Saturday, February 28, 2009

When good art turns bad

To get you going on Saturday morning, a perfect OTN when-good-art-turns-bad-at-the-movies moment. From the 1988 Tim Burton movie, Beetlejuice.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Hat trick

Yesterday we received the excellent programme for the visual arts being shown during the Auckland Festival beginning 5 March. For OTN readers there are some familiar faces, Terry Urbahn and the stag from New Plymouth’s White Hart hotel and OTN LEGO favourites The Little Artists. Oh and there’s a Foyer Art project too. Nice.

You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em

In a recent episode of the hit TV series Mad Men art made a surprise cameo appearance. The ad world and the art world are often connected as we have shown in previous posts. In this episode of Mad Men it was the ad-boss-purchase connection. The artwork was a Rothko purchased by agency boss Bert Cooper. In the scene we learn that Cooper paid $10,000 for it which, for the time, (Mad Men is set in 1962) synchs with David Rockefeller’s purchase of Rothko’s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) for $8,500.00 two years before in 1960. Later in the show Cooper lets on that he only purchased the work to make money. “Between you and me, that thing should double in value by Christmas.” He would have been better to hold. Rockefeller sold his Rothko in 2007 for $72.8 million.
Image: Stirling & Cooper staff Jane, Ken, Harry and Sal sneak into Bert Cooper’s office to look at the ‘Rothko’ in episode seven of the second series of Mad Men.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Things past

Maurice Agis, the 77 year old artist who’s inflatable lifted into the air and killed two people, has been convicted of breaching health and safety rules. The other two charges of manslaughter of the victims through gross negligence are still being considered by the jury who failed to reach a verdict yesterday.

Grab a seat

Off the record, on the QT and very hush hush

Prompted by CNZ's response to out post on their selection process, we zipped over to the Creative New Zealand site to check on the Venice Biennale news section. At the moment there are three stories. New Zealand to participate (December 07), Celebrated artists chosen (June 08) and, thanks to some prodding by OTN, Venues chosen (December 08). That’s one media release on 2009's major visual arts funding event ($650,000 from CNZ) per 122 days.

It’s not as if there’s nothing to report. The venues have been visited on our dime (Trip Of A Lifetime part 2) by the curators, who presumably had cameras and came back loaded with images. We’ve heard one of the venues described as “Dusty and bare and thrilling in that Venice way” which sounds pretty cool. So here are some pics of the venue being used by Francis Upritchard that we found on Google. It looks perfect, and good on Upritchard for organizing it. We weren’t able to find images of the Judy Millar venue.

We’re not sure whether the decision by the CNZ web site not to share images like this or give regular updates (some studio shots, how the fund raising is going, interviews with the artists etc) is a matter of secrecy or disinterest, or both.
Images: The Fondazione Claudio Buziol where Francis Upritchard will show her work.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Art in the workplace 2

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world.


Hats off to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for being so relaxed. When the galleries displaying Monet and the Impressionists leaks, Paul Brewer, Te Papa’s PR man, could tell the Dom Post that "We don't expect this is something that will hugely engage their minds." Apparently the fact it was a small leak, a freak shower and a high wind means this incident will create minimal feather ruffling in Boston. Good for them. A more paranoid museum might have asked for their billion dollar art exhibit to be temporarily removed until the leak was fixed. Still it does make you wonder what a lot of the fuss over acceptable exhibition conditions is all about. Try telling some small museum in provincial New Zealand that a leaking roof (however small) is ok and won’t affect their application for loans. All this stuff is obviously more open to negotiation than is popularly supposed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

LEGO art is where you find it

In this case a 16 foot Pharaoh moving down the Thames to its home in LEGOland.

Now you see it, now you don’t

Bizarro World is home to Bizarro, a comic book legend. This alternate ‘superman’ (thanks to a collision with a meteorite) has powers opposite to those of the man of steel. Bizarro has freeze vision rather than heat vision, flame breath instead of frost breath and x-ray vision that penetrates lea. Bizarro also inspired a great Ronnie van Hout sculpture.

And we’re telling you this because?

Late last year we saw a video clip of Curator Rudolf Frieling discussing Hans Haacke’s installation News, at SFMOMA. The Haacke piece is a live feed of news, printed continuously during the length of the exhibition.


... Fiona Connor is showing Notes on Half the Page at Gambia Castle in Auckland. This installation is made up of news stands Connor has duplicated from the huge variety she has seen on her travels. But, where Haacke exhibits all the news, Connor exhibits none of it. The news stands are empty.

