Thursday, June 30, 2011

The one and only

We have decided to reduce the posting to once a day, just until we get back. Cheers, OTN.

On guard

We have mentioned Walter’s Prize-finalist Fiona Connor’s installation What you bring with you to work (now in the Christchurch Art Gallery’s collection) before, but when you are visiting a lot of art museums it takes on added resonance. One element that every large art institution has in common is its complement of guards and when you have encountered a large number of them, patterns emerge. 

Fiona Connor's work was an exemplar of engaging the guards. The work was first shown at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) in Melbourne and it was the guards of that specific place who Fiona worked with. She interviewed them and was invited to have a meal with them in their homes making the resulting work very personal to them. What you bring to work is a set of replicas of their bedroom windows to be installed into the gallery’s walls in a classic mash-up of public and private space. It was part of their lives on display and of course they wanted visitors to make the connection. 

It can be a tough job, being a guard. Many of them have to be on their feet all day and for those of us who have spent even a couple of hours standing in a museum this would have to be almost unbelievable torture. To mitigate the strain some have chairs and some are even allowed to read, although that is unusual. 

The most common guard mode is the passive-passive-passive-“DON’T TOUCH!” passive-passive one. On the plus side it probably adds a little drama for them as they watch and wait for someone to breach the rules. On the negative it is alarming for visitors. In Denmark we saw a Bizarro World version of this behaviour. There the guards slipped unnoticed from gallery to gallery, taking lifts and quietly disappearing into alcoves so as not to interrupt the visitor experience.

Now with performance art being collected, there are added opportunities to engage the day watch. At Frankfurt’s MMK one of the guards was charged with showing a pearl to a small number of visitors each day and in doing so performing Massimo Bartolini’s Two shells. Beats sitting on a chair.
Image: Performing Massimo Bartolini’s Two shells

Other OTN museum guard stories:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On the road

#50 (drum roll) in OTN's ongoing series celebrating Ministry of Land Transport and Local Body support of New Zealand artists. Thanks P

If you call it living

Living statues aren’t big in New Zealand, but in almost any large city square in Europe there are frozen figures silently plying their trade. We’ve already posted on the phenomenon of living statues but need to alert you to the insidious erosion of what has always been an otherwise unimpeachable member of the lookalike category (human division). We’re talking full head mask. 

The great thing about living statues, apart from their willingness to coat themselves with gold paint while knowing one of the Bond girls nearly died doing the same thing, is their ability to remain completely impassive. Stony is the expression living statues go for and stony is not easy when the show-offs in the crowd are trying to make you laugh or kids are spilling ice cream and worse down your leg.

So the growing use of the full cover head mask is, at the very least, cheating even if it is hot and uncomfortable. Our recommendation should you see a ‘masker’ at work is to walk on by and save your coins for the real McCoy. If you want a good inside account of doing the living statue thing, read Ben Leach’s account of how he made out standing still on a box in London here.
Images: LS contemplating another day in a hot head mask. Right at ‘work’ as a living statue.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In Aahus, Denmark

Thinking about Seraphine Pick
Image: Detail from sculptor Fredrick Raddum's survey exhibition Get lost at the Aahus Museum of Contemporary Art (ARoS)

Spaced out

You’d have to say it’s architects: 10, art museums: 0 if this poster for the recently completed Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome is anything to go by. At last the dream of architects museum-wise is centre-stage. Just the building, no people (what a relief), and no messy art to destroy the sight lines. MACRO is the creation of starchitect Zaha Hadid. We have already experienced her arduous stairs, optical illusions and cramped exhibition spaces in the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center. A well known NZ architect once told us that he thought people should have to 'work' to get good experiences in great buildings. Why?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Art is where you find it

In an apartment block seen through the window of the MMK gallery in Frankfurt a neighbour shows their own art.
Image: Top the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt with a work by Martin Honert


While it’s true that the new sculpture commissioned by the Wellington City Council from Weta to celebrate the World Cup feels like it is one of a kind (even rugby people think it looks wrong from a technical in-the-game point of view), it is not unique. This aspirational we-are-the-champions style of imagery was derived from Russian and Chinese Communist social realism according to its conceptualist Sir Richard Taylor and has cousins wherever sport dips its boot into art. Drive three hours out of Copenhagen to the small town of Silkeborg and there, in front of a neat brick building, is the lookalike arm to Weta’s bronze blokes in Wellington. It’s a small world after all.
Images: Left, terrible rugby arm sculpture in Silkeborg. Right Weta sculpture for World Cup (detail)

