Monday, January 31, 2011


MODERNARTINIZATION has been nominated by a few OTN readers as art word of the year. OK it's only just February but MODERNARTINIZATION, the name of a Russian art conference held last month is going to be hard to beat. Still we're offering OTN badges for any superior entries.

Into the void

The major exhibition of Crown Lynn that has just opened at the Wellington City Gallery is terrific. The huge number of items include the Shufflebottoms, Murrays and Smiseks that helped us become modern and a gallery full of brown and kitsch things that tried to hold us back. The only problem is there isn’t a label to be seen. Is that a John Parker, an Ernie Shufflebottom or a Keith Murray? Are the strange shaped items really electrical conductors? Who was Mirek Smisek when he wasn’t working with Crown Lynn? What is the name of this series of ware or that one, and when was it made? All these questions and more go unanswered by this exhibition, and even the publication accompanying the show, although very interesting, does little to elucidate the individual objects on display. 

Ok, ok, labels can be a pain, but they are the key link between the audience and an object’s history and context. No history exhibition (and this is a history exhibition), no matter how well displayed, (and it is very well displayed) makes much sense without them. For visitors to leave without information to enrich, challenge or even contradict their personal aesthetic judgement is not good enough. There is also the whiff of a craft ghetto attitude here – it is inconceivable, for instance, that any exhibition of paintings or sculpture would be shown without labels that give at a minimum dates, names and material detail. The Crown Lynn objects deserve the same respect.

It was clear at the floor talks on Saturday that the collectors have an extraordinary depth of knowledge about every item in the show. The City Gallery needs to tap into this knowledge and share some of it with visitors. If the curators feel labels would spoil the design, room sheets would be fine. All exhibitions need to share basic information (or better still detailed information) if the audience is to leave with more than a superficial experience. Besides which, without this kind of record, the exhibition and the knowledge that it created dies the day it is taken down.

Image: Tom Clark, who transformed his family’s Auckland brick and pipe works into Crown Lynn, regularly travelled overseas to scout out new idea for the business. One of these ideas was inspired by the swan he brought back from the UK in his baggage and copied in the Crown Lynn factory. From the late 1940s through to at least 1973 the swans were produced in multiple colours and glazes. Source: Valerie Ringer Monk , Crown Lynn: a New Zealand Icon, Penguin, 2006

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Want to use someone’s signature style for your own without the tedious caveat of ‘from the school of’, ‘courtesy of’ or even ‘copyright held by’? Try –esque the new kid on the lookalike block. These pillows have images that are claimed as “reimagined” (another good one) or 'kline-esque etc.' by designers John and Linda Meyers. You can tell the reimagining didn’t divert the twosome that much as they are easily spotted as Motherwell, de Kooning, Pollock and Kline.
Image: Motherwell-esque, de Kooning-esque, Pollock-esque and Kline-esque.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Warning to artists

“One of the primary tasks of the gallery is to separate the artist from the work.”
Brian O’Doherty in Studio and cube

Taking to art in the movies

One of the great art-at-the-movies moments is in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman. Joker (Jack Nicholson) invites his goons to trash the Gotham Museum art collection, “Gentlemen, let’s broaden our minds,” only to stop them when they attempt to destroy a Francis Bacon (Figure with Meat 1954 from The Art Institute of Chicago). “I kinda like that one,” says Joker Jack. You can see the full sequence here.

Any of you who are MTV followers might have seen a tribute to this sequence by the Utah-based Indie band Neon Trees for the track Animals off their Habits CD. In this tribute the masterpieces are generic modern, copycats of Rothko, Pollock, Stella and Ryman. As in the Batman sequence, the gassed gallery patrons hit the floor and the NTs slouch in to do the business. And this time it is a ‘Pollock’ that is saved from a wetting.

Finally, and rather weirdly, the art patrons rise up after the rampage now sporting 3D animal masks including a Hammond-like bird person (see for yourself).

Images: Top four images, left the Joker and his boys damage everything but the Bacon while Neon Trees spare the ‘Pollock’. Bottom four images, two times ‘Rothko’ (the generic art prop favourite), lookalike abstracts and a copycat Flavin.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

That art is scrap

A couple of years ago, prompted by the theft of a bronze sculpture we reported on the price of bronze as an incentive to nab art. Well don’t try it in the States where they have It was this website that recently alerted police to the thieves responsible for pinching $90,000 worth of art from the Ratner Museum. You can read the full story here.

