Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Water world

New Zealand has a new venue this time at the Venice Biennale and it is right on the Grand Canal, the main waterway through the city. The rich speedboat in from the airport, the very rich speed in their own boats from the marina and the rest of the art crowd slowly putt-putts along the Canal at a snail’s pace on the public water transport system called vaporettos. But at whatever comfort levels or speeds they travel (there are speed cameras in Venice too) all will pass by the banner announcing Michael Parekowhai’s installation at the Palazzo Loredan.

It’s never easy to find your way around Venice. The approved method seems to be to head in the general direction and hope for the best. From the vaporetto stop Ca’Rezzonica, the Parekowhai site is hang a left, hang another left and you’re there. The very rich (and more of them are attracted every year to these mega art events) simply jump into a water taxi, a weird description which would have the rest of us hailing road taxis, and get dropped off at the jetty outside the front door.

The opening blitz kicks off tomorrow for NZ with previews and an evening for the patrons who stumped up to help make it all possible. As you might expect, Michael Parekowhai has a big surprise in store for them. Venice isn’t Henderson, and that’s a fact.
Images: Left the NZ venue on the Grand canal and right a sign that Michael Parekowhai is in residence above the venue's front door


Everyone has their own story about objects in contemporary art museums being mistaken for art like this fire extinguisher (and even then you have to watch out for tricksters like Glen Hayward who create art objects that look like objects that might be art, like a carved fire extinguisher, albeit with reversed writing on the label).

But the other side of the is-it-isn’t-it dilemma is mistaking art for something else in an art museum. We had this happen to us, well rather to our son who was about four at the time. It happen in the Whitney Museum where seeing a large brass couch-like structure he clambered up and sat down. Ok, the cushion seemed to be missing, but hey, it was an art gallery. Five seconds later he was subjected to a right bollocking as one of the guards told him to get his sorry butt up off of the Donald Judd sculpture.

From that day on he had a deep-seated suspicion of anything that looked like it might have any sort of practical function in an art museum, like fire extinguishers, for instance.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Into the void

Dane Mitchell gets a full page in the May-June issue of Frieze magazine. Mercedes Vincente takes him through an interview about the recent work including his representations of the invisible via perfumes and other niceties. Says Mitchell, "For sure the notion of emptiness lends itself to be read wryly."

The light fantastic

Over the years we have come to own a number of conceptual artworks i.e. works that are primarily about an idea rather than it expression in an object, although some have objects associated with them. One such work is Untitled by Ryan Moore. It requires the positioning of a mapping pin at a certain height in the middle of the largest wall in an exhibition. As it happened the work did come with a small white mapping pin but it was the act of putting the pin in the wall and so claiming the biggest wall (a politically provocative act if you have ever seen a group of artists vying for exhibition space) that was the artwork. The pin itself was only along for the ride.

This idea was sorely tested when we purchased Martin Creed’s Work No. 88 (a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball). What we received, along with a certificate signed by Martin Creed, was a ball of crumpled paper in a small cardboard box. On the box it was clearly stated that the ball of paper in the box was an “example only”, that is it was not the work, just something to show you what the work might look like. Our son tested our attitude to the specific ball of paper we had received by shredding it and crumpling the shreds into a ball. Our shock at his destruction of the ‘example’ showed we still had a little way to go as conceptual art owners! (Of course he had in fact kept the ‘original’ example but gave us a few more swerves by serving up versions that were flattened out, drawn on, multiplied etc.)

At Scape in Christchurch one time we met Martin Creed. As we had just purchased his Work No. 312 (a lamp going on and off every second) and, as purchasing a lamp was required to make the work work as it were, we asked if he would be interested in an image of it when we eventually chose one. He was very kind about it. Martin Creed knows exactly what conceptual art is all about. “Thanks for the offer" he said, "but I’m really only interested in the light going on and off.”
Image: Martin Creed’s (a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball). Example only

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday's chART

Friday, May 27, 2011

Branded: Tiepolo

OK, we promise we won't do it again, but it was pounding piles into the water (the way they have since Venice began, the whole city is balanced on them) and it was right next door to where Michael Parekowhai was installing his work.

What's in that crate?

A reclining bronze bull, that’s what. The crate (one of seven shipped to Venice) came in the front door after a trip down the Grand Canal. Everything in this city comes by water and Michael Parekowhai’s team have set to lifting, easing, and manhandling in the tonnes that make up the work New Zealand is showing for the Venice Biennale. Not easy. 

