Thursday, September 30, 2010

Robinson meets McLeavey 2

What a difference 912 days make.
Images: top, last night. Bottom back then

Psycho art

If you’re making a movie and want to showcase art in it to set the scene (signal absurdly rich folk, pin-point an era, demo greed and avarice or just show some nifty décor to brighten things up) it’s usually a matter of rent, invent or represent. 

For her 2000 movie American Pyscho Mary Harron wanted to nail the eighties for the living quarters of her lead character Patrick Bateman’s, and art director Gideon Ponte delivered. He looked to Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo and Allan McCollum and the connections among them are close. Indeed one of Longo's signature Men in the Cities drawings is of his friend Cindy Sherman. She is represented herself by a self-portrait from her Untitled Movie Stills series and Richard Prince (who – Google alert - owns signed first editions of American Psycho as part of his extensive book collection) by a Marlboro Man photograph.

The story gets more complicated when it comes to Allan McCollum. He's the American artist who makes objects that hang on the wall and look like paintings but are, in fact, 3D sculptures made from wood with molded fiber board inlays. When the movie people called to ask if they could use some of the Surrogate Paintings he said they were way too delicate. The resourceful art department folk reassured McCollum that they were not so much interested in borrowing his works, as making some examples themselves. Intrigued by the idea of surrogate surrogates McCollum agreed with the proviso that he got to keep them at the end of production.
Images: Top, fake Allan McCollums, Middle left, Longo’s uses Cindy Sherman as a model for one of his large drawings, right Patrick Bateman skips in front of a second Longo. Bottom left Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still and right Bateman with Richard Prince's Marlborough Man.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

As good as a holiday

If an art work in the care of a public institution needs repair or refurbishment (cleaning usually) it is sent off to the conservation department. The people there are trained to restore objects to as close to their original condition as possible and, if they do have to changes, to make them in a way that can be reversed later if necessary. 

Before the conservators came on board the person who was usually called in to repair or refurbish was the artist. But there was a problem. Artists move on and often what seemed to them to be a good idea at the time the work was made has been superseded by new ideas and new techniques. And so when they get their hands back on that painting with the bird flying through it to restore, it could end up with two birds or (even more alarmingly) no birds at all. If the bird was why you bought the painting in the first place this is not necessarily good news, no matter how brilliantly the ‘restored’ work had turned out. In general, it's safer to stick with conservators. 

Waharoa, the large carved wooden gate made by Selwyn Muru in 1990 for Aotea Square, has now reappeared having “been sent to the artist for extensive refurbishment.” Those who liked it as it was are in for a shock, and those who enjoy change will find it changed.
Images: Left, before and right after, complete with guitar and sax

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Swan upping

In our digital age it's always interesting to see the digital transformed back into the analogue. This pixelated image in tile was created by the ceramicist John Parker for the new New Lynn railway station in Auckland. Why a couple of swans you ask? Turns out that the clay for Crown Lynn pottery was dug out of the ground almost where the station is now located and, of course, the swans are pure Crown Lynn.


Y is for Ying and Yang

In the art game, as in everything else, it is best to be kind to those you meet on the way up for you will be meeting them again on the way down.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The hole story

In case you thought our arts funding body was alone in its headlong charge to fund organisations over individuals (fewer cheques to sign to more grateful nicely-dressed people), this chart shows you the Australians are using the same utensils to cut up the pie. The big difference is that Australia does not try to disguise its obsession with the performing arts and includes all its orchestra and ballet funding as part of the Australia Council pot. 

In New Zealand, of course, the two funding sink-holes of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Royal New Zealand Ballet are funded separately by Government through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. CNZ’s recurrent funding of organizations shells out $15.5 million to performing arts and 1.3 million to the visual arts and, funding from it’s last contestable funding round for the visual arts (both arts investment and sector investment), all went to organisations.

The chart comes from Marcus Westbury’s my life. on the internets. Click to enlarge.

