Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Bigears couldn’t be at the Auckland Art fair this year so Bigeyes read what people had to say.

‘I think we are near the entrance which gives us two bites of the cherry, get them on the way in get them on the way out!’ -Instagram

‘… pulsing crackling energy.’ -EyeContact

‘… glad I couldn't attend!‘ -EyeContact

‘I am pro gold jewelry.’ -Instagram

‘Auckland Art Fair – brilliant ‘ -Twitter

‘Don’t be afraid to talk to the dealers.… Most of them are genuinely enthusiastic about the work they show, and want you to be as excited by it as they are.’ – Metro

‘Stallholders smile warmly; you’ll have the full focus of their attention for five seconds’. -EyeContact

‘…utterly mesmerising.’ -Facebook

‘Disjointed art and unbridled commerce.’ -The Spinoff

‘Each work available individually.’ -Instagram

‘Auckland Art Fair, in association with money.’ -Twitter

‘My bronze rat infested walnuts made it into @nzhouseandgarden...’ -Instagram

'...it's the art that's important.' -The Gisborne Herald

Monday, May 30, 2016

Road works ahead

Was the Real Art Roadshow truck really travelling around New Zealand for nine years? It's hard to believe it was on the road for so long but news from Art + Object confirms it. Contrary to the website suggesting the project is looking for a buyer, the truck and its contents will be sold. This will bring to an end Fiona Campbell’s exemplary philanthropic project designed to educate school kids in the far corners of the country. 

The auction of the collection will take place on 1 November. So what sort of collection is it? Mark Amery once described it as 'engaging to all but the complete art luddite' and its popular appeal is certainly helped by around 72 percent of the works being figurative rather than abstract art. Most of the collection of 128 works spread across two trucks is made up of paintings and a good proportion of them (just over 75 percent) are by men, so pretty much the perfect mix for a successful art auction. The last two stops for the Real Art Roadshow will be in late September when it will call in at Papakura High School and Rosehill College before being packed up and put to market.
Images: the Real Art Trucks in action

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Taking sides

Friday, May 27, 2016

We am

Content is not usually your first thought when you look at Carl Andre’s famously reductive sculptures, but no one familiar with New Zealand art could walk past Andre’s Tau and Threshold (Element Series) without giving a thought to Colin McCahon. And it was not only a connection made by the Tau Cross that McCahon has made his own in NZ. There was also the Roman capital letter I  that is the basis of McCahon’s Necessary Protection series. To add to the zeitgeist jitter these two works were both made in the same year of 1971.

Images: left, Carl Andre Tau and Threshold (Element Series) and right, Colin McCahon The days and nights in the wilderness showing the constant flow of light passing through the wall of death

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A step up

After getting so exercised over the years by museums erecting rails around sculptures, here’s a novel approach to contemporary art. You can walk on it, but please don’t touch! These are the rules at the Carl Andre exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. Around 50 of Andre’s floor-based sculptures are on show, and you can stand all over 10 of them. The do not touch thing is apparently to prevent oils from your hands changing the metallic surfaces.  Looking at the oils that have already etched footprints into many of the pieces it feels a bit after-the-stable-doorish, but what an institutional effort to have got this far.  Many of the works are from private collections so the negotiation required so that visitors could walk over the work as Andre intended for a few months must have been intense. We're thinking some very expert curatorial schmooze…and maybe some flowers and wine too.

Images; top, foot traffic on Carl Andre’s 6-Metal Figure (for Mendeleev) 1995 and below, a record of all the footprints etched into it already.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Who knew?

Word that the University of Auckland's School of Fine Arts is exploring how its staff can use social media to boost their digital identities and their PBRF scores. Remember them? The mystic gradings that bring with them status and greater access to research funding. While social media (SM to those in the know) is not peer reviewed, who cares if you can accumulate points for hits and likes. I other words, what’s not to…er…like? To show how it might be done, here are a few models for Tertiary Tweeting.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Your pokie machine dollars at work

The latest round of Creative NZ grants has been announced. This time $1.8 million has been allocated, a nine percent reduction on the same round last year. The result is an average grant of $21,565 compared to last year's average of $24,478.

