Friday, November 30, 2012

Will that circle be unbroken

At a local coffee bar these copies of of old iconic ads including the Four Square grocer are for sale as artworks. From the original via Dick Frizzell and nearly back again. Enough to make you dizzy.

Hirst’s castle

“Could you just stand on one leg up there on the plinth?” How many artists get to hear this sort of request from photographers? Many resist but some just can’t. Following super-mugger Jeff Koons, here is the leading British entry Damien Hirst featuring five of his favourite themes, arm-work, face mugging, hand-work, wide-open and head-to-head. 

As a Friday extra some Hirst related quotes.
“There’s no reasonable ‘why’ to it—just a big ‘why not?’
US art critic Peter Schjeldahl 

“Damien Hirst is a brand, because the art form of the 21st century is marketing.” 
Germaine Greer 

“People are very funny, because they like buying things when they’re expensive. They don’t like buying things when they’re inexpensive. All of a sudden, they can buy the art for the same price as it was 15 years ago, but now they don’t want to do it.” 
Art collector Alberto Mugrabi on Damien Hirst’s work at auction 

“When the penny drops that these are not art, it's all going to collapse. Hirst should not be in the Tate. He's not an artist. What separates Michelangelo from Hirst is that Michelangelo was an artist and Hirst isn't."
Art Museum professional Julian Spalding in his book Con Art – Why You Ought To Sell Your Damien Hirsts While You Can 

“That’s not an art achievement, it’s a financial achievement.”
Art dealer Michael Findlay commenting on Hirst's multi million dollar auction in 2000 

“Art is about life and the art world’s about money” 
“We’re here for a good time, not a long time.” 
Artist Damien Hirst

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Art at work

Paratene Matchitt's bridge sculpture paying its way in Wellington

I spy

The second episode in our series When art goes to the movies came out back in 2008 and featured Goya's The Duke of Wellington. It had been stolen from the National Gallery in London and turned up as a prop in the 1962 James Bond movie Dr. No.

Now 50 years later the stolen-painting story has been revived for Skyfall. This time the feature item is Modigliani's 1919 canvas Woman With A Fan stolen from the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris in May 2010 and making a brief appearance in the villain's Shanghai apartment. In good news for Modigliani collectors it turns out to be bullet proof as there is no sign of damage after a direct hit with a high-powered rifle. 
Bond is also up-cultured with a visit to the National Gallery in London (where he gazes pensively at Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire. This ship fought at Trafalgar and is seen on its way to the knacker’s yard in one of Skyfall's many I’m-a-metaphor moments. In this case let us consider the demise of old-school spy craft. Back in 2005 The Fighting Temeraire was voted ‘greatest painting in a British art gallery’ and for Trivial Pursuit fans there's even an Ian Fleming moment; he grew up in a house on Cheyne Walk that once belonged to J M W Turner.
Other art references in Skyfall? OK, there’s a fallen ‘socialist-style’ statue on the Japanese island of Hashima that serves as the villain’s lair, and it turns out that the middle name of Bond’s mother was Delacroix. Slim pickings.

Images: Left, Modigliani's Woman With A Fan. Right top, James Bond at the National Art Gallery (behind him Joseph Wright’s An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (left) and Mr and Mrs William Hallett by Thomas Gainsborough). Right middle, The Fighting Temeraire by J M W Turner and bottom right broken socialist sculpture prop thing

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Caught in the middle

Neil Dawson's Ferns an iconic presence, even in bloody Middle Earth

F bomb

Watching a painter obliterate the familiar mural from the side of the Moore Wilson’s building in central Wellington reminded us that not only did these product images stop endless tagging (some weird code of ethics between muralists and taggers that works throughout most of the city), but also that they had been painted where some sloganeering from the early 1980s had been. 

This was the site of the abandoned Thompson Lewis building which had housed the exhibition F1 (Factory 1) in November 1982. It was the brain child of Ian Hunter (then acting director at the National Art Gallery) and Andrew Drummond who was also on staff. F1 was a big shambling show that featured over its 2,800 metres just about every sculptor working in New Zealand and some more brought in from overseas. 

The floors were taken up by large-scale installations like Extensums by Pauline Rhodes and in the upper rooms and amongst the beams Andrew Drummond practised his Shamanistic arts. Richard Killeen was there, so too was Peter Nicholls. In fact Nicholls's work Full stop (he convinced the New Zealand Army Engineers to drop a three tonne boulder on to a sheet of heated steel) was on view on the Wellington harbour coastline for years after but seems to have vanished when we looked for it the other day. 