And not made any easier by the two steps that rise up between the small dock over the water and the palazzo’s interior. The problem of how to raise massive weights even this small distance was worked out at home in New Zealand. Part of the solution was to take a homemade hoist along for the ride in one of the crates. So far the standing bull on its piano is up and running in the back garden and the second piano is out of its crate. Five to go.

Images: Top left WITC? and right, two stairs to get up, but might as well be ten. Bottom, the empties go out the way they came in.

Other posts in the What's in that crate? series:

Thursday, May 26, 2011


... a pipe is just a pipe. Thinking about Rene Magritte's Ceci n'est pas une pipe

Guten tag?

One of the first exhibitions of Jeffrey Deitch, the new director of the MoCA in LA, is Art in the streets. It has proved hugely popular although there was a hitch when Deitch had a commissioned ‘street’ mural hastily removed from a wall outside the Museum because it was politically controversial. Deitch praises street art because it, “doesn't need the whole system of galleries, critics, magazines and museums in the conventional way because they have understood how to get their work out there directly to the public.”

It would be entertaining to see him put that upbeat view to Richard Serra who's work Berlin Junction is helping get some street art ‘directly to the public’ here in Berlin.

Another OTN post on this sculpture here

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Took your time

We arrive seven minutes late for a critical moment in Turner Prize winner Susan Philipsz's exhibition The Cuckoo's nest at the Isabella Bortolozzi gallery

When art hits the headlands

You don’t get many controversies in public art institutions these days. Maybe a sharper approach to up-front risk assessment has finally done for it. You certainly don't expect to see its origins in Gisborne, but on a recent visit to we came across many examples of contemporary Maori art which owed more than a little to the teaching and painting style of Sandy Adsett. He has been a formidable presence in the region for decades and a key figure in the development of a major stream of contemporary Maori art.

In the years before the arrival on the scene of artists like Jacqueline Fraser, Shane Cotton, Michael Paerekowhai and Peter Robinson much of the 'look and feel' of contemporary Maori art, with a few notable exceptions Ralph Hotere being the most obvious, was driven by artists from the East Coast of the North Island. 

Their art was most typically abstracted from traditional forms and had its spiritual centre and purpose on the marae. It was also largely ignored or siloed by the public art institutions and curators until 1992 when Robert Leonard let artists like Sandy Adsett and Cliff Whiting slip into Headlands, and not only slip in but in the case of Adsett rub shoulders with artists like Gordon Walters. 

The sight of Adsett’s brightly coloured traditional forms next to the austerity of Walters' koru paintings was too much for some of Walters' supporters. The morning after the exhibition's opening they flew into a rage at what they saw as an insult to the great artist (Walters not Adsett). 

This was all a long time ago now, and while it's hard to think such juxtapositions would cause many ripples today, they still might kick-start a long overdue discussion around the twists and turns that over the last three decades or so have seen so many different strands of art merge, converge, separate and (for the brief window around Headlands) run in glorious parallel.
Images: murals spotted on the walls of Kaiti school in Gisborne. Apologies to Ronnie van Hout for the title

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day in the life

Monday: “The sign will go ahead regardless”

Tuesday: “I’m disappointed at how aggressive the protests have become.”

Wellington Airport Chief Executive Steve Fitzgerald


"I had to ask myself what the world expected of me. Was I an art professor wearing out my life between studio, college, meetings and students (always feeling I had been tackled to the ground)? Or should I be doing something that was possible in the studio?  Taking my damaged nerves into account I came to a definite decision."
German artist Neo Rauch telling the May issue of Art Newspaper why he left teaching

Nice work if you can get it

“Mention at a party that you are a dentist or an accountant and people tend to look away. Mention that you work in a museum or gallery and their reaction is likely to be quite different. People may not be interested in your actual job status but simply have an image of you ambling around the gallery having fine thoughts in the presence of masterpieces. It is a job with a high level of kudos.”

