Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Over the rainbow

What does Michael Parekowhai have in common with William Shatner and Damien Hirst? They are all giving it up for the Rainbow Warrior in an online charity auction. Another NZer, Lucy Lawless, heads the bidding as we write with eight bids vying to share a dinner with her. Six bids have Damien Hirst’s work (valued at $20,000) on $8000 and the Parekowhai with two bids is at $4,000 (on a value of $30,000). So far no bids on heading out for a hike and a picnic with Patricia Arquette in LA ($2,000 will clinch it) or the signed copy of William Shatner’s autobiography. Another NZ art moment is a drawing of the Rainbow Warrior by Rhys Darby. No bids so far and it’s probably by Helen Clark anyway.Image: a once in a lifetime opportunity to have William Shatner feature on OTN

Flesh eaters

In the strange history of paintings created for the movies, Ivan Albright’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is certainly up there. The American painter was commissioned to make what turned out to be his most famous work for the 1945 movie of the same name directed by Albert Lewin. 

The Picture of Dorian Gray was shot in black and white with the depictions of Dorian Gray's deterioration appearing in shocking colour. In fact four paintings were used starting with a rather stolid piece of work by Henrique Medina based (like Albright’s painting) on a dressed dummy. 

Initially the studio had a brilliant idea; get Ivan Albright’s twin (really) brother Malvin to make the first painting. Fortunately he was also an artist. The publicists even arranged for photos of the two brothers to be published in Life magazine standing at their ‘painting stations’ as it were. Life breathlessly told its readers that the twins had “made the rounds of the local insane asylums, alcoholic wards and hospitals for the incurably diseased” for their research. 

After the movie was completed Ivan Albright’s painting was purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago where it hangs (or did a couple of years ago) opposite that American classic Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

Images: Top to bottom left to right, the Albright twins pose for Life magazine with the model for the final portrait, actor Hurd Hatfield confronts the first portrait and the last portrait, and the first and last portraits (Albright on the right) as they appear in the movie. Sources: thanks to underpaintings, Archives of American Art, Life magazine and

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Damien Hirst in Newtown

Hirst's Red Hot Chili Peppers album cover art pasted up on a Wellington building

Battle stations

If you’re talking reality TV art stars, the place to watch them shine and burn is Work of Art: the Next Great Artist. It’s the show where 14 young, preferably good-looking, art students strive to impress art critics and “battle it out for a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum and a cash prize of $100,000”. They also have the opportunity to stick the knife into each other under the guise of sincere ‘helpful’ comments and generally behave in the tradition of MasterChef, Project Runway or Apprentice competitors. Guess we’ll have our on version soon if TVNZ can get over its copycat shame but in the meantime we have a foot in the door thanks to our man Young Sun. Formerly of City Art Rooms Gallery in Auckland, he's lined up as a contestant on Season 2. You can check out his bio for the show here and stand in awe at the transformation of his NZ experience into US TV street cred. The programme which claims to bring "fine art dialogue to the forefront of pop culture“ kicks off 12 October in the US.
Image: Young Sun in obligatory raspberry pants struts his stuff on his bio page (Thanks S)

Thanks for the shout-out. During the show, you will see me talk about my experiences in NZ, probably photos from my most recent visit there, and many of my outfits are NZ fashions -- WORLD Man and Michael Pattison in particular. I hope you enjoy the show when it airs. It's a beautiful train-wreck with sporadic moments of realness. Pop meets life meets Pop-tards. I'll be posting about episodes on my own blog this October:

Monday, August 29, 2011


Our favourite video games explorer Pippin Barr is leaving the world of air safety and embarking on a game set in an art gallery. His discovery so far, “The great thing about a gallery space is that, perhaps more than any other space I can think of, it’s a place where you’re not really allowed to do anything at all – and that nothingness of action is totally sanctioned both by social norms and enforced rules.” You can read more here on inininoutoutout.
Image: screen shot from the game Safety instructions

Gordon Crook 1921 - 2011

On Friday our dear friend Gordon Crook died. He hasn’t been well for a while now but he was in good spirits up to a month or so ago. Even though his last days were a struggle, it was only a few weeks ago that Gordon was sitting in his chair busily drawing a bunch of tulips that had been brought in by a visitor. The drawn line was as much a part of Gordon Crook as his acerbic judgements, his cooking and his wild English garden in the heart of Wellington’s Aro Street. 

His biography is well known but we will never forget our first discussions with him in the early 1970s, not long after he had arrived in New Zealand from a successful career as an artist, designer and teacher in London. He was still wondering what he had done coming so far from everything he knew and loved. Over the decades his courage, skills and insight drew a devoted group of friends to him so by the end he was content to have chosen this place. His long life was dedicated to a passionate search for beauty. That undertaking drew on his fearsome determination and unrelenting curiosity. 

