Friday, September 30, 2011


Images: Left Max Patte’s Solace in the wind 2007 in Wellington and right Voyage in Hull 2006 by Steinunn Thorarinsdottir

Mything the point

When travelling in Eastern Europe recently a friend of ours was offered a free coffee in a sidewalk cafĂ©. Before she had finished sipping she felt very dizzy and next thing she knew she woke up in a hotel room covered in ice with a note on the side table. It told her to ring a phone number urgently. She did and a couple of paramedics turned up to announce that one of their kidneys had been removed. That is, of course, an urban legend that started circulating sometime in 1997. Another legend that had its beginnings sometime in the late 1970s, told how the director of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery could only stay in the job for an unnegotiable five-year term. 

The idea certainly took hold as part of the avant-garde, we-do-things-differently-here brand of the Govett-Brewster. Turns out though that it was only ever a suggestion following the departure of the first director John Maynard (who was not appointed to a fixed term and stayed in the job just under five years) that was never tested: the first seven directors only stayed for an average of four and a half years. The first to buck the trend was Greg Burke who was appointed for a 5 year term, which was subsequently extended by 2 years and then extended indefinitely as has been the case with the current director Rhana Devenport.

Until the last decade most directors of smaller art museums did around five to seven years apiece (with the glorious exception of Whanganui’s Bill Milbank and Nelson’s Austin Davies). Even the first seven professional directors of the Auckland Art Gallery, for example, stayed on average just under six years each.

Why the change? It's probably due to increased professionalism and salary hikes as directors' conditions have been aligned with other senior local body officers. And then there's the merry-go-round effect. In a small country with a limited number of jobs, a couple of people staying longer in the same job quickly slows the turnover to a crawl. In the end it’s always going to be a toss up between the benefits of continuity and the potential of having regular injections of new energy.
Image: a kidney of the type taken from our friend

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Well we all missed this, the ultimate event or ultimate nightmare depending on where you come from. Lady Gaga playing a Damien Hirst piano. Apparently Francesco Vezzoli got the Gaga to jam on the piano at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art back in 2009

One day at the public sculpture committee

Chair: We need something spectacular, something that will make this city really stand out from the pack.

Brightest member of the committee: How about a giant something or other?

Chair: Interesting ..... Go on.

BMOTC: Oh, I don’t know - a fish hook, a couple of crossed swords… a group of sports people reaching for the sky - that sort of thing.

Chair: For God’s sake, it’s going to be in the middle of our beloved lake… it has to be tasteful and reflect our rich cultural community. 

BMOTC: Naked woman.

Chair: Yes, yes.

BTMOC: In the lake with her legs outstretched. You could row or swim between her knees right up to her breasts.

Chair: Breasts?

BMOTC: Her submerged breasts.

Chair: Do it.

And in Hamburg, they did.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

OTN goes viral

 OTN hits the Melbourne Age like a thunderbolt. Page Nine boys Jarrod Rawlins and Vasili Kaliman roped in to pose for extensive coverage of OTN's posting on Melbourne Art Fair. You heard it here first. Well, second if you live in Melbourne.

The silence of the sculptures

"I talk too much …The whole point as a maker is to create things that don't talk.”
UK sculptor Anthony Gormley

Death in Venice

And we thought we were relentless! That is nothing in the face of Metro Magazine’s attempt to bring Creative NZ to its knees and in the process jumping all over artist Michael Parekowhai. The first Metro hit was an ‘expose’ of a consultant who left CNZ in the lurch and out of pocket. Now for their second strike they have unleashed Josie McNaught

Judging from talk about her phone interviews the initial focus of her article was a Fair Go type investigation of the Te Papa purchase of Parekowhai’s Venice piano. That story obviously didn't fly which probably explains the minor roll call of offenses she has rustled up in the October issue: CNZ painted signs on the pavement (they were stickers but what the hey), Michael Parekowhai wouldn’t give JMcN an exclusive interview (get away), the tote bags were the most exciting thing at Venice (of course they were), Parekowhai was badly dressed at a party (scoop), and the red piano was “a joke” (journalist always think art they don’t get is a joke). In amongst it all she kicked the junior players and sucked up to the seniors (Alastair Carruthers and the two Jennys – “go girl”) and suggested CNZ should privatise the whole affair (which is their intention anyway). 