So says Alison Baverstock in her book How to get a job in a museum or art gallery. Baverstock has eight key points she reckons makes the job a must-have including, “The chance to meet interesting people. Working in a pleasant place and having a job that people find fascinating.” Nice work if you can get it but given the vast numbers of students passing through the fine arts courses the chance to have people believe you amble around a gallery all day and be paid for it is going to be subject of increasingly tough competition.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Philippé Halsman with Dali, Helmut Newton with Twiggy, Richard Billingham with his Dad

Clever as

We like to think OTN has developed a bit of a niche keeping you up to date on the super-size-sculpture genre, so there’s no reason why Wellington’s version of the Hollywood sign should sneak by. 

Hard to understand how a ‘Creative Capital’ could put its best creative foot forward, and only manage a copycat. In the end we're talking about a small idea for a big sign that has already been used by provincial towns all over the world. It's also probably the moment to remember that the Hollywood sign was originally an advertisement for a housing development - Hollywood Land. 

Put that piece of history together with the City Council’s Economy of the Arts in Wellington report that tells us that advertising and film production make up 84.2 percent of Wellington’s gross cultural production output. It's not hard to see how an idea, even as banal as this one (no doubt dreamed up by the ad and/or PR agency for the city's airstrip) can be eased through the Council processes (you try it sometime) despite overwhelming objections.
Images: Wellington's 'big' idea at work around the world. Thanks B for background stuff.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The iron fist in the bloody glove

One day at the advertising agency

Ad guy 1: See we have a campaign coming up for this art museum

Ad guy 2: I hate art museums, they feel so completely alien to me

Ad guy 1: Did you ever see that movie?

Image: Advert created for the Tamayo Art Museum in Mexico City. Agency Draftfcb México, creative Yuri Alvarado, Luis Pedro González and Gustavo González, copy Ezra Mochón.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Channeling the Campana Brothers in Berlin. You can buy an original here at Gary Langsford’s Auckland design store Design 55


There’s a lot of New Zealand artists in Germany and most of them are in Berlin. What can the Germans be up to? Over the years New Zealand has been wooed by a number of sources of art funding, most forcefully by the United States back in the Cold War days (they even ordered Clement Greenberg, not a man to leave home at the drop of a hat, down to the bottom of the Pacific in 1969). 

America schmoozing us just post-Korea and pre us getting bolshy over the nuclear thing, made perfect sense, but Germany? With generous support for exhibitions, artist residencies, language courses and other goodies, the Germans have put a truckload of funding into New Zealand art. What can they want?

There’s probably no simple answer to explain this wave of cultural diplomacy, but who’s complaining? Certainly not Alicia Frankovich who is in Berlin on the Creative New Zealand Berlin Visual Artists Residency at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien. We caught one of her performances the other night and the next day found her filming a performance in Kottbusser Tor. The bits we watched appeared to be based on an old boxing movie and the cast spent a lot of time ducking and weaving. 

A few passers-by paused, but that morning the people of Kottbusser Tor were all busy doing something else. Perhaps if they'd known they were helping to pay for it, and that it’s all part of Germany’s master plan, more of them would have stopped to catch the action.
Images: Top left and right performance pieces at Salon Populaire. Bottom filming in Kottbusser Tor, Frankovich in pink trousers

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In Berlin

Thinking about Duchamp's Trébuchet

Leads and chorus to the stage please

With September only four months away, the needle on the pressure gauge at the Auckland Art Gallery must have gone well into the red. Opening a major new extension after being closed for an extended period is a big deal and expectations are high. This was the institution, after all, that shaped the canon of New Zealand art from the fifties to the seventies so how it sees the future and its role in that future matters nationally. It already has a precedent for making the right gesture. Back in 1971 a series of new upper galleries were opened by the ACAG, as it was called then. The Gallery responded Ten Big Paintings. A big simple idea. The exhibition consisted of one very large work by each of ten artists. 

Today the idea feels simplistic but at the time big paintings, really big paintings, were something that happened off shore. By providing a group of artists with large stretched canvases (Don Driver remembered his arriving at the door on the back of a truck and wondering where he was going to put it) and letting them loose, the Gallery not only put a tab on who it thought was important, but also showed how much it trusted them to come up with the goods. 

The paintings were as big as the ceiling height of the new galleries would allow, and for Colin McCahon as wide as he could get away with with his monster work Gate III (now in the Victoria University collection). The idea even got an after life. In 2008 the Northart Gallery in Auckland revived the 'ten big paintings' concept for its tenth anniversary exhibition, even to the point of inviting two of the ‘originals’ (Ross Ritchie and Robert Ellis) to do repeat performances.