For more on Connor’s installation at Gambia Castle here’s an interesting review by John Hurrell. You can see pics of both works here on OTN Stuff.
Image: Bizarrow busy at work creating all the news that's fit to tnirp

Monday, February 23, 2009

Things you thought you'd never see

The Para Matchitt cushion.

Don’t ask

Creative New Zealand have responded to our post questioning their talk-or-walk policy for selecting participants in the Venice Biennale. The Sunday Star Times (22 Feb 08) confirmed the requirement was included in documents to be signed before artists could put their names in the hat. This is also supported by Chairman Alastair Carruthers who says, “... it’s actually a valid questioning in those circumstances, to ask applicants what their willingness is to participate in all the communication around it.” We’d say Alastair Carruthers is deeply ingenuous to claim “willingness” had anything to do with it. It was a requirement of the application. Agree to talk the talk or you don't get into the walk pile.

Carruthers also attempted to brush off OTN’s disagreement with CNZ policy as “aggressive” - LOL.

You can read the full text of the CNZ response on OTN Stuff here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Other voices

This from Daniel...

I have a theory regarding "Para Matchitts Te Wepu, the Whip, delicately skied above Milan Mrkusich's Untitled."

Perhaps its like an awning? Maybe Jeff Thomson's vehicle should be in the carpark, or being winched out of the harbour. While it's obviously distracting to place one work above another, works which are allowed to play with each other and their building gain self esteem.

Visiting the Monet and the Impressionists exhibition this week I thought the works were very well hung, but that the white partition walls looked entirely out of place next to those types of paintings and the ornate frames used. Cezanne's "I want to make of Impressionism something solid and lasting like the art in the museums" might be used to suggest that museum's really don't have time to understand how to display their exhibitions, and therefore artists should make it easy for them.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Style section

This just in from our style editor. Korean designer Kwang Hoo Lee gets into the Monty Python spirit with his Mona Lisa chair.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Grey scale

In Wellington, thinking about et al.

Hover craft copycat

In a leap of virtual copy cat PR imagination, City Gallery in Wellington has a visitor literally floating on air as she looks at a Darren George exhibition in one of the new galleries under construction.
Images: left and middle City Gallery billboard. Right German artist and street performer, Johan Lorbeer

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ian Prior 1924-2009

A long time ago we visited Ian and Elespie Prior’s home in Wellington. It was to attend a meeting to come up with some ideas for the Wellington Sculpture Trust. Can’t remember the outcome, but anyway we were distracted by the paintings that covered practically every flat surface as well as being stacked behind doors and against furniture. An unframed McCahon canvas was hanging across the top of the bay window and while Ian muttered something about needing to get it out of the sun, it had obviously been there since they had purchased it. The collection had that chaotic charm that comes with objects that are all loved and all need to accommodate each other somehow. Elespie died some time ago but Ian kept up his enthusiasm for the arts even though it had obviously been such a shared pleasure. Now the news that Ian too has died. Ian was a dedicated collector of contemporary art and something of an OTN icon, given our obsession with the Trust’s obsession with tall pointy sculpture. We’ll miss him.
Image: Len Lye’s Water Whirler

Style section

Theme shows are back. The Rotorua Museum of Art and History kicked off the season with The Mantle of water and, yes, there is a water work (Hotere Culbert’s “immense” Backwater), Fish/sea creatures (Elizabeth Thomson’s “dazzling” wall installation), rivers (Anne Noble’s “celebrated” Wanganui series), McCahon (gotta be a waterfall) and rain (Brian Brake’s “celebrated” Monsoon). You can catch the show, curated by ex Te Papa staffer Ian Wedde, until 5 April.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Branded: Shelton

When artists become brands.

When good horse sculptures turn bad

When the history of men who make large horse sculptures is written – a history we find our readers can’t get enough of – one name will stand above the rest: Luis Jiménez. In 2006 Jiménez paid the ultimate price of any MHS (Monumental Horse Sculptor). He was killed in his studio by his sculpture Mustang when it swung out of control while being hoisted. The sculpture crushed Jiménz against a gantry severing a major artery. Rushed to hospital, he died in the ambulance. This tragic event came at the end of the long and torturous process to create a 9.8 meter high rearing blue stallion with glowing eyes for Denver International airport. The work was commissioned in 1992 but constant delays dragged its completion into the 21st century. Jiménez’s son completed Mustang which was finally installed early in 2008.

The reaction has been mixed although at first criticism was muted by Jiménez's MHS sacrifice. Recently, however, opposition heated up when local developer Rachel Hultin launched a campaign to relocate the horse. Her weapon of persuasion – the Haiku. And so:

Ugly devil horse horrifies the traveler shames our fair city

To follow this bitter-sweet story go here.

