Saturday, April 30, 2011

David in Adland: Volume 1

When a replica of Michelangelo’s David toured stores in New Zealand, it was fig-leafed up to save local shoppers from getting over-excited at the opportunity to compare the diminutive Italian model with the distinctively larger sized penises they were familiar with in New Zealand, or something like that. We’ve already had a few posts on David’s excursions into the world of advertising, but here for your viewing pleasure is a round-up of the latest efforts.
Click on images to enlarge

Friday, April 29, 2011

art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

One of the world’s greatest art works to see before you die

How many times in your life do you stand in front of a work of art so extraordinary that you are left speechless? Not many, maybe a handful. After a quick discussion we came up with Rogier van der Weyden’s The Descent from the Cross at the Prado and Jackson Pollock’s Lavender Mist at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Then there was Picasso’s Guernica in the Reina Sofia in Madrid, McCahon’s The Lark’s song in the Auckland Art Gallery and Matisse’s Tea (the one with the dog scratching in the foreground) at LACMA. But what about Manet's Asparagus at the D'Orsay and his Woman with Parrot in the Metropolitan, Ana Mendieta's Alma Silueta works, and the bust of Nefertiti at the Neues Museum in Berlin, can't leave them out. OK, it's more than a handful, but not so many more. 

This debate was inspired by seeing one of these overwhelming works over Easter weekend in the Wairoa Museum. We had seen this carving of Te Kawiti (originally from the meeting house Te Poho O Te Kawiti) when it was allowed to leave Wairoa on loan for the exhibition Mau Mahara. Twenty-one years later Te Kawiti is no less extraordinary than on first sight. Carved some time in the eighteenth century with stone tools, this work has the same grave timeless beauty you see in the great art of the Egyptians, the Etruscans, the Greeks. And there it is, one of the world’s great artworks, in a small town south of Gisborne, waiting for you to encounter it any time you choose.
Image: Te Kawiti, Wairoa Museum

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Money in the bank

“Art is not, after all, what we thought it was; in the broadest sense it is hard cash…. Another decade, and we shall have mutual funds based on securities in the form of pictures held in bank vaults.”
Leo Steinberg, way back in 1972, predicting art investment funds in his book Other criteria


Want to buy art but don’t like crowds, openings or putting on a clean shirt? You might try Ocula, a new NZ/Australian focussed online auction site and news source. You can also sell art on the site with a negotiable commission capped at only 5%. 

Will it work? Well, there are a few artworks poised ready to leap into cyber auction mode - a Billy Apple silkscreened Bartered work kicks off today with an estimate of $15,000-20,000 and a beautiful signed Max Dupain Sunbaker print comes up for bidding on 10 May. 

So far there are no time limits against any of the listed auctions but maybe they’ll be added when the bidding starts. Elsewhere on the site auctions are described as either being seven or ten days long. Without them of course you don't really have an auction so much as a listing.

The proof of Ocula will be in the results and in the transparency of the entire transaction. We’ll check in again around the end of May to see what info is provided on sale prices, best bids and all the other stuff that make auctions such fun to watch and nerve-wracking to join. 

In the meantime, you can check Ocula out here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On the road

#49 in OTN's ongoing series celebrating Ministry of Land Transport and Local Body support of New Zealand artists.

For others in the series hit the 'on the road' label tag below.

One day in the marketing Department

A: Just landed another cool job!
B: What for?
A: Some sort of scholarship thing we give to artists
B: E-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t. Let’s do a TV spot
A: Only got a couple of K for the whole campaign
B: OK…a newspaper ad…small newspaper ad
A: We’ll need an idea, a graphic idea
B: How about a planet far out in space exploding into millions of glowing fragments the shape of butterflies?
A: We can only afford black and white
B: OK, thousands of black and white butterflies
A: Behave yourself, it’s a small ad at the bottom of the page
B: Um… I’ve got it… one butterfly, one black and white butterfly
A: And I’m, not so sure about the planet thing
B: How can I do creative work when my hands are tied like this?
A: That’s brilliant!
B: It is?
A: Absolutely.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Looks like art

 Thanks D

By the numbers

 2.3  the number in millions of dollars that the Government funding for the America's Cup exceeds the entire annual funding for Creative New Zealand

2.5    the average number of dollars that American art critic Robert Storr is paid per word