Saturday, June 25, 2011


If you follow over_the_net (OTN on Twitter - and why wouldn’t you given the high quality of tweeting) you will have noted the proposed half mile long statue of a reclining woman (that’s one-and-a-half million tonnes of soil and clay) proposed for the UK. Well it takes two to tango. For your Saturday amusement from the United States this giant dog sculpture cunningly disguised as a hotel.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Power play

In Frankfurt we saw Carston Höller’s work 220 volts at the MMK (Museum for Modern Art). It consists of an exposed electric power connector lying on the floor among a scattering of sweets. It’s a kid trap! When we asked the museum’s curator if the power was in fact on he replied, “If we left the power on mothers would protest outside the gallery.” Which didn’t really answer the question.

Heigh ho, heigh ho

The collection at the MMK in Frankfurt sure keeps the staff busy. Apart from turning on the many videos, projectors, lights etc. there are a number of tasks specific to the works it currently has on display in its 20th anniversary exhibition.
  • Changing the candle for the video installation One candle by Nam June Paik
  • Ordering a new arrangement of fresh flowers in muted tones for a large floral arrangement work by Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij
  • Keeping track of the location of the Odradek, an enigmatic object associated with a Jeff Wall light box work based on the Kafka story The Cares of a Family Man
  • Showing a pearl to selected visitors as part of a performance piece Two shells by Massimo Bartolini
  • Organising someone to lie down in Gregor Schneider’s installation N. Schmidt.
  • Replenishing the customised pencils in Siah Armajani's Sacco & Vanzettil-Lesenraum
  • Arranging a dancer to perform on Sturtevant’s version of Felix Gonzalez-Torres's work “Untitled” (Go-Go Dancing Platform) 
  • Replacing the lemon on the Joseph Beuys edition Capri Battery
Image: A body intrudes into the space in Gregor Schneider’s installation N. Schmidt. Real or mannequin? Only the curators know.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Good impression

We’ve posted about these large photographs standing in for buildings before but nice to see an Impressionist version in Paris.

Advice to collectors

The Swiss artist Urs Fischer makes candles. Not cute birthday cake jobs or the ceremonial votive jobs but wax sculptures of chairs, people and statuary with wicks. At the Venice Biennale three of his giant candles were featured in the Arsenale including one of his friend the artist Rolf Stingel who we have posted on before

The connection to collectors? Well, Fischer has also created a wax candle effigy of collector Peter Brant, but there is a catch in owning such a work. The collector has to decide on how quickly to allow the candle to burn down until it becomes a waxy blob on the floor. The catch is that the candles look more remarkable as they come closer and closer to their demise. 

The advice? Don’t burn your candle at both ends.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Berlin

Thinking about Ronnie van Hout


A while back we purchased a multiple by Maurizio Cattelan called the Wrong Gallery. The work is a small model of a gallery entrance way that fits into the wall and only just clears the height of a wide skirting board. In Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris (an amazement in itself) we saw Catelan's continuation of this entrance theme with Lift: two small elevator doors that opened and closed with lights indicating the floors the lifts were ostensibly travelling between. We have since given our Wrong Gallery to a friend, but it would have been wonderful to have been able to offer him these two lifts to the imagination instead.
Image: Top Maurizio Cattelan’s 2001 work Lift and bottom with an OTN operative’s foot for scale.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Something entertaining from the early days of Simpson's creator Matt Groenig, well it made us laugh anyway.
Click on the image if you need glasses