Fortunately not all the media has taken such a dim view of the event. As journalist Josie McNaught (relation) said in the 4 June’s NZ Herald article Venice show hits the bull's eye “I doubt the harshest critic would find much to moan about.”

Images: the two Metro Magazine articles headlining their displeasure over two issues

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On the road

By popular demand yet another in the OTN series celebrating the Ministry of Land Transport and Local Body support of New Zealand artists.

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


Plans in New York to transform a sculpture destroyed ten years ago into a memorial have finally been dropped. The sculpture Bent Propeller  was a 7.6 metre work by Alexander Calder that had been bolted onto a pedestrian platform over Vesey Street close by the World Trade Center. When the twin towers collapsed the sculpture was crushed. 

Seeing the potential for a memorial, Calder’s grandson Alexander Rower searched the rubble and found what was left of Bent Propeller commissioned from Calder in 1970. What remains of the sculpture is now in a Port Authority store at JFK Airport with other 9/11 recoveries. 

Still, if you are in New York there are plenty of other Calders to see. The artist was the go-to guy for public sculpture there in the late fifties and sixties. His publicly accessible works include 125 at the JFK Airport, Untitled a mobile in the Chase bank at 410 Park Avenue, Saurien at 590 Madison Building, Le Guichet at the Lincoln Center and Cirque Calder at the Whitney Museum.
Images: Left Bent Propeller before and right, after the 9/11 attack   

Monday, September 26, 2011

art at work

Lunch time on Para Matchitt's Sea to City Bridge sculpture

The best of the boosters: final edition

 This is the final edition of Best of the Boosters (unless unqualified praise enters some new extreme realm)

So let's hear it one last time for art museum marketing departments putting it out for art:

Widely regarded as one of New Zealand’s most important artistic partnerships. - Dunedin Public Art Gallery 

A reputation for innovation and style, inspiring and challenging its audiences with a world-class programme of exhibitions. - City Gallery Wellington

One of the largest and most absorbing presentations of New Zealand art. - Te Papa

This exhibition fizzes with emotion. - Auckland Art Gallery

Offers an unprecedented glimpse into the soul of the region. - Te Papa 

Unique and exemplary experiences – Govett-Brewster

And one from the media

Jaw-dropping pieces in a long-anticipated exhibition. - Dominion Post on behalf of Pataka

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Some link chasing to keep you occupied on Saturday morning. The top image is by New Zealand artist Andrew Blythe who is on exhibition at Wellington’s Roar Gallery and bottom French-born Polish artist Roman Opalka who was attempting to paint from one to infinity,  spotted here on Flavorwire (he never made it but you can see him cracking 4 million on Youtube). You can also see more of Blythe’s work here on selftaughtartist
Click the image to enlarge

Friday, September 23, 2011

Second life

Who would have thought that a independent Sierra-style game based on a performance art work would be downloaded by over 90,000 people worldwide? And all so they could virtually queue up for hours on end to sit opposite an eight-bit Marina? And yet that’s what has happened to Pippin Barr's game The artist is present. There have also been hundreds of blog posts, tweets (including one from the big MoMA herself) and stories in the Village Voice, Der Spiegel, Slate and The Huffington Post. The opportunity for a second life for exhibitions on the internet will come with its own questions, but clearly there's potential there. Game on.
Image: the end of the line, a virtual visitor gets to be present with Marina Abramovic. 
You can see a week of the game site download stats here


If you’re thinking unlucky sculptures, think The Thinker. Next to Michelangelo’s David, Rodin’s bronze must be one of the most recognised sculptural images in the world. It also immortalised the thoughtful pose that has launched a million back cover author photos over the years. Thanks for that Auguste.

But The Thinker is back in the wars, most particularly in Argentina. Here the only copy of the sculpture that is located outdoors (all the other 20 full-sized copies are in museums or private collections) has been sprayed pink. The Buenos Aires city council claims not to know why the sculpture has been defaced (although pink and the sexual symbol for female on its arm feels like a clue) but has decided to soldier on and water blast the paint off the statue. This has caused conservators the world over to pale at the thought of the potential damage to the work’s patina.