Photo opportunity

Recently we found a old postcard of the famous sign at Bluff in a second hand store (It's the top image above). The reason to buy it (set us back 10 cents) was not for its aesthetic value or even to serve as a talisman of the ends of the earth, but because it is so remarkably uninspiring. The truth is that this postcard version of the Bluff sign is probably close to what most of us would turn up with given a cold wind and someone calling out from the car to get a move on. So how did Peter Peryer come up with such an iconic image from virtually the same situation? Peryer appears to have photographed the signpost from below and to the right creating something fundamentally different. Instead of pointing stiffly into the distances, Peryer’s sign flings its arms enthusiastically up into the air turning a record into a celebration.

Images: top, postcard of Bluff signpost (we cheated and reproduced it in black and white). Bottom, Peter Peryer's photograph  Bluff 1985

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Branded: Stephen Bambury

The moment when artists become brands.
(Thanks again W)

We have seen the future and it is virtual

Until 30 January the VIP Art Fair - the VIP stands for Viewing In Private - will be doing business. Has this first online-only contemporary art fair been a success? There was a bit of a stumble at the first hurdle: the site crashed when huge numbers of people visited (or at least attempted to) on the first couple of days, but technical problems aside, the real proof is going to be in the selling. Still, nothing wrong with the line up of galleries which include leaders like Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth and White Cube. 

So what’s the experience like? Pretty primitive in this first outing. For a start it’s relatively tricky to get into the Fair and even once inside you have to do quite a bit of mousing around and click through three pages before you get to see any art. You might think an upside would be the chance to finally get to find out what all those big-ticket items really cost, but no. You can get a price at real world art fairs (if you have the nerve) but in this virtual world you are fobbed off with a ‘price range’ and those 'ranges' are as often as not a huge stretch. A range of $250,000 – $500,000 is fairly typical leaving you not much the wiser. Maybe it means the actual price is somewhere in the middle or perhaps that there is a special low price for highly esteemed collectors, a middle price for well-known collectors with cash, and a high price for mutts who amble in with deep pockets.

On the first couple of days dealers were available on chat and indeed we got to ‘chat' with someone at Gagosian who was very friendly. Unfortunately that function has since been removed because the demand was so high it was slowing down the site. That probably tells you something about what art fair visitors really want - personal contact and inside information. The site also offers a lounge, publishers' booths and videos although, with a few exceptions, most of this was the sort of stuff you can get online any old time. 

But on balance VIP did feel like the future. The future in much the same way early laptops and brick-sized mobiles phones did back in the day. Awkward and a bit cumbersome but, once you'd had a taste, impossible to live without.

Images: Top left, London gallery Herald St’s 'booth' at VIP. Bottom left, their presentation of Michael Dean’s concrete sculpture Untitled (analogue series), 2009 priced between £5,000-£10,000 and bottom right shown to scale with the help of a shadow-on-demand.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

He’s got game

So far the video games industry hasn’t much bothered with art as a subject. There’s been a bit of local action, and we did post on a few of the NZ efforts a while back, but anyone interested in the potential of video games and art should check out this post by Pippin Barr.
Image: A typically low level art related game called Hidden World of Art. You can download it here if you have nothing better to do.

Stainless reputation

New Plymouth may be out of the way (even for New Zealand) but it has now become a go-to place for art fabrication. The city has been building Len Lye sculptures since the mid-seventies when John Matthews worked with the artist to build the massive Flip and Two Twisters. Since then a number of Lye works have been fabricated by Matthews engineering company for the Len Lye Foundation.

More recently NP has been the source of the 76 highly polished stainless steel balls that make up the 2009 Anish Kapoor sculpture Tall Tree. This work has been around having been shown in the UK and at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The connection between Kapoor (who has also had work fabricated in Auckland) and Global Stainless in New Plymouth came via the internet. Global Stainless has had a web site for over 12 years and it was this site that persuaded Kapoor to order up a sample highly polished stainless steel ball, and then put in an order for a set of 76. 