One day in the director’s office

Curator: I think I’ve come up with a great idea for a theme show.
Director: Excellent. And you're sure it will appeal to all ages? Children as well as their parents?
Curator: Absolutely. It allows us to examine in an entertaining yet thoughtful manner a subject that is central to the human experience.
Director: OK, don’t keep me on tenterhooks. What is it?
Curator: Cannibalism.
Director: Cannibalism … you mean people eating each other?
Curator: To be fair it is usually one person eating another person.
Director: Of course, of course. Cannibalism... hmm.
Public Programmes: We could do a great film programme - Soylent Green, Silence of the Lambs, Invasion of the Body Snatchers....
Shop manager: And I have a drop-dead idea for a t-shirt. “Eat your children. At least you know where the meat comes from”.
Junior curator: We could do cooking demonstrations… fish fingers.
Curator: I’m not sure eating fish fingers counts as real cannibalism …
Junior Curator: Ok, ok... how about Gingerbread men then? with one arm bitten off?
Director. Cannibalism. I like it. Let’s do it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Heists in the news

Art administration won the day last month when Italian police stopped a couple of guys in a car and found a Morandi in the boot. As both the men had criminal convictions it seemed a little suspicious, so the police searched their ‘business premises’. That turned up a Balthus, a Warhol and a Leger amongst others. No matter, the two continued to steadfastly insist the paintings belonged to them. Then one of the police looked at the back of one of the paintings. ‘Tate” said the label for a touring exhibition. It turned out the lender was in fact collector Paola Folon of Monaco who now has his paintings back again.

Typewriter heaven

The shops inside the colonnade surrounding St Mark's Square in Venice are a bit of a nightmare. The odd long-established cafe shoulder to shoulder with cluttered stores selling jewellery, sunglasses, traditional Venetian masks, striped outfits for wanna-be gondoliers. Then, when you least expect it, there is one of the masterpieces of twentieth century architecture, the Olivetti typewriter showroom designed by Carlo Scarpa.

This immaculately restored showroom is dedicated to the great mid-century days of Italian design. The era when typewriters were sophisticated and even a little romantic, and when an industrial heavyweight like Olivetti considered it worthwhile to commission the demanding and brilliant Carlo Scarpa to create the right environment for its star products. 

It is one of those rare modern environments where a fountain makes sense. It also has a staircase reputed to be 'the most beautiful staircase of the twentieth century' that takes you upstairs where every detail, from the sloping marble floors to the windows opening out onto the colonnade, to the marble door taking you to the lane outside add up to a miracle of scale, symmetry and craft.

Fortunately we got talking with the manager who turned out to be a trained architect and Venetian-born. When we asked him about the seductive milky tones on the walls he told us that the colour had been mixed with marble to create its distinctive sheen. During the major recent restoration determining the original colour had been a huge problem. The walls had been waxed at some stage and this had reacted horribly with smoke creating a dark yellow/ brown grime. Only black and white photographs of the original were known (although this being Venice it turned out that the original craftsman had kept colour photographs) but the restorers did have one important clue to work from. When describing this unique colour Scarpa himself nailed it. “Grey, with the spirit of purple.”

Saturday, June 18, 2011

In Paris

Thinking about Christchurch
Image: Paris street art

Friday, June 17, 2011

Big Ears at Leviathan

"Why are those children dancing?"
"I don't know."
"They'd be better off learning arithmetic."

"Only the French could come up with something like this."

"It has a built in echo, just like St. Peters. Only it's red."

"Who made it?"
"Hamish Kapoor"

Inside outside flow

New Zealand can lay claim to one of Anish Kapoor’s biggest sculptures (size is a bit of a theme with sculpture farm owner Alan Gibbs) but for a few months Paris is at the top of the heap because that’s where the monster Leviathan has been installed in the Grand Palais. We say installed, but in fact the 35 meter high inflatable sculpture almost fills the place like some mutant zeppelin in a giant World War I field hanger. 

The full-on experience of Leviathan turned out to be a deal more interesting than suggested by the photographs where awesome scale is where it starts and ends. As a visitor you experience the sculpture in two phases, first by entering inside the cathedral-like space of Leviathan through a revolving door and then secondly by circling around its bulging outer skin housed inside the fanciful extravagance of the Grand Palace itself. This building gives Leviathan a decidedly steam-punk feel with its early twentieth century steel, curlicues, glass and rivets. In the dim, super-charged heat of the internal spaces the audience certainly responded. Dancing, waving of arms, bouncing off the walls, explosions of applause and animal noises to test the echoes, thousands of photographs. 