Pig out

There’s a well-known adage that claims, “One pig does not a Summer make.” Perhaps, but when we were on Cross Street (just off K-Road in Auckland) looking at the new space (very nice) being prepared for the Hopkinson Cundy gallery opening 5 November, we suddenly found ourselves slap-bang in Pig Processing Place. The local Chinese restaurant looks as though it must slice and dice its way through about half a dozen carcasses a week, maybe more. When you think about it, PPP doesn’t sound all that catchy, how about we call it the Meat Packing District.
Image: Background, Cundy and Hopkinson. Foreground, pig 299

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Images: Left, Auckland Fashion Week advertising in the New Zealand Herald magazine this week. Right, Ronnie van Hout's End Doll 2007

Friday, September 24, 2010

On the road

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

Twist and pout

News of another artist who has headed into the world of fashion. This time it’s eighties star Robert Longo whose signature leaping figures have been such a huge influence on fashion shoots over the years. Now in a Twilight Zone moment Longo gets to imitate himself via an advertising campaign for Bottega Veneta’s Fall-Winter collection.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Art is where you find it

OTN's Russian correspondent photographed this MD lookalike last week in old Soviet 'approved artists' studio in Moscow. Thanks J


We’ve mentioned before the profound impression that the physical and psychological weight of Richard Serra sculptures make (a search for ‘serra’ will get most of them for you) and now here is a detailed account of the process of moving one of his works in a public art museum. Over the years there have been a couple of injuries and a death associated with handling Serra’s work. Given its ambition and experimental nature this can't be entirely unexpected, but it's impressive to see the care and precision with which it is treated today.
AG COMMENTS: A bit disappointed to see you trot out the old art kills line. It would be more responsible to note that the incident occurred because the handlers did not follow the instructions to the letter. It is something that has weighed on Serra ever since. Some folk just think they know better...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The icing Queen

More art cakes, this time from American stylista Martha Stewart
Images: Clockwise from top left, the Thiebaud, the Cezanne, the Pollock and the Hirst. 

Closed mike

After being nominated by the jury for the Walters Prize for his work Persepolis 2530 shown at the Arnolfini in Bristol, Berlin-based Michael Stevenson was dumped. While the nomination ‘still stands,’ the Auckland Art Gallery explained that it was unable to realise the work because of ‘accommodation and budgetary constraints’ and that put Stevenson out of the running.

Hang on a minute. As you can see in the current exhibition of the four Walters Prize nominees, two of the other nominated artists were allowed to modify their works and even (in the case of Fiona Connor) to create a new work. Had Stevenson been offered that option he might still be in the running, so why is he out in the cold? The paragraph (you can read it here) explaining the Stevenson situation has been dropped from the Walters Prize page, so maybe the Auckland Art Gallery is hoping the issue will just go away. But it probably wont and Michael Stevenson has turned out to be the loser in the confusion. 

So what’s to be done? While it’s too late to invite Stevenson to present a work to the judge, it would probably be fair to arrange for him to meet the judge under the auspices of the Prize to discuss his work or anything else he wanted to. Even better, how about a Stevenson survey show at the Auckland Art Gallery? It might be some compensation for him and it certainly would be for the rest of us.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Farm work

Alan Gibbs will be pleased to see the giant Anish Kapoor sculpture Dismemberment, Site I he commissioned for his New Zealand farm featured in the latest Phaidon book on the artist. It comes with a glossy red cover and an Alan Gibbs-scaled price of $179.00.

Putting bums on seats

Next time you're leaning over a rope barrier in a public museum trying to read a label or peering up at that painting hung up near the ceiling, think of yourself as part of a long tradition. Back in the early 1900s Benjamin Gilman, the secretary of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts for 32 years, had very strong views about how hard it was to see the objects that institutions put on display. His book Museum ideals of purpose and method became a blueprint for the modern museum. For instance, it was Gilman who put forward the idea of "easily movable seats" that would give visitors a chance to rest their aching legs although he was ahead of the game even on this. “We are at sea on the question of the best way to provide seats in a museum,” he noted in his chapter on Seats as a preventative from fatigue, “until we catch sight of the truth that their foremost office is not to restore from fatigue, but to prevent its advent.” Thanks Benjamin.
Images: posed photographs from Benjamin Gilman’s book showing the difficulties faced by museum visitors. You can download Museum Ideals of purpose and method here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Looks like art

If it's not art it damn well should be. Seen on the way up the stairs to the Sue Crockford Gallery in Auckland.

Déjà vu all over again

We gave a talk to a group of Masters students at Elam last week in Auckland and one of the questions sent in ahead of time was, “When will Contemporary Painters N-Z come out?" It’s not the first time we have been asked that question, and not even the first time this year, but when we asked the group if they'd even heard of the book, none of them had. The question must have come from a grizzled member of staff. 

