Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Farrah Fawcett 1947-2009

As well as being a cultural icon, Farrah Fawcett is one of a few Hollywood celebrity artists to have exhibited in public art museums. In May 2003 as part of a collaborative project with artist Keith Edmeir, she exhibited her sculpture in both the Andy Warhol Museum and LACMA in Los Angeles. For the exhibition Edmeir and Fawcett made sculptures of one another, hers bronze, his marble. (Running at the same time at the Warhol Museum outing was The American Supermarket examining the famous Bianchini Gallery show that included Billy Apple.) Fawcett was an art major at the University of Texas at Austin. You can see some of her sculpture and Andy Warhol’s portrait here.
Image: Farrah Fawcett by Andy Warhol

Look alike

Christo meets Stella as the three Frank Stella paintings, hanging in a Sydney office foyer, are covered during renovations.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Time warp

Air New Zealand mixes metaphors by placing an oval shaped Gretchen Albrecht next to a line of digital clocks showing the times in different parts of the world. One confused traveler, obviously struggling to put the timepieces and the map-like painting together said, rather hopefully, “I think it must be looking out from the Antarctic.”

Public figures, private lives

When we were writing Contemporary New Zealand Painters one of the artists we wanted to (well, had to really) include was Colin McCahon. At that time, in the late seventies, McCahon had a reputation as a savage guardian of his privacy. There had been no photographs published of him for years and he never gave interviews. In spite of that he graciously invited us around, warning that although he’d have nothing to say, he’d be pleased to talk to us. As it turned out he had plenty to say, just not for publication.

As for the privacy, it was a protection. McCahon was as social as anyone, he just liked to choose his society. The situation is beautifully summed up by Pritzker Award winning architect Peter Zumthor.

“Well you know every day I get enquiries from students colleges, magazines and possible clients, and because I turn a lot of things down so as to be able to work in peace, a kind of legend springs up. Many people seem to believe I’m a kind of Alpine hermit who does his world living in celibacy on bread and with no TV. What can I do about such myth making? I can only watch in amazement.”

Saturday, June 27, 2009

We don't know much about Bart, but we know what we like

Bart Simpson, art collector. It’s blurry, probably got more copyright problems than anyone wants to know about, but it’s on YouTube and it’s Saturday morning.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Shine on

Walking back to the hotel late last night we passed Peter Robinson's installation glowing through the darkness.


When ordinary objects in galleries look like art works.
Artspace, Sydney

The horror

For him painting was a passion; the studio his life. She wanted only to be with him, to share every moment, whatever the cost. Two tormented souls locked together in a darkening world of oil paint and amateur genetics.

Palette Head is a shocking story of intimacy and sacrifice. A compelling story of one man, his palette, and true love.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world: Sydney

Home away from home

Walk into the Art Gallery of New South Wales and you get the feeling New Zealand is all over it. First up in the main hall is a sizable sampling of Lisa Reihana’s work including photographs and videos in Double Take, the finalists in the Anne Landa Award for video and media. Downstairs a large gallery has been given over to an et al. project. They have created another of their dystopian worlds; empty seating, chain link fence, complex sound tracks and the unforgiving eye of Google Earth drifting over burnt brown landscapes. Across the way on a facing wall a large painting Counting One, Two, Three by Australian Imants Tiller is dominated by imagery taken/lifted/borrowed from Colin McCahon’s own borrowings, recast into Tillers’ signature style. If you go down the hill and across the road you can also catch Peter Robinson’s extraordinary installation at Artspace. Then, later this week, Michael Stevenson is set to open at Darren Knight’s. New Zealand art - world famous in Australia.
Images: Top, Peter Robinson at Artspace. Bottom, etal. at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Here’s a late morning treat for anyone who believes that a great TV celebrities make great public sculpture.
Images: Top to bottom, left to right. The Fonz in Milwaukee, our favourite Bob Newhart in Chicago, Andy Griffith in Raleigh North Carolina, Samantha in Salem and Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis.

House call

One of the great things about living in New Zealand is that you sometimes get the opportunity to meet people it’s unlikely you’d meet in their own countries. That was certainly true of the architectural writer Michael Webb who came to New Zealand in part to follow his interest in the early work of Ian Athfield and Roger Walker. A day spent driving Michael around Wellington has been handsomely rewarded over the years including a memorable visit to the Eames House.