So here's hoping the Auckland Art Gallery is preparing to spring another big surprising idea on us.
Image: Preparing canvases for the Ten Big Paintings exhibition (contemporary recreation)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


A tent for Michael Parekowhai to take to Venice.
Top: VW tent. Bottom Michael Parekowhai's The Big O.E. 2006

Statue of limitations

There aren’t so many movies dedicated to statues. We've already posted on Tony Hancock’s horrific efforts and Michelangelo’s David pops up regularly although usually as a bit player. Perhaps the only true statue picture is one uncannily titled The Statue. Made in 1971 by ex TV director Rod Amateau, it featured a five and half meter statue of British comedian David Niven, well most of him anyway. 

As this movie was made in the UK and in the early seventies, no one will be surprised to hear that the story revolves around Niven’s (well Niven’s character Alex Bolt’s) penis, its size and authenticity. The film’s advertising slogan was, “Dedicated to the proposition that all men are not created equal” and that gives you a pretty good idea of what goes on throughout its 84 minutes. 

In a perfect tweet then: Famous linguist Bolt gets the Nobel Prize. Pissed off wife makes celebratory statue using stunt penis. The hunt is on. The CIA get involved.

The critics were not kind, “For fans of misguided celebrity-studded trash, it doesn't get much better than this.” For sculpture lovers, two thumbs down.
Images: Bottom right Niven's gift statue. Bottom left and above scenes from the movie with Niven in various startled poses

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In the dark

“Venice is in need of artistical illumination, the public and the city is hungry for new fantastic culture and ideas. Between Italian politics and the crisis, the art world has faced dark times and is in search for the voices of artist to shout out what needs to be heard, what is important and stand up for what they believe to be true.”
CNZ Venice Blog

Wall street

It sure looks like a Serra. A long corten steel wall with people trailing their hands along its rough rusted surface. Sure it wasn’t on a lean, but not all Serra’s tilt. And it was massive, that’s on brand for a Serra. But what about the goon tower poking over the top? In fact this is the Berlin Wall Memorial, a national testament to the people who died trying to escape East Germany. Maybe Serra had some input but we can’t find any mention of it (the architects responsible are Kohlhoff & Kohlhoff).

It's not such a random assumption as Serra's work can be seen in a number of places in the city. There's Berlin Block for Charlie Chaplin and Berlin Junction and he was also closely involved (although withdrew before the project was completed) with architect Peter Eisenman on the famous arrangement of concrete blocks that make up the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe down by the Brandenburg Gate.

And, even if Serra was not have involved in this latest memorial, it certainly stands as a testament to how powerful his sculptural ideas have become as markers of scale and moment.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Our watch stopped too

As we posted on Ronnie van Hout's posters on our Berlin walls Luke Wood was putting up Ronnie van Hout posters (and others) on the walls of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. The truth is out there.
Thanks A

Keeping it real

There's an old saying “art follows reality TV” and it certainly rings true here in Berlin. Many exhibitions seem specifically designed to impress the hell out of us by scale, danger quotient or hours racked up in assembly time. Turkish artist Cyprien Gaillard’s The recovery of discovery cunningly combined all three and played to a popular past time that we share with the Germans, drinking. 

It was a huge pyramid of 6,000 beer cartons containing between them 72,000 full bottles of Turkish beer. No cheating polystyrene core here it was beer cartons all the way down. The job for the audience was to climb the stack and grab a beer. By the time we got there the place was a tip of broken glass, crushed cartons and spilt beer. Still, a beer is a beer, so on your behalf we climbed to the top (minor cuts and bruises), grabbed a bottle and crawled back down again (harder than it looked going up).

The staff of the art museum KW knew this was all high risk and made us sign a release form absolving them from any responsibility for accidents. For all the talk about art being a high risk enterprise this is only the second time we have ever been asked to do this (the first time was to enter a Gregor Schneider installation at LACMA).