We've posted on the artist-in-studio-syndrome before and for anyone (your ranks are thinning) who is still interested, go here and here. When the book of Marti Friedlander’s photographs with our text was published around 30 years ago, there were very few magazines or places you could find out about contemporary artists. That's all changed dramatically with both the web and the current publishing weather bomb we are experiencing. So given all this, imagine our surprise to come across son-of -contemporary-painters in Parsons bookshop last week. It's called Artists @ Work with photographs by Stephen Robinson and writing by Richard Wolfe. Five of the artists in CNZP1 (Brown, Frizzell, Killeen, Harris and McLeod – all presumably looking 30 years older) are included here, but none of the 17 who were to be in CNZP2. One big change is that a third of the artists at work are women (a lot better than CNZP1 managed) and it includes sculptors.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Art is where you find it

It’s Saturday in Stupid Town and every dice from every house has been gathered together. This time there’s over 14,000 of them being arranged to make a 2.4 by 1.5 metre portrait of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. Watch and weep.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bob and duck

‘Ask Robert Ryman why and he will always tell you how.’
Yve Alain-Bois on the great American painter

Taking the meer out of meercat

In its relentless search for oversized realistic animal sculptures OTN has discovered cloud breakers in the form of horses, moose and deer. Drawn to the conclusion that it was some kind of psychic marriage between man and hooves, we abandoned the search for the fabled 60-metre high guinea pig. Now a reader has presented a clear winner in the giant animal sculpture and what's more it's in the rare combustible material category. This Meercat stands at 36 feet high and, in case you think it is a mindless one-off, our OTN operative tells us that Chris Sadler and his wife Cheryl have been coming up with straw sculptures since 1998. Thanks R
Other OTN large animal sculpture stories here

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Richard Kileen gets the once over (and in a white cube gallery lookalike) by the folk at Blackberry

The ripple effect

If every dog has its day, every sculpture does too. Something we often hear from artists following a cancelled exhibition or a stalled commission is, “one day it will be done, it’ll keep.” That was certainly a guiding principle for Neil Dawson who often had works sitting around as ideas or models or first versions for years, just waiting for the right architectural client or opportunity. Take Ripples, a three-dimensional ripple emerging out of the flat white wall of the gallery created for his survey exhibition at the National Art Gallery way back in 1989. As the show ended we all figured that one day it would make a reappearance in a permanent form somewhere. 

And now that day has come. If you want to see Ripples it is in the old Postal Centre that has been converted into Christchurch Council offices by Ian Athfield. It is a nice reminder that while many buildings in Christchurch have been damaged in the recent earthquake, many others survived the shock waves rippling through them. Neil’s work is both a visual sensation and now a nod to the fluidity of even the strongest constructions of our built universe.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Spot that koru competition

This weeks answer here on OTN Stuff

Exeloo to you

When Duchamp reached for a urinal to become one of his most famous readymades he probably wasn’t thinking of New Zealand or that nearly a hundred years later his radical poke in the eye would find an echo on K Road. If you do the gallery rounds for long enough, it's kind of hard to be very surprised by what you find, but Reuben Moss did a good job with his reconstruction of a first generation Exeloo (what the Exeloo company calls a ‘self-managing public toilet’) from the Helensville train station. It's not a replica reconstructed like the sixties Duchamp edition of his own toilet whiteware, Moss’s 'readymade' Exeloo has literally been reconstructed inside the first floor gallery because it wouldn’t fit through the door. Its mass is part of the shock after you've climbed the narrow stairs. Duchamp is not the only spirit in the room: representing New Zealand A.R.D Fairburn in the insults department, et al.’s there, Michael Parekowhai too and gotta have Hundertwasser.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

That was then

"Mr Eric Westbrook, director of the Auckland Art Gallery, seems to have annoyed some people in the South when he described Auckland as the cultural centre of New Zealand. I could give about ten reasons why Auckland isn't entitles to call itself the cultural capital of anything..."
A R D Fairburn writing in the New Zealand Listener, 6 November 1953