This is not the first time one of The Thinker has been attacked. The most famous occasion was at the Cleveland Museum of Art back in 1970 when a pipe bomb was stuck between The Thinker’s feet and blew them apart on detonation. Remarkably the Museum decided to leave the sculpture on display in its damaged state as a memory of the civil unrest that had swept America at that time. The damaged work is still on view and is cared for by the Museum like any other of their sculptural works with regular cleaning and rewaxing.

Another recent attack on The Thinker was more prosaic. Thieves attempted to cut up a smaller sized version of the work owned by the Singer Museum in Netherlands for the resale price of the bonze. Stupid really as the bronze at that time would have only fetched around $600 while there was a $1.66 million valuation on the sculpture itself. Panicking when they realised they had nicked a high profile artwork the thieves buried it in a garden. It was later recovered but unfortunately the other six sculptures stolen at the same time did not escape the melting pot.
Images: The Thinker top to bottom, Argentina, Cleveland and The Netherlands

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Branded: Michael Harrison

The moment when artists become brands

Never say never

Six months or so ago we visited Don Driver who is now 81 and not as agile as he used to be. On that occasion we were able to help him finish a collage by adding a small bit of colour (on his very, very precise instructions) to the left hand side of a gorilla’s face. 

Hearing Don was not too well we went up again last weekend and there was more to be done. The lower section had been niggling at him and he wanted to replace the brown shapes in the bottom middle of the work. He had offered to sacrifice one of his own red shirts for the job, but his wife Joyce had come up with an orangey sheet of plastic from the studio. We got the job of cutting the pieces to size and Chris (Don’s son-in-law) hot glued them in place. And the artist? He just leant back in his chair and smiled the smile of a Don.

Images: Top left to right, the work in March, the first addition and far right the latest additions pinned ready for gluing. Bottom, Chris hot glues the additions.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A crate exhibition

An entertaining post on the Christchurch Art Gallery blog today as Justin Paton makes a few wry comments on the put-as-much-stuff-on-the-walls-as-will-fit style of display that art museums like to call Open Hang. 

With a teetering apartment block about to be demolished at the rear of the gallery staff have been forced to shift the entire collection away from the danger zone. The result as Paton says is “the most ambitious 're-hang' to be conducted since staff moved the more than 6,000 items in the collection from the old McDougall to the new Christchurch Art Gallery back in the early 2000s.”
Image via Christchurch Art Gallery

Shape lifter

And now, fashion news. Nicole and Michael Colovos as Helmut Lang 2.0 have based their first runway show (following the departure of HL six years ago) on sculpture. “We looked at a Richard Serra exhibit as a starting point.” And so the models hobbled (Alejandro Ingelmo wedges) down the runway swathed in sweeping angular shapes in black and white, the designers having flagged the rust brown colour that is a feature of Serra’s sculpture…. and the weight too of course. In keeping with the Serra theme though, the show was held in a cavernous industrial parking garage on New York’s Pier 57. Some critics complained about the look lacking "specificity“ and being too “nebulous.” Now that's something no one would dare say to contemporary sculpture's tough-guy Serra.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Resting between engagements

Only in the New Plymouth home of photographer Peter Peryer would you come across this sort of thing on a couch in the main room.

By the numbers

Four years ago we wrote a post on the length of time our art museum directors stay in one institution before moving on or moving out. The average ‘stay’ in that sample was ten years.
This month the very idea of only settling in for a ten year stay is kicked into touch as Paula Savage completes her twentieth year as director of the City Gallery in Wellington.

Runners up:
Chris Saines, Auckland Art Gallery: 15 years
Rhana Devenport, Govett-Brewster: 5 years this month
Jenny Harper Christchurch Art Gallery: 5 years next month
Elizabeth Caldwell, Dunedin Public Art Gallery: 2.5 years
Cam McCracken, Dowse Art Museum: 2.5 years

Apart from the Govett-Brewster which has a five-year limit on its directors all our other art museums have open ended terms.
COMMENT FROM ANDREW CLIFFORD 24-09-11: That's an interesting clarification about the Employment Relations Act and fixed term positions. So how does that work for Artspace's 3-year directorship and Te Tuhi's 3-year term curatorship?