How did the visual arts make out? Well, thanks to Creative NZ becoming increasingly opaque since the departure of Alastair Carruthers, it takes a bit effort to work it all out. The charts that used to show percentage allocations have gone and so too has the ability to sort grants to the visual arts from the rest. This is the second year that some (but for some reason not all) Maori and Pacific grants have been included, it's a good idea but conveniently complicates efforts to make historical comparisons at the same time. The addition of Maori and Polynesian grants takes the visual arts component to a healthy sounding 26 percent of the total round. If you take them out the visual arts come in at around the usual 17 percent of the total allocation. Pacific Island grants were on average $15,626, Maori grants $25,000 and the rest of the visual arts grants averaged out at $18,449.

Here’s how the visual arts funding was divvied up with the Maori and Pacific Island grants included:

Publishing: $23,750 or 5.6 percent of the total

To NZ Institutions: $136,544 (32.15 percent)

Direct to named artist: $121,970 (28.7 percent)

Study overseas: $30,777 (7.25 percent)

Participation in overseas exhibitions and events: $111,702 (26.3 percent)

If you add in a couple of the named artists who have been funded to make exhibitions overseas, the total funding for off-shore projects is 39 percent.

And so it goes.

Monday, May 23, 2016


Julian Dashper was a great fan of Gerrit Rietveld chairs, and Rietveld tables for that matter. He had copies made of both the well-known Blue chair (which he painted in a new Dashper colour range) and the famous Zig-Zag chair. Rietveld himself once called the Zig Zag a ‘designer joke’ but Dashper took it pretty seriously. An early version made from MDF board didn’t survive but two more based on drawings in the book How to construct Reitveld furniture did. One is in 12mm ply and another in American ash (thanks M). We remember sitting (nervously at first) on one of the later sturdier versions. And now another  version of the Rietveld Zig Zag chair with a strong NZ connection has turned up in the Berlin dealer gallery Neugerriemschneider. This chair was made from swamp kauri by the British artist Simon Starling who has, yes, you guessed it, recently visited New Zealand. He had an exhibition at the City Gallery in 2014 and maybe it was then he came across the complications of exporting swamp kauri out of NZ. This red tape would no doubt have appealed to Starling. His bedtime reading probably includes bureaucratic gems like the Legislative requirements that relate to the milling and export of swamp kauri under the Forest Act 1949 and listings of documentation required to give Notice of intention to export. Anyway he wraps all these rules and regulations into his perfectly simple Zig Zag chair. We need one in NZ, (looking at you Te Papa) anyone out there to do the paperwork?
Image: Simon Starling Zig-Zag chair

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

‘everyone is an artist’
- Joseph Beuys, 1973

‘everyone is a curator’
- Hans Ulrich Obrist, 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016


OK, we give up. We've just been pointed to the tumblr who-wore-it-better and it wins the art lookalikes game hands down. It includes the name of the artist and title of the work with each photograph but, very kindly, it holds back on including the dates when the works were made. And you can submit your own problem copycats (looking at you Dane) or any other tight twosomes you find.

Image: left, Ai Weiwei Mei Le 2007 and right, Richard Long Red Slate Circle 1988 (thanks R, thanks B)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The other

A huge screen stretching across a large gallery space and playing across it on a single uninterrupted landscape a riff on the colonial experience. Sound familiar? To those who saw Lisa Reihana’s Transit of Venus (infected) it certainly might seem so, but in fact what we've just described is More Sweetly Play the Dance made by the white South African artist William Kentridge last year. 

His video installation The refusal of time was shown at the City Gallery in Wellington and he is now the subject of a large survey exhibition in Berlin. More Sweetly Play the Dance is the final work in the show and there are certainly intriguing connections to be made with Reihana. Kentridge's work similarly features dancers, performers and musicians in a closed circuit world, but whereas Reihana used early nineteenth century French wallpaper as her backdrop, Kentridge has created a scumbled, eroded, black and white surface with no romantic or historical reference. On this backdrop his characters head purposefully across the screen in a macabre dance of death in contrast to the way time itself seems to draw Reihana's vignettes slowly and imperceptibly across our vision. 

