one thing Christchurch has plenty of it's gaps where once there were buildings. Is there anything more likely to kill the spirits than this kind of living evidence of disaster? When we were there before the second big quake, we noticed that a demolition site on Victoria Street had been turned into a small park. It had been done cheaply with sleepers and gravel and some planting but the result was beautiful. We now discover that this initiative was the brainchild of a group called Greening the Rubble and it even had a name: Victoria Green

Also tackling the challenge of vacant is Gap Filler, an organisation that was set up to “play a part in assisting the work and survival of Christchurch's artists and communities by providing sites and outlets for a range of creative activity and public interaction.” While that might be a bit of a mouthful, the cunning of the idea is to put wasteland and creative minds together with a little funding to stimulate some action. So now a few of the Christchurch gaps are being filled with green space and gardens as well as temporary art installations, movies and music. You can follow Greening the Rubble and Gap Filler’s very nicely designed sites and offer up ideas and support if you can.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Rene Magritte (Not)

Rene Magritte's famous pipe image at work in the advertising industry.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Art at work

There’s not that much art you can play in. Mostly kids get ticked off when they try to interact with the artwork but with Markus Sixay’s I am prepared for you it’s a total free for all. We should have included sweeping up the confetti to the MMK list of things to do. The small child hard at work here only wanted the small red bits of confetti that were shaped like hearts. The rest she tossed over her shoulder. She has a long way to go: the amount of confetti is based on the weight of the artist which came in at an alarming 150 kg.
Image: Markus Sixay’s installation I am prepared for you at the MMK in Frankfurt.