The fragile state of the interior of the house (Case Study House No. 8) means that you can usually only walk around the grounds and peer in the windows. We say ‘only’ because that in itself is an unforgettable experience. With Michael though we were able to go inside thanks to his connections with the grandson of the Eames, Eames Demetrios. The house has been left as though Charles and Ray Eames just walked out. The famous crochet rug is still on the more famous Eames Chair and books and bits and pieces appear to be lying where they were last used.

This month the Eames House is 60 years old. While it might not exactly rival the pyramids, it is an amazing sight for architecture fans. As a bonus for us, Michael Webb’s apartment in Westwood is where Charles and Ray Eames lived when they were designing the Eames chair. The work of Richard Neutra, the apartment is modestly scaled and elegant. Michael is not obsessed by the authenticity of his piece of architectural history but it still has the original window catches and kitchen appliances as well as his collection of Eames furniture and objects.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Hamish Keith is to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Waikato University. We first met Hamish when he was Chair of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council and a tireless fighter for the visual arts. So well deserved congratulations to him, and shame on the University of Auckland. A prophet in his own town etc.

Balls up

We thought we had worked out all the newspaper art stories, but today's DomPost has found another important genre, things-stuck-in-sculptures. Today's paper features a photograph and story showing a tennis ball caught in Neil Dawson's sculpture Ferns. Well done that reporter.
Image: the sort of tennis ball that got stuck.

147 Cuba Street

Since March 1971 when we moved to Wellington, once a month, like clockwork, an envelope often hand-addressed by Peter McLeavey has arrived in our mailbox announcing his next exhibition. Toward the end of the month for many, many years, an invoice or statement with what we owed in our laborious part payments would follow.

Peter was selling work from his flat on the Terrace for a couple of years before opening at 147 Cuba Street where he still puts up 10 or so exhibitions a year. He once told an interviewer his reason for setting up shop in Wellington and, "not in Aussie, not in downtown Dusseldorf. Not going into Madrid on a Friday night, but here,” was because, “there wasn't any Prado in this neck of the woods. There wasn't any Bayreuth on the other side up the Hutt Valley. There was no British Museum here. There was no Met here."

Like many dealers Peter McLeavey is hooked on discretion. There is no tittle-tattle about who’s bought what from the latest show, but now there is an unexpected opportunity to become an insider. Luit Bieringa with photographer Leon Narbey has produced a film on McLeavey called The Man in the Hat giving an hour plus ten look at McLeavey’s world. You can catch it at the International Film Festival. Check out your local screening times by entering The Man in the Hat into the search box here.
Image: Peter McLeavey hanging a painting by Julian Dashper in September 1989.

Other OTN Posts about or around Peter McLeavey
Where in the world is Peter McLeavey
McLeavey: Give us a sign
Hans and Martha Lachmann
McLeavey sighting

Monday, June 22, 2009

Art is where you find it

Artist Ariana Page Russell has a rare disorder called dermatographia. This means pressure on her skin causes a red welt that last for about half an hour. Does that put Ariana off her art? Not a bit of it. Here she is in full creative bloom.

More open than usual.

It would be nice to say we check out everything that we are told. We don’t. And last week we did jump the gun. An email yesterday from Steve Hanson of China Art Objects tells us that, like Mark Twain, the news of its death has been greatly exaggerated. As Steve says, “These rumors go around pretty quickly, and having to confirm your health continuously gets a little tiresome.” Which in the circumstances was restrained (Thanks for that Steve). China Art Objects has always been special for us - we've seen some great work, had some great times and got to know a fascinating part of Los Angeles. Guess that makes us contrite and delighted at the same time.

Market forces

The words ‘transparent’ and ‘art market’ are not ones you usually put together in the same sentence so it was interesting to hear Hamish Coney from Art + Object at the New Dowse on Thursday. His topic was the New Zealand market but this was not one of your mumbling, blurry slide, can’t-quite-hear-what-you’re-saying affairs. Coney used PowerPoint with interesting images and (up to the last few slides) without acres of text. Even more unusually for this sort of thing, he was articulate, entertaining and had a point of view.