And then there's the action. While Kentridge's procession of African performers enacting those afflicted by disease, disaster and circumstance is legible to a fault, Reihana's characters play out their histories in the self-absorption of Arcadia. Kentridge's most propulsive element is the somewhat overwrought piece's discordant music featuring the same brass instruments the colonial invaders introduced as part of their military regime while Reihana's sound is both more contextual and low key. 

The colonised experience dramatised from two distinct perspectives. Not hard to choose sides.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Skin in the game

There aren’t many major companies that don’t call on an artist from time to time to give their brands an upward spin. Nike has just called on Martino Gamper, a regular exhibitor in NZ with Francis Upritchard, and he's answered the call. Gamper used one of Nike's new high-tech knit materials to fit out some drum kits with Nike skins. Who knows what they sound like?(well Nike probably do) but they look sharp and Gamper has added his own touches to the drum sides. You can see more here.

Other art brand combos from OTN
Jeff Koons and Dom Pérignon
Ralph Hotere and Westpac
Damien Hirst and Alexander McQueen
Gilbert and George and Comme des Garçons
Cindy Sherman and MAC
Salvador Dali and Chupa Chups
Jenny Holtzer and Keds

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

12 cool things Kiwi (visual) artists have achieved in the past year

The other day a headline in the NZ Herald caught the attention: '12 cool things artists have achieved this year'. Of course when you clicked through the artists involved were musicians and not of the installation, photographic, painting or sculpture variety. So here’s a 12 cool things they have achieved in the past year.

Billy Apple at 80 finally got his long overdue survey show at the Auckland Art Gallery. Did that mean he'd then sit back and take it easy? Not a chance. Apple is always ticking off items on a list of shows and projects that stretches into the future as well as getting to most of the key art events in the city.

Ruth Buchanan turned artist/ curator in Berlin with a series of thoughtful and witty interventions into a private collection being exhibited at the Hamburger Bahnhof. In the overall project A-Z The Marzona Collection Buchanan made changes and additions to the sections J, L and K in the alphabet-based show.

Simon Denny has to be included. He had a very good year but who’d have thought that MoMA, having purchased his sculptures last year, would make another large purchase from his Venice show.  As they say, the first purchase is representation, but if they come back for more, it’s serious attention.

Lisa Reihana proved that history can pull crowds with her large-scale video installation in Pursuit of Venus [infected] based on nineteenth century wallpaper. It got her the Venice gig, it's in contention for the Walters Prize and already some significant art museums have shelled out big bucks to buy their very own copy of the work.

Michael Parekowhai certainly kept his cool over the last 12 months. And that despite the politicians of Hamilton and some vociferous people in Auckland ranting on about how his public sculptures were a waste of money no matter who pays for them. They'll be the same people in a few years doting on their grandkids playing in the waterfall of the Hamilton one and looking through the windows in the Auckland one.

Judy Millar who somehow manages to live in Europe and New Zealand at the same time also seems to be able to work at both a major and intimate scale. Not only did she produce the huge architectural scale sculpture The Model World at Te Uru, she also managed to illustrated a kids' pop-up book of the same name.

Dick Frizzell continues to be the whirlwind of New Zealand art marketing. He's always there in some media release or other weighing in on a contentious issue, launching a product or gifting works to this charity or that. Is this cool? Maybe not exactly, but it is impressive.

Len Lye continues to be the only artist in NZ ever to reach out from beyond the grave and continue to ghostwrite new works via a ouija board of governors. If that’s not cool, nothing is.

Li-Ming Hu used DIY cut-out masks and Vimeo to shift a few boundaries and crack us up at the same time. Her take on the team who ran Gambia Castle was a knowing mix of hilarity and edge.

Francis Upritchard’s exhibition at Monash University (MUMA) in Australia was a remarkable survey of her work from art school days to the present. Some of the museum based work of the early 2000s looks as fresh as the day it was made (and the poster is beautiful too). The exhibition is now showing at the City Gallery in Wellington. And Auckland, will it be showing in Auckland where all the people are? Er, no.