Sometimes that curiosity pushed him to esoteric fascinations (BOTA - Builders of the Atrium - was an unforgettable one) and sometimes to doing beautifully the simple things of everyday life, cooking, gardening, reading, talking with friends. And there was always the work inspired by his dreams, the flights of his imagination and the things he could see so clearly from the corner of his eye. Gordon earned that great reward of the committed artist; a life doing what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it and seeing the results give pleasure.

Whenever we visited, tea and a scone were prepared and served in Gordon's china, a cricket themed cup was a particular favourite. Earlier this year we asked Gordon to show us how he made his scone (always pronounced to rhyme with cone), and he did.

Gordon’s scone
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups self-raising flour
30 grams Olivio (oil based ‘butter’ spread) in small pieces
¼ cup of sultanas
Zest of a lemon (optional)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
Mix the flour and baking powder and rub in the Olivio very lightly
Mix in the zest and the sultanas very lightly
Beat the egg in ½ a cup of milk
Add milk and egg mix and knife them into the flour mix
Flour an oven tray
Form the mixture into a single ball and press it onto the oven tray to produce a disk about one hand’s width in diameter
Partially cut into eight segments and put into oven at 200 degrees
Check in 15 minutes and bake till ready.
Serve with jam and butter.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What’s that green thing on the road?

In the history of pointless videos on YouTube non has been more obscure to just about everyone in the world than this one. It is taken from the side of a busy freeway somewhere in the States and shows cars whipping past part of a Jeff Koons sculpture that has fallen off a truck. If you happened to be snowed in or your cat has died you might like to give it a go. You can see the sculpture the round green thing is part of here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A letter from the lettor

In what must have been the most futile request ever made by a human being Andy Warhol’s landlord tells him to stop partying. (click on image to read)
Source: another gem from Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note

That's why the lady took a tramp

Lady Gaga loves Marina Abramovic. “I am obsessed by this woman she is so incredible.” No big surprise then that the latest Gaga vehicle looks to the Conceptual One for inspiration. The original idea was to make a homage to Abramovic’s 1988 performance piece The Lovers – The Great Wall Walk. That’s the one where she walks from one end of the Great Wall of China as her long time collaborator Uwe Laysiepen (known as Ulay) walks toward her from the other. “That walk became a complete personal drama. He started from the Gobi desert and I from the Yellow Sea. After each of us walked 2,500 km, we met in the middle and said good-bye.” 

Too hard-core for the Gaga who turned Abramovic’s masochistic trance-like journey into a fetishistic wet dream, all bruised feet and bondage gear. You can see the Gaga version Yoü and I here and listen to Abramovic talking about her China experience here. Then, if you go to Leg of lamb, you'll find more interesting links on Gaga copycatting art.

Images: top two, stills from Lady Gagga’s music video Yoü and I and bottom two Marina Abramovic and Ulay’s 1988 performance The Lovers – The Great Wall Walk

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stand ‘n deliver

We’ve talked before about how Neil Dawson has given Wellington on of its enduring icons. But now there is a challenge from Christchurch’s Dawson in the square Chalice. Here it is standing in for the city on a television advertisement for Pack ‘n Save.

Best of the boosters

As museums become more obsessed with popularity and bigger audiences, the desire to signal significance often comes at the price of boosterism. That's what we call the growing trend to pump up works of art and artists rather than give audiences information and opinion that helps them make up their own minds. Take this description of a major McCahon work in one of our leading art museums. The work is "... recognised by McCahon scholars as one of the artist’s most personal, profound, and deeply allusive masterpieces. As a pivotal work in his oeuvre, the painting will always be regarded as constituting one of the great moments in New Zealand art history.” Says who?

To paraphrase Wikipedia (ok, not always standard bearers for accuracy but they really try): “This paragraph does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this para by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.”
Thanks K

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We are not alone

The new six meter high statue of Martin Luther King in Washington created by a Chinese artist in the social realist style

By the numbers: international edition

2           The position Rembrandt holds (behind Picasso) as the most stolen artist in the world.

5           The number of years photographer Helmut Newton spent serving in the Australian army.

17.6      The number in millions of dollars paid in interest on loans by the Los Angeles County Museum in Los Angeles last year.

50        The percentage the Dutch Government intends to have cut its culture budget by 2013.

100       The visitors in thousands that went to the Museum of Scotland in one week when it reopened recently

300     The number of Spot paintings Damien Hirst will show simultaneously in Gagosian galleries worldwide.

798     The amount finished paintings left in Mark Rothko’s studio on his death.

50,000 The total art objects reported stolen to INTERPOL between 2003 and 2008.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


As we kill off the world’s supply of whales something has to step up for all those scrimshaw artists left high and dry without a bone. Enter the banana.
Images: the banana bruise drawings of Melbourne based Australian artist Jun Gil Park.