The main message was that the art market is like a giant revolving door. You’re in, you’re not quite so in, you’re drifting out, you’re out, you’re starting to come back in again. And so, in what Coney called the Fonterra Effect, Goldie is back (again), along with Pink and White Terraces and historic landscapes. If that been it the presentation wouldn’t have been so interesting, but Coney also discussed how each complete circle of the door brings its own subtle changes. This time it seems the landscapes need a historic connection. Hills and trees – yawn. Hills and trees with Von Tempsky having his lunch - bring it on. In 2008 the five top selling artists were Goldie, Hammond, Bloomfield (Bloomfield!), McCahon and Lindauer. Of these Goldie represented 15% of total sales at auction and Goldie, Bloomfield and Lindauer combined fetched 21%. Is this tough times creating a more conservative market or, as Coney hinted, rich farmers spending up (again)?

As to the size of the art market in New Zealand, Coney reckons around $65 to $75 million. This sounds low to us. It’s that transparency thing again. The public record covers auctions but not dealer sales on the secondary market or indeed commissioned works. Many private sales and resales regularly hit numbers way above anything the auction houses can dream about.
It would be good to have online access to the Coney calculations, and it would be great if he would put them up on the Art + Auction site. While they all come from the public domain, Coney has spent a lot of time working them into a coherent form. Information is power, especially when you share it around.
Image: The snazzy plasticised ticket that got you into the Hamish Coney’s presentation

Saturday, June 20, 2009

And you are?

This rather grim encounter between Big Bird and Chuck Close (thanks P) reminds us that Close, as well as being a quadriplegic, is unable to recognize faces.

“Essentially I have no memory at all for people in real space, but when I flatten them out in a photograph, I can commit that image to memory in a way; I have almost a kind of photographic memory for flat stuff.”

Close’s condition is known as face blindness, or prosopagnosia.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Toss up

"Since the things one misses at the Venice Biennale can be as valid a measure as the things one sees, let’s start with an official Maori blessing of the New Zealand Pavilion, complete with prayers and songs and whatnot. This had a lot going for it. Such as, when else is one going to see such a thing? Also, what better way to kick things off than to witness a blessing ceremony, and maybe even be blessed by proxy, thereby perhaps eschewing some of those inconvenient things that happen in Venice, like getting lost and not finding off-site pavilions."

Sarah Douglas frets over whether to go to a Maori blessing or see Bruce Nauman’s exhibition at the Venice Biennale. You can read her decision here on IRTINFO. (Thanks P)

Photo op

To close off Auckland's Photo Fest, meet Ivar Gravlejs, the Borat Sagdiyev of art photography. Serious or comedic? It’s funny whatever. Definitely more Richard Billingham than Cecil Beaton, Gravlejs claims his hilarious right and wrong tips have been running in the weekly Latvian cultural newspaper Kulturas Forums for two years.
Images: A small selection of Ivar Gravlejs’s handy photo tips.

Rocky road

Twenty years ago was a great time for art controversy in the United States.

1989 had Jesse Helms fuming over Andres Serrano indirectly receiving government money via a prize for his photograph Piss Christ, the Corcoran Gallery of Art refusing a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition in June and losing an important bequest in the process, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art finding itself in a tussle with United Artists over the return of the Rocky statue to the base of its steps where it had featured in Rocky III. In the movie the mayor, played by Gene Crane, tells a humble Rocky that the stature represents the “indomitable spirit of man.” And so begins a story that combines two of OTN’s great loves: art in the movies and the life and times of public sculpture.

The 2.6 metre, 650 kilo bronze statue of Rocky Balboa was initially donated to Philadelphia by Sylvester Stallone after the filming of the third Rocky movie in 1982. The sculpture was made as a movie prop by Thomas Schomberg and, if you want one, you can get a full size bronze or a 12 inch resin miniature here. Stallone no doubt thought his gift would be permanently located where it was placed for the movie but after much controversy it was moved elsewhere. In 1989 Stallone asked for it to be relocated to its original site for Rocky V. The wary Museum insisted in the agreement that the statue be removed at the end of filming but they didn’t figure on movie muscle. Stallone held a press conference, hired lawyers and whipped up a storm of support for the work to remain outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the top of the steps as in the movies. At first it was moved to a sports arena but on 8 September 2006 it returned to the grounds of the Museum albeit in a less prominent place at the foot of the steps.
Image: The Rocky statue as it appeared in Rocky III

