Friday, February 06, 2015


Paper tiger    Is Wellington really the Cultural Capital of NZ? Not if its local paper the Dominion Post has anything to judge by. Its 150-year anniversary history, Paul Elenio’s The Dominion Post: 150 years of news, is defiantly arts averse. There's just one entry with art possibilities, “McDonald’s opening” but it turned out to be just that. Hamburgers. Te Papa gets a couple of pages but only about the building and how Te Papa’s critics were body-slammed into the dust by the first CE Cheryll Sotheran (insert hollow laughter here). Oddly, the line the DomPost has dished up to its readers over more recent years that “Te Papa is losing its gloss” didn’t make it into history.

Bambury cross    Like Dickens' interminable legal fest Jarndyce v Jarndyce the Bambury v Jensen court case won't leave the spotlight. Back in March 2014 the two adversaries (it’s one of those who-sold-what-to-whom-and-when-and-what-happened thingos) were waiting for a slot in the High Court. It now looks like the days of reckoning are at hand so it's probably time for the boys to make up before the legal system really starts piling up the costs. Given the current legal firm charge out rates ($317 an hour for partners according to the Law Society #soundslow) vs dealer commissions and Bambury paintings (top price at auction $36,000, so let's estimate around $60,000 a pop) it’s hard to see how there can be much profit left in the case for anyone outside chambers.
A quick response    The latest round of Creative NZ's Quick response grants listed 20 named artists and one collective in the Visual Arts section. The boys did best (well there were more of them at 12 to 8) getting $68,600. That's an average of $5,716 a grant which was couple of hundred dollars above the total grant average. As for the women, they got $44,304 in total with an average of $5,538. Yes, it's below the men (again) and also below the average amount given over the whole round. #musttryharder. 
You have to strut before you can run   Dealers are experiencing a bit of an income freeze thanks to Te Papa’s mighty struggle to snag a million dollar plus painting by English artist William Strutt from a dealer in the UK. Strutt has been a big thing in Australia for some years now with his epic history paintings so we can expect some NZ content for our dollars. Efforts to get the Strutt into the collection along with a review of the buy-at-any-cost policy that has been operating at Te Papa since it was invented has meant a hold on contemporary purchases. What's causing the trouble is that in the last five years the best price Strutt has managed at auction is around $15,000 (you have to go back to 1998 to find one that got over $100,000 and then just over). Te Papa is no doubt struggling to get independent valuations anywhere close to what the vendors are asking and ends up making offers that don't cut it.  
MC DCNZ    has made some productive connections with curators over the years and one of them is now director of the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington. Melissa Chiu was born in Darwin and helped found the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney. She was then snapped up by the Asia Society Museum in New York as its first contemporary curator. In 2004, the same year she was made director, she curated Paradise now? Contemporary art from the Pacific in 2004.