All the news that fits

When we started OTN we decided that if we ever heard important art news that was being selectively shared by 20 or so people around a Wellington or Auckland dinner table, we'd  share it with you. That’s how you've got to hear advance word about events like the Walters Prize and the artists selected for Venice. For a couple of weeks now we have been waiting for CNZ to share Venice news with you, but as of Monday they're still marshaling their thoughts, so here you go.

First up, Michael Parekowhai’s Venice installation has been requested by the Quai Branly Museum in Paris for a standalone exhibition later this year after the Biennale closes. This will be the second time Parekowhai has been exhibited in this award-winning museum; a large photographic mural was installed for the opening. Most of the credit for this outing of On first looking into Chapman’s Homer in Europe can be laid at the door of Venice Commissioner Jenny Harper, no shrinking violet when it comes to fronting for NZ abroad. 

Next up, the word on the street is that Te Papa has purchased the carved piano Story of a New Zealand river that was the centrepiece of the Venice installation. The museum apparently initiated the purchase process when the piano was black and took in its stride the transformation into red. The consensus rumour is that Te Papa are to pay over $NZ one million for the work.

Also on the boil is yet another ‘expose’ by Metro magazine feeding its obsession (and yes, we do get the irony) with Creative New Zealand's bureaucracy. While their current issue questions CNZ paying over the odds for a PR flack, freelancer Josie McNaught has been wearing out the phones cobbling together a story of new revelations. Apparently she is material that may reveal that dealer galleries make arrangements with public museums, negotiations over purchases can often take months and Michael Lett is too big for his boots rofl. 

As to where the Parekowhai Venice work will be shown on its return to New Zealand, we’d put our money on Christchurch. Auckland has never offered our Venice Biennale artists space and with Harper as Commissioner along with Christchurch’s tough year, it's hard to imagine the only other contender, Te Papa, not allowing them the pleasure.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Time travel

Yesterday it was 100 years since Louvre handyman Vincenzo Peruggia nicked the Mona Lisa. For his troubles he was imprisoned for seven months. To mark the occasion OTN Mona Lisa stories.

Join the dots
Mona's bones
Da Vinci code
Mona at the end of world
The Mona mug
Photographing the Mona Lisa: back...
...and front
Pixellated Mona
Grease paint Mona Lisa
Sitting in a Mona Lisa chair
Chocolate Mona

Image: Mug shot of the Mona Lisa thief Vincenzo Peruggia

Judgement day

“It was the one I kept coming back to, finding something new and engaging on each view and the image remained with me long after I left it behind.” 

That was the judge of the $10,000 Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Award speaking about her selection of this year's winner Evan Woodruff. But there was more to this selection than simple gut reaction. As the local Whakatane Beacon put it, the judge was “familiar with Woodruff’s work, so she also recognised the progression of his skill.” 

In fact the judge, Jennifer Buckley, was being a little theatrical with the keep-coming-back thing. One of the reasons she was already very familiar with Woodruff’s work is because she shows it at OREXART, the dealer gallery she co-founded and directs in Auckland. 

It's probably why Buckley also told the Beacon that as judge it was her “responsibility to give the awards to people who can truly benefit from it.” That attitude certainly got a big high-five from the artist. He in turn told the Beacon that his win “just went to show that it came down to the particular judge and what they liked.” That’s true.

Image: the small dog that wags its tail when you visit OREXART.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Caution: horses at work

It's Saturday again, the snow has gone, a perfect time to sit back, relax and enjoy the work of emerging animal artists Lewis the miniature donkey and Rocky the miniature horse.
Thanks P, you never let us down

Friday, August 19, 2011

The dance

If you think the art world isn't part of the entertainment industry you only need to look at this pic from the Art Forum Diary of very serious artist Roni Horn with a collector at a do in Aspen.

If anyone can a web cam can

If you don’t live in Auckland you don’t really get to see contemporary art auctions live. The odd visit may coincide with a chance to look at what’s available, but that’s only a shadow of what happens on the night. Now all that’s changed. Last night we watched the Art + Object auction at home in Wellington via Live Auctioneers. And you had to watch closely as auctioneer Ben Plumbly stormed through the 218 lots; leave the room to make a cup of coffee and you’d miss half a dozen. It was fun to peer at the live stream in a small window at the same time as tracking the progress by lot in large images and the all-important state of the bids scrolling down the side of the screen. Then, when it was all over you can check out all the hammer prices, something it usually takes weeks to get hold of. 