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Look alike: just kidding edition

Image: Left, Michael Parekowhai, Cosmo. Right, Forentijn Hofman

Standing room only

In July, UK sculptor Antony Gormley will be starting his Fourth Plinth Project One Person. One hour. One & Other, in London’s Trafalgar Square. Gormley’s idea is to have the empty plinth occupied by a living person for 24 hours a day for 100 days. Cute. If you want to join the fun you can apply for an hour’s worth here or check out more about the project here. Some housekeeping: no pets, wheel chairs welcome.

When we last looked there had been 13,973 applications for the 2,400 available places, but there is a lottery style selection so if you’re in London between July and October you still have a chance. Now we're waiting for someone to suggest a similar stunt on the copy-cat plinths outside Te Papa.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


You can read curator Leonhard Emmerling's last post from the Venice Biennale here.

Lights, camera, action figure

Why would anyone spend their time reproducing famous press photographs with action figures? You'll have to go ask Li Jiejun of the China, New Express Daily.

Pillow talk

Although not decimated like their US counterparts, art sponsors will almost certainly be more difficult to attract in New Zealand than they were in the wonder years. Compared to the United States and Europe, New Zealand art sponsorship is comparatively recent. As late as the early 1980s you could still hear a discussion about the evil likely to result from snuggling up to large, or even small, businesses. All that changed in 1984 with Te Maori when Mobil used hungry cultural enzymes to help clean up environmental stains. Mobil called it “affinity-of-purpose-marketing”.

Of course Te Maori was luckier than architect Frank Gehry whose Guggenheim Museum exhibition sponsor wrote the following in its introduction to the catalogue.

“Enron shares Mr Gehry’s ongoing search for the moment of truth, the moment when the functional approach to a problem becomes infused with artistry that provides a truly innovative solution. This is the search that Enron embarks on every day, by questioning the conventional to change business paradigms and create new markets that will shape the new economy.”

And so to bed.

Source: Enron quote from The Edifice Complex by Deyan Sudjic

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

W D Hammond…

… you are not alone.

“It was the drawing that attracted him to Kellog because Kellog and Merrick’s daughter, they’d drawn the same thing. They’d both drawn men with the heads of birds.” - John Connolly, The Unquiet

Image: Bird man from Georges Franju’s film Judex (1963)

Unatural selection

One of the strangest initiatives by CNZ at Venice is the $125,000 Reading Room. Clearly CNZ is struggling to identify the kind of contemporary visual culture that will be of any interest to the international curators, critics, collectors and museum directors who attend Venice. There is only one monograph (Judy Daragh) with high quality books on Michael Parekowhai, et al, Richard Killeen, Ralph Hotere etc etc all omitted. There is only one catalogue of a public gallery exhibition, and neither of Francis Upritchard's recently published books or anything written by Justin Paton are represented. CNZ sponsored digest Speculation is not there (Brian Butler has since told us that Speculation was not sponsored by CNZ - sorry for any embarrassment) or the round up of Artspace exhibitions published last year.

CNZ's list of books presented in its Reading Room at the Venice Biennale:

Long Live the Modern; New Zealand’s New Architecture 1904-1984
edited by Julia Gatley

Creatures Aotearoa x 2
Dylan Owen

Art at Te Papa
Editor William McAloon

The Frangipani is Dead
Contemporary Pacific Art in New Zealand x 2

The Image Always has the Last Word: On Contemporary
New Zealand Painting and Photography

Laurence Simmons

New Zealand Sculpture A History
Michael Dunn

Pacific Art, Niu Sila; the Pacific dimension of contemporary New Zealand Arts
Sean Mallon & Pandora Fulimalo Pereira

Rita Angus; Life & Vision
Edited by William McAloon & Jill Trevelyan

Seen this Century; 100 Contemporary New Zealand Artists: A Collector’s Guide
Warwick Brown

So….you made it?
Judy Darragh catalogue ed. Natasha Conland
Taiāwhio; Conversations with Contemporary Maori Artists
Taiāwhio II; 18 new conversations Contemporary Māori Artists