6       the percentage of total Creative NZ funding that went to the visual arts in the 2009-2010 year

7        the number of years jail time a 62-year-old art dealer from Mainz was given for forging thousands of art works including 13 Giacometti sculpture

10     the percentage of total CNZ funding that went to “other music” in the 2009-2010 year

17     the percentage of the total global contemporary art market in 2010 that came from the sale of Andy Warhol’s paintings and prints

84    the number of Masters students currently being taught at the University of Auckland Art School

96.29  the price in dollars per square centimetre paid for Colin McCahon’s painting He calls for Elias at auction this month

3076   the number of hours Te Papa is open to the public each year

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Googling on

In the spirit of Easter (ok, not that one) we present a range of giant rabbit sculptures.
Click on image to enlarge

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It all ads up

When the Auckland City Council advertised for a Manager Public-Art, it did so in The Art Newspaper. The city has become very serious about its public sculpture programme over the last ten or so years. Placing an ad like this in a publication designed to attract global interest is another sign that Auckland is making a serious challenge for Wellington’s Cultural Capital brand.

OTN will post on Saturday but not Easter Friday or Easter Monday. Have a good break.

Counter culture

When Te Papa casually announced it wasn’t going to go for a new National Art Gallery after all, they may have made a big strategic error. Te Papa has always used the door-count as a key measure of success and used patsy survey questions to get round quality. In fact this year Te Papa has gone so far as to lower its performance goal for ‘audience awareness and understanding’ from 95% to 75%. Now a quarter of the audience can just hunker down in the cafe and bribe the kids with fluffies.

The thing is, if you’re after a big volume audience (and one that has both awareness and understanding of what it is looking at) art rules. First check out The Art Newspaper’s recent lists of art museum attendances worldwide for 2010. Then consider that other specialist institutions in London like the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the National Maritime Museum attract 4,105,106 visitors, 2,793,930 visitors and 2,367,904 visitors respectively. 

The smart money’s clearly on art, especially when you consider that six of the top ten (Tate, National Gallery, National Gallery of Art, MoMA, Pompidou and d’Orsay) are the institutions formally known as art galleries.

The Art Newspaper list:
Louvre, Paris 8,500,000
British Museum, London 5,842,138
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 5,216,988
Tate Modern, London 5,061,172
National Gallery, London 4,954,914
National Gallery of Art, Washington 4,775,114
Museum of Modern Art, New York 3,131,238
Centre Pompidou, Paris 3,130,000
National Museum of Korea, Seoul 3,067,909
Musee d'Orsay, Paris 2,985,510

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Art is where you find it

Some folk in Ngaruawahia channel Colin McCahon

A bigger splash

What is it with painted buildings in Wellington? Whatever it is, there's a lot of it going on. Our very own ‘art’ hotel has a never-to-be-forgotten (see True Lies post) painting by French artist and Berlin Wall painter Gabriel Heimler and now across town the Tattoo Apartments on Abel Smith Street are getting in on the act. 

They are in the final throws of getting a paint job with a mural that looks like a couple of guys doing their own Le Pétomane performance. But hang on a minute, the drawings for this block that were displayed on its surrounding fence while it was being built featured a bird painting by Australian Geoff Dixon.

Agent: “Yeah, I know you were expecting a native bird mural but we thought, what the hell, it’s a university town, let’s go for it.” 

Given that the apartment building is called Tattoo (it’s on the old site of the Wellington Tattoo Museum), they might have gone even further with something like, say, a dragon. That’s what the Tattoo Museum itself has done after moving in a couple of doors down from us. At least you know where you are with dragons: they breathe their fire from the right end.

Images: Top left the Museum Hotel, right the original paint concept for the Tattoo apartments. Bottom left the final painting of the Tattoo apartments and right the new Tattoo Museum on the corner of Vivian and Victoria Streets.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


"My ideal response from someone who saw a new work would be: 'Oh, I didn't realise that was by you.' "
British artist Lucian Freud quoted in Martin Gayford's book Man with a blue scarf

There’s gold in them thar halls

One of New Zealand’s growth industries over the last 20 or so years has been university level art education. A couple of art schools , Elam in Auckland and Ilam in Christchurch, have been around for a while, but many more institutions have draped gowns over their polytech overalls and joined in the rush for student gold. 