So how did it go? Nothing to write home about. As happens in most auctions these days, the real selling is done the next morning. Canny buyers have been bidding just shy of the low estimate for a while now and taking their chances that the sellers will be enticed by the cash after a restless night’s sleep. Most of the big money items fell below their lower estimates, although a very pink Liz Maw painting did well, climbing toward the upper estimate before being called at $29,000 and ruining any chance of heading this post Less is Maw.

Image: Art + Auction live on screen selling Stephen Bambury’s Necessary Correction VII with a tiny Ben Plumbly at the rostrum.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Russia blood to the head

As one of the few cities in the South Pacific with a social realist sculpture we have become interested in the genre. Here a Bulgarian response to giant monument that was built to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Russian 'liberation' of Bulgaria in 1944. Just saying.

You can read more here

Alexander the great

You can expect more frock shows in our art galleries and museums. Te Papa has already been in this particular game and is aiming for even bigger crowds in December with Unveiled, a survey of 200 years worth of wedding dresses, pimped with celebrity examples, from around the world. As Te Papa admits, the exhibition 'shows the huge media and public appetite for celebrity weddings' (in Australia it was shown exclusively at the Bendigo Art Gallery) but it comes from the V&A so there you go.

What is exciting museums obsessed by bums through the door is the huge success of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty that has just wrapped up at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The huge attendances (it is the eighth most popular show the Met has ever mounted) are up there with names that gave the word 'blockbuster' its allure: Mona Lisa, Picasso, Tutankhamen.

As for the McQueen numbers, they're enough to make any museum marketer salivate. Attendances topped 650,000, over half a million more than the Met's most popular fashion show to date. Over 23,000 people paid for museum membership so they could jump the queue. 17,000 paid $61 to visit on Monday when the museum is usually closed. The catalogue alone grossed $1.5 million.
Source Artinfo

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"You can express yourself, but express yourself in a beautiful way."
Shoe guru Imelda Marcos Urging the closing of an art installation that featured Jesus with a dildo in the Cultural Center of the Philippines

Shooting yourself in the architect

A topic of discussion at the Venice Biennale was the rebuilding of the Australian pavilion in the Giardini, the gardens where most of the national pavilions are located. A side conversation (like really on the side) was the possibility that New Zealand might go halves and share the primo space when it was built. Nice thought but too off left field to get much traction on the big Rock.

Anyway, the Aussies have now gone and set up an international competition through the Australia Council. That’s smart you might think, except it turns out that the rules preclude Australia's greatest (and that’s greatest in the greatest sense of the word greatest) architect from participating. That would be, of course, Glenn Murcutt, Australia’s (and Australasia’s) only Pritzker Prize winner (2002). 

The competition rules state that “only Australian architects with experience designing a public art space and experience delivering projects internationally will be eligible to enter.” So that’s Glenn Murcutt out, the guys who designed the Christchurch Art Gallery in. How stupid is that? As for Glenn Murcutt? Not happy.

There’s a petition calling for a rethink etc but the risk is that Murcutt and other top line architects will walk. You can read more here.

Image: Not an art gallery by Glenn Murcutt (Simpson-Lee House)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let me through, I’m a curator

"I happened to be there that afternoon and immediately went down and removed as much of the lipstick as I could with benzine."
Museum of Modern Art curator Dorothy Miller in 1952 describing her reaction when one of Clyfford Still’s paintings was marked by a lipstick wielding woman. Different days.

Cruisin’ for a bruisin’

A friend of ours once served as the resident magician on a luxury cruise liner. It was a pretty relaxed job that involved doing the rounds of the dining room to make fools out of husbands who thought they knew how a card trick was done when they saw one. In those days the entertainment was all mime artists, musical trios and stand-up comics with the odd fancy dress competition to add spice. Nowadays cruise ships are more shopping malls than anything else and one of the big ticket items often on offer is art.

You'd think, wouldn’t you, that even on a cruise you might keep your $15,500 in your pocket when offered an “embellished lithograph” by American artist Alexandra Nechita. But no. On board the good ship Pacific Dawn, works by Alexandra were being offered at knock-down prices, like you could get her Riding the Waves for just $46,500, a massive $62,000 discount on the original ticket price. Who could resist? Not Australian art lover Jason Hall who snapped it up.

Jason should have checked out Alexandra’s web site. There he would have found a small but significant statement that might have sounded warning bells. “The thumb print of the Great One is on her." The author? Whoopi Goldberg. Despite WG's endorsement, Jason discovered once he reached shore that his work was valued at around $2,000, on a good day. As our own Andy Schmulow, a lecturer at Victoria University's faculty of business and law, remarked, ''I wouldn't be buying anything other than a cocktail on the high seas.'' You can read more here

Monday, August 15, 2011

Just kidding

Older OTN readers and second hand book junkies may recognize this very familiar book design. But who was the designer, it’s a bit of a surprise. You can find out the artist's name and see more examples here.