 And the slogan connection? We’ve mentioned it before, “When is a factory not a factory? When it’s a closed shop.” 
Images: Top, mural out. Bottom left, Thompson Lewis back in the day. Right, Peter Nicholls Full stop

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sound alike

Evil Mule et al.

One day in the bedroom

Woman: Darling....

Man: Yes darling?

W: We need to plan the wedding. It’s only four months away now.

M: (looking for remote control) Right, absolutely, yesss (finds it).

W: I was thinking we might have a wedding artist as well as a photographer.

M: (Brightens) A wedding artist? Well, why not. We could go conceptual, have Marina in to do the severed head thing as table decorations … she might even throw in a couple of nude bridesmaids lying on the head table.

W: I was thinking more…

M: Or…or…we could have Tino Sehgal come and do a touchy feeley thingy in the dark with the guests.

W: No, I thought more of a…

M: You’re right. We need to think of something more aspirational. How about huge Barbara Kruger banners?  Your body is a battleground or The meaning of life is that it stops or…

W: … or, You are not yourself

M: What?

W: Nothing.

M: Ok. How about this. We slip Vito Acconci under the floor boards as a bit of a surprise … hmmm, perhaps not. I know. Five giant screens with videos of elephants sitting down, guys knocking their heads against cars or for later in the evening that Martin Creed one where everyone vomits…. er… (noticing)… but what did you have in mind?

W: I was thinking about having a wedding painter.

M: A wedding painter! I DON’T  THINK  SO.

But that is what they did.

Image: You can meet your own wedding painting needs here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Who knew

"The Govett-Brewster is a pathfinder, generating courageous exhibitions, innovative artists’ projects, cultural initiatives, significant publications and rigorous conversations with a wide national and international reach that stimulate ideas, challenge preconceptions and enrich the imagination." 

The Govett-Brewster spruiks itself in its advert for a senior curator. More amazingness here


Webb’s has always done a bit of it, Art+Object in general resisted, Hotere was always a sitter for as was Fomison, and as for Goldie, it’s impossible to imagine one without it. We’re talking the frame here, not just on paintings, but in the photographs of paintings.

The latest Art+Object catalogue (Tuesday 6.30 pm) looks like a push into having the frame become an essential part of presenting paintings for auction. This time 32 percent of the works in the catalogue have been photographed with their frames included, that’s twice as many as in the Les and Milly Paris auction back in September.

Webb’s latest catalogue (Wednesday, 6.30 pm) only has 15 percent of its entries photographed with frames, but back in March it was only eight percent so maybe the increase is a trend. If anyone can be bothered going back through a hundred or so auction catalogues they might be able to confirm this but, in the mean time, we’ll settle for it being a cluster. Still it isa truism that many dealers and collectors play the frame game. People might not understand the value of a work but whack an expensive or exotic frame round it and there's not many who don't get the message.

In case you’ve drifted off, here's a guessing game. The frames in this post’s image are all from the Art+Object catalogue. Can you name the artists they enhanced? Answers here.

By the way, if you’re after work by women artists at either of these two auctions, forget it. Artworks by women at A+O are 8.3 percent of the 84 lots and Webb’s 11.5 percent of their 87.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Much has changed in the six years OTN has been publishing. Back in 2006 the idea of a serious artist who wasn’t Andy Warhol putting his or her name on a product was unusual whereas now artist brands fill every corner of the what-will-we-buy-someone-who-has-everything (i.e. super-rich) market. 

Still, we couldn't let this one pass without mention. Yes, a limited edition Tequila with Gabriel Orozco’s signature and signature patterned skull going for $2,250 a bottle. If you think half a dozen or so of these will help fill your Christmas gift needs you'd better get going. Orozco's tequila is in the inevitable ‘limited edition’, this one of 400 signed bottles.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Not so lookalike

The history of artists writing inscriptions on their paintings is well established in New Zealand and never more needed than on the streets of Dunedin. A OTN badge for the first reader to identify which one of the two figures in this Ivan Hill painting is Justin Paton.

Ad break

Someone at Pataka, Porirua's art museum, has a long memory and a wicked sense of humour. The marketing campaign for their exhibition Wild at Heart includes a poster under a mock Porirua Standard masthead with the arresting headline “Oxen charge patrons…” 

Anyone who was in Wellington in the late seventies and early eighties will fondly recall The Double Standard. To the delight and horror of the morning’s commuters these mock newspaper posters were put up around the city late at night by an anonymous feminist group. The most famous took a poke at then-Prime Minister Robert Muldoon (known to his enemies as Piggy Muldoon). 