In many respects it’s been a good thing. Now a whole bunch of artists can dump waiting at table and earn a good wage (sorry, we meant salary) teaching young hopefuls. 

And the pay is great. If you want to get into the university art teaching business, here’s what you can expect to earn (these figures are based on averages offered by the University of Auckland who own 1 Professor, 5 Associate Professors, 10 Senior Lecturers and 7 Lecturers).

Professor: $130,000
Associate Professor: $112,000
Senior Lecturer: $90,000
Lecturer: $73,000

So you can see what some of those students might be hopeful about, career-wise that is.

Image: a lump of gold

Monday, April 18, 2011

Statues in the news

The American Government has just released a stamp featuring the Statue of Liberty. “So what,” you might ask, “don’t they do that all the time?” They do but usually they use the 125 year old original that welcomes people to New York. This time someone grabbed the first pic they laid their hands on and it turns out it was of the 14 year old Statue of Liberty lookalike outside the New York-New York casino in Las Vegas. The mistake was discovered by a stamp collector not a sculpture buff.
Image: Left, the 'Statue of Liberty' in Las Vegas. Right, her stamp

Home and away

When it was announced that sculptor Natalie Stamilla was making a $300,000 bronze sculpture of Michael Jones scoring his iconic try, the news hit the front page of every paper in the country. No reason why it shouldn’t, even if the work is not exactly a revelation - see our OTN selection of dismal rugby sculptures worldwide. 

This sort of media attention to sculpture would make you think that if a major commission worth $NZ6 million were completed by a New Zealand artist in Sydney (the biggest public art work ever commissioned in Australia), that it might be worth a few column inches too. But unfortunately not, unless you count the Northern Advocate (which took the Northland-artist-makes-good line).

Sculptor Chris Booth must surely wonder what happened to the home crowd. His work is a large rambling sculpture in worked stone and it is located on a magnificent site on the lawns sloping down to the water from Government House. Booth's extraordinary accomplishment has caused not a ripple in the NZ media although it has certainly made a positive impact in Australia. As well as media coverage, the work has attracted many visitors to the famous Royal Botanic Gardens to clamber over the rocky surface and look out across Sydney Harbour.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A good foil

Just in case you were getting the idea that all artist-designed condoms were frivolous in the style of David Shrigley, here’s some sterner stuff from American artist Jenny Holzer. If what you want is a baby, don’t bother.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Head and shoulders

The people that run the Bregenz Festival have never been short of a big idea. Once a year they build a giant set for an opera on lake Lake Constance. This time it’s giant-head year and as HQ for super-sized sculpture recognition worldwide OTN is posting a pic of it.
You can see more of the BF's wacky sets here on Flavorwire

Living room

One great way to leave the tourist trail if you are in another country and want to see interesting new areas of cities or towns is to chase up the homes and studios of artists that have opened up for public access. The most well known example in New Zealand would be the McCahon House in Auckland.
Once when we were in Kansas City we visited the home and studio of Thomas Hart Benton, the great muralist and teacher and mentor of Jackson Pollock.  It felt as though Hart Benton had just left to do some errands. When we were up in the upstairs bedroom we opened his wardrobe and there were all his clothes still hanging  neatly on a rail. Reaching into one of the pockets (afraid so) we even found an old tram ticket. The studio was even more unnerving with his last painting on the easel with a cloth thrown over it. Like everyone else, we lifted the cloth to see what was on the canvas. Some years later Julian Dashper made a video featuring this covered canvas in the same studio and no, we aren’t going to tell you what was there.
For an armchair version of looking in on how artists live you can check out the homes of artists including Marina Abramovic, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Julian Schnabel,  John Ahearn , Georgia O’Keefe, Taylor Mead and Francis Bacon’s kitchen.
Image: Marina Abramovic (never shy to strike a pose) in the kitchen of her 2,500 square foot $1.5 million SoHo loft

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More needle work

Andy Warhol imagery soups up an arm


There are a number of films about crazy sculptors (no, not you Michelangelo) but none so crazy as the subject of Roger Corman’s cult classic A Bucket of Blood. According to legend the film was shot over five days for $50,000. 

The story is a Corman classic, half original, half stolen from Edgar Allan Poe. Walter Paisley, a nerd waiter in a beat café, accidently kills his neighbour’s cat and hides the body by covering its stiff, furry corpse with clay and so inventing a new kind of sculpture. (Take a bow New Zealand’s John Radford for keeping this important genre alive). 