Saving the world one museum at a time

Back in May we posted on Te Papa embarking on the search for a new vision. The draft idea is online (rather buried we'd have to say) and they are calling for input. 

So what has Te Papa come up with? It’s kind of spiritual.

"Changing hearts. Changing minds. Changing lives."

In our previous post we came up with three questions to help evaluate any proposed vision:
• Is it easy to understand and remember?
• Does it make sense to people outside the organisation?
• Are there sensible ways to find out whether they are on track?

Well you can’t say it isn’t short and easy to remember, but understandable? That’s something different altogether. It’s an eternal problem with the vision thing. Get too specific and you can be brought to account. Go general and you can end up sounding like a revivalist church. Te Papa has gone down the religious route.

To anyone outside Te Papa this visionary trifecta looks like a huge stretch for a public sector organisation. Te Papa aspiring to change the world? Is that what we even want from our national museum? Changing people (hearts, minds, lives) is one thing, but the question is, changing them to what? Whose version of NZ gets to set the goal? It all feels profoundly political and the trouble is that Te Papa-style boosterism has never proved the most effective way to make political change. Trickiest of all, if it's not political, then it is just more rhetoric.

So we the people need more from Te Papa about the world it sees all this change creating. Don’t look to the leadership (Michael Houlihan and Michelle Hippolite) for optimism:

"However, the world is changing and fast. The next ten years will see Aotearoa New Zealand and the planet grapple with massive issues of overpopulation, water, food and conflict.”

Biculturalism is in the Vision docs front and centre. It's good to see Christchurch coming in for a bit of love and we like the effort to broaden the authority of knowledge. Digital is big of course, but then it is, isn’t it. But how will Te Papa decide what are the 'important contemporary issues'? The growing disparity between rich and poor New Zealanders seems to us to be one, yet how can Te Papa come to grips with that through their endemic culture of celebration? Why is the assertion of the 'breadth of the nation's culture' simply taken as read?

As for the 'A' word, you won't find it in the vision. Art is probably wrapped up somewhere in ‘culture' and 'important contemporary issues' and 'contemporary culture.' Feels like an under-performer when set against Te Papa's lol aim to 'foster the survival of species including humanity.'

You still have six days left to make your own comments on this vision thing here.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


What is it about the Mona Lisa that drives people to such extremes? Is there any material that has escaped being used to make a replica of the famous image, Rubik’s cubes, pencils, bottle tops and coins – there’s no end to it. We’ve even seen the famous portrait reduced to a recognizable 140 dots but how about 6,239 of them? More Mona lunacy in a World Record attempt for Connect the Dots. You can see the action here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dildo Bagging

"You can express yourself, but express yourself in a beautiful way."
Shoe guru Imelda Marcos urging the closure of an art installation featuring Jesus with a dildo on show at the Philippines Cultural Center

The more things change

There’s a lot of chat internationally about how art fairs are starting to dominate the primary market and transforming the traditional fixed location dealer gallery model. Globally dealers are finding that a significant amount of their annual income now comes directly from art fairs and not the daily grind of opening the shop. Is that true in NZ?

Our own art fair, the one in Auckland, has just finished and by all accounts sales went well and visitors certainly seemed to be having a good time. You'd have to say though most of the work was certainly not up there on the dollar stakes. No big money Hammonds, Cottons or McCahons. If you wanted to see blue chip you had to get over to Webb’s who were outing their next auction. The art fair was more like taking a stroll around the galleries on a typical Saturday morning, but with no driving (that was good). So, lots of walk-bys, a few things that demanded a second look and lots of talk. More a community building exercise than record breaking or heart-stopping.

At global art fairs the collectors come from all over to see works they would usually not be able to access at home. And they are reeled in like fish, free tickets, accommodation and tickets to vernissages that go for the lavish way beyond the AAF’s filled rolls and homely wine (a wee bit too picnic-on-the-beach for $125 a head).

Our art fair seems to be more about giving the punters a bit of fun with a nicely varied and unthreatening art experience. As a way to get people interested in art it’s a huge success. As director Jennifer Buckley says, it’s "like a Big Day Out for art lovers with opportunities to engage one to one with artists, curators and gallery owners." A threat to the standard dealer gallery model? Unlikely.

Image: Art Fair punter with good eye

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Images: Top, today in Cuba Mall. Bottom, latest Webb's catalogue showing Rose Nolan's work Help me do things differently

Game on!

August has arrived and Artspace faces its moment of truth. Will Creative New Zealand continue to fund it? An announcement has been promised for next month.

