Thursday, January 31, 2008


We are just back from Bangladesh – a country that is crushingly poor but rich in cultural audacity. A compelling example is the  Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, Bangladesh’s General Assembly Building in the capital city Dhaka designed by the American architect Louis Kahn. Generally regarded as Kahn’s masterpiece and one of the 20th century’s greatest buildings, its construction started in 1961. Just three years later, Sir Basil Spence sketched out his design for the executive wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings. Wellington’s Beehive was completed in 1981, one year before the completion of Kahn’s building in Bangladesh. There is some irony in the fact that struggling Bangladesh commissioned the masterpiece of a great architect at the same time as New Zealand negotiated its own uninspired effort by a modest talent. The comparison with the snubbing of Frank Gehry’s participation in the design of Te Papa is irresistible.

Images: top and bottom left Louis Kahn in Dhaka. Bottom right Sir Basil Spence in Wellington

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Wall work

New Mexico: When preparing a wall for painting, on Christmas Eve, Senor Quintana found this image of the Virgin Mary appeared as the wall dried. Looking at the image you can visit, via this link, you can see he was also channelling Colin McCahon.

Images: Above, a perfect stain. Via link, Colin McCahon’s Marge as the Virgin Mary at Maitai Valley

Friday, January 04, 2008


Hamish Keith reaches for a rare moment of satire in his otherwise humourless TVNZ art doco The Big Picture, when he attempts to put the boot into conceptual art. For those of you who missed it, Keith posing as an artist, walks in, blows up a balloon, lets it fly into the air and walks out. Just to make sure we understood that Keith thinks that conceptual art is really, really stupid, the sound of a braying donkey has been added as a sound track. Get it?

Images: Hamish Keith doing conceptual art on TV.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Extreme art 1

In all the fuss about art schools no longer teaching basic drawing skills it’s often forgotten that many people can draw skilfully almost from the day they are born. An extreme example of this is extreme drawer, Stephen Wiltshire aka The Human Camera. Check it out as Wiltshire, after taking a helicopter ride over Rome, draws a panoramic view of the city in perfect detail from memory over three days. This YouTube clip comes from a series called Beautiful Minds.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Expressionist in a hard shell

Apes making art. So what, really. They’re pretty close to us in features, even if we are genetic matches to the fruit fly, or whatever. But turtles? Turtles making art, even with help, that would be something, wouldn’t it?

Image: Top Koopa the Turtle. Bottom, his art.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Well done 007

In December: we were still hoping Te Papa would correct mistakes in the McCahon database and image library, noticed a set of Len Lye plates, praised the Auckland City Council, welcomed John Hurrell to the blogosphere, shamelessly promoted choc-prix, mused over print quality, persisted in advocating for animal artists, made our annual summary of Te Papa’s purchases and publishing in the visual arts, delivered endless entertainment at the movies and pined for hessian and concrete and lots of other weird and wonderful stuff to end 2007.