Things pick up as Paisley raises the stakes by launching into ‘life’-sized statuary. To do this he kills random people using their bodies as armatures onto which he applies the clay. Yes, that’s right, we’re talking kill-and-cover art. 

From here on, like most great ideas based on murder, it’s all down hill. There is a particularly low moment (although high on the gross-out scale) when Paisley decides to work on a bust, doing his prep work with a circular saw. Heady stuff. This is followed by one of those what-else-can-go-wrong moments as a visitor notices a finger poking out through the clay at an exhibition of Paisley’s work. 

Finally it’s all too much even for the avant-garde set at the Bohemian café and as concerned citizens they hunt the artist down to his attic studio. To their shock and/or delight they find he has covered himself in clay and hanged himself . It is at this stage that one of the less feeling of them pipes up, “This could be his greatest work”. 

And so it would have been had Corman been given a decent budget to stump up for the full mud-man effect. As it is there was only enough ding left for a bit of grey make-up that doesn’t really manage to produce the full I’m-covered-in-clay sculptural effect. You can get your copy of A Bucket of Blood here.
Images: Top left, the first full-sized sculpture that’s not a cat. Top right, Paisley’s first nude. Middle left, getting a head. Middle right, bust. Bottom, hung out to dry.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pick of the crop

Colin McCahon's 'painting'. Photo / Supplied
The NZ Herald employs some subtle art criticism in their caption to part of Colin McCahon's He calls for Elias that sold last night at Art + Object. Thanks for that P.

Size matters

One element that brings a lot of humour to the art museum business is the marketing department. As the years have gone by these departments have drifted away from the core of museum activities to the point where their knowledge of the business often registers somewhere between scant and whatever. As a result public communication by museums often teeters on the hilarious. We saw a great example the other day on one of the billboards celebrating the new Auckland Art Gallery.

First up were the works on display. The exhibition illustrated seems to be some sort of Colin McCahon survey with the feature work being McCahon’s Victory over death 2 that is in the collection of the Australian National Gallery. You can imagine the ANG’s chagrin at this large scale reproduction when you consider they do not reproduce the painting on their website with the explanation: “Unable to display image due to Copyright Restrictions”.

Given the Auckland Art Gallery has one of the greatest collections of works by McCahon, it's hard to understand why it wouldn’t feature one of its own works, perhaps even one that hasn’t been seen for a while. Through the door on the billboard’s virtual gallery we can also see a slice of a Jump painting but hang on, what’s that large red abstract? It’s a Rothko, painting du jour for anyone wanting to plug a generic modern-art hole. This one is Light Red Over Black 1957 and is in the collection of the Tate in Britain.

On the left hand wall are two more ‘McCahon’ paintings, Clouds 3 and another that looks like it was either made by a drunk monkey or has been so distorted that any McCahonishness has long gone. And what about the scale? These two works are famously on paper and weigh in at 1.1 x .75 meters. Based on the Rothko they are shown here at nearly twice that size and shadowed as though they are stretched canvases. And then all the work in these new galleries is hung weirdly close to the floor with not a barrier in sight – definitely not the real museum world of international loans.

The purpose of these billboards and their virtual gallery depictions is to pump up expectations for new spaces and exciting new displays of art. As it's turned out what they offer is a WTF moment for anyone who takes visual art and the Auckland Art Gallery seriously.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Branded: Michael Harrison

The moment when artists become brands


In the ever-rolling repeat (blip) repeat (blip) repeat of popular art-is-weird news stories, the fake paintings sold door-to-door is an old favourite. Partly this is because Chinese art skills have produced an endless supply of knock-offs or super-cheap made-in-minutes ‘oils’. 

Hundreds of thousands of these are created annually in the small city of Dafen in the Guangdong Province of southern China. Way back we posted on these painters ability to do very competent copies of contemporary painters but they also make work in many different styles to sell door-to-door round the globe. And it is these latter works that usually create the most fuss as measured in column inches.

The latest version we’ve come across was in the NZ Herald. The story was, “Scammers trying to flog off cheap art works for hundreds of dollars in the Western Bay of Plenty". The report breathlessly continues, “investigations have revealed the art works to be mass produced in China, worth $3 to $6.50 each.” Give that investigator a gold handled magnifying glass.