The Art of Māori Weaving
Miriama Evans & Ranui Ngarimu, Photography, Norman Heke x 2

Maori Architectrure from fale to wharenui and beyond
Deidre Brown

Maori Peoples of New Zealand; Nga Iwi o Aotearoa.
From Te Ara the online encyclopedia of New Zealand

Mau Moko; The world of Māori Tattoo
Ngahuia Te Awekotuku with Linda Waimarie Nikora
Speaking in Colour; Conversations with artists of Pacific Island heritage
Sean Mallon and Pandora Fulimalo Pereira

A Coming of Age; Thirty years of New Zealand film
Duncan Petrie & Duncan Stuart

Contemporary New Zealand Cinema From new wave to blockbuster
Edited by Ian Conrich and Stuart Murray, I.B. Tauris
Shot in New Zealand: The art and craft of the Kiwi cinematographer
Duncan Petri, Random House

Soundtrack 118 Great New Zealand Albums
Grant Smithies
At Home: A century of New Zealand Design
Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins Godwit/Penguin Group NZ

Icons Ngā Taonga; From the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Te Papa Press 2004

The Illustrated History of Dance in New Zealand
Tara Jahn-Werner Random House New Zealand
Ready to Fly: The Story of New Zealand Rock Music
David Eggleton, Craig Potten Publishing

Monday, June 15, 2009

Look alike

Michael Parekowhai gets a bit of competition from Masters Traditional Games, suppliers of jumbo pick up sticks.

China Art Objects 1999-2009

It would be nice to say we check out everything that we are told. We don’t. And last week we did jump the gun. An email yesterday from Steve Hanson of China Art Objects tells us that, like Mark Twain, the news of its death has been greatly exaggerated. As Steve says, “These rumors go around pretty quickly, and having to confirm your health continuously gets a little tiresome.” Which in the circumstances was restrained (Thanks for that Steve). China Art Objects has always been special for us - we've seen some great work, had some great times and got to know a fascinating part of Los Angeles. Guess that makes us contrite and delighted at the same time.
(22 June 2009)

Sometime late in 1998, or maybe it was early 1999, Giovanni Intra emailed to say he was opening a gallery in LA with four friends (Steve Hanson, Peter Kim, Amy Yao and Mark Heffernan). It was going to be in an old shop that sold China Art Objects (hence the name) in a back alley in Chinatown. Thinking about Teststrip, another space Giovanni helped start with a bunch of friends in Auckland, we assumed it would be a small artist gallery catering for an equally small audience. Not so. China Art Objects Galleries started a rush of dealer galleries operating out of Chinatown, and for some years was the place to be on a Saturday night after an opening. The space was small but it also boasted a low-slung basement full of crates and an even smaller night club composed of a ring of bench seating and, from memory, a roulette wheel. We only visited now and then but remember some great work by Michael Stevenson, Jon Pylypchuk, Laura Owens and a full sized ass by Eric Wesley, its back legs activated via a garage door lifting mechanism. The idea was that the ass would be exhibited near a wall and it would systematically kick it to pieces during the show. Sad to hear almost exactly 10 years after it opened in March 1999, that China Art Objects Galleries is to close. It had changed over the years doubling in size and installing a fuck-off reception desk (we liked to think it was satirical), but it was still China Art Objects, and that counted for a lot.
Image: Giovanni Intra in the China Art Objects Galleries basement storeroom

Saturday, June 13, 2009

H2Oh Oh

Watch America’s answer to greasepaint moko and tongues at the Venice Biennale. Mike Bouchet’s replica of a suburban home goes sub prime in a canal.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Art in the workplace: Auckland

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world.

Space, the final frontier

Most collectors agree that the most dangerous place to make a decision about buying a work is in an artist’s studio. Never does art look so appealing or feel so right than in the clutter (or order) made by an artist at work. These four shots show the studios of Chinese art super stars. If you want to see more of the same, art produced by these artists, or (if you’re an artist) do more drooling, you can do it all at Wallpaper.
Images: From top to bottom, the studios of Liu Ye, Zhang Xiaogang, Zhan Wang and Liu Xiaodong & Yu Hong

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pretty as a picture

More from Te Papa on the digitization issue.