The secret, according to managing director, Lincoln Raikes, is that “The balls are formed after welding, a novel process that means there is no weld shrinkage - leaving a perfect sphere with no seams and a mirror finish when the process is complete.” The job took five people eight months. When the GS team was done the balls were sent down the road to TP Engineering in Wiri to be assembled on high tensile shafts.

Image: Anish Kapoor's Tall Tree outside the Guggenheim Museum in Balboa. (Thanks A for the head's up)

Monday, January 24, 2011


Left Macy's parade 1927 (Felix the cat) and 80 years later in 2007 Jeff Koons Rabbit

A matter of degree

Sometimes you see something that sums up a moment. We spotted such a piece of weirdness in Los Angeles. 

Anyone who is not comatose will have noticed the growing influence of the tertiary education sector as the selector and funder of a defined set of artists (also known as the staff). This trend looks set to shape much of the visual arts in NZ over the next decade. Artists inside the education system can readily access additional funds via the research patronage of their institutions and this makes such subsidised exhibitions and publications virtually irresistible to museums and publishers. If it continues the way it's going, and there's no evidence of it slowing down, an academic position is going to become a crucial component of any ambitious artist's portfolio. 

You can see a rather tragic result of this trajectory at the MOCA and the Geffen Contemporary in LA. On every label along with the title, date and medium is recorded the artist's academic position. Even more strangely, academic positions held in the past are also included. Is this just an indicator of LA's famously hierarchical mindset and obsession with credentials (as in top 10 lists, Academy Awards, stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame etc etc) or, more likely, an indicator of what's to come? Follow the money.

Images: details from biographical info on MoCA labels in Los Angeles

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The decisive moment

Hey Walter, over there. Look. A pigeon’s just landed on that statue.
O Mi God. Oh Mi God. Quick, give me the camera.
Got it.
What a shot eh… incredible. How likely was that?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fair enough

The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.”
Artist Douglas Huebler

Image: Art Basel Miami Beach


More photographs from Jonathan Lippincott’s book Large Scale: Fabricating Sculpture in the 1960s and 1970s. Here is the full edition of Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk poised to be sold and shipped to their owners as weeds grew up round their bases. Quite a sight.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cover girl

“I want to train models to walk a different way.”
Marina Abramovic talking to the Financial Times.

Images: Hot off her MoMA performances, Marina Abramovic poses for the January 2011 issue of the Serbian edition of Elle magazine and the Fall edition of V.

The corrections

Back in the early 1980s the Friends of the Dowse Art Gallery as it was known then (and is almost known again) commissioned a koru painting from the artist Gordon Walters. The commissioning process was overseen by Peter McLeavey and followed a system that McLeavey applied to all his artists’ commissions at that time. The work would be made and presented to the client and if the client did not wish to accept it, the work would become part of the McLeavey Gallery's stock along with any preparatory drawings or studies. The arrangement from a client's perspective was both generous and focusing. 

At the time the Dowse was developing a collection of works on paper and we asked Gordon Walters if he would be prepared to let the Gallery have some of his preparatory collages (these were usually kept by Walters and not made available for sale) with the painting. Although reluctant at first, he agreed to let us have the preparatory work on the condition that it was only to be shown with the finished painting as an educational side-bar. 

Over the years that instruction has been either lost or forgotten and now the collages are usually shown by the Dowse as working drawings. Remembering Gordon’s general approach to life it is hard to imagine this would concern him. Art has to live in the real world and that world is constantly changing. 

And that is why, we guess, we got to see an uncompleted painting from 1941 by Piet Mondrian hanging in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The label made its uncompleted state very clear: New York City 2 [unfinished, formally New York City III]. The pasted-on white tape and the obvious corrections and amendments reminded us of the fundamental contingency of his work, no matter how precise it seems. 

How exhilarating to have Mondrian in the room with us humming and harring over a millimeter, this way or that.
Image: Top left, Mondrian’s New York City 2 [unfinished, formally New York City III] 1941 and details

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

When we visited CalArts

... we were thinking about Simon Denny
Image: AV equipment at the CalArts library in Pasadena

Easy as

Funny how when it comes to money we so often use food metaphors or (as in the case of ‘tighten your belts’) the lack of it. The NZ government is right into eat-me metaphors in its recently released report on philanthropy for the arts. Reaching for its inner baker they pulled out that fine old pastry-based cliche, ‘Growing the pie’. 