In any case, the mark-up (i.e. something produced for $3 and sold for $300) won’t strike anyone who buys art as being particularly notable, or anyone who buys spare parts for a car for that matter. If you want to avoid having people at your door, you can order your own bad art  direct from a large selection of art-to-go merchants. 

Image: Art to go factory in Dafen

Monday, April 11, 2011

art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

The art of giving

How generous are artists? Very generous indeed is the answer. Over the years artists have given countless works of art to auctions raising funds for this cause and that without a thought for recognition or making any complaint at the disproportionate amount they give. And it is a fact that artists give disproportionately. Can you imagine a young lawyer being asked to stump up with four or five thousand dollars to support a local cause? And yet this what happens to some artists two and three times a year, and two or three times a year they offer up an art work to raise money. Nowadays the amount is sometimes reduced to the commission on the work, but still it is usually a contribution way in excess of the usual $10, $20 or a particularly generous $50 of most donations.

A remarkable example of the generous gesture is that made collectively by British artist Sarah Lucas, a private patron and her dealers Two Rooms in Auckland and Sadie Coles in London. It starts with Sarah Lucas deciding to donate the proceedings from the sale of one of her works in her recent Two Rooms exhibition to the Christchurch Earthquake Fund. It continues with a collector purchasing a work from the show and then gifting it to the Christchurch Art Gallery. That meant the Earthquake Fund benefited from Sarah Lucas’s donation of the purchase price of $160,000 and the Christchurch Art Gallery was able to add a work of their choice from the exhibition (they chose NUD CYCLADIC 2 for the record) thanks to a very generous patron. Both dealer galleries waived commission and it is expected that the Christchurch Art Gallery will receive a further $160,000 as part of its dollar for dollar matching agreement with the City Council on all donations. An extraordinary act of generosity gained momentum rippled out on a huge scale.

When you put the Lucas example together with gestures like that made by Dick Scott and Webb’s, and the many other artists, collectors, dealers and auction houses, you are talking about significant amounts coming out of the visual arts cultural sector each year.

Image: A Sarah Lucas NUD CYCLADIC work from the same series as the one donated to Christchurch NUD CYCLADIC © The Artist. Image via Sadie Coles HQ, London and Two Rooms, Auckland. photograph: Julian Simmons

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Signs on Saturday

Thanks P, thanks and thanks again

Friday, April 08, 2011

Warning to models

"We can put an end to a centuries-old dispute and also understand Leonardo's relations to his models."
The guy who wants to dig up the bones of the woman who modeled for the Mona Lisa. Story here.

 Image: Mona Lisa's leg bone (reconstruction only)

A good bad snake

At the opening of Michael Stevenson's exhibition at Sydney’s MCA on Tuesday night there was a large group of young suited men in front of one of the works deep in animated conversation. Necks were craning, fingers pointing and comments passing back and forth from one MCA young businessman patron to another. It turned out they were discussing the finer points of the Michael Stevenson print Gold vs Oil (2009) which showed how the prices and the relationships of these two key commodities fluctuated over time. 

Also on show was a 1987 drawing of a snake painted in a dynamic thick blue line. When Stevenson first showed it to his dealer of the time Gregory Flint, Flint told him how much he liked the work and remarked, "Save it for your retrospective." Still in the possession of the artist, he did.
Image: display case in Michael Stevenson at the MCA with his work One bad snake far right

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Dead reckoning

If you ever wondered why artists have an ambivalent attitude to the art market it is probably because that market believes the only good artist is a dead artist. The latest Artprice figures are out for the top 50 selling contemporary artists of the year. There are only six living artists on the list.


When we said a while back that the Chair of Creative NZ didn’t have much to say for himself, we didn’t figure on him rising up to crush our call for more support for the arts in Christchurch. You can read his letter CNZ to the rescue in this week's Listener below. Somewhere in there though he did mention that CNZ's top three were in a meeting together “reviewing facilities and meetings with artists” when they read our 2 April piece, so that’s good.

Apart from intimating that we are a couple of Wellington rats (fair enough, we called them lambs), there’s not a whole lot of stuff about what CNZ is actually doing and, as you can probably imagine, we got a much more generous response from the folk down in Christchurch.