Advice to collectors

When collectors take over the work of curators and try to stage intelligent and intelligible shows, their efforts can easily backfire. Pinault’s two displays of his splashy collection, at the Punta della Dogana and the Palazzo Grassi, are a case in point: They smack of an arriviste’s susceptibility to bloated works by fashionable names.
Boston Globe


A very thorough answer to our questions about Te Papa’s digitization program comes from Victoria Leachman, Rights Manager, on the Te Papa Blog. Who said things can’t change?

It appears that getting copyright clearance and then an image of an art work on the Te Papa online catalogue requires at least one of a number of triggers. They are:

· artworks and objects are acquired for the collection

· images are requested from Te Papa’s Picture Library or taken for Te Papa Press Publications

· artworks or objects are photographed before going on display or borrowed by other institutions

· audits of collection areas are conducted

· objects are digitised as part of the Collections Online programme.

That all makes perfect sense from a Rights Management point of view. Selection is largely driven by requests from staff based on the exhibition and publishing programmes of the institution.

And yet, this process doesn’t deal to the bigger issue we raised of Milan Mrkusich having one work included in the online catalogue of the 19 in the collection to Nigel Brown’s five included in the catalogue and counting. Where's the curatorial strategy in the triggers of the selection process? No Mrkusich exhibtion or publication requirements seem to equal no Mrkusich image on the database. The list of recently cleared copyright images doesn’t make you feel the priorities have been thought through: Philippa Blair, Claudia Pond Eyley, Michael Eaton, Helen Rockel, Henry Cliffe, Gordon H. Brown, Frederick Carter.

And that's really what this discussion is all about. As institutions get more digital they cannot control the traces of their processes and priorities revealed in their online presence. The more they let go their control, the more interesting it becomes for all of us. Let the wild rumpus begin!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You might like to back up

In our enthusiasm (ok stupidity) we put up two posts at a time today and one timed out badly. You can find today's story on CNZ's eleven percent solution to grant allocation here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Sale ahoy

The Financial Times reveals how the Venice Biennale has long been used by dealers to sell work.

“In 2007, London’s White Cube gallery was openly selling works by the much-contested British selection, Tracey Emin, at prices between £3,000 and £100,000; more than 75 per cent of the works at the British pavilion were sold, the gallery said at the time, before the Biennale officially opened.”

So no surprise to hear the rumour that Te Papa has purchased one of the Francis Upritchard works (no news on Judy Millar) after seeing it installed in Venice. A more interesting question is who won the battle of the commission. New Zealand’s Ivan Anthony or the UK’s Kate MacGarry. Who knows, it may have even been a hands-across-the-ocean operation.
Image: Francis Upritchard with some of the Venice Biennale works


"But the British influence here stretches far beyond our onetime tearoom. Gemany, somewhat bizarrely, is this year represented by a British artist, as is New Zealand."
Tom Horan in The Telegraph

Taken for granted

Creative New Zealand have published the Arts Grant first round for 2009.

The Arts Board allocated $329,143.00 to the visual arts. That is 11 % of the total $3,007,718 grant money distributed.

80.7% of the visual arts money went to 10 art institutions.
Four of the art institutions funded were based in Australia ($118,641) and one in The Netherlands. ($35,000)
Direct grants were made to four artists who received $63,135 an average of $15,783.00 each.
One dealer gallery received $10,000 for an artist publication.

The Arts Board also made special grants of $364,976.00. Of this 71% went to the performing arts. The sole special grant to the visual arts was $65,000 to a Craft/Object Fellowship.

Total grants allocated (not including special grants) were:
Craft $113,989
Performing Arts Festivals $194,525
Dance $240,076
Music $296,435
Visual Arts $329,143
Literature $359,972
Theatre $404,024

The average size of grant by category was: Literature $15,650, Music $17,000, Visual Arts $17,320, Craft $19,000, Dance $40,012, Theatre $40,402.

Now and then

You don’t get much controversy surrounding art these days. Maybe reality TV has made us all unshockable or maybe the art museums are being more careful about what they show. The last protest against an artwork we can recall was at Te Papa and certainly shaped how that institution went on to deal with international art. And still here in Wellington there is a flicker of past passions. High on the apartment block opposite the Fryberg Pool a lone voice is protesting the mural that the Wellington City Council has had painted on the building’s façade.
Images: Top Protestors at Te Papa against the exhibition of Tania Kovat’s Virgin in a condom in the exhibition Pictura Britannica. Bottom. Protest against Victor Berezovsky mural Portal. Click the image for the full effect.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Less is Moore

Christchurch Press art critic Chris Moore pushes the CNZ party line on et al. on his blog.