Images: Top, Mustang rearing at the Denver International Airport. Bottom left, Luis Jiménez in his studio with the Mustang maquette and early work on the final sculpture, right Mustang being installed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


"There’s a credit crunch, not a creative crunch."
John Galliano

One of a kind

Street philosophers slug it out McCahon style on a Wellington stairway.

Progress report

While we bitch and complain about the way Te Papa deals to contemporary art, these images from the bad old conceptual days of Wedde and Sotheran, show that the museum has come a long way.
Image: Left Max Gimblett gets the “Thumbs up Thumbs down Is it Art?” treatment 1988 style. Right top: Installation of Dream Collectors with Para Matchitt’s rough-hewn timber Te Wepu, the Whip is delicately skied above Milan Mrkusich’s Untitled. Bottom right: designer stanchions and light puddles.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tunnel vision

Pictures from the opening of Anish Kapoor's sculpture on the Gibbs farm north of Auckland this weekend. The piece is an extension (or possibly a re-siting) of the installation Kapoor created for the Tate turbine hall in 2002.

Talk show

We’ve been thinking about Creative New Zealand’s insistence that artists representing New Zealand at the Venice Biennale are prepared to talk to the media. You will remember their puzzlement, quickly followed by indignation, when et al. refused to play the media game in 2005. Indeed on that occasion CNZ went to a great deal of trouble and expense (we heard $30,000+) to contract et al. as part of an effort to make the group front up. The talk-or-walk clause in the New Zealand Venice Biennale artist agreement this time round is the result.
The problem with chasing the media is, of course, that it can go all sorts of ways (witness Helen Clark’s gold-fishing and Tizzards backsliding when they responded to the media on et al.’s selection) as well as limit the kind of artist considered to be acceptable for Venice. There’s an interesting question to be asked about how far CNZ can push this before it becomes unacceptable discrimination. An artist like Ralph Hotere is out for a start as someone older who is unable to travel and famously unwilling to speak. So we assume is Bill Hammond who also declines to speak in public. Then there are all the artists who are no longer with us (assuming there is no Ouija board clause). If the United States stood shoulder to shoulder with CNZ, Felix Gonzalez-Torres would have to have been canned as the selection for the 2007 Biennale. He died in 1996.

It’s probably time CNZ tried to come up with other ways to promote Venice apart from the traditional artist interview. There are bound to be one or two.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ice cap

OTN reader chills out in London.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cut and paste

The Museum of Modern Art in New York is putting life size images of its masterpieces onto the walls of the Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street subway stations in Brooklyn. With a pot of paste and a ladder this high foot traffic connection has become an instant no-pay-per-view virtual MoMA. You can see more here on Jeff Baxter’s Flickr stream. Thanks to BB.
Image: Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

The temporary contemporary

The year of One Day Sculpture (and let’s give them the prize for top art communicators) reminded us of a couple of remarkable temporary sculptures put up in Wellington in 1989. Both were part of a survey show of Neil Dawson’s work at the then National Art Gallery. We helped Neil with the assembly of the exhibition and were there when both works went up. It always seemed a pity that the Railway Station didn’t keep its postcard and bring it out every now and then to give the commuters something to gasp at. Thanks to winds, strong even for Wellington, the frame only lasted for a few days.
Images: Top, Frame-work suspended between the National Art Gallery and the Carillion. Bottom, Get the Picture on the façade of the Wellington railway station.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Brick Collage

LEGO, New York, architecture and art museums. It’s like an OTN tag festival. Christoph Niemann of the New York Times and his very funny LEGO portrait of New York City. You can see the whole thing here and more of Christoph Niemann here.

Leaving the building

Looking at the job description for the new senior curator of art at Te Papa, it was obvious that big changes were rumbling through the building. Our guess was that the weird senior management team of area specialists was being disbanded. And sure enough, first to go is Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Director of Art and Collection Services. He’s returning to academia as Professor of Fine Arts and Head of Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland. Mane-Wheoki bows out as his Monet show on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston opens at Te Papa after its run in Sydney. With the Director of Art job axed (the senior curator of art will eventually report to an overarching Collections and Research Group Director) our bet is any opportunity for the visual arts in Te Papa to have direct access to the CEO will leave with him.

Image: The last Director of Art and Collection Services at Te Papa, Jonathan Mane-Wheoki

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

copy cat

Image: K-Road, Auckland


The who-can-build-the-largest-animal-sculpture competition has moved on a ways. The 50 meter high Wallinger horse has won the $5.5 million competition and is now on track to be constructed. The citizens of Gravesham are not all thrilled. Perhaps they’re seeing the high horse through Virgil's words on Troy’s horsey nemesis.