Gregory Flint

We heard yesterday that Greg Flint had died. He had been through a serious illness but when we spoke to him last Thursday he thought that things were working out ok and he was feeling good. When Greg had his gallery in Wellington we used to have coffee with him every morning at Continental Cakes and talk about the dramatic shifts in contemporary art that seemed to be happening around us. It was the time when Shane Cotton, Peter Robinson, Ronnie van Hout and et al. were all pulling great show after great show. It was a very exciting time and Greg was in the midst of it all. Later when he moved to Auckland he showed Michael Parekowhai and it was at his gallery in the Strand that we saw The Indefinite Article as well as one of Bill Hammond’s great Auckland Island paintings done on a locker door, Peter Peryer’s Antarctic pictures, Marie Shannon’s pipe cleaner photographs and early paintings by Michael Stevenson. Greg was still painting when we first met him but put it to one side to sell the work of others. It wasn’t always a smooth ride and we had not seen him for many years before our meeting last week. Typically he was with an artist and they were off to look at the galleries. It was great to talk with him that last time and sad that it is never to be repeated.
Image: From left to right: Gregory Flint, Barnard McIntyre, Cyril Wright and George Hubbard.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Art at work

Daniel Malone’s Untitled (China Brick) props open the door at Gambia Castle on K Road.

When good publics turn bad

For the last decade or so the arts have been on a roll both here and internationally. Governments at all levels have pursued the creative industries eagerly targeting educational, entertainment and social resources. Partner up has been the order of the day and surveys of public opinion confirmed what we all wanted to hear: the public likes art and better still wants more of it.

Creative NZ's 2008 report New Zealanders and the arts was chock-full of good news: 65% of those surveyed agreed that the arts were ‘part of their everyday life’, up 8% from 2005, and 86% surveyed were actively involved in the arts in some form. It was good enough to have CEO Stephen Wainwright declared that these figures not only highlight New Zealanders’ enduring appreciation of arts experiences but also supports the significant public investment in New Zealand’s arts and artists.

What a difference a year or so can make, especially when it contains a side-swipe by a massive economic crisis. Back a couple of years arts administrators in the UK certainly would have shared Wainwright’s sunny assessment when it came to how central the arts were to their own British public. Now they are probably not so sanguine. The results from a recent survey are a little bracing.

Respondents were asked how they felt about the savage cuts being made to various public sectors. Two-thirds agreed with the government's determination to cut arts funding (usually by around 25-30% but, given that Education and Health are exempt, some commentators are predicting as high as 40%) and increase reliance on private cash. But wait, there’s more. One fifth of the 2,000+ British adults questioned said the visual arts should not be given any government funding at all. As you can imagine, the UK arts lobby will be frantically busy up to the moment Chancellor George Osborne announces the results of the government's spending review on 20 October, but closures, reduction in services and job losses are inevitable and some have already been announced.

We’ve already seen a few curls of smoke here. The radical changes proposed for CNZ widen the funding responsibilities (more inclusiveness to cultural groups currently unrepresented) without dramatically increasing the funding itself. There is also a push to transfer the funding of Venice onto the private sector.

If confronted with the stark and direct choices of the British poll (would you cut funding to the arts?), as opposed to the softer questions offered by CNZ in its 1998 version (have you attended an arts event over the last year?), you have to wonder how staunch the 'enduring appreciation' New Zealanders have for the arts would be.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Watching the fur fly

There’s an old saying that you don’t get a great picture without upending a couple of cats. In photographer Philippe Halsman’s case that meant throwing two or three of them at artist Salvador Dali 28 times before this famous image was captured.
Image: Top one of the outtakes. Bottom, the classic image printed in the Autumn 1950 issue of Photography Workshop

Friday, September 10, 2010

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world. This time the University of Otago in Auckland oblivioius to a potential going-to-the-dogs metaphor on their front steps.

Lay me down

Colin McCahon famously turned away from the frame and produced most of his later work either as loose hanging canvases or on sheets of paper to be pinned straight to the wall. Only problem with the latter method was that after a few changes of position the pin holes started eating into the paper's corners like termites. And so McCahon’s works on paper, ours included, were framed one by one in black, in white, in natural timber raising all the dilemmas of mattes and the application of 'good' taste. Not something that would have made McCahon very happy but, if they were to survive most owners thought what else was to be done? Stick them down on canvas, that’s what.

