Friday, September 19, 2008

Crowd pleasers

How many art works are there in the world that always have a crowd in front of them? The Mona Lisa is always top of the list of course. You may recall the Hirst look-alike and Brian Joseph's image of a mob photographing her like she was Paris Hilton getting out of a sports car. Then there’s Michelangelo’s Pieta in St Pauls, The Nightwatch in Amsterdam and the Sistine Chapel as well as Picasso’s Guernica to prove that twentieth century works can have pulling power. Remember the flash-crowd activity around Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull?
We’re talking about the works that people want to experience simply by being there. This desire triggers a classic blockbuster effect. People crowd in to see a work. Security and space are increased. More people wonder what the fuss is about. Repeat.

In New Zealand it’s hard to think of any major crowd pleasers although Neil Dawson’s Ferns in Wellington’s Civic Square comes close. You’d think Rita Angus’s Cass would be a contender, but it has always been crowd-free when we’ve been around. The same with McCahon’s Northland panels. This sparseness is partly a result of the number of visitors but also the lack of consensus over our icons. If you can think of a New Zealand work with crowd status, drop us an email, we’ll start a list.