Fiona Connor
has been based in LA for a while now and for the last year has been running her own apartment gallery featuring a strong showing of artists from New Zealand. Laurel Doody has now wound up its gallery phase but not before getting some serious critical attention in the city.

Luke Willis Thompson took a whole lot of people for a ride in New York City, well a walk in fact. His contribution to the New Museum’s 2015 Triennial was to invite visitors to step out into the city on a choreographed walk. Often unsettling, it continued Thompson’s investigation into cultural relationships, power and space.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Court out

The Brett Whiteley fake trial which we posted about nearly six years ago has finally ground to a conclusion. Surprise, surprise, the guy who was painting Whiteley copies in his garage was found guilty along with the dealer who sold them on to the rich person. Come June, they'll all be back in court to discuss sentencing.

The trial did bring out some classic statements, so all that time spent was not a complete waste. Expert witness Professor Robyn Sloggett, the director of the University of Melbourne's Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, for instance, reached deep into her professional lexicon and told the court that while Whiteley had an ‘extraordinary ability to paint birds’ the one in the fake painting looked to her like ‘a wet rag thrown out of a window.’ Just in case the court found this a bit technical, she added that the birds also looked to her ‘like they had been painted by a child …. It’s almost paint by numbers.’ And then to drive the last nail into her complex argument, ‘It’s just not how he worked.’ Experts.

Wendy Whiteley, the artist's ex-wife who had lived with him through most of his productive painting career ,was also clear that the works were not from Whiteley’s hand. ‘He never painted average paintings … because he wasn’t an average artist.’ And so that was that.

But the last word really goes to Whiteley himself who could have saved everyone a lot of time when he said, ‘Never trust an art dealer who'll sit in a room for more than ten minutes with a crooked picture.’ Mind you it’s possible he was thinking of another kind of crooked.

Image: bird in flight aka ‘wet rag’

Friday, May 13, 2016

Two for one

A month ago we visited the jewelers Karl Fritsch and Lisa Walker. We’ve been to Karl’s studio before but since then Karl and Lisa have developed a new studio space in the house next door to theirs in the Wellington suburb of Island Bay. You can see the pics of both artists on OTN:STUDIO, Lisa Walker here and Karl Fritsch here.
Images: top, in Lisa Walker and bottom Karl Fritsch's studios

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Open when you are

Usually, that moment when you realize that more of the art museum galleries are being changed for new exhibitions than are open is one of the big disappointments of a visit. Yesterday, however, at the MMK in Frankfurt, thanks to the curators and technicians being happy working in front of the public, we got an intriguing look behind the scenes. Seemed like art to us.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Think piece

In Mexico City we were thinking of Tony Fomison, Ronnie van Hout and Colin McCahon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What’s in that crate?

This crate was one of many we saw arranged around the huge, light empty gallery spaces of MUAC (the contemporary art museum of the University of Mexico). They contained the Anish Kapoor exhibition Archaeology, Biology that was in the process of being installed. The many labels on this single crate can  show us something of the reach and value of Kapoor's work. First we could see that it contained his sculpture Large blue void from 1989. This particular crate had come from Lisson Gallery in London who have represented Kapoor since 1982. It was built by Mtec, a specialist art transport and shipping company based in the UK who, incidentally, have a very cool website. The head office is located at what seems to be the stereotypically English address of 10 Gentlemens Field, but this is only one of a number of units, there are 23 works in the exhibition. This is a big operation. At some stage the crate was under the care of Martinspeed, another specialist art transport firm in the UK. The shipment was one of four crates and weighs 474 kilograms and has the entire sculpture in it. Well, we found it interesting anyway.

Images: top the crate and below all the markings on one side.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Whales in Mexico

When it comes to public sculpture Mexico City rules ok. You want fifty large sculptures down the side of a motorway? Not a problem. A bronze 1:1 replica of Michelangelo’s David in the middle of a square. Done. But the most daring example we've seen without a doubt is the installation of Gabriel Orozco’s whale Ballena three meters above floor level in a public library (the Biblioteca Vasconcelos) designed by Mexican architect Alberto Kalach. The library building itself is so immense that from the top floor even the whale’s massive skeletal form looks kind of small but from the lower floors it’s an astonishing sight. You can read how Orozco located the skeleton and made the work here.