CNZ to the rescue
Jim and Mary Barr, like many non-Christchurch residents, have no shortage of opinion about what’s needed to fix a broken city (Listener 2 April or a shorter version on OTN here). They also remain conveniently ignorant about what has been on Cantabrians' minds and what Creative New Zealand has been doing to assist the arts community.
   I agree it’s vital to help Christchurch rebuild and reconnect with the arts and their redemptive nature. But it’s easy to be a megaphone advocate from a distance when your toilets flush and your precious collections, indeed your lives remain unshattered.
   To spend time in Christchurch, as Creative New Zealand (CNZ) staff have done since the first earthquake on September 4, is to understand first-hand what resilience and compassion mean among Cantabrians. Our Chief Executive, Arts Board Chairman and I were reviewing facilities and meetings with artists when I read the Barr piece.
   We have already provided cashflow to companies and established an emergency response fund to help CNZ-funded artists affected by the earthquake. We will continue to help as Christchurch citizens pick up the pieces and start focusing beyond their essential human needs.
   These are delicate and heartbreaking times and the people of Canterbury need to help rebuild their homes, their schools and their businesses - as well as their arts and their sports. Patience, partnership, compassion and resolve will be more helpful than complaint from afar.
Alastair Carruthers
Chair, Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa

Image: Angry lamb

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Looks like art

Looking like art at the  Dowse Art Museum.

Stevenson's rocket

Last night Michael Stevenson’s survey exhibition opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. It was quite an event. Michael has been based in Berlin for some time now, but he has remained a major presence back home. He was New Zealand’s representative to the 2003 Venice Biennale and has been included in some key touring exhibitions including Toi Toi Toi

The retrospective exhibition at the MCA runs over two floors and is an extraordinary gathering together of Stevenson’s work from the late eighties through to the present. A MONIAC is there, along with early paintings and drawings, films, assemblages of objects, installations and of course The Gift, a replica of Australian artist Ian Fairweather’s raft owned by the Queensland Art Gallery. The spaces the exhibition has been displayed in are about to be renovated so Stevenson and MCA curator Glenn Barkley been given an unusual amount of latitude in how they could break down and recreate experiences around this major selection of work. You can travel from floor to floor via an immense goods lift, step in behind the walls and have your understanding of the chronology of Stevenson’s work truly turned upside down. This is an exceptional reinvention of how to mount survey exhibitions of single artist’s work. 

So why you might ask will we not see this major exhibition of a New Zealand artist in New Zealand? Earth to Te Papa, um…Planet Auckland Art Gallery, are you there? It is beyond comprehension how such a huge effort could have been made to bring all this work together by the MCA and not one of the public art institutions in New Zealand has negotiated to show it. The usual excuses - “We’re at the end of a building programme,” or “We don’t have any spaces to show it in” or “we don’t have the budget” – simply don’t cut it. 

This is a major failure for NZ art professionals collectively. Maybe it is not too late for something to be sorted out with Michael Stevenson, the MCA and the lenders. But in the end, as usual, it will all be about will, will and the conviction that artists with major international reputations like Michael Stevenson remain an important part of New Zealand’s culture. One item of good news in this debacle has been financial support for the MCA exhibition from both Creative New Zealand and the Chartwell Trust.

So it’s an airfare to Sydney if you who want to see one of the best New Zealand exhibitions in years. You’ve got until 19 June.
Image: detail from one of Stevenson's works on show at the MCA

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

On the road

#48 in OTN's ongoing series celebrating Ministry of Land Transport and Local Body support of New Zealand artists.
For others in the series hit the 'on the road' label tag below.

That’s what I want

Can you make money from art? Well, yes you can, although if you read the perennial can-you-make-money-on-art features in mags and newspapers, you’ll find most commentators prefer to front foot with don’t-buy-it-unless-you-love-it. 

Forgetting the all-you-need-is-love line for a moment, how much money can you make? Over the last twenty years, to use a technical term, lots. Quick resales of works by Bill Hammond and Shane Cotton in particular have reaped some very large rewards for people who didn’t want to live with their art for more than 10 to 15 years and, in many cases, as few as three or four.

Of course you have to sell at the right time as art is not very liquid (another technical term), but when you consider the amount made on Don Binney’s Kotare over the Ratana Church, Te Kao ($270,000 over 47 years from a purchase price of around $125), there is money, good money, delivered from the right works (i.e. best looking typical work - preferably figurative - of the highest reputation artists).