As was its want The Double Standard mashed up two events: one real and one rumoured. This time it was the reported shooting of a wild pig in the bush in Ngaio mixed with rumours that the PM had a mistress who lived in the suburb. The Double Standard gleefully announced, “Rooting pig shot in Ngaio. PM safe.”

Thursday, November 22, 2012


In a new museum photo craze many visitors have traded in taking pics of the paintings to taking pics of themselves mugging the paintings. One of our favourite sites Hyperallergic trawled up a good range of examples from MoMA's Twitter stream featuring some ‘Screamers’ in action. They also pointed their readers to this nice Scream animation.

Family jewels or excess baggage?

Should art museums sell off works in their collections to streamline their collecting efforts or, even more controversially, to raise funds? All art museums have works (often gifted) that sit in their store rooms like bumps on a log with no real ties to anything else, but it's rare that they're subjected to the D word. That’s de-accessioning (the wonderfully distancing name museums give to flogging off works from the collection).
In fact high value works are sold out of public collections every year all around the world. In the US, for instance four high-end works have recently being talked up and sold at auction. The Cleveland Museum of Art has just let go Monet’s Cornfield which was gifted to them just after the Second World War (they got just shy of $15 million for it), the Virginia Museum of Art put Renoir’s Vase of Roses and Dahlias on the block ($1.2 million) and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington decided to sell a 1967 Picasso Musketeer With a Hat ($5.2 million at auction earlier this week). So together the four lots accrued around $21.5 million.
Announcing that works are to be removed from an art museum's collection often results in an explosion of public indignation. Ironically this reaction often mirrors the indignation expressed when public money was used to get the item into the collection in the first place. For this reason museums here often border on the furtive about any sales although the Govett-Brewster ran a model process we’ve mentioned before that involved getting past directors together to discuss each item proposed.
In a previous post we pointed to Te Papa's works by Natalia Goncherova as prospects for sale. These stand outside the rest of the collection but have an extraordinarily high value in the market. Dunedin’s Monet is another example. Is local pride a good enough reason to hold onto them? As the collections of public art museums in NZ grow year by year and demand more resources to care for them, you can bet deaccessioning will be a conversation that funders will want to have with our museums before too long. Maybe the museums should start it themselves and head them off at the pass.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Round the back of New World...

 ... thinking about Matt Akehurst

Slice of heaven

As expected New Zealand dealer galleries are starting to up their commission on sales to 50 percent. At least one major Auckland dealer has already done the deed so the others won't be far behind.

Of course that's not to say that top-selling artists won't be able to negotiate down, even below the 40 percent currently changed by most dealers.

Meanwhile down South there's the Dunedin School of Arts. Not content with simply hauling in government funding, private sector grants and student fees, this educational institution has informed fine arts students that it intends to raise its commission (yes, they charge commission on student sales) to 25 percent on their end of year exhibitions. The unconvincing argument for the increase is that the art school “subsidised the exhibition” and that “they made a loss.”

Then, in auction land, a new way of structuring commission based on performance is starting to appear internationally. Sotheby’s now have the following clause inserted in their contracts with sellers: “Sotheby’s performance related commission will be equal to the lower of (i) 2.00% of the hammer price achieved for that lot and (ii) the difference between the hammer price achieved for the lot and its final high presale estimate”.

In NZ where vendors of top-line items are managing to push auction sales commissions down or remove them completely, there is unlikely to be any shift in the short term, but the incentives for Sotheby’s are clear. They conclude almost 40 percent of their sales above the high estimate. Now that's not something that happens in NZ very often. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Images: Left, topiary by an anonymous photographer. Right, artist John Reynolds

Blow up

Here’s a mind puzzle for you. In 2003 Jeff Koons cast a set of inflatable monkeys in aluminium and painted them to look just like the originals (Monkeys (Chair) from the Popeye series). The three monkeys hung from the ceiling with the bottom of the three holding onto a chair that swung free of the floor. To look at the works you'd swear they were inflated plastic, to touch them (while the guard wasn’t looking) was to know they were metal. 