If you want a great experience and you are in Auckland don’t miss the current catalogue exhibition at Gow Langsford. There are some terrific works in it and very nicely hung, but the standout for us was Colin McCahon's Rocks in the sky. This work on paper has been laid down on canvas and the effect is startling. Unframed and unglazed as the artist intended, it retains its integrity as an object and refers directly back to the 1970s when it would have been first shown. Not too bad for a thirty four year old.
Image: Top from left to right, Michael Parekowhai's Neil Keller, Colin McCahon Rocks in the sky, Ralph Hotere's Painting from Malady. A poem by Bill Manhire and 3 sacks by Allen Maddox. Bottom showing McCahon's work on paper laid down on canvas

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Angel mine

One of the side effects of making a high visibility, much loved public sculpture (a rarity if there ever was one) is that you get copy-catted in LEGO. This example of Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North is in LEGO Land in the UK


After checking up on friends and some family in Christchurch and finding they were shaken but ok, we wondered about the new Christchurch Art Gallery. All that glass. Sounds like not only is it ok but that the building was so secure it has become HQ for organising the civil response to the disaster. Artist Roger Boyce has this art meets the real world pic on his blog Roger Boyce Paints showing his exhibition space being used by the earthquake emergency management team. 

News is trickling in of damage to studios and galleries. The Arts Centre has been damaged and is currently closed and we heard the Brooke Gifford Gallery which was in one of those old brick buildings is closed until further notice. Neil Dawson’s hall came through fine as did Tony De Latour’s studio and the Physics Room, but as an artist regular on Artbash posted, “We learn many things like - do not keep cans of paint on a feeble shelf over your workbench.”
There is also news that the building the Jonathan Smart Gallery was about to move into has been so badly damaged that it was demolished yesterday. We haven’t caught up with the Brooke Gifford Gallery yet. Christchurch, thinking of you.
Image: Roger Boyce’s exhibition The Illustrated History of Painting at the Christchurch Art Gallery transformed into earthquake emergency management response center.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Snow job

Robert Indiana may have claimed he made his famous sculpture with love but we know these guys definitely made theirs with snow… or was it polystyrene?

Road works ahead

In Auckland’s PR offensive to become known as the cultural capital of New Zealand (most of us think it is anyway), the edge they have achieved in motorway sculpture is never mentioned. Auckland the home of the Pohutakawa, the Lizard and the wiry thing have it tied up. As you can see, even compared to the best on offer from ROW, the Lizard down under the Kyber Pass ramp and that Pohutakawa are right up there. 
Images: Top to bottom left to right locations, Saudi Arabia, Wales, Wales, Saudi Arabia, Spain, England, Wales, Singapore, England, England, Ireland

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


One of our earliest lookalikes (in fact number eight) was of students taping each other to the ceiling matched with Maurizio Cattelan taping his dealer to the wall in 1999. Here’s another version, a self-portrait by an unidentified 'Turkish artist.' His 2005 taping makes for a lookalike or possibly a copycat.


X is for don't touch

Museum exhibits live in the space between protect and present. The art is almost always there to see and not touch and that's tough lines for sculpture, touch’s front line in the art category. The principle is that an object may be ok with one touch but with many it risks the death of a thousand cuts. And so the barriers, stanchions, taped lines, light beams, skied paintings and, yes, do not touch signs sprinkled round the galleries like measles. And that’s not to mention guards, staff and docents most of whom apply gentle persuasion and stop short of the direct approach taken by Kah Mun Rah in the museum flick Night at the museum: battle of the Smithsonian, “How dare you! If you touch that again I shall kill you right now.”
Illustration: Pippin Barr

Monday, September 06, 2010

Bad as

“I’ll go on eBay and just type in weird stuff like ‘alien abduction’ or ‘alien art’. ”
Judah Friedlander telling the New York Times how he gets works for his collection of Bad Art.

Dream curators

Te Papa is on the hunt for a new curator of contemporary art to replace Charlotte Huddleston. Why is that? One of the main roles curators play in art museums is to create exhibitions (they also recommend work for purchase but that's another tale) something that is all but impossible to do in Our Place. Why? Because there is no available temporary exhibition space. 

When the Visa Platinum Gallery is claimed by the visual arts rather than remnants of Pompeii or dinosaurs, it's most often reserved for Euro-centric blockbusters like the forthcoming European Masters: 19th–20th century art from the Städel Museum. Then, when an imported NZ Contemp show (Venice 2009) did get booked in recently, the only way they could find space was by removing contemporary works from the permanent collection displays. 

Traditionally curators also research and write. From the public output listed in Te Papa's annual report, you can’t accuse them of being chained to their word processors. Apart from the Rita Angus catalogue and, the editor excepted, short pieces in the permanent collection publication Art in Te Papa, there has been very little serious writing seen from the art curators. So what do they all do? 