The action continued outside the PVC forms as well, although in a more muted way. At one stage we watched a small group of children being called together by their teacher when suddenly another twenty or so of them started appearing like a shoal of fish from under the sculpture where they had been buried away hiding. No surprise to recall that Moby Dick was also known as the Leviathan.
Images: Top, inside Leviathan. Middle, outside Leviathan inside the Grand Palais. Bottom, coaxing kids out from under Leviathan

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Says who?

Via Real Clear Arts a response to Newsweek's silly Top Ten artist list in the form of a list made by Look magazine. This 1949 list of the "Ten Best Artists," was determined by a poll of museum directors and art critics.

John Marin
Max Weber
Yasuo Kuniyoski
Stuart Davis
Ben Shahn
Charles Burchfield
George Grosz
Franklin Watkins
a tie between Lyonel Feininger and Jack Levine

Photo copier

Yesterday at the Musee d’Orsay we saw yet another example of someone painting a copy of an art work in a museum that does not allow photography. This time the artist was right there alongside the do-not-photograph sign and was permitted to take her copy home while the rest of us had to take sneak shots while the guards weren’t looking.

Interestingly, the crowd around the copier never diminished although the painting being copied attracted hardly a glance. It was kind of like ooh-ing and aah-ing over baby photos when the real baby is rolling around on the floor in front of you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Paris

Thinking about Neil Pardington

Crowded house

If you want a thoroughly unpleasant experience, you should hot foot it to Manet: Inventor of the Modern at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. The queues are enormous representing at least two hours of twisting and turning in the huge forecourt of the Museum as you slowly shuffle towards the entrance. But hang on, if you pre-book your tickets you are funnelled into a shorter queue of about ten minutes and that is really not too bad. Until you get into the exhibition that is.

If you had any idea of having a careful look at the paintings, forget it. Even though the tickets are all time specific, crowds are crushed in front of every major work from the moment the doors open. The museum has made the labels for each work very brief and emphasised audio tours and that does nothing to help the flow. If a work is covered in the audio, people show an amazing determination to stop and listen to the whole commentary. Many of them stand stock-still, staring vaguely into the middle distance between them and the work, as they are told stories they assume are about the painting they are hovering in front of (but, given some of the frowns and doubtful head nodding, not always).

However, we did work out a few tricks to at least salvage something out of one of these overcrowded blockbusters.
  • Concentrate on works that are not covered by the audio guide. Most people pass by them quickly looking for the next audio symbol.
  • Head straight to the end of the exhibition and work your way back to the beginning. Most people run out of energy for the last third of the show and the paintings are much easier to see.
  • Learn to enjoy drawings and watercolours and prints. No one else is even vaguely interested.
  • Take photos to remind yourself of what attracted you to the works you liked. There were ‘no photography’ signs everywhere but the guards had given up.
Images: Queuing and viewing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If it's neon it must be Flavin

Sandra Sperkhake and Dieter Hoppe give the whole industry a bad name as they present incredibly lame art lookalikes on Flavorwire.
Image: Sandra and Dieter's best effort for a Dan Flavin lookalike

In bad taste

What goes on inside the advertising mind? Regrettably we are unable to dispatch OTN caps, badges or signed table tennis balls to those of you who respond, but it’s a question that needs an answer when you look at two ad campaigns recently unleashed on the people of Berlin.

Once you get over how creepy it is that the images for two different campaigns are so similar, consider why anyone, particularly in Berlin, would use imagery that looks chillingly like the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe near the Brandenburg Gate. Was there no one in the office to say, “Hey man, maybe this is not such a cool idea.”?

Monday, June 13, 2011

The graveyard shift

Late at night, in the grounds of the citadel that was once next door to the demolished Spandau prison that held Nazis Rudolph Hess and Albert Speer we find a sculpture grave yard.

plus ça change, plus ce'est la même chose

"The more things change the more they stay the same." So said Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr and you'd have to say he certainly nailed it when it comes to contemporary artists and coastline protection in New Zealand.

News in last week that Dick Frizzell is hot on the case of the Hawkes Bay Council to build some groynes to save rapidly eroding beach front (and the 40 properties that front the ocean view). The cost is estimated at $6.8 million which adds up to around $170,000 per property. But will the groynes work?