Gaillard’s beer mountain was presented as an investigation into how 'preserving a monument goes hand in hand with destroying it' but, given the climbing, drinking and danger that ensued, we’re figuring the subtext had to be Jackass.
Images: Top left, before and right, after. Bottom left, we knock the bugger off and right, view from the top

Saturday, May 14, 2011

When good bronze turns bad

From the depths of Google's grimmest and grimiest gutters pictures of sculptures that dare not say their name. All were spotted and collated for your Saturday enjoyment and shock during extensive research by OTN staffers for the post Or are you just terrified to see me.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Listing to the right

Here’s a list for you:

  • Deborah McCormick, Director SCAPE
  • Steph Walker, General Manager, Christchurch Arts Festival
  • Dr. Jane Gregg, Dean of Creative Industries
  • Dr. George Parker, Manager Te Puna Toi Performance Research Project
  • Philip Aldridge, Chief Executive, The Court Theatre
  • James Caygill, CEO, Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and Southern Opera
  • Sean Whitaker, General Manager, Christchurch School of Music
This is the group that was elected by attendees at a Creative NZ organised meeting to “represent the arts community of Christchurch.” But hang on, how can it represent the arts community if it doesn’t have a single practising artist included? The attendees at CNZ's meeting may well have selected a group of art bureaucrats, but there is a weirdly circular taste to all this. Invite bureaucrats to represent their organisations to a meeting and inevitably they choose the people who talk their language and share their objectives. Other bureaucrats.

Did no one think that some artists might have a contribution to make? Are there no artists in Christchurch who would be prepared to be on such a group? Impossible to believe.

In other circumstances CNZ is obsessed by representation as a founding principle - the upcoming legislation for the new Arts Council for example stipulates 46% of its members are selected from specific racial groupings - so you have to wonder why artists aren't seen as a crucial element of the Christchurch arts community.
Image: before you ask we are assuming the boat is bow towards us

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Crowded house

The National Gallery in London has announced that to “combat gallery rage” they will reduce numbers allowed into their forthcoming Leonardo da Vinci exhibition from 230 to 180 per half hour. They have also told prospective visitors they need to swot up on da Vinci before they turn up so they don’t slow things down reading the labels. Critics are marking this as the end of the Blockbuster exhibition and the beginning of a new Ballbuster phase.
Image: unthoughtful visitor slowing things down by spending too much time in front of art work

Going for the doctor

“It was his art, he owned it and he had the right to do whatever he wanted with it.” 

The speaker was the current President of Lincoln University in Philadelphia and he was talking about the unique exhibiting style, restricted access and dysfunctional relationship with professional art museums of the Barnes Collection courtesy of its founder Dr Albert C Barnes. You can catch up with the full story of the Barnes Collection and its battle with the City of Philadelphia efforts to relocate it into a new space in the city centre here, or catch the excellent albeit Barnes-eyed documentary The art of the steal.

Barnes believed that once collectors have their mitts on great art they can do with it whatever they please. It pleased Dr Barnes to inform it with his eccentric views on education and hatred of the Philadelphia Art Museum. He also attempted to have his vision continue to direct the collection beyond the grave courtesy of an intricately fashioned will.
Not that Barnes stands alone in this take-it-or-leave attitude. At one seminar we attended a collector told participants that she had always kept one of her works by Colin McCahon in the back of a cupboard, and that it was no one’s business but her own. Further more, she added, she was entitled to reduce the work to a pile of ash it if she felt like it.

Fortunately not all collectors feel this way. Much of the work seen in public museums comes from private collections either as loans or gifts and private collectors are increasingly making their works available to the public in their own institutions. And of course many works from private collections end up as gifts to public ones. Meanwhile the marathon legal battle in Philadelphia continues as the judge overseeing the case has ordered yet another round of arguments over whether to re-open the case.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Department store plays at art museum reframing retail on London’s Oxford Street.

Drinking in the atmosphere

After arriving in Berlin and climbing five flights of stairs, we were greeted by Ronnie van Hout. Not in person you understand, but via three posters dating back to around 1983-84 that hang in our apartment. They were made by Ronnie for the band Pin Group to promote gigs held at the Gladstone Hotel in Christchurch. This pub was a favoured hang-out of artists almost from the time the Ilam Art School started up business. In the sixties it was wittily known as the Happy Brick. 

For fine art students the Brick was where you could buy a glass jug of beer and get to stand alongside Christchurch artists like Tom Taylor, Quentin MacFarlane, Doris Lusk, Rudi Gopas and others. For underage drinkers (which most of the first and second year students were in those days the drinking age limit still at 21) it was both exhilarating and scary. There was always the possibility of the police turning up and hauling you out, usually in the most embarrassing way they could come up with at the time, and then there was the erratic nature of some of the Ilam Art School staff who’s behaviour often fluctuated wildly between bouts of group hilarity and unnerving personal confrontation.