The other day in a gift store in Wellington we were surprised to see the same 'sculpture' displayed in the window only this time it was really made of inflated plastic monkeys, the same ones Koons used. If you want to make your own Monkeys (chair) go here (chair not included).
Images: Top left, available inflatable monkeys, right, Koons Monkeys (chair) and bottom, the Wellington version

Monday, November 19, 2012

Style section

Because we want you to look good either carrying your laptop or giving the gift. Warhol case here for $US59.99

Still life

The Wellington Sculpture Trust has just announced the completion of its 27th public sculpture, a set of pale blue-green Kina by Michel Tuffery that lean against a bank (sea-shore variety not commercial) partly submerged in water in the downtown wharf area. This commission has no moving parts which is doubtless a relief to the Trust. 

Mobile sculpture is a major maintenance problem and one that won’t ever go away. In fact, it just gets worse over time. Still, no one ever said it would be easy having sculptures that moved in public spaces, particularly in a salt-laden city like Wellington, and it isn’t. 
Over the years practically all Wellington's moving sculptures have had to be overhauled. Leon van den Eijkel's Urban forest has rarely spun on all 15 cylinders and there are always few of the boxes frozen in place. There are also signs that the spinning cones of Phil Dadson’s Akau tangi are going to suffer ongoing seizures with at least one not spinning this weekend. Same with Phil Price's downtown work Protoplasm whose movements are becoming increasingly arthritic. 
Back at the harbour Len Lye’s Water Whirler has the indignity of a semi-permanent ‘not working sign’ that itself is starting to rust and chip. And as if all this were not enough, one of the latest public sculptures (Shane McGrath’s Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds 2012) is not even a year old and is already needing a makeover with large patches of varnish gone and nail rust bleeding through as weathering takes its toll. This work came to the city courtesy of the Wellington City Council, City Gallery and Massey but the fragility of its unpainted wooden structure was always going to test any Civic idea of permanence.
The need for maintenance on kinetic sculpture is not trivial real and it must be a concern that the City Council already stretched financially will downgrade their regular maintenance. The result of that would be a slam dunk. Salt 1 - sculpture 0.
Images: Top to bottom left to right, Price's Protoplasm, McGrath’s Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds, Len Lye’s Water Whirler, Leon van den Eijkel's Urban forest and Phil Dadson’s Akau tangi. (click on image to enlarge)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday chart

Friday, November 16, 2012

The morning after the day before

This morning’s Dominion Post announced “A Grahame Sydney painting has sold for a record price at an auction in Wellington.” Well, not really at auction. At auction the Sydney painting stalled at $125,000. It was the following day in an art dealer type negotiation that the work was sold for $160,000. Given the commissions involved it looks like the auctioneers extracted a further $24,000 from the top bidder who had already got up to $136,000 on the night (who knows if Sloanes took a further commission hit to sweeten the final sale).

No wonder most auction houses are easing their way into art dealer territory with what they call (in a kind of Victorian way) private treaty sales sales outside the auction process. It’s a rock and a hard place: lower estimates (the sellers don’t like that) or cut-price deals when the public auction is over. Given the high demand for fresh-to-market items and risk that a work can become badly tainted if it doesn't sell at auction the first time round the choices are not easy.

Set piece

Anyone who lives in Wellington and who's into the arts will have benefited from the generosity of patrons Denis and Verna Adam. You'll very likely have seen them also attending a multitude of art events over the years.
Less well known is the fact that Denis Adam’s brother Ken is the designer of the sets for the early James Bond movies as well as the famous war room from Stanley Kubrick’s satirical film Dr Strangelove or how I stopped worrying and learnt to love the bomb. Apocryphal maybe but it has been said that when Ronald Reagan became President and was admitted to the Pentagon War room he was hugely disappointed. He was expecting something far more stylish and dramatic - something much more like the one in Dr Strangelove - than a regular meeting room.
On a visit to his brother in Wellington we were lucky enough to hear Ken Adam talk about his work with accompanying slides. As an off-course substitute here's a short documentary about him from 1979 featuring some of his best known work including Barry Lyndon that scored him an Oscar.
Image: The war room from Dr Strangelove

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Go get 'em

"We need artists to work outside the establishment and start looking at the world in a different way – to start challenging preconceptions instead of reinforcing them."
Will Gompertz, BBC arts editor