Another New Zealand artist Michael Smither would say no. Back in the 1980s he persuaded the New Plymouth City Council to forego groynes as a way to stop the sea's encroachment and instead use natural materials (driftwood mainly) to form a structure on which new sand dunes would build themselves. 

Smither and a bunch of people on a special government employment plan did a lot of work on Taranaki beaches and demonstrated that there is no final victory in the battle with the sea even if you use tonnes of concrete. His argument was that groynes just shift the problem further down or up the coast, solving one community’s problem at the cost of another's. The more things change.

Image: One in the groyne

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday's chART

From the folk at I Love Charts who got it from the amazing Craig Damrauer who will even sell it to you on a towel.

Friday, June 10, 2011

art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

NZer SD does 3D at KW

Eat your heart out James Cameron. As high value technologies become everyday commodities at unnerving speed, you've got to ask if Simon Denny’s contribution to the mega exhibition Based in Berlin is the first art works to use 3D TV? Denny has taken over a large space in the top floor of the KW Institute for Modern Art (the place that had us climbing Cyprien Gaillard’s beer stack a couple of weeks ago) and dealt to it with rope barriers, maze paintings and tricked up screens.

It’s not easy for anyone to leave home and family to try for recognition in the bigger wider world, and the effort comes with a price. There are a number of New Zealand artists in Berlin who have been willing to start up new networks, new friends and new ways of doing things and their successes have been marked. Michael Stevenson, Alicia Frankovich, Judy Millar, Ruth Buchanan and Simon Denny have all won recognition here. Denny's latest outing at KW (he is also featured on the poster) shows how perseverance, great ideas and some luck can break through even in this hugely competitive art community.
Images: Denny’s 3D installation at KW complete with high-tech 3D glasses

Thursday, June 09, 2011


At the base of the extraordinary Giotto frescoes in Padua's Scrovegni Chapel, a surprise. One of G's junior apprentices has been given a go in a little-seen space and come up with an early 14th century rendition of Colin McCahon's Rocks in the sky.


A feature of this year’s Venice Biennale was the high profile of the Museum-of-Me, personal/corporate art museums put together by the super wealthy to stake their claim on contemporary art’s greatest hits. The rich are redefining what art is important and how it should be selected, presented and marketed. New Zealand's own philanthropists are into it too most notably in the person of James Wallace. He has just been knighted for his contributions to the arts including the stocking of his own Museum-of-Me in the old Pah Homestead in Auckland. Here in Berlin one wealthy collector cut straight to the chase and called his private M-O-M art museum ME.

Not rolling in cash and feeling left out? Pop over to the new Intel application The Museum of Me. This app sucks your images, videos, profile details and the rest out of Facebook into its giant maw and rewards you with a 3D museum trip that showcases…. you.

Yes, it feels a bit creepy to see your own stuff repurposed like this without your involvement and yes, based on what our Facebook content delivered we need to get out there and live more online if we want stellar Museums of Me, but you can certainly see the potential when just a few standard templates are populated with images from your life.

How to make a better impression? Start a Facebook page with nothing but images of your favourite art works (or even your own works) and The Museum of Me will reflect this identity right back at you and anyone else you link in for the ride.
Images: Peter Stichbury featuring heavily in our Museum of me, go figure

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

On the streets of Venice

Thinking about Julian Schnabel


You would think, wouldn’t you, that there are some artists whose work defies even the most eager marketers’ efforts to develop it into commercial products. Of all that resistant band, Francis Bacon would certainly have to be up there. Not a man to revel in fashion or care whether or not (not) he was a good role model, you could imagine Bacon to be quick to stamp out any attempts to use his signature style on low-rent trinkets and souvenirs. Well, tough luck Francis, you’re dead and you’ve got no say in the matter. 