"We've finally exorcised the ghosts of our last disastrous participation. We've learned that contemporary art must engage the hearts and the minds of a wider audience rather than giggle to itself in dark corners.”

Unlike his gushing articles for The Press, Moore’s blog does not feature the disclaimer “Christopher Moore is covering the 2009 Venice Biennale with the assistance of Creative New Zealand.”

The Gentryfication of Wellington

If you think the number of Paul Dibble works on public view make him Wellington’s Court sculptor, consider the remarkable rise and rise of Regan Gentry.

2007 TheNewDowse one person exhibition Of Gorse of Course
2007 Wellington Sculpture Trust Green Islands, installed on plinths outside Te Papa
2009 Wellington Sculpture Trust Subject to change, being installed on Karo Drive Te Aro
2009 CNZ contestable funding round just announced: “City Gallery, Wellington: towards commissioning of a new work by Regan Gentry $12,000.”
Image: Regan Gentry’s Subject to change (in the forground) under construction

Where's Kath when you need her?

Kim Hill on dealer art galleries

“I always think about people playing poker when I think about dealers.”

“I suppose they think of themselves as something more than car dealers. Do they? Have they got a right to?”

“How do you know there’s not some unholy alliance between the artist and the dealer to put something, something completely … bogus on the walls of the rich but undecerning public?”

“If the dealer is saying, you know, this person is great and you can see it in the subtleties there and the light strikes that. Step back a bit and it will go with your sofa. Whatever. He or she stands to make money out of that.”

Kim Hill, Radio New Zealand National programme, Saturday 06 June.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

There are three boats hidden in this picture, can you spot them?

We’ve had a few posts on camo particularly on how it has been so wonderfully applied to boats in wartime. This was obviously the inspiration, with a pinch of Roy Lichtenstein, for favourite Jeff Koons when he painted up a pleasure craft for his patron collector Dakis Joannou (he of the red Balloon Dog). The yacht is named Guilty after a Sarah Morris text painting, and its length is 35 metres (114 ft ) for anyone that means anything to.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Advice to collectors

“I love collecting, but I hate owning.”
Karl Largerfeld

Like sand through an hourglass

Last December on his blog Pointless and Absurd, David Cauchi announced “I've decided to stir things up next year. I will tell all once it's a done deal.” The deal, it turned out, was to leave his job and spend a year doing a graduate diploma in art at Massey University. Over the past few months visitors to Pointless and Absurd have had the intriguing and unusual experience of stepping inside an art school and seeing it operate through the experience of one student. Not that David Cauchi is what you’d call an average student. With an extensive exhibition history and a signature style well in place, he’s what used to be known (and possibly still is) by the age label: mature student.

And Cauchi, as you might guess from his blog title, is not exactly putty waiting to be moulded. A couple of days in and his antennae are already twitching, “… the tutor for my tutorial today seemed very suspicious of me, and my motivation. This may well be my paranoia, but I did get that impression.” A couple of months later in April he nails his flag to the mast in an essay on Roland Barthes. “For art to be free, we must wage a revolutionary guerrilla war by subverting and disrupting the structures of our roles until they no longer play the same tyrannical functions within the system.” Cauchi backs up his attitude when he gets to the first formal assessment of his studio work. When it's suggested he drops using words in his paintings for a while he muses, “I am after all morally obliged to do the opposite of what my assessor suggests, so I'll do a purely text-based work first.” It’s game on, and by the end of May he's being called “…manipulative (for the third or fourth time) and irritating.” Later his tutor tells him he is “not 'a real painter'.” Cauchi’s response? “Excellent.”

Irritating he may be, but we're hooked. Who’ll win one of his paintings in his next raffle? Will he change to fit the system? Will he … pass? Few blogs are this entertaining or revealing. Short of a reality TV show on art schools, Pointless and Absurd is a highly entertaining insight into art ed, its pressures and its bureaucracy (“Whoever took this chair from an artist’s studio space PUT IT BACK AND DON’T TAKE IT AGAIN!”).
Image: The Pointless and Absurd masthead

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Distance looks our way

Videos of both Venice installations now up on the excellent CNZ Blog.