These early posters by Ronnie van Hout also bring up associations with his sharp record cover work for Flying Nun and performances as a member of the anarchic Christchurch band Into the Void. The band’s unabated assault on the senses was a hard-core eighties echo of the late sixties drinking and drama down at the Happy Brick.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The son also rises

We constantly fight the urge to bombard you all with cross posts of brilliant stuff from our son. But The Meta-Aesthetics of Artists , who could resist it? Not these parents.

Or are you just terrified to see me?

Sculptors are famous for thinking in 3D - with most of them it’s what they do best - so when you see a sculpture that looks comical from one angle or another, the chances are that it’s intentional. This is why the story about the sculpture of William Rolleston that stands (hopefully) outside the Christchurch Museum always rang true. The word was that the sculptor had no time at all for his subject and arranged the sheaf of papers the great man was holding at groin height to raise his membership in the embarrassment stakes. We saw a significantly more sinister riff on this idea in Soho Park in London. Sculptures of naked men stretching over to pat naked young boys on the head is a high risk venture at the best of times. Add rope and you’re just asking for it. And that’s what sculptor Bruce Denny did.

Monday, May 09, 2011

In Hong Kong...

... in 2011 thinking about Julian Dashper in the eighties.

Power to the people

Like many other countries, New Zealand has seen a recent rash of ‘realistic’ bronze sculptures of sports events and prominent sporting figures. The results, to say the least, are variable and that isn’t very surprising given that figurative sculpture hasn’t been taught in most art schools for around 50 years.

You'd think that the poor old public that has to trudge past these bizarre throw-backs on the way to pick up tickets or score a hotdog would once in a while rise up and cry, “We’re as mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore!” And yes, once in a while they do and in Southampton, back in 2007, they did.
When a statue of Ted Bates was unveiled outside the main entrance to St Mary's Stadium on 17 March 2007 there was a collective gasp from the assembled crowd. The statue received so much derisive criticism it was taken away and replaced a year later. By this time the crowds were obviously too dispirited to complain.

The Rugby World Cup is going to have at least two it’s-so-real-it-could-be-alive sculptures unveiled (1 and 2). Ladies and Gentlemen of the viewing public, start your engines.
Images: Bates in bronze before (left) after (right)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Saturday competition

Hong Kong looked like Daniel Buren had been in residency for the last ten years, his blue stripes were everywhere. One of the pictures above is a real Buren the others Hong Kong lookalikes. At the risk of a bad joke spot the original. Answer here on OTN Stuff.

Friday, May 06, 2011


If you’re after an occult guide to the art works and architecture of Wellington, head over to Sovereign Mind. Here you'll find a Dan Brownesque guide to our very own Civic Centre without exclamation marks and dead bodies. Still, who'd have thought Wellington could be mapped out like a mini Washington with magic eyes, Illuminati symbols and pyramids galore? Neil Dawson’s suspended sculpture Ferns constructed from five fern shapes is featured although the link between pyramids and spheres is a touch convoluted.

Says our guide, “My first assumption was the possible feminine moon symbolism or Isis symbolism. For one it moon/ISIS are linked by silver plus the notorious relationship of the number 5 with Venus who also so happens to be Isis.... It's also interesting that the silver ball is suspended 14 meters above the ground which makes 13 meters below it. Most pyramids using the all seeing eye symbolism have 13 steps or levels below it as shown below.” Of course they do.

Dawson’s sculpture Majestic Earth on nearby Willis Street is also on the occult list as are Matt Pine's guardian sculptures on the Civic Square steps and, of course, the pyramid shapes above Capital E (you can’t even begin to imagine what might be going on down there.)
Images: Left, the great seal of the United States, right, Neil Dawson’s Ferns. And thanks for the tip W, but you really need to get out more