We have put all the comments following Andrew Clifford's question over on OTN Stuff, You can follow them here or on the OTN Facebook page.

Monday, September 19, 2011

In Manners Mall

Thinking about Michael Parekowhai

Spring pruning

Gotta love Australians. Having read via OTN that the Melbourne Art Fair was prepared to offer cut-rate booths to NZ dealers as an “Industry Assistance Package… donation,” Jarrod & Vasili of the Australian dealer gallery KALIMANRAWLINS applied themselves. “Is there any chance we can get the same deal and participate in next year's event?” they asked, which you have to admit is pretty funny considering.

Hilariously the Melbourne Art Foundation asked Board member and dealer Martin Browne to reply to the lads. It was rather like getting Lenny Bruce to go down and mollify a church group who are upset at cussing. As anyone who knows him might have expected, Browne took a somewhat satiric line asking what it was about being an New Zealand gallery that J&V didn’t understand. He then offered to consider the request if they would admit their gallery was in “distressed circumstances.” Why don’t we have this much fun in our own impoverished country?

And J&V’s response? “We take it that's a 'no' then to the possibility a discounted booth for 2012?” Now you have to admit that was kinda asking for it, and when it happened (Browne became a little unkind) they went to the MAF. “In most business situations the practice of negotiation is common and usually handled with a level of dignity and professionalism” they complained, “which is why we are surprised at the aggressive and abusive response we received from Martin Browne after our initial enquiry had been forwarded to him.” And it went pretty much all downhill from there.

Still it was fun while it lasted and a great deal more lively than stoushes here in NZ. Browne also gave OTN a bop on the nose writing separately that he thought we were being “prune faced” and “cynical” in our original story. True enough. Still, nothing too much wrong with prunes - you do have to love the way they loosen things up.
Image: a prune

Saturday, September 17, 2011

David in adland: volume 2

Just so your Saturday morning isn't completely wasted here's the second part of our look at David doing it for the ad guys.
Click on the image to read the fine print

Friday, September 16, 2011

Two stories about drawing

"What are you drawing?" the teacher asked her. The little girl said, "I'm drawing a picture of God." "But," the teacher said, "nobody knows what God looks like." The girl looked up, "They will in a minute."
From a TED presentation by Ken Robinson

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college teaching people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forgot?"
Howard Ikemoto


Today you get a perfect storm created by OTN’s ongoing interest in Marina Abramovic meeting our relentless promotion of the talented games designer Pippin Barr (relation). Drawing on Abramovic’s stand-out performance The artist is present at MoMA last year, Pippin has created a game so you too can have the experience. Go to MoMA, join the queue and, if you keep the faith and play hard, get to sit opposite the mute one. A few things you need to know, the game only works during the opening hours of MoMA in New York (closed Tuesdays) and yes, you really do have to queue. Line up here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rohan Rohan la la la

It occurs to us that we failed to mention one of the more extreme art lookalikes that happened back in 2009. Gaze in awe at this Youtube clip of Rohan Weallean’s twin brother standing in when Rohan couldn’t make it to the Queensland Art Gallery (GOMA) to give this performance in front of one of his paintings for the  exhibition Unnerved.
Later: Also forgot to mention that the real Rohan has an exhibition on at Hamish McKay Gallery in Wellington right this minute.

The living dead

Strangely enough this year we have seen two performances using living sculpture in glass boxes as their central idea. The most recent was last week at Wellington's Bats Theatre in a play by Kate Morris called Sketch. Here a small room-sized vitrine encasing the living sculpture was located in a commercial art gallery somewhere in New Zealand. The premise was that the living sculpture was stricken with a terminal illness and it was not hard to see the links with Damian Hirst (large glass display case, a back wall filled with shelves crowded with bottles of pills). The death theme box was certainly ticked off but the depiction of the art world was the usual the-art-world-is-full-of-shrill-idiots-who-talk-nonsense. 

Can't say we weren't warned. The director Eleanor Bishop called up in her programme notes the “huge, fast-paced, superficial art world.” And sure enough the visitors to the exhibition postured and shrieked and generally behaved like sugar-filled kindergarten brats. The dealer was togged up in venal with a trimming of dishonest and the curator stepped out in plain old pretentious. Clearly no one involved in the production had been anywhere near a dealer gallery where usually you’re lucky if you can get anyone to look at the art at an opening far less talk about it.