Just opened is the Francis Bacon Shop, the official store of the estate of Francis Bacon. Ts, ties and other nick-knacks or, as the estate puts it, “beautiful design with premier craftsmanship … based upon images, documents and photographs from the artist’s studio” to clutter museum stores around the world. Move over Monet, Franky’s back in town.
Image: early adopter wearing the Bacon

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Theme music

Move over mirrors, rabbits, antlers and skulls, there's a new game in town. This year at the Venice Biennale it was: diagrams, ceramics, architectural interiors, small paintings, music and floral patterns.
Images: Florals at work. Left, in art (Korean pavilion) and right in the audience

If it’s broke, fix it

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee needs to call a moratorium on pulling down Christchurch’s heritage buildings and get to Venice, and he needs to get to Venice quick. This is the Brownlee who said about Christchurch’s heritage buildings, "While they are part of our past history, they have no place in our future history. As I've said repeatedly, heritage is both forward and back and from this point on, we decide what the heritage of this city will be."

When he gets to Venice, and he might as well bring the team of people who are giving the ok to demolish heritage buildings in Christchurch, he’s going to find a whole city (a city that has had many earthquakes of its own in the past) that he and his mates would put under the bulldozer.

Brownlee could go round cracking Venetians up by telling them that their buildings were a grave risk to personal safety and that the old stuff he saw around him has no place in Venice’s ‘future history.’

The team could spend a year or so red-stickering practically every architectural structure in Venice and then, go back to Christchurch and see the risks around our own heritage buildings in a completely different light. Things do fall down in Venice – the 98.6 metre Campanile in St. Mark’s Square dropped to the ground in 1902 and the Venetians did what any city proud of its heritage would do. They put the damn thing up again.
Image: Venice (click on image to widen cracks and increase leans)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Advice for collectors

Take the boat

Tree house

When Michael Parekowhai took his work in Venice he added a couple of extra pieces to the mix: two olive trees in pots and a pair of kid’s crocs, all in bronze. The shoes are out in the garden by the water tap as though they have been scuffed off before a quick game on the lawn. One of the olive trees is by the steps to the garden amongst the foliage so that most people miss it until they are given a clue on where to look. 

The other tree was lent by Michael Parekowhai to Filippo Gaggia the owner of the palazzo. The idea was that he placed it in his office for the duration of the Biennale. For the first couple of days the tree was kept in Filippo’s private quarters on his desk until he decided it needed to make a more public appearance. That’s when he placed it on the sill of his office window. The little tree now looks out over the Grand Canal and is visible to every boat that passes by. You can see the other olive tree and the crocs here

Image: A shot too far for our OTN zoom lens on the other side of the Grand Canal of the olive tree on Filippo Gaggia's window ledge

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Business as usual

The art world swarms into Venice distributing itself in every hotel room and every possible exhibition space. Large art works pop up over night, a wafer thin Austrian house here, a billboard image of the Virgin Mary that looks like it’s been made out of bottle tops there. But underneath it all the regular art business of Venice ticks on untouched. You want a statue of Michael Jackson cutting off Ronald McDonald’s head? It’s waiting for you in a dealer gallery somewhere near St Mark’s Square.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Big ears at the Venice Biennale

“I’ve been to Iraq and it was just like this.”

A: “Are you going to go back in there?”
B: “No. It’s just a whole lot of little rooms, one after the other.”
A: “I know what you mean. I hate little rooms.”

“I totally lost it with the children this morning. I said, ‘Look, I’m in a queue at the Venice Biennale, I don’t have time for this.’”

“We definitely went to the worst party last night”

“It’s amazing. You match the parts of the face and if you get a baby they give you a prize.”
"Who did it?”
“No idea.”

“Oh sure, he’s got lots of money, but can he make up his mind?”

“I’d be a lot happier if I knew where I was.”

“Let’s time it and if nothing has moved by midday we’ll go. Nothing’s worth more than a half hour wait.”

For better or worse

Can you get married in a New Zealand art museum? Looks like you can at the Govett-Brewster (they’re even registered on the New Zealand Wedding and Honeymoon directory) and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery is into it too. You can get hitched on their mezzanine (pics here) and we assume, if the groom's up to it, he can carry the bride up the massive staircase. Maybe not. City Gallery in Wellington is coy about their deal offering post wedding cocktail parties, go –for-it, the ceremony itself? - email us in confidence.

On the other hand, if your heart is set on an art wedding, there are other things you can do. Get the guests to sign up on the wedding register at artbay for a start. That’s "the space where “New Zealand contemporary and über art meet”. For him, perhaps a work by Craig Primrose of a couple of guys riding horses over rugged mountains. For her you could do worse than one of Chris Medar’s junk metal sculptures of a chicken. 