In its set-up the report reaches far back to the European Renaissance when painters were, “supported by wealthy individuals and rulers of states – both secular and religious.” They might have also added: and largely unencumbered by tax. 

Their solution is the conventional one: the rich need to pay more. It must be galling to those rich people who already generously support the arts to be simply exhorted to row harder. Maybe the roles in the philanthropy plan needs to be fleshed out further although it is simple enough for most of us: we crowdsource our philanthropy via ticket prices and entry fees. 

In the United States there is a long history of extraordinary private philanthropy - probably something to do with it being the richest country in the world. Over the last few years visitors to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have seen not one but two large buildings gifted and named by major collectors. 

The latest of these (the Broad Museum of Contemporary Art is the other) is a new ‘pavilion’ care of Lynda and Stewart Resnick. A photograph of this couple - like the Broads - is displayed at the entrance to their pavilion alongside a list of the products that made their philanthropic gesture possible. Pom Wonderful, Fiji Water, Wonderful Pistachios and Cuties. Food and flowers, proudly growing the pie.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The ASB channels Neil Dawson on Ponsonby Road. Thanks a million M.

All The Pretty Things

In 1965 the baddest thing to come into New Zealand was rock band The Pretty Things. So bad that after their tour here and in Australia they were banned for life from returning by both countries. In their Wellington concert drummer Viv Prince attempted to set fire to the curtains of the Opera House and the group trashed (in the manner of the day - an overturned chair, the mirror left on a crazy angle, a broken ash tray) their hotel room. The PTs stayed at the Grand on Willis Street and it was there that the shock rock group became part of the history of the New Zealand studio potters movement.

The Grand, as part of its sophisticated d├ęcor, had installed a large Len Castle pot on the reception desk in the foyer. As The Pretty Things booked out Vince (it was almost certainly him) liberated the Castle and took it with him to the airport. Arriving at Rongotai the band (who were without their manager at this stage as he had succumbed to a stomach ulcer and had to stay behind) realised they had left a suitcase behind but on calling the hotel they were told they were in a Check Point Charlie situation. It was Len-for-luggage. No negotiation.

Len Castle’s pot was popped in a taxi and dispatched to the hotel no doubt passing the lost suitcase travelling in the opposite direction. Given that the Grand and the St James were rock group central for visiting stars, the management of the Grand sensibly then glued the work onto the reception desk where it remained until the hotel was demolished in 1981. The Castle was then chipped off the desk with hammer and chisel and, although it suffered a small hole in the base as a result, put up for auction in early 2009. It is now in the collection of the Wellington Museum City & Sea
Watch The Pretty Things in action around 1965. 
Image: The liberated Len Castle pot c.1965. 
Nice story S. Thanks.

COMMENT: A reader (Thanks A) tells us that, "The incident gets a mention in the book Don’t Bring Me Down… Under: the Pretty Things in New Zealand By Mike Stax, Andy Neill & John Baker on page 50-52 but [the vase] is only referred to by the nickname Viv gave it, The Jub-Jub Bird Egg."


Monday, January 17, 2011

Metal fatigue

One of the Wellington’s public sculptures that was lashed in Tommy Honey’s article was the Weta (sorry LB) spider in Courtenay Place. OK, it's not very good, but globally it’s not even a starter.
Image: Karen Cusolito ad Dan Das Mann’s sculpture Ecstasy in San Francisco

Bears and honey

“The most banal three-dimensional object in existence”
“Oversized concrete vagina”
“Who cares?”
“No more value than a manhole”
“Mute and culturally adrift”

That’s Tommy Honey, designer and architectural critic, taking a stick to Wellington’s public art in the latest issue of Architecture New Zealand as reported in Saturday's Dominion Post

Now did that lashing bring the city's cultural bears snarling out of their caves? Sort of, but they turned out to be sleepy bears, not too much given to passionate responses, more of a wave-of-the-paw and back to the futon.