Thursday, May 05, 2011

In Hong Kong

Rongopai on our minds

The Gagosian gallery sees right through us

Name a city you could visit in the world that doesn’t have a Gagosian gallery in it. OK, there are a few but the empire is certainly bigger than your average octopus when it comes to tentacles. No surprises then to find one in Hong Kong on the floor above Bumps to Babes, the level we accidently spilled out into on our first attempt with the elevator. The gallery opened four months ago with the Gagosian staple Damien Hirst, but all we saw was a stuff-left-over-in-the-stockroom group show. The day was saved by the two elegant young women behind the reception desk who resolutely refused to acknowledge our existence, so at least we did get to have an authentic high-end contemporary art experience.
Images: left, downstairs and right, upstairs

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

In Hong Kong

Thinking about Sean Kerr


reckless guesswork, insinuations and possible inventions that have turned up in otn's email: publisher of artforum knight landesman is coming to the auckland art fair because he’s been invited • anna schwartz isn’t even though she was • hopkinson cundy aren’t because they’re too young to be allowed in • john waters is one of the judges for this year’s venice biennale • seventy (that’s 70) new zealand patrons are attending the opening of the venice biennale • john reynolds has designed new art work for the packaging of the ecostore’s body care range • the edmiston trust is giving $500,000 to the auckland art gallery to purchase a major new artwork to mark the reopening of the gallery • the auckland art gallery is slated to reopen its new spaces on 3 september • any missing details, changes to outright lies, indignant denials or embellishments gratefully received and always lavishly rewarded.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The vision thing

Te Papa has announced it is going to spend until the end of this year working on a new Vision and mission. When you read the current version it's not hard to see why.

Essentially a vision statement is big picture and describes an organisation's hopes for its future, usually with a big dollop of inspiration to motivate the troops. The mission is then the roadmap to get there. From a quick scan, museums are not big on visions. If they articulate a vision (and many do not), they tend to opt for statements about doing what they're doing but in a bigger building (Tate Modern) or going short and general (MCA Sydney 'Engaging with contemporary art and ideas') or long and general (National Gallery of Australia in Canberra 'the cultural enrichment of all Australians through access to their national art gallery, the quality of the national collection, the exceptional displays, exhibitions and programs, and the professionalism of Gallery staff).

Te Papa's current vision is obese, even by NGA standards. You can see why the new CEO and Chair are taking a knife to it.

Te Papa’s current vision is to be:
•   relevant to all New Zealanders through stories of our collections and scholarship, and through these engage with communities throughout New Zealand

•   a source of experiences for audiences to grow their understanding and respect for mātauranga Māori, and the different cultures of New Zealand

•   a means of access to the best collections from around the world

•   creative, collaborative, and outward looking

•   fun, challenging, and always enriching

An effective vision is supposed to show how an organisation's future will look different from its past and it needs to start with a realistic understanding of where it is now. Working that out it probably what's going to take the time. There are big questions for Te Papa to deal with. Take its incarnation as a mega-scale, very pricey children's museum (is that what we signed up for?), its inward focus (who'd know the rest of the world exists?), its ongoing struggle with art and its fundamental sustainability.

If you want to tell whether Te Papa's new Mission and Vision statements will create a positive difference, you only have to ask a couple of questions.
• Are they easy to understand and remember?
• Do they make sense to people outside the organisation?
• Are there sensible ways to find out whether they are on track?
When the new version hits the streets we’ll apply these three simple tests and see how they go.

Monday, May 02, 2011

At Hamish McKay's place

Thinking about Elizabeth Thompson.

Australia’s next top modeller

Years ago we wandered into the Santa Monica Museum of Art and saw an extraordinary sight. In a cavernous gallery space stood a large-scale model of a modernist house. The blinds were down, the light spilled out and the sound of a good party came through loud and clear. It turned out to be by the Australian artist Callum Morton who regular readers will recognise as the maker of the giant rock in Christchurch that so weirdly anticipated the earthquakes there. 

Morton's modernist house was modelled on a one-room house in Plano, 96 kilometres south west of Chicago, that had been designed by Mies van der Rohe for Dr Edith Farnsworth. Things did not go well on the project and it ended badly with Dr Farnsworth suing VDR and famously calling him a “medieval peasant.”

There is at least one other model of the Farnsworth House and it was exhibited at MoMA in 1947 before the house itself was even built (a very serious form of curatorial confidence). 

Now you can buy the 546 six brick LEGO model of the Farnsworth House and make your own Callum Morton. Get started here and see a video of the LEGO version being built here.

Images: Top, Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House. Middle, Callum Morton’s International Style (time lapse sequence), 1999. Bottom, LEGO’s version