The wrong stuff

More jokes than sales at last night’s Dunbar Sloane auction in Wellington. Even a big push by local media when they came down from planet WTF to up-talk the saleability of Hammonds and Sydneys didn’t help. Stuff/Dominion Post even hauled out one of the owners giving him free range to promote works he had in the sale as “bullet-proof investments” (not for him as it transpired) and to claim that one of his Sydneys was “one of his most significant works”(not really) and that “All the rest are owned by institutions now” (unlikely). The reporter seemed too stunned by this boosterism to bother with questioning whether it’s “rare for significant Sydney and Hammond works to come up for auction” (no).
So how did all this enthusiasm and spruiking pan out at the rostrum? Not so good. Contemporary art took a beating to the sound of Dunbar Sloane’s good-natured-stroke-weird commentary: Hotere “It’s not totally black, it’s got some little red lines there… but you’d need the light on.” The eponymous auctioneer even paused to ask the audience whether or not he should write a book and then called out for a ghost-writer. But one by one the big-ticket items fell under their low estimates (Hammond, Hanly, Hotere and Sydney) often by yawning margins.
Of 26 contemporary lots the bidding reached a total of $544,000 against low estimates totalling $768,000 with 16 of the 26 lots being hammered down, often hopefully, as ‘subject’. A few bargains in Peryer and Fomison but if Dunbar Sloane was to get a smile out of the evening it was going have to be from the long line of traditional landscapes that followed.
Image: Hammond and Maddox wait their turn

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


A Wellington coffee bar goes Ralph Hotere

Digital dreams

The art museum world has been pretty slow at coming to terms with the digital world. Even now, and after a considerable amount of encouragement and enthusiasm by Best of 3, they are still really only just at the getting-the-collection-online and maybe-blogging-once-in-a-while stage. 
The exception is of course the Christchurch Art Gallery who blog regularly, sometimes provocatively and often amusingly once a day at least and have introduced My gallery image sets as a way of life for many of their fans. The fact is the digital world is fast and rapacious so blogging once a week or putting up a future exhibitions programme that’s just a list, or not having pics of your latest exhibition up three tenths of a second after the show opens (well at least before EyeContact puts them up for you) is kind of lame.
Here’s a list of things we have assembled from talking around and asking people what they would like to see on art museum web sites.
  • A constantly updated and annotated list of the latest art books. With no art bookshop left in Auckland (or anywhere else for that matter) this information is now hard to get unless you are professionally engaged.
  • Images of the current exhibitions on show (videos would be nice too). It won’t stop people coming (honest). 
  • Use Tweeting as a communication tool not just a promotional one - it's hard to respond to things that are just about how-amazing-we-are.
  • YouTube movies of all talks and lectures the day after they are given. And what with Skype being free and all how about including some off-shore people into some of these discussions.
  • The opportunity for the public to join in on cataloguing your collection with tagged information and stories, the Smithsonian already does this on Flickr
  • Regular posts, tweets or sets on great objects in the collection you don’t have space to show. 
  • Pdfs of all your printed catalogues from day one (Volunteers will do the scanning for you)
  • A personal report with pics from any curators who’s scored an overseas trips, telling us what’s going on out there (doesn’t have to be formal or the opinion of the institution and could start with Tweets or posting during the trip).
  • At least one thing that will give people a laugh once a week 
  • A chance to donate toward purchasing specific art works for the collection Kickstarter style
There’s plenty more where that came from (thanks G and M), but that’ll do for now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


For everyone who has ever made a small memory sketch of an artwork in a gallery, or tried to show someone what they are talking about with only a pen or pencil to help, this c.1942 letter from Alexander Calder to the art historian Agnes Clafin. In it Calder depicts eight of his sculptures (one notated “rather hard to balance”) that he was keen for her to see in his New York apartment. At the time Clafin was probably preparing her narration for Alexander Calder: Sculpture and Constructions, one of the first ever art museum multi-media shows. It was shown as part of Calder’s 1943 survey exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
Source: via the wonderful Archivesof American Art

Art of the deal

“Sometimes you will show somebody something. It’s not like you’re actually offering it for sale. You’re trying to see if somebody might be interested in something. This is a very common practice for art dealers.” (Page30 lines 4-10)
“There are times when I or other dealers will show somebody something to see if they might be interested in making a bid on it, and then contacting the owner of that painting to see if we can make a deal.” (Page 30 lines 16-21)
Q: “The question is, do you ever represent the buyer and seller on the same sales transaction on consignment without actually telling the buyer and seller that you are representing both sides of the deal?
A: I don’t necessarily tell them explicitly. I think it is implied in many transactions.
Q: Is the answer to my question that yes, you’ve done that, without explicitly telling both sides you’re representing both sides?
A: To be honest with you, the question hardly ever gets asked. I never get asked the question are you representing both sides. The question doesn’t come up.
Q: Whether or not it’s asked have you done that, represented both sides of the deal on a consignment transaction without telling the buyer and seller respectively that you’re representing both sides?
A: Yes, I have
Q: Have you done it frequently for a number of years?
A: Yes (Page 151-52 lines 10-25, 2-16)
In the State of New York’s Supreme County court in Manhattan art dealer Larry Gagosian reveals all as he gives his videotaped deposition during a lawsuit involving the sale of a disputed Roy Lichtenstein enamel Girl in mirror. You can read the entire deposition here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The two sides of Foxton

Foxton makes a bid for tourist pics with a double sided hole-in-the-head-stick-your-face-in photo opp feature. In a rare twist on the usual art/sport hierarchy it's the art side that faces the road.