Image: the vitrine set for Sketch

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dennis Knight Turner 1924-2011

Cover artist for one of New Zealand’s most loved books A good keen man by Barry Crump and an early New Zealand entrant into abstract art Denis Knight Turner’s life is celebrated by Richard Wolfe on the Auckland Art Gallery blog Outpost.
Image: Denis Knight Turner’s cover for the AH & AW Reed 1960 publication of Barry Crump's book A good keen man

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses ....

In the art world patronage is important, being patronised, not so much. Over the years New Zealand dealers and public funders, via Creative NZ, have been big supporters of the Melbourne Art Fair. And why not? When it started out it was the only game in the region, NZ was taken seriously, some sales were made and a good time was had by all. As often happens though, as the years rolled by, the Melbourne Art Fair became not so appealing. The novelty wore off, costs were high and suddenly Auckland had its own Art Fair and that did the job for most dealers. The NZAF 2011 edition was a big success in its new digs and, while there was a couple of big name Australian galleries missing, it’s a fair bet they might be back next time. 

So when the Melbourne Art Fair starts offering 'selected New Zealand galleries' an "Industry Assistance Package", you have to wonder whether they've dumped their PR advisors and decided to fearlessly go it alone. Motivated apparently by "recent events and the subsequent economic downturn" in New Zealand, the Melbourne Art Fair is offering its stands for August 2012 at half price ($11,000 down from $22,000). Only this ‘bargain’ rather than being presented for what it is, a discount to try and get more New Zealand dealer support, has been offered as a 'donation'. How very thoughtful.
Image; NZ dealer awaits an approach by the Melbourne Art Fair

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Korean artists channel the Weta Workshop

Lighten up

One of the big challenges in collecting contemporary art is maintaining and replacing obsolete technology. A lot of artists want to use the nostalgia and sense of authenticity that often comes with out of date equipment. In New Zealand et al is an obvious example and so too is Simon Denny. If you purchased one of Ronnie van Hout’s green screen monitor works of the late 1990s, better start looking for replacements as they are already very difficult to source. And don't even talk about works that include the incandescent bulbs that are already banned in Europe.

Then there are the neon tubes that American Dan Flavin favoured for most of his work. Already there are intellectual and legal arguments over whether or not old tubes can be replaced by new ones with slightly different colour temperatures. You can read a fascinating account of the Flavin problem here.

However, as interesting as all this is, it is just a thinly-veiled excuse to show you a Japanese guy running through 70 neon tubes.

Monday, September 12, 2011


“We even show erect penises, but from an artistic point of view.”  
Spokesperson for Sweden’s Museum of Contemporary Photography, Fotografiska

In and out of focus

If you like the sound of sausage rolls washed down with a glass of red wine, you could do worse than angle for a place in a Te Papa focus group. Not only do you get free refreshments but there is also a $50 voucher from the Te Papa shop to sweeten the deal. The deal from your side is to agree to give two hours of your time to “explore and discuss ideas and concepts that Te Papa has about the re-development of our art exhibitions on level five.” Level five is the top floor of Te Papa given over to art in recent years and cobbled together out of the old library (hence the uncomfortably low ceiling) and the Boulevard Gallery.

Judging from what was proposed to the focus groups (we’re improvising here as participants are not allowed to take notes, photographs or remove or copy any of the Te Papa paperwork), Te Papa’s ideas for its dedicated art spaces seem pretty thin. They’re talking small, quick turnaround exhibitions, ‘hot-spot’ displays to, say, mark the death of an important artist, single painting focus exhibitions, that sort of thing. Tinkering.

Not really the way to build a reputation as a serious source of interpretation, judgement and history, and a long way from CE Mike Houlihan’s initial response to how art is shown at Te Papa. "You've got art at the top of the building. You have to take two lifts to get to it and that's not easy. If you were taking a slightly cynical view, you would say art is being sent back to the attic." Exactly.