Yes, this is Masterchef CNZ style. Remember the cliffhanger at the end of the last series in December 2010? Artspace and some others were still in the game but the judges weren't happy. They called for a challenge (more info to be served up), asked the competitors to leave the room and went into a huddle.

Now they've had since May to make the big call. Who will leave the game and who will go on. The Artspace contestants are confident their presentation skills will win the day - they've even hired a new chef - but then their competitors probably feel safe too.

Left in the game are Arts Access Aotearoa, Artspace, Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand, Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, Circa Theatre, Downstage Theatre, Footnote Dance, Fortune Theatre, Southern Sinfonia and Vector Wellington Orchestra.

The clock is ticking, the judges are just about to come back with their decision. Who's going to make it into the next round?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The ice men sculpteth

You can’t stop the sculpting impulse at Wellington’s Moore Wilson deli. This morning it’s ice sculpture by “food heroes and ice sculptors Ian Hornblow and Paul Hoather”. The pair also have the museum installation thing spot on with a big explanatory label and a barrier to stop anyone touching the work.

Tut tut tut

If you love the art of ancient Egypt you might be excited to see there's a Tutankhamun exhibition in Melbourne. That excitement would probably increase when you saw the posters up around Auckland showing the famous golden mask of the boy King, the mask that inspired unheard of queues last time it left Cairo. Wow! Imagine the Egyptians allowing one of the most valuable artifacts in the world to be displayed at the Melbourne Museum. Gotta be worth an airline ticket and a hotel for a couple of days.

Not so fast. The Melbourne Tutankhamun mask is a classic new wave marketing special courtesy of Photoshop. We're looking at a blow-up of a cropped detail, and not even a detail of the famous mask everyone immediately thinks of. As the museum says on its blog, it is not the Tutankhamun mask but ‘an exquisite miniature replica of Tutankhamun’s canopic coffinette.’ What they don’t mention is that not only is the image blown up, but it is cropped to make it look as much like the famous mask as possible. As for the marketers, you know they know they are pushing the boundaries when you read the very, very small print at the bottom of the advert: ‘Image Canopic Coffinette of Tutankhamun. Not the funerary mask.’ You'd know that if they'd shown the whole figure instead of just the head. Beware.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Big ears

One day at the Auckland Art Fair

Dealer: Excuse me would you mind not touching the sculpture.

Woman in her sixties: why not?

D: wouldn't touch a painting would you?

W: But it's not a painting.

D: Well you wouldn't touch a sculpture if it was in a museum. 

W: I would… so you'll have to do better than that, particularly when your sculpture is so tempting to touch.

D: Ok, so can I touch your breasts? So tempting. 

W: (outrage)
Thanks J


reckless guesswork, insinuations and possible inventions that have turned up in otn's email:  a wellington dealer ended up dancing on the bar at an art fair after match function owned and operated by two other art dealers • auckland art gallery was required to secure detailed arboreal permissions before tying a rooftop sculpture to a tree • rumours about that a senior position at the auckland art school has been advertised before the completion of the current contract • fisticuffs when an auckland dealer took offence at a damien hirst work being given as a gift • ronnie van hout is winging his way to lower hutt to measure them up for a giant robot sculpture • a growing maturity as police are not called to a full beaver photographic exhibition at an auckland dealer • art made from spit and sultana bran sells to australian collector at art fair • any lavish additions, changes to outright lies, indignant denials or embellishments gratefully received and always, and we mean always, rewarded.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Pure gold

We would never sell an item for less than its melt value"
Jo Langston, Christie's

A centre on the edge: the audience

The Govett-Brewster is projecting an annual maximum audience for its proposed Len Lye Centre of 56,000. At the moment there is no mention of what their acceptable minimum is but they are clearly hoping for the 'Bilbao effect' big time.

Warming to that theme architect Patterson told the Taranaki Daily Herald that the Guggenheim Bilbao had, "turned a sleepy seaside town into one of Europe's top tourist destinations". Sounds good except that Bilbao was already a commercial hub of the fifth biggest economy in Europe, and calling it a seaside town is like telling the people of Sydney they live in a village. Besides which the Guggenheim Museum is one of the richest and most famous contemporary art collections in the world. So you do have to wonder how realistic the estimated audience for the Len Lye Centre will prove. Is the G-B suggesting that virtually all the its annual visitors will also visit the LLC? And if they do, and given the common entrance, how are they going to count them? 

Counting audiences in museums has always been something of a mystical process a fact that was entertainingly revealed some years ago when auditors found the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt was getting a decent wack of its annual visitation courtesy of accommodating birds flying to and fro past the electronic beam recorders. Anyone who has watched bored staff clicking audiences in and out of art museums will have some idea of how arbitrary the process can be. As one senior museum person told us, “the only way you can guarentee attendance figures is when they are matched to ticket sales.” 