“What's to be expected from New Zealand architects” Chris Parkin, City Council and Te Papa Board member

“Wellington does pretty well” John Hardwick-Smith, Athfield architects

“Thankfully he only mentioned two Sculpture Trust commissions” Neil Plimmer, Sculpture Trust.

“A surprising criticism from a Wellingtonian" Celia Wade-Brown, Mayor

Take that Tommy Honey.

Image: A stick

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday comics

Four times the Mona Lisa has appeared on comic covers. Thanks L

Friday, January 14, 2011

Eat my dust

Heather Galbraith who was recently appointed Senior Curator Art at Te Papa has jumped ship after only six months to join Massey University

Still, you can’t say we weren’t warned. In November last year Galbraith told Art News New Zealand, “We should be able to be a bit more fleet-footed than we have been to date.” 

Hands up everyone who thought she was talking about the exhibition programme.
Image: a hare at speed

Doomed, all doomed

Architects are no friends to art museum visitors and in New Zealand they often feel like enemies. Anyone who has found themselves dazed and confused as they struggle to find the exhibitions at the New Dowse will know what we mean. Then there are the glass atriums that have been clipped onto the Christchurch Art Gallery and soon to the Auckland Art Gallery. 

Transparency is all very well, but it can be a big limitation when you're exhibiting art. Certainly it's a no-no for many of the corporate events (often quoted as part of the reason for constructing these large atriums in the first place). Many of these kind of events demand blackout for the projections and spectaculars they create and don't appreciate lots of light. Besides which glass atriums are often too hot, too cold, too exposed or too narrow for anything like a pleasant gathering place.

In fact feature atriums are a bit of a worry all round. Art museums with good exhibition spaces like Dunedin and Christchurch could easily do with an atrium redesign in favour of easier access to the exhibition galleries and better space allocation for openings.

As for the exterior look of new museums, since Te Papa we seem to have slumped into mall/shopping centre/car showroom mode with a dash of airport. While this might be consistent with the ‘if we build it they will come’ metaphor, it does leave us with a track record of uninspired buildings. The Tauranga Art Gallery is a notable exception.

Anyway, next off the rank is the proposed new Hawke's Bay Museum & Art Gallery which we are told is, “A new wing [that] will form a contemporary but contextual addition to the streetscape of Art Deco Napier.” LOL. Has the architect actually looked at the photograph of the model? The building looks like a local council admin building that would fit right into any small city in the world. If there is even one architect living in the world who truly believes that this building is 'contextual with Art Deco', the profession is doomed.

Images: From the top, Christchurch Art Gallery, the nearly complete Auckland Art Gallery, the recently commissioned Hawke's Bay Museum & Art Gallery and a proposed National Art Gallery to stand next to Te Papa.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Art heist

As you know any news about art gallery signs are right up OTN’s alley and you should check your own alleys to see if this one has been dumped there. This particular art sign has been reported stolen from Hugh Brading’s Warkworth Gallery at 160 Matakana Road (scene-of-the-crime map here). We’re figuring it’s tucked up next to that missing horse in a millionaire’s secret art collection somewhere in Argentina. Could be wrong.
Photo: Hugh Brading

More pointy sculpture

We were so stunned that we missed taking a photo of a remarkable species of public sculpture that is being installed all over the US (indeed the world, there may even be examples in NZ we haven’t heard about). Yes we're talking mobile phone towers cunningly disguised as trees. The one we saw was a ‘fir’ but they also come in palm, elm and oak.
Image: via Wikimedia

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In San Francisco

Drinking about W D Hammond

Camera club

SFMoMA's exhibition Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870 presents “the shifting boundaries between seeing and spying, the private act and the public image.” As the exhibition blurb states, “Exposed poses compelling and urgent questions about who is looking at whom, and why.” Strangely it is the only exhibition on view at the museum that bans all photography!