Last one - promise.

More news from Venice

Naked display of Nationalism at opening of Venice Biennale
Yesterday, the most nationalistic art competition was back in town with a bang; the Danish pavilion was a gay haven filled with pretty men, graphic pornography and a mocked body of a middle-aged art collector floating face down in a swimming pool outside; The French had transformed theirs into a giant prison cell with flags; the Germans had filled theirs with kitchen furniture and a cat sitting on the top (courtesy of the British artist, Liam Gillick), while the New Zealand pavilion was opened by a Maori tribe replete with menacing grimaces and warrior attire. - The Independent
Image: "A traditional Maori group in St Mark's square open the New Zealand pavilion"

Word of the day

Misdirection: distraction: the act of distracting; drawing someone's attention away from something.
Images: New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in this morning’s Washington Post

The National pixel collection

If you go to Te Papa’s blog you'll see the Rights Manager has put up a link to the most recent art works to have had their images digitised and put into the online catalogue. It's good to see (thanks Victoria), but what does this snapshot tell us? Well, not a lot. Apart from a brief introduction, there’s no info on how works are selected for the digitising programme, how far it has progressed and what’s likely to be done next. It feels like a missed opportunity to get some user participation into priorities. For instance we noticed that there are 19 works by Milan Mrkusich in the collection and only one of them has been digitised. Let’s fix that first. What was the rush to digitise more Nigel Browns (there are already five on the website), more John Drawbridge works (seven works are already reproduced) and a George Kojis ceramic? There must be some method to it, but it is hard to think what it might be.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Style section

From our style editor. Too little too late maybe but, nonetheless, a dress designed by Ellsworth Kelly. It was made in 1952 while he was living in France and in the same year as Painting for a white wall with its similar colour range.
Images: Top, Kelly dress. Bottom, Painting for a white wall 1952

Late breaking news

Two days after the screening we can belatedly report that four months after the event TV3's 60 Minutes finally screened their show on Australian art tot Aelita Andre on Monday. Maybe they thought no one would remember that the story had already been in NZ newspapers way back. We assume TV3 screened it because they’d already invested in an Australian trip for ace reporter Amanda Millar before her attempts to trick New Zealand art dealers fell over. Gamely TV3 tried to set the story up as an art-world–fooled tale. “Mark Rothko paintings get $120 million for a series of stripes.” But the only art professional they managed to get on screen was The Age art critic who was disappointingly (for Amanda) enthusiastic about the work saying it was not too bad for a kid in nappies. Her response? “Aelita’s paintings have divided the art world.” No surprise that none of this division found its way into the programme.
Image: Amanda Millar (left), arts reporter, interviews a two year old painter

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Forever young

The New Museum’s current exhibition The Generational: Younger Than Jesus features 50 artists under the age of 33 (yes that’s right he died the same age as John Belushi, Eva Perón and Sam Cook ). Accompanying the show is a publication that extends the YTJ artist list to 500. Included, and with one page each, are New Zealand artists Steven Carr, Simon Denny and Eve Armstrong. You can order a copy here.

Flash Art

You’d have to be hard-hearted indeed not to have warmed to the One Day Sculpture project as it worked its way up and down the country. In Wellington it started with Roman Ondak’s queues of people waiting outside buildings that weren’t open and closed with Michael Parekowhai putting an open sign outside a whole lot of things that (in various ways) were already open. In between there were lions and billboards and penises (come to think of it the penis was a fringe event) and a cardboard car.

Ok, the three day conference for One Day Sculpture Project was a bit open to comedy, but the whole One Day Sculpture idea has been delivered with energy, relentless communications and an amazing ability to get institutions to work together. In the end it has proved an outstanding branding exercise for Massey University’s School of Fine Arts. If it wasn’t taken seriously before, it certainly will be from here on in. In the Battle of the Art Schools (basically a battle for bums in studios and funding via research points for staff), Massey has taken a chunk of high ground. And it was very droll gesture to select a senior staff member from Elam to close proceedings. Your move Elam.
Image: Michael Parekowhai’s Yes We Are