Growing the Nation’s collection

At the end of each financial year Te Papa lists in its Annual Report all the acquisitions for the year. What do last year's visual art purchases tell us about the National collection? 

2 international art works and from NZ 2 sculptures, 8 paintings (3 by one artist), 7 prints by one artist. A total of 19 items of historical and modern art. There was some other decorative arts stuff too, lots of jewellery (24 pieces), some ceramics and a load of museum-bound historical documentary photos (no contemporary photography). 

Compare that to say the Chartwell collection over the same period. 10 sculptures, 10 paintings, 3 installations, 6 photographs, 4 works on paper and 7 videos. A total of 40 items 

Te Papa was also gifted some work over the year. A painting from a government department, some craft pieces gifted by the artists and their dealer as part of a purchase, a sculpture gifted by the artist and his dealer as part of a purchase, a painting gifted by a dealer and a video gifted by the artist. You can see the full list here. 

Image: Art + Object’s Hamish Coney takes a phone bid at the Les and Milly Paris auction, behind him the Walters painting that was hammered down to Te Papa to kick off the 2012-13 acquistitions

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Copy Cassie

The trouble with artists mixing it with design and fashion is that it gives your signature style an incentive to sneak off and slum it down in the commodity markets. One day you’re pimping Louis Vuitton, the next you’re background fodder for a trashy video clip. If you’re up for it here’s a music video by Nicki Minaj & Cassie performing The Boys. Apart from the Kusama blitz there are other art references to be spotted – at least a nod to Warhol and that sure looks like a Turrell roof piece, then there’s the Dali chair and (if one pink balloon is enough) the start of Creed’s Work Number 329 Pink balloons, a room with balloons talking up half its volumetric space.
Images: Lookalikes from top to bottom left to right, Yayoi Kusama, Andy Warhol, James Turrell, Salvador Dali and (at a pinch) Martin Creed

Friday, November 09, 2012

Take no prisoners

“Winners win, losers lose. Shoot the wounded, save yourself. Those are the rules." 
Dave Hickey describing the art market as he takes his leave

Striking gold

When Karl Fritsch was offered an exhibition at the Deutsches Goldschmiedehaus in Hanau, he decided to take advantage of the fact that one of the local businesses was a gold smelter. The company was responsible for melting down unwanted jewellery into bars of gold and other metals and alloys and Fritsch saw an opportunity to get some raw material. Peering into a huge bin of jewellery of all kinds Fritsch immediately wanted to start working with it and to reconstruct the old rings into new works. Unfortunately that wasn’t on. The foundry was legally obliged to render all the material that was sent to it. Security around the gold bullion was also very tight so when Fritsch eventually asked to borrow a kilo he didn’t have high hopes of scoring. Turned out he walked out of the foundry with a kilo of gold in a plastic shopping bag. The end result of Fritsch + gold + hammer was three beaten bowls, one sold, one on hold and the third to escape being melted back into ingots by taking pride of place at the smelter who intend to use it for display at fairs. As a quid pro quo Fritsch is thinking of making a bigger gold bowl by taking his shopping bag along to fill up with 5 kilos of the stuff. 

Images: the raw gold ingots in store. Bottom, Goldene Schale by Karl Fritsch

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Good bye Possum

“We would like to have said farewell."
Locals from the Cardrona Valley in response to a “larger than life” bronze statue of the rally driver Possum Bourne being removed from its hill-top plinth above their valley and taken to his hometown of Pukekohe. Full story here in the NZH

Art in the movies: Arbitrage

Anyone who catches the new Richard Gere vehicle Arbitrage will immediately connect it with Wall Street the famous greed-is-good pic. While Arbitrage is not so hot on great one-liners, once again art is used to supply the fabulous wealth metaphor and like Wall Streets I and II the art is real-stuff borrowed in. According to the New York Times the budget for getting art onto the walls of the various locations was $US60,000. 