Take, for example, Colin McCahon’s He calls for Elias up in the next Art + Object sale. The painting was offered up for £12.12 (aka 12 guineas) at its first outing in 1959 and it is still in its original frame. Now auctioneers Art + Object reckon it will sell for somewhere between $500,000 and $700,000. 

And what is £12.12 worth in today’s inflation adjusted dollars? $497.00 that’s what. So you definitely stand to make a fair bit over the under-the-mattress method, even if it sells under the lower reserve. 

If you put the £12.12 into the bank and went with compound interest at 6% over the 52 years (you’d be lucky), you’d only be rolling in 5,768 dollar bills. 

So could some smart investor parlay £12.12 into $600,000 over 52 years? Sure they could, but we’d all be super impressed. Art at auction. Gotta love it.

Image: the back of McCahon’s He calls for Elias illustrated in the Art + Object catalogue. You can download the fully illustrated catalogue here

Monday, April 04, 2011

Roll out the banner

Something you don't see every day. New Zealand artist Michael Stevenson gets the full survey treatment from Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art. As things stand the exhibition is not scheduled to show in New Zealand.

When the K in Koons stands for Kill

In the world of computer game shoot-em-ups there are two main types: ones in which you have an avatar who stands (or rolls or fights or kicks) for you and first-person shooters where you are in control of a gun that sticks into the screen and blasts away everything that comes at you. Now, if we were making a game to blast away at the art world, we'd go for a first-person shooter and that’s just what Florida-based new media artist Hunter (great name) Jonakin has done in his game Jeff Koons Must Die!!!
JKMD!!! Takes place in a Jeff Koons retrospective exhibition. As you get down to business you also get to see most of the key items in the JK oeuvre and the business is to destroy as many JK works as you can with your rocket launcher (it’s a boy’s game). If you choose not to shoot any of the artworks the game comes to an end, but obliterate a bunny, blow up a Balloon Dog or frag an Equilibrium Tank and JK comes out to reason with you (not for very long), and if that fails, dispatches a guard to kill you. Blast your way through that problem and you find yourself attacked by waves of curators (oooooh, I’m so scared), lawyers and gallery assistants who eventually kill you whatever you do. As in so many gallery situations, it really doesn’t pay to rile the staff.

All you potential Koons Killers out there can read more here and see a video of the game in action.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Mini meme

We’ve mentioned Michael Leavitt previously, he’s the guy who makes artist Action Figures. Unfortunately they are one-offs -unlike New Zealand's own Action Figure maker Ronnie van Hout who back in 2007 made himself cheaper by the dozen - but Leavitt's army of handmade mini-artists (some of them have up to 30 moving parts) is growing. A few of the recent additions are Jeff Koons, Matthew Barney, Takashi Murakami and Julian Schnabel. We’re figuring most of you will know who’s who but for those who don’t, here’s Leavitt's master chart.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Bags one

If you want one of these Fendy bags designed by Damien Hirst and Richard Prince you’re probably out of luck. These and some others are being auctioned for charity by Christies next week and are one of a kind ‘custom altered’. Still, if your hearts really on owning one you can pop over to Charity Buzz and get a bid in, the dot Hirst with an estimated value of $13,000 was sitting at $7,500 last time we looked.
Images: Bags by Prince and Hirst (spotted and spin)

If it’s Tuesday, it must be SFMoMA

Anyone who travels overseas in search of great art experiences knows the disappointment of arriving one day after the big survey show ends or finding the one art museum that closes on a Wednesday when everyone else in the world closes on Monday. But as bad as these occasional blips are, consider Colin and Anne McCahon and their famous 1958 visit to the United States. This trail of disappointment comes from Gordon Brown’s book Colin McCahon: artist

Arriving in San Francisco they were told that a fire at MoMA in New York meant that the museum would be all but closed when they visited, in Philadelphia they discovered that the Barnes collection would not admit them and, to top it off, the Art Institute of Chicago was rebuilding and most of its collection was in storage. Finally, a planned visit with Betty Parsons was stymied when the famous dealer took off to Europe days before the McCahons hit town. 

Despite of all these obstacles, the couple managed to visit 68 galleries in just over four months at an exhausting rate of nearly two museum visits a day every day of the trip. Lucky some of them were closed.