Friday, May 06, 2016

A bronze for gold

This is a bit Googley, but there you go. A couple of years back we posted on the Noack Foundry in Berlin. It specialises in the production of bronzes for artists like Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys and Henry Moore. Oddly, we saw one of their Moore castings yesterday in Mexico City but it wasn't in an art museum as you might expect. No, it was on the desk of the great Mexican architect Luis Barragan because it was his Pritzker Prize, the ultimate architecture award that was started by the family that owns Hyatt Hotels. As the prize was first awarded in 1979 and only nine of these Moore bronzes were cast, they ran out after a while and so from 1987 on a medallion has been given. Barragan won his in 1980 and is the only Mexican architect to have so far received one. We've visited two of Barragan’s key works in Mexico City, his home and studio, and the Cuadra San Cristobal and have put up pictures on OTN:ARCHITECTURE . You can see Barragan's home and studio here and his stables here. And as it is the end of the week we are throwing in two Frank Gehry buildings too, a Sydney business school and a business school in Cleveland Ohio.

Images: from the top: Luis Barragan’s Pritzker Prize and photographs taken at his home and studio.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Balls up

Buying the art is one thing, owning it is another. The days when you just hung it on a wall and forgot about it (looking-after-wise) have long gone. Imagine, for instance, owning something by perfectionist Jeff Koons. His demands for his work are so extreme that the Guggenheim Museum once put off mounting a survey show because finding 'the technology to match Jeff’s vision became impossible.' And then we saw this version of Koons's Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tanks. The three basketballs are intended to be symmetrically suspended in the sodium chloride reagent. The basketballs are at such a specific point of equalibrium with the liquid they are immersed in that even the vibrations from people walking by can affect the balance. The solution has to be changed every time the piece is installed and constantly monitored if the work is to be presented as Koons intended. 'Oh, oh, Jeff’s coming. Get the pump.'

Wednesday, May 04, 2016


Here’s a public artwork for you. In the Palanco subway station in Mexico City an entire staircase leading up from the trains is a piano keyboard. Every footstep plays a note with the ‘music’ composed by the crowds rushing up and down the stairs. It's the work of Mexican artist Remo Saraceni who was into experience art early and who has since taken this idea to the world. You can hear the stairs and see them in action here.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Careful what you wish for

“You know, they’re buying their country houses and they’re putting their kids in private schools and they need money.”
Art dealer Larry Gagosian discusses his responsibilities towards his artists in the NYT

“Back then, a museum’s fundamental role was about taking care of and protecting the art, but this century it’s much more about the visitor experience.” 
Neal Benezra, director of the SFMoMA talks about 1995

Monday, May 02, 2016

Lip service

Now here’s something you don’t see every day (even in museums). Two of the guards kissing in the corner, well kissing whenever someone came into their gallery space anyway. And it's not just a peck on the cheek either, they were hard at it. We were in the Jumex Museum in Mexico City. This amazing private foundation is around the size of the Auckland Art Gallery (could even be bigger) and is showing selections from what they say is the largest collection of contemporary art in Latin America.

Kissing Guards is a work by the British artist Tino Sehgal. In 2010 he participated in the Auckland Triennial at St Paul's with a dancer slowly rolling and moving across the floor as visitors entered the space. In Jumex Sehgal's ‘guards’ performed their task right through the hours we were in the building and it looked like a relay team of performers were on kissing duty all day, all week.

In Mexico City Sehgal's work rather than being the experience of a moment in time felt like it had more in common with the work of Santiago Sierra. This Spanish artist (who visited New Zealand for the One Day Sculpture series in 2008) has hired poor laborers of many kinds to be tattooed, stand in lines, be walled up in art gallery spaces or undertake other menial tasks as his commentary on capitalist based inequality.