From press reports it sounds like the Govett-Brewster gets around 60,000 people in a year of which you could assume around 20 percent is represented by school parties. It’s a respectable figure for a catchment area of just over 100,000, even assuming a fair number of them are multiple visits, and you could imagine that for the first year the novelty value of the LLC will be a serious attractor. But the Len Lye Centre is also likely to be far more static than the constantly changing programme of the G-B. Keeping numbers up will be very tough. The fact that there is no admission charge to either the G-B or the LLC certainly helps attendances especially when you add in non-voluntary visitors like school kids. Even then, you could probably divide the LLC's visitor goal by at least two and maybe more. That said, 25,000 plus would be a very respectable annual tally for a highly specialist art museum five hours drive from any major city.

You can read part one of this post on the Len Lye Centre here.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Desk job

If 2009's Auckland Art Fair was shoes, this year the style motif is furniture. From the eccentric to the corporate no table was left unturned in the cause of working in the name of selling art.
 Images: Top to bottom left to right, Suite Gallery (chairs customized by Bishop & Bagnall), Robert Heald Gallery (purpose built), Whitespace, Melanie Roger Gallery (Wellington brothel), Anna Miles, Ivan Anthony, Hamish McKay (Martino Gamper), Neon Parc (Parnell Road), Michael Lett (German beer hall) and FHE Gallery.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Big Ears: on the fly edition

“I ended up telling him I’d never even thought of having art in the laundry.”
Thanks J

Branded: Chris Booth

The moment when artists become brands.

Big Ears

 At the Auckland Art Fair.

“There’s a lot of psychological shit going on in this one.”

“When I see something I like I just stop.”
“Yes, that’s a great idea. That’s what I’m going to do.”

“If you text this number they bring you fruit juice.”

“Is that a shark’s mouth?”
“I don’t know but it’s got a better set of teeth than I have.”

“That’s amazing – all those rockets, and over there, is that a pair of glasses?”
“I think they belong to the dealer.”
“Oh, right.”

“Where can I put my glass?”
“Just don’t put it on an artwork.”
“I think I’ll hold onto it.”

Thursday, August 04, 2011

In the Rangitikei

Thinking about Richard Prince and Edward Ruscha

Fair go

The Auckland Art Fair is open and a very social affair it is. Internationally most art fairs are dominated by collectors and dealers but last night were artists everywhere and all seemed to be having a very good time. As for the art, it was variable as usual. You could certainly feel for the guy who was complaining in the media a while back about being left out. There probably was a bottom line but it was impossible to tell where it was. If there was a theme it would have to be monochrome. One wit dubbed it ‘Pale blue-chip.’
Robert Heald had a very smart looking stand as did Hamish McKay, Sue Crockford, Starkwhite and Jonathan Smart. Michael Lett offered a solo presentation of Campbell Patterson who had turned up with towels covered with spots made from spit and sultana bran. They looked terrific and most had sold on the opening night. Patterson had also rushed in an hour before the opening to deliver his latest video made today (it’s 11.55pm as we write this). Hard to tell how much business was being done but most booths looked busy.

The oddest feature was probably the VIP lounge which loomed above the crowd with floor to ceiling windows. The VIPs pressed their noses against the glass longingly staring down at the fun below (just kidding). Not the most tactful metaphor in the world and exacerbated by a huge staircase from the lounge down into the Fair itself.

The evening ended with what looked like everybody heading off to the Hopkinson Cundy Lett party at Swashbucklers. You had to be there.

Len Lye Centre Part 2 Monday

Image: Left, the VIP lounge in the sky. Right, VIPs descending the staircase

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Magic wand-delete-clone-flatten

You can’t stop Photoshop. Here Web artist Michael Guppy proposes what’s behind the figures in a handful of Masterpieces. Still a bit rough around the edges but you can see a bit of the future here.
Image: Michael Guppy shows what's behind The Scream

Better than collecting dust

With the Auckland Art Fair opening tonight we thought you might enjoy this selection of quotes about and by collectors. 