Given that it's full of photographs by photographers who had used miniature cameras, side shooting and even shoe cameras to get their sneak pics, we felt compelled to join in. Fronting up to the ever-vigilant guards with our camera behind our backs, we took our own random pot shots.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The late show

The Annual Report from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 of the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa has just been published. The visual arts continue to be the poor cousins of an organisation obssessed by the performing arts and infrastructure.
Chart: CNZ Annual Report


A common sight in contemporary art museums is people carrying rolled-up posters. Most often these are art works by the Cuban artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres. One of his works is a pile of posters (Untitled 1992-93) that, usually by osmosis, visitors come to understand that they can not only touch but take home. These unlimited edition prints include images of birds, missing people, abstract shapes and clippings from newspapers. Torres also made works from piles of wrapped candies (the weight of the candies often determined by the weight of people important in his life) that can be picked up and consumed by visitors.

The artist told American curator and academic Robert Storr (judge of the Walters' Prize in 2004) that the impetus behind his work was, “trying to deal with a solution that would satisfy what I thought was a true public sculpture, and that is when I came up with the idea of a stack.” As you look at the diminishing stack of prints as museum visitors roll them up to take home, you sense both a buzz of excitement at a gift and calculations as to that gift's personal importance. One mother: ‘you realize that if you take that poster you are going to have to carry it home by yourself’?

Torres created these constantly diminishing piles for his lover who was dying of aids. In the same Storr interview he said, “When people ask me, "Who is your public?" I say honestly, without skipping a beat, ‘Ross’. The public was Ross. The rest of the people just come to the work.” 

As we left the museum we saw Torres’ prints being carried onto buses, down into the subway and into the backseats of cars. Occasionally there was one scrunched up and pushed into a trashcan; the small effort and responsibility had proved too much.

Previous OTN post on Felix Gonzalez Torres here

Monday, January 10, 2011

In Monterey

Thinking about lillian budd

Balloon wars

Jeff Koons - shameless appropriator - is now putting in the boot from the other foot. Seems JK feels that he now owns all things balloon dog and we assume all that implies: chasing down street clowns, harassing kids at birthday parties and rounding up balloon dog lookalikes from gift stores. It was a BD gift that got him crossing swords with Jamie Alexander who runs Park Life, a store here in SF. Koons's lawyer instructed Alexander to pull his balloon dog bookends from the shelves and Alexander complied reluctantly grousing, "This man can't own something that existed before him." And this is a strange battle for Koons to pick, back in 1992 he was successfully sued for copyright infringement by the photographer who took that shot that was the basis of Koons's work String of Puppies. If you believe in freedom for balloon dogs, clap your hands.

To get some idea of the wide range of BD-like products available for Jeff Koons to unleash his lawyers on, check out dustyburrito.

Other OTN Koons tales:
Flogging flowers
The best Koons lookalike ever
Koons at the movies
Koons and camo
All the pretty colours
Koons crane and train
Image: Balloon dog bookend (left hand side)

Saturday, January 08, 2011


Hard to believe it's not just Steve Martin, but Frank Stella, Shepard Fairey and Andres Serrano who all appear together on The Colbert Report. So that's your Saturday sorted.

Friday, January 07, 2011

You need to get out more often

NZ art museums are hot on education so it’s surprising how little they do to educate beyond their own walls. TV may have vanished as a viable education medium, but you’d think something like YouTube that allows the widest possible audience would be a gift.

TED is of course a great example of this sort of serious entertainment. For an audience the genius of TED is the way it strongly frames up very diverse presentations as part of the TED ideas enterprise. The TED brand is an assurance of interest, relevance and quality. Superb curation in other words. 

Art museums can claim some expertise in that field but so far the material they present on mass sourced video is very patchy. City Gallery has done a little but nothing that builds as a sustained programme, Auckland Art Gallery is obsessed with its new building and while Te Papa was using YouTube regularly a year ago, it seems to have lost interest.

Rather than tying a video presence to their exhibition programme as they usually have, wouldn't it be great if they took the TED line and make more of themselves, their resources and the contacts they have with the art world. Interviews with a range of artists, curators, writers, interesting people with something to say or show, presentations on works from the collection, even revelations from the backroom.

Some museums certainly took the lead as cultural commentators and describers of the new in the hot medium back in the day - TV. In San Francisco we saw examples of a 1950s TV broadcast programme by the SFMoMA called Art in your life. It ran fortnightly for three years racking up 220,000 viewers a show. It looks cheesy now but you can’t miss the museum’s passion to share its knowledge with a wider audience or, as they put it themselves, “Increase the appreciation of art in the daily lives of everyone.” In all the talk about access, that word ‘everyone’ has a nice ring to it. 