In the United States weddings in art museums are all the go and have been for some time. Some rules apply. For example at The Phillips Collection in Washington DC, it's no candles, all trays to be carried below shoulder height and champagne always to be uncorked in the safety of the basement. Liability insurance is of course a must have for everyone.

Still, you do have to feel for wanna-be art bride Anna Gonis. She booked the terrace of the modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago (it costs $6,000 a pop and double that if you want the entire third floor with the Terzo Piano restaurant) only to find on the day that the view of the city was blocked by a (wait for it) brightly coloured art work. So much for Anna’s white-on-white minimalist wedding. As you might imagine she is doing what any serious American thwarted at anything would do: suing. By the way, the offending artwork was by ex Govett-Brewster artist-in-residence Pai White.
Image: White on white at the DPAG

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Art is where you find it

If it’s often tough to work out what’s the art and what’s not in art museums, you can forget it when it comes to working out who’s a spectator and who’s a performer at the Venice Biennale. Ok, the guy in the middle of the street with twigs strapped to his head turning in circles and moaning is easy to peg as a performance work, but how about the four identically dressed women sitting on that bench staring straight ahead? More likely to be colleagues from some art-related business. 

So what about that guy wearing what looks like the back half of a donkey costume, tail included? Performer. We also figure the bride is performance (she has a roughly painted sign round her neck and wants to chat) but the bloke sitting cross-legged on the fountain? Not so sure. The beer cans indicate he might be drunk but the moaning has a chant like quality that speaks to performance. 

At one stage we catch sight of one of the world’s most famous performance artists Marina Abramović, but she seems to be just talking to a couple of friends (although it is not impossible that she will be repeating the same conversation over and over 24/7 for the next six months as an endurance work). 

At a pizza joint no food turns up for over an hour, and then just one meal at a time with long pauses between. The food is almost inedible and one of the Chinese waiters spills a dozen beers over the folk at the next table. We joke nervously that we might be in the middle of a performance work where a bunch of Chinese artists are doing their best to act Venetian, but then they bring us the bill. Even the art world doesn’t have the nerve to do that.

Images: Left, performance bride. Right, Marina Abramović

It’s off to work we go

The uncanny lifelessness of museum dioramas has fascinated many artists who have taken on the museum display as subject matter. The Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, for example, nailed the idea in his eerie series End of Time. You can understand then our delight on entering the Berlin Natural History Museum to find a super-size diorama featuring a desert, a pack of small rust coloured wolves, a large bird and a sleeping figure that was obviously human. 

This turned out to be the setting for Laurie Young’s dance performance Natural Habitat. It began as the reclining figure slowly rose to her feet and for the next hour or so stories were told, the sky cycled through days nights and seasons and the entire desert set was sucked down a hole in the floor along with the stuffed wolves. All in all the presumptions of the educational museum were given a thoroughly good shaking. 

This work also brought to mind other performances that have tackled similar challenges to the representation of life and knowledge. Most notably is Cornelia Parker’s 1995 installation The Maybe (in which actress Tilda Swinton slept in a museum vitrine throughout the exhibition) and of course James Luna’s provocative mid-eighties installation Artefact (in which he lay in a museum display case as an item of museumised ethnic evidence). 

And let us not forget Snow White.

Images: Top Natural Habitat. Bottom left Luna's Artefact and right Tilda Swinton in Cornelia Parker's The Maybe

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

On the road

At last, number 50 in OTN's ongoing series celebrating Ministry of Land Transport and Local Body support of New Zealand artists.

Colour me red

Anyone who saw Michael Parekowhai’s Venice installation in Henderson a couple of months back is in for a surprise if they get over to Venice. The centrepiece of the installation He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu Story of a New Zealand River is now bright red. The black carved Steinway piano was transformed in the brief time between its outing in Henderson and its flight to the Biennale.

The drama of the new colour is a surprise only for New Zealanders who know the work in its previous iteration. For anyone living in Venice the new colour is a slam-dunk. “Red and gold.” said the delighted Venetian owner of the Palazzo Loredan where Parekowhai’s work is installed, “The colours of the Republic.”

You can see more photographs of Parekowhai’s installation here.