"It may be a point of great pride to have a Van Gogh on the living room wall, but the prospects of having Van Gogh himself in the living room would put a great many devoted art lovers to rout." 
Ben Shahn

"Ruthless, greedy, tyrannical, disreputable... they have had one principle worth all the rest, the principle of delight!"
Kenneth Clark

“I think, therefore I buy.” 
Barbara Kruger

"Collectors are happy people." 
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"To appreciate a work of art, is it okay to like what you like, and the heck with the art critics and experts? Absolutely." 
Thomas Hoving

"I think the collectors have made an enormous contribution, not only to the market but to painters themselves... These people that buy, that set standards, make everyone else itch to emulate." 
Philip Johnson

"The people no longer seek consolation in art. But the refined people, the rich, the idlers seek the new, the extraordinary, the extravagant, the scandalous. I have contented these people with all the many bizarre things that come into my head. And the less they understand, the more they admire it. By amusing myself with all these games, all this nonsense, all these picture puzzles, I became famous... I am only a public entertainer who has understood his time." 
Pablo Picasso

"Nobody can give you advice after you've been collecting for a while. If you don't enjoy making your own decisions, you're never going to be much of a collector anyway." 
Charles Saatchi

"You can either buy clothes or buy pictures." 
Gertrude Stein

"There's some human instinct which makes a man treasure what he is not to make any use of, because everybody does not possess it." 
Mark Twain

Image: Alice B Toklas and Gertrude Stein

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tweeting you right

OTN hasn’t been the best twitterer in the world. Our first continuous session was from a Wellington seminar on public sculpture last year but as we only had three followers at the time, the spread of information was thin. This year we will tweet from the Auckland Arts Fair so OTN followers can get an idea of what’s going on at the Vernissage (from 7 pm on Wednesday 3 August) and during the first day of the Fair on Thursday. It will be the usual mix of sensible and stupid.

OTN Tweets as over_the_net


Chameleon self-portrait photographer Cindy Sherman is back in the advertising space with a new campaign for MAC. Sherman has made a limited edition for the cosmetics house that will hit US stores in September. Sherman is a regular visitor to Adland. Last year she did work for Balenciaga dressing up as a ‘fashion victim’ an ‘aging doyenne’ and other familiar art scene personalities. She has also worked with other artists on Adland ventures including photographer Juergen Teller for a series commissioned by Marc Jacobs.
Images: top, Cindy Sherman for the MAC collection. Middle, Cindy Sherman for Balenciaga. Bottom, with Juergen Teller for the Marc Jacobs' advertising campaign Ohne Titel

Monday, August 01, 2011

Applying the breaks

"The creative spirit honours tradition by breaking with tradition. Only by continuously moving away from tradition can we cultivate tradition."

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in his recently discovered 1985 manifesto

A centre on the edge: the building

The Govett-Brewster in New Plymouth has just released plans for its new Len Lye Centre (you can see them here). This major project costing an estimated $10 million will demolish the 1997 extension and add around 25 percent of new space to the total Govett-Brewster footprint. Estimated annual running costs of the Len Lye Centre will be $311,000. So what do the people of New Plymouth (and by proxy the rest of us) get? 

First up, the space that the G-B currently uses for Len Lye and more general G-B exhibitions (it’s where the Fiona Pardington exhibit is currently on display) will be almost doubled. It will continue to be shared by the Len Lye Centre and the Govett-Brewster, so no loss of display space for the G-B. All good there then. There will also be a new space created specifically for Len Lye exhibitions and a research lounge along with replacements for the current theatre and education spaces that will be lost in the new build.

The addition will occupy the space presently taken by the little deco building on the corner of Queen and King Streets. Some NPers are not too pleased to see it demolished and they will probably be even more disappointed by the computer driven façade designed by Auckland architect Andrew Patterson. They have some reason to be so as it feels about ten years out of date as far as international architecture fashions go (the Guggenheim Bilbao was opened in 1997). 

The Len Lye committee chairman Lance Girling-Butcher told the Taranaki Daily News that 'this building will inspire people in the way that perhaps the idea of a Len Lye Centre was not able to.' That's a lot of weight to put on a façade which, while it does echo Lye’s love of shiny things, is basically an imported idea when the objectives could have been authenticity and local identity. The new visitor centre at Waitomo Caves makes a telling contrast.

You get the feeling that even Patterson is a bit nervous about the effect of imposing this Frank Gehry lookalike on New Plymouth, talking up stainless steel as a “local material” and claiming, “It’s sort of like using the local stone.” But isn't all the stainless steel used in New Zealand imported, much of it from China?

Another effect of the Patterson façade will be to physically diminish the original Govett-Brewster building. It will now, thanks to the loss of its own ’97 extension via the new build, be visually squeezed between the Len Lye Centre development and the café.

The good news is that it’s only a façade, a structural form dear to Patterson. The internal spaces look reasonably straightforward and, cross fingers, architectural flourishes will be restricted to the exterior. In plan you can see a couple of large areas that could be adjusted to suit different shows and accommodate the Len Lye Foundation's determination to create bigger and bigger versions of the work. A whopper version of Fountain is planned for the opening. 

Thursday on OTN we'll look at the Len Lye Centre's audience projections.

Images: Top, the proposed Patterson design for the Len Lye Centre c. 2013. Bottom, Frank Ghery’s Rheinhafen centre of arts and the media in Duesseldorf 1998