All this spending on packing, transport, lease and copyright fees was in the charge of critic/curator/consultant Linda Yablonsky who writes for the NYT, Artforum and other art mags. Her selection includes a number of artists whose work is fairly easy to recognise in the film including Donald Baechler, Brice Marden, Laurie Simmons, Alexander Calder and Marilyn Minter (and we did spot the inevitable Mock Rothko in the background of one shot). On a more local note, a good deal of the art came from the New York dealer Salon94 that has Francis Upritchard in its stable although we didn't spot a Upritchard sculpture up on the screen. 

Then, as the movie includes the now almost mandatory female art dealer as a key character, an opening had to be arranged. The subject of this solo exhibition is photo-realist painter Victor Rodriguez who was the choice of the movie's director Nicholas Jarecki (sorry curatorial team but that’s what directors do best). Given that the production was using Vic’s apartment on White Street in Tribeca (it used to be the famous Mudd Club – Basquiat, Haring, Madonna) for the gallery location there are no surprises there.  

OTN PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: as anyone in the film world will tell you (unless they are on the hunt for a location) never, ever, under any circumstances, let a feature film crew into your house, apartment, office or boatshed.

For most of Arbitrage art pretty much serves as I-am-rich wallpaper although a Brice Marden does get a small speaking part when the mogul (Gere) praises his art dealer and girlfriend on the side with, “She bought me these Brice Mardens here and over time they’ve gone up in price.” Spoiler alert – it doesn’t help her at all, not one little bit. 

Images: Left Robert Miller (Richard Gere) walks past Ryan McGinley's Dusk flip smoke strip and right Detective Michael Bryer (Tim Roth) partly obscures a blurry Brice Marden. Bottom, the mock Mark Rothko

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Ain't that brand

Billy Apple headlines the latest Frieze magazine in a massive 5500 word interview with Anthony Byrt. The reason for all this? Barrie Bates became the brand Billy Apple 50 years ago. 

And the reason for the brand? “The brand was also a way to get away from the New Zealand connection. Suddenly, you’re from nowhere, you’re brand new. I became British – I was created there in 1962. I could say: ‘Billy Apple was born in London,’ and a lie detector wouldn’t twitch.” 

Apple and Byrt also talk about Apple’s advertising career and some of his key campaigns, his coming to New Zealand after his life in the UK and US and his quest for immortality. “Just like any true immortalisation process, the project is ongoing, and could go on forever. It has no perceivable end.” 

You can read it here

Prize list

Now that this year’s Walters Prize has been awarded, it seems certain that the Prize is in for some tweaking. The $50,000 prize has been handed out six times but if this year it was possible for the jury to make a selection based on exhibitions they had not seen. You can see a copy of the current rules here that clearly state that at least one member of the jury must have seen a nominated exhibition. Whoops.  Knowing nominated exhibitions determine what artists are required to present at the Auckland Art Gallery that feels fair enough. There’s got to be a way to exit this hall of mirrors.

The success of the Walters has certainly been due to the very open rules in place from the outset. It's been a tribute to the sponsors that the Prize has been allowed to find its own style. Bringing in an international judge has been a huge success (although it would be great if they could spend some more time here) and this year's Prize has apparently attracted the biggest audiences so far. As for the suggestion that it’s an Auckland prize, well, the rest of us might just have to get over it.
Here then our top 10 list of how to improve the current format of the Walters Prize. 
1) Drop naming a single exhibition per artist in the shortlist and return to selecting “works or bodies of work“ that has made an “outstanding contribution to contemporary art in New Zealand in the two-year period”. The jury could then include overseas exhibitions in their consideration without having to see them all.
2) Leave it to the artists to decide how to represent the body of work in discussion with the Auckland Art Gallery. If it is based on one exhibition, fine, if not, fine also.
3) Name the jury members at the start of the process. We don't understand why they are supposed to be anonymous to each other and every one else. More discussion and debate has got to be better than none.
4) Arrange for the jury to meet a few times during the two years. At present jury members work in isolation, better to let them compare notes, share ideas and check they are getting the best coverage of work between them. 
5) Make it a condition of selection that jury members agree to talk to the media.
6) Offer the overseas judge (one of the best and most important features of the Walters Prize) the opportunity to meet with the shortlisted artists before deciding on the winner. Not compulsory but it might be useful for some. 
7) Continue inviting past winners to the Walters Prize event - people love a sense of growing tradition.
8) Give the artists who don't win the Prize some more love. Sure they get a very generous $5,000 but on the night there could be less winner-takes-all. Champagne, flowers, a moment in the spotlight.
9) Dump the dinner for drinks and something more lively that doesn’t involve a string quartet.
10) Make the Walters Prize acquisitive. Good for the artists, good for the Auckland Art Gallery, good for the public.
Image: Kate Newby Yes

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Tied up

A Christo lookalike hanging out in Newtown


The disastrous floods that hit New York with Hurricane Sandy proved very destructive in the Chelsea art dealer precinct. Here are a few of the more poignant photographs (click on image to enlarge).