“Trust not their presents, nor admit the horse.”

Branching out

Fair enough, we started it, but it was just meant as a bit of fun. The idea that there were horses, chimps, elephants and earthworms working away all but unacknowledged in attics and stables around the world was irresistible. The result? Our much loved series on animals making art. And let’s not forget you, the fans who emailed stories of elephants in Bangkok (that trunk has got to be a hand in a sock) and, testing the outer limits, the painting snail. Now, a regular reader “S” (who from memory pulled the snail stunt) has sent in a painting tree. Well “S” your contribution is important to us. We know you could have sent the Larch artist to another blog. Maybe next time.
Images: Top, a tree painting en plein air. Bottom left to right works by a Larch and a couple of conifers. More tree art here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Table stakes

In spite of repeated warnings we still get a lot of pics of artists and famous people playing table tennis sent into OTN. This time we are happy to point you to the Narrows Table Tennis Tournament. Why? Because artist and regular NZ exhibitor Marco Fusinato kicked fellow artist Callum Morton’s butt. Videos, skite pics and weird commentary here.
Images: Trophy by Giblett Sports Memorabilia, winners jacket with hand tickering by Jacobs Embroidery, Princes Hill, winner Marco Fusinato front, Callum Morton back.

Year of the Ox

Turns out you’ll have to wait a little longer for Roundabout. The City Gallery has just announced that it will re open in September with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. At the age of 79 Kusama has been ‘rediscovered’ having played a significant role in the avant garde scene in sixties New York. In Japan it’s hard to find an art institution that is not featuring her spotted surfaces. Closer to home Kusama shows at Australian Dealer Gallery Roslyn Oxley regular exhibitors of many featured City Gallery artists over recent years. Previous OTN posts on Kusama, here and here.
Image: Kusama sculpture being installed in Tokyo.

Making a good impression

There’s nothing like old art from abroad to get foot traffic through the museum doors. Te Papa has stubbornly refused to exhibit international contemporary art since being bitten on the bum by a virgin in a condom on opening day and preferred to reach back into more comfortable times for their blockbusters. And so we’ve been bathed in the warm glow of Constable, Moore, Holbein to Hockney, The Queen’s Pictures (Sorry Jackson, we’ll get right back you Willem, they’re great Louise but have you done anything with some sort of UK connection?).

On Saturday Te Papa another exhibition in its old-art-from-Europe series, this time via the United States. Monet has drawn crowds in New Zealand before and you can understand why Te P, who dance across the headcount/funding continuum, figure that the Impressionists are ready for another outing.

Of course the interest museums show in the Impressionists is simply following the money, driven on by that darling of world economics, Market Forces. Usually Impressionist paintings come into public collections via rich collectors, and this is the case with all but a couple of the works in the Te P show. It has also been those same collectors who have raised both the profile and price of Impressionist paintings over the years. In the 1950s the price for Impressionist works jumped as wealth accumulated in a post war boom. This surge of buying coincided with the rise and rise of the auction houses. In 1957 Margaret Thompson Biddle’s collection went under the hammer with Gauguin’s Still Life with Apples tripling its estimate at $297,142. The same year the William Weinberg collection with its five Van Goghs continued a round of record smashing prices that went on for the rest of the year. By 1958 the police were being called to control crowds trying to get into Sotheby’s salerooms.

Fifty years later Impressionism still fuels fires in the hearts of the rich and famous. In June last year Monet’s Le Bassin aux Nymphéas sold for $NZ115.5 million and Nymphéas for $NZ52 million. Who knows what the paintings in the Te P show are worth. Fortunately, as with our banks, the Government guarantees against loss.

Other OTN posts on this story here and here.
Image: Monet the collector with a selection of his Japanese prints.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Look alike

Yes …. we know, and you’re right, it is Peter Robinsonagain. You’ve got to help us Doctor. Seriously.
Image: Paramount theatre, Wellington

When artists go to the movies

When you go to the new Gus Van Sant movie Milk, you also get to see Jeff Koons’s first feature film cameo. It’s short but Koons gets some lines and a credit (he was also in the credits – in a thank-you – for the 1990 pic Maniac Nurses) and a listing on He plays Art Agnos who ran against Harvey Milk for the State Legislature and in 1988 was elected mayor of San Francisco.
Images: Top, Jeff Koons in some Milk action. Bottom, with Harvey Milk played by Sean Penn

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The good old days


Thursday, February 05, 2009

When art goes to the movies?