In a deeply ironic show of absentmindedness, SFMoMA has not put the show online.
Images: A visit to a life class in an episode of the TV show Art in your life on view at SFMoMA.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

In San Francisco

Thinking about Martin Creed showing at Michael Lett

The house that Frank built

When we first visited LA in the early 1980s, a sighting of Frank Gehry’s own house in Santa Monica was on the list. We had seen photos of it in magazines, debated its radical deconstruction of suburban architecture and couldn’t wait to see it for real. We’d knock on the door we decided and see if Mr or Mrs Gehry would let us in to have a quick look. Of course when we got there our bravado evaporated but our luck did not. No sooner had we stopped than a woman we assumed to be Mrs Gehry, walked up to the front door with a bag of groceries. And what's more, we knew she’d take them to the kitchen with the tar sealed floor that was once the driveway. The famous house was a home.

Every time we have visited LA since then we have done a drive-by of the Gehry house. Even from the street it is a fascinating piece of work. In the late 1970s and 1980s artists and architects often used to talk about deconstructing their work, but if you really want to see deconstruction in action the Gehry house is the place to go. By building around the original house and leaving markers of that original (for instance one interior wall of the kitchen is the old exterior wall of the original house complete with window), Gehry not only took apart the elements of a traditional bungalow but transformed it into something new.

Even at 33 years old it continues to sit somewhat uneasily amidst its more conventional neighbours still surprising and challenging the idea of suburban living.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Heat wave

If you’re interested in art being represented in the movies (and we are) then being in LA is like being a pig in muck. Driving past the Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown on the way to the Geffen Contemporary, we spotted an installation of sculptures that looked very familiar. We've tried to find out who made them (no luck so far) but our familiarity with the work was not so much as art as the movies it featured in. The most spectacular was Michael Mann's Heat. It was through these sculptures (they sit in the forecourt of a bank building on First and Flower) that De Niro, Kilmer and Sizemore ran after the disastrous bank heist. It also turns out that the sculptures feature in Fight Club behind a FC member trying to provoke a fight with a passer-by. Mann also used the Alex Colville’s 1967 painting Pacific as a reference in Heat, you can check that out here on OTN Stuff.
Images: Top, as they are today. Middle, Heat. Bottom, Fight Club

COMMENT: A reader tells us the sculpture was made in 1982 is by Michael Heizer and called North, South, East, West. The work is made of burnished stainless steel, the two rectangles stand in for North, a cone for South, an inverted cone for East, and a wedge for West. Thanks M.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Big ears

“Stand in front of that painting and I’ll take your photo…(pause) … not that in front."

“Don’t touch that please sir.”
“I didn’t touch it.”
“Well just don’t look like you’re touching it.”

"Those (Koons sculpture) aren’t plastic, they’re metal.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m one hundred percent sure.”
“Where’s the label?”
“Don’t you trust me?”
“Not much.”

(Looking at a Warhol Rorschach painting)
“I can see Jesus…the real Jesus.”
“I don’t see anything.”

“If he was wearing shoes I’m sure they would have put it on the label.”

“She shouldn’t run like that in the gallery."
“Yes she can, art is for everyone.”

"That’s fairly bizarre.”
“There’s more bizarre over here.”

Monday, January 03, 2011

Give it your best shot

In Paris, the Louvre is muttering about stopping photography in its galleries. This is not because of copyright infringements (most international museums realise that with digital communications, pocket cameras and phones this is a hiding to nowhere) but to enhance the experience for non-photographing visitors. Good luck with that. 

At the Los Angeles County Museum we saw another step towards a global image free-for-all as a LACMA guard used a visitor's camera to photograph him and his partner with Jeff Koons's Michael Jackson and Bubbles. Then, at the Getty Museum, the exception proved the rule when we tried to snap a work by James Ensor. The Getty allows non-flash photography like most American museums but we were told that in this gallery the Ensor, and the Ensor alone, could not be photographed because of ‘some copyright problem.’ This sounded fair enough especially as the guard added, “But photograph anything else that takes your fancy.”

Saturday, January 01, 2011


A very Happy New Year to you all from OTN