Top two rows, during and after the waters.

Second row left, a Carl Andre sculpture is left outside the Paula Cooper Gallery to dry with rust already forming. Centre, even industrial roller doors were buckled by the flood waters as they raged through to the street level gallery of David Zwirner. Right, pumping out the gallery.

Third row, tide lines at David Zwirner, Gagosian and an unlucky crate

Bottom, in one of the few moments of dark humour the appropriately named artist Mark Flood tempted fate at the Zach Feuer Gallery which like many of the ground floor galleries it is currently closed.

More photos and info here on Michael Neff’s Pinterest

Images: Top to bottom, left to right, photographs by Lindsay Howard, Art Fag City, Linda Yablonsky, Linda Yablonsky, Michael Neff, Katya Kazakina/Bloomberg, Katya Kazakina/Bloomberg, Julia Halperin and Zach Feuer 

Monday, November 05, 2012

Never mind the quality

Our local plant shop (left) does its bit to help Michelangelo’s David to man up.


unvarnished facts, reckless guesswork, insinuations and possible inventions that have arrived at snakepit closes mid show as bulldozers circle • word on the street puts the price of the gursky photo purchased by the auckland art gallery at around $800,000 • as the sole agency battles heat up ivan anthony instructs peter mcleavey to stop selling liz maw and andrew mcleod and to return their unsold works to him in auckland • in the meantime derek cowie has returned from london to front the peter mcleavey gallery for a while • the building that used to house the aag’s new gallery is going food court on the ground floor • hopkinson cundy have nailed a berth at frieze new york in 2013 • te papa also stumps up $86,000 for allen maddox’s painting ‘wanker’ at the les and milly paris auction • any missed details, indignant denials or additions gratefully received, and any that makes us laugh out loud rewarded.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

For the bottom of the market

It’s been around four years since we last pointed you to the competition Donald Judd or Cheap Furniture (and it remains one of the most insightful art quizzes ever compiled) so here it is again to help you while away Saturday morning. On its first outing here Julian Dashper scored a 10 out of 10 so there’s something to aspire to as well. 

Then, to show we don’t just do repeats, here is some artist furniture you don’t have to guess over.  (click on images to enlarge)
Images: Artist furniture top to bottom, left to right. Alexander Calder, Salvador Dali, Donald Judd, Joseph Beuys, Christo, Allen Jones, Franz West, Rachel Whiteread and John Chamberlain

Friday, November 02, 2012

As himself

Giovanni Intra appears as himself in Chris Kraus’s latest novel Summer of hate. Kraus, who spent time in New Zealand when her father worked here in the seventies, became a friend of Intra’s in LA around the time he and a Steve Hansen set up China Art Objects the first dealer gallery to move into LA’s Chinatown. You can read more about the book and Kraus here at GalleristNY 
Image: Giovanni Intra 2001

One day in the publisher’s office

Editor: I think it’s about time we did another big New Zealand art book. 

Publisher: Lavish. 

E: Huh? 

P: Lavish. Art books. We call them lavish. You know, not big, Lavish. Or sometimes big and lavish. But never just big. 

E: OK then, a lavish art book. Something that picks up the threads and weaves them together to create an image of our culture. 

P: A history of painting in other words. 

E: I was thinking more than that, like, you know, sculpture, photography, performance, installation, video .... 

P: No, no, let’s stick with painting. Less complicated, more popular. It's what people expect when the see the word art.

E: But we already have a book on New Zealand painting. 

P: We do? 

E: Yes. 200 years of New Zealand Painting. We published it back in 1971. 

P: Great. Then let’s update it. 

E: We already did. 

P: Damn. How long ago? 

E: 1990 

P: But that was … I don’t know … lots of years ago. 

 E: Eleven. 

P: Brilliant! We could call it the cricket update then. Maybe get Martin Crowe to do an intro. 

E: I’m sure I can find some art person to do it ... hopefully. 

P: Oh… OK. (counting on fingers) I’ve even got a title. Ready? 

E: (on the verge of tears) What? 

P: It's obvious really. 241 Years of New Zealand Painting

Which is almost what they did.