Sign seen on door at the University of Auckland Art School

Edge dwellers

A while back we posted on books about artist studios and the pleasure we got from them so we took down some of the great ones down and had another look. In the back of the Russell / Robertson / Snowden book Private view: the lively world of British art we found this photograph. It is the last image in the book and shows students in the Sculpture School at the Royal College hard at work. Although the accompanying story is about young English artist Derrick Woodham, the other two artists in the photograph are New Zealanders John Panting and Steve Furlonger. Perhaps they were Snowden ring-ins to fill out the picture. It has to be said that Furlonger (who mainly worked in fibreglass) looks a little out of place letting loose with a mallet and chisel, and that it’s hard to imagine Panting, in what looks like his best shirt, working in such messy surroundings (he has obviously laid down some newspaper so his maquette doesn’t get dirty!). Panting died at 34 and in acknowledgement of his meteoric career, he was given a memorial retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 1975. He has work in the collection of the Tate Gallery. Furlonger retired from teaching at the Central School of Art in 1996 and we assume still lives in London. Both returned to New Zealand after they left the Royal College for short stints of teaching at Ilam and Elam and in 1974 had work toured through the country in the exhibition Six New Zealand Artists (the other four were other UK based artists Boyd Webb, Terry Powell, Darcy Lange, and Ken Griffiths).
Image: From the left, John Panting, Steven Furlonger and Derrick Woodham on page 292 of the book Private View

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

OTN Social pages

Table tennis and art. Art and table tennis. You say Relational Aesthetics, we say an activity that needs more than one person. Now the game that has too long lived in the shadows of the art world gets its just recognition: a big spread in the Artforum diary. Movie stars, artists and curators all trying to keep it over the net and on the table.
Left: Brad and Brandon Belle. (Photo: Douglas Ljungkvist/Nyehaus) Right: Susan Sarandon with Nyehaus's Tim Nye. (Photo: David Velasco)

The first month of a new year

in january we: were unimpressed by relational aesthetics at the guggenheim • saw a spider in canada • got sidetracked into psychogrumbled about a slow news day • used art as an excuse to show you a condom advert • worried about warriors • probably stopped a 60 minutes segment from broadcasting • went all archival

In a roundabout sort of way

About a year ago we set out in search of art collector David Trebletsky but couldn’t find him anywhere. Very mysterious, even Google let us down. Duh, we had spelled his name wrong. That makes a difference. One thing we did get right though was reporting a meeting that Teplitzky (yes, that’s correct) had with Paula Savage. Over the last few years Teplitzky has been buying a lot of New Zealand art works, Pule, Cotton, Heaphy, Parekowhai (there is a theme here), to mix with a collection of Asian and Australian art. The result is an exhibition called Roundabout that we are picking to fill the City Gallery when it re-opens later this year. The Roundabout site does say “Opening at the City Gallery 2010”, but Paula Savage in response to our inquiry told us she could “make no comment until we sign contracts.” We’re taking that as a yes.
Image: From the Roundabout front page featuring the artists in the exhibition

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

On the road

On the road is an ongoing series celebrating the Ministry of Land Transport and Local Body support of New Zealand artists.
For others in the series search 'on the road' in the blog search box above.


Here’s something that hasn’t turned up on the Auckland Art Gallery blog. For everyone who wondered about what Gallery staff got up to when they weren’t condition reporting John Reynolds’ Cloud canvases, now you know: they’re doing a spot of parody painting. The result, a McCahonesque I AM with matching waterfall. The signature is H Clark, but she would no doubt deny it was by her hand. The wall work can be viewed from Albert Park as walls are pulled down in preparation for rebuilding. In the meantime it looks like the demolition gang (either influenced by Popeye or subtly referencing McCahon’s kumura paintings) has tweaked the text to read: I YAM.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Branded: Hotere

A while back we posted on a book of brands that featured artist's names and called for New Zealand entries. Here's one to kick things off.

Style section

Home magazine gives its February/March issue over to art and of special interest to OTN are the feature stories looking inside the homes of two New Zealand art dealers. Auckland’s Michael Lett and Hamish McKay from Wellington have let the cameras in and we get to see their differences and similarities of style. The differences are kind of obvious. McKay has chosen a cosy wood lined sanctuary while Lett goes for a lemon and pink flat above the shop. Similarities? We counted five. Artist's lamps - Franz West for Lett, Francis Upritchard for McKay. Paintings resting on the floor. Paintings leaning against walls. Small Hany Armanious sculptures. Stacks of art books, and both have small Julian Dashper drum skin paintings on their walls (you can see pictures of these details on OTN Stuff). Meanwhile Metro magazine for February features the home of art dealer Tim Melville with more paintings on the floor and leaning against walls plus books, but not a Dashper in sight.
Images: Top, Michael Lett. Bottom, Hamish McKay.