Since Te Papa opened in 1998 it has generated fewer than ten (certainly we can only remember five: Hotere, Angus, Darragh, Dream Collectors, and Art of Te Papa but we’ll add Brian Brake who's coming up and throw in another four for good measure) serious, curated art exhibitions with catalogues. So you've got to ask why do we need five curators for that?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Wool gathering

When you are putting artists together with product, Gilbert & George (as bizarre as it seems at first) was an ok-that-makes-sense combo with Comme des Garcons, but the very funny David Shrigley teamed up with Pringle of Scotland? C’mon, these are the cardi stroke twin-set people who make the jerseys with diamonds on the front… oh, right … now we get it.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Little brick out

Earlier in the year we posted on Richard Serra’s sculpture Triphammer a hugely heavy sheet of metal balanced on top of another. That work was in the Tate but there are others in Museums all over the world including MoMA which is a long-winded segue to this LEGO version done of Sera’s sculpture One ton prop (deck of cards) by the staff of MoMA and put up on their blog. Unlike Serra they didn’t have the nerve to have the support stand upright on its own accord, that of course is part of Serra’s genius. You can see versions of their other MoMALEGOs here.

Maxed out

If the guys (it had to be guys) who made the TV ad for the Audi A8 hadn’t seen Max Gimblett in action, they were sure channelling his spirit in their latest epic. The promo line for the A8 campaign is "The art of progress" and features an ‘artist’ creating a huge ink drawing of the highly expressive kind. After all what else would you choose to represent the art of progress if not the ancient Eastern art of ink drawing? You can see the Audi ad here.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

On the road

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


Given the highly graphic nature of his work, the American artist Ed Ruscha has somehow kept his distance from the advertising world. We remember there was a towel design back a while and he did design the original format for Art Forum adverts but if you can keep a good artist out of the ad biz, you can't keep the ad biz away from a good artist. Take the banner billboard for Salt, AJ’s latest action pic. It is a clear copycat of Ruscha’s signature style. Odd that a movie set in Washington and New York reaches for the quintessential Californian desert artist. That’s not city smog you see there, no it's the endless stretch of the desert.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Eight down four to go

in august we: fretted over auckland's new gallery • cemented our relationship with fiona • told you more about the da vinci code than you needed to know • moaned about shelling out in auckland • looked at the cnz cake slice-wise • kept on keeping on publishing our son’s sharp observations • answered a survey • got you all painting pollocks • chased up carrot top in the movies and finally put the mccahon database debacle to bed.

Going public

The relationship between private collectors and public art museums has been in the international news. Until recently art museums had taken a stand-offish attitude to collectors when dealing with anything beyond their willingness to lend and give. The suggestion that private collectors could themselves curate exhibitions from their collections for public art museums or be deeply involved with the funding, display, administration or even the content of publications has been a no-go. 

So the City Gallery’s relationship with collector David Teplitsky and his team in the development of roundabout, an exhibition of his private collection, appears to be breaking new ground, in New Zealand anyway. David Tepltisky is being treated by the City Gallery much more like an institutional colleague or partner than a private individual. While the public and Wellington rate payers may benefit from David Teplitsky’s generosity in helping out with freight, administration, catalogue production and curation (the City Gallery will meet local costs), it might well come as a surprise to other art museums who up to now probably considered this sort of arrangement with private art owners off limits. 

Over the years international art institutions have developed a set of ethical rules to distance themselves from what might be seen as undue influence from private collectors. For example,

• The publically funded institution retains complete control over the selection and curation of the exhibition

• The publically funded institution cannot accept any payment in the form of cash or services from the private collector 

• The publically funded institution determines the contents and authors of any publication.

• All dealings with the collector will be transparent

Of course we’re talking about a profession that once regarded sponsorship as a threat to its independence, so it does have the ability to rewrite the rules as the context changes. 

In its relationship with David Teplitsky the City Gallery is recalibrating how the private and public relate in the development and promotion of exhibitions in New Zealand. But there is little wider discussion of whether this change is a natural evolution or a important redrawing of how public and private relate. There is a similar silence on exhibitions provided to art museums by art dealers. Whether other art museums will throw up their hands in horror or follow suit is anybody’s guess.

MIKE WESTON COMMENTS: Mike Westen has asked for his comment on collectors and the roundabout collection to be removed. 3 October 2010