One simple way to achieve the Houlihan dream would be to forget shuffling art around on the isolated fifth floor and take it downstairs where the action is.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday at the flicks

You do have to ask yourself sometimes, "How the hell did all this art criticism get underway?"
Thanks again, again P

Friday, September 09, 2011

Plinth charming

It doesn’t take much to get people involved, and the Auckland Art Gallery certainly cracked it with its sculpture plinth on the waterfront. You can see the Gallery’s flickr file of hundreds of Aucklanders doing the living sculpture thing here.

Mag lights

As magazines fight for eyeballs on the news stands, more and more often artists are being enlisted to create dynamic images that will prove irresistible to readers. Jeff Koons is the latest in this long line. He has come up with a Twiggy-meets-Botticelli's-Venus lookalike in his recent photo shoot for Harper's Bazaar. Other artists who have been inducted into the mag world include Hirst, Schnabel, Kruger, Murakami and (back in the day) Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Dali. More on the Koons shoot here.
Images: Top to bottom in pairs: Koons for Harper's Bazaar, Hirst for Garage and Schnabel for Tar, Murakami for a Japanese mag with a name we can't read and Kruger for New York Magazine, Lichtenstein for Newsweek and Warhol for Time Magazine, Dali for Vogue. (Click image to enlarge)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Card sharps

OTN reader sends this Neil Dawson lookalike / copycat from a London apartment featured on interiors-porn. Thanks J

Who goes there?

Watching Auckland crowding in to see its new art gallery you did have to wonder who they all were. There’s that great advertising saying, “we know that fifty percent of what we do is wasted, the trouble is we don’t know which fifty percent” and that sure rings a bell when you think of public institutions trying to work out who they should appeal to and how they should be appealing. Well, help is at hand. The Dallas Museum of Art got some numbers crunched around the people that found their way inside the doors and discovered: 

30 percent of them knew a lot about art and wanted to find out more.
26 percent were ‘observers’ who just liked looking.
25 percent were ‘interactors’ who liked participating in the museum’s programme.
20 percent wanted to be left alone to make their own decisions about what was on display (this includes 32 percent who are artists).

So there you go, labels, no labels, do-it-to-me, and get-the-hell-out-of-the-way-I-just-want-to-look-at-the-art. 

Good luck.

Image: Interactors trying not to fall off the ledge at the new Auckland Art Gallery

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Images: Left the Dominion calls out angry kids and right Michael Smither's Joseph snarling

Outer space

Some people can’t help themselves when it comes to collecting. Objects just stick to them like iron filings to magnets. That’s certainly true of a friend of ours Simon Manchester. The first time we visited his apartment was a revelation. There surrounding us was a history of New Zealand ceramics selected with a true curatorial point of view and deep connoisseurial knowledge. Hundreds of objects crowded every flat surface and crammed old display cabinets. 

But wait, as they say on the infomercials, there’s more. On the walls was a comparable history of New Zealand's tourist graphic art and how we have presented ourselves to the world. Now Simon Manchester faces the collectors' dilemma: keep going and be buried under the weight of it all or let some go and…probably buy more. And so, if you are after some remarkable tourist paraphernalia, a range of Marcus King paintings that would have any good abstractionist reach for their revolver or original advertising art work and genre photography, now’s your chance at Dunbar Sloane tonight. 

Lucky for all concerned that one collector at least has come out against physics and realised that space is in fact finite.
Image: Manchester to go.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Art in the workplace

A group of Fijian home boys doing an impromptu photoshoot on Richard Deacon's Auckland sculpture Nobody here but us


reckless guesswork, insinuations and possible inventions that have turned up in otn's email: wellington’s city gallery had a tripartite resignation all in one day including the head curator • a flood caused by setting the sprinklers off didn’t stop the auckland art gallery opening on time • workers turned seung yul oh's public works in newmarket into light bulbs on behalf of the advertising industry (whoops) • objectspace is looking for new space and fortunately there's lots of it panting to be leased on k road • a troubling guy with a knife had to be escorted out of the parekowhai venice installation • any speculative additions, objections to outright lies, indignant denials or gratuitous embellishments gratefully received and rewarded in a typically open-hearted OTN style.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Driving down the North Island...

...thinking of Len Lye

The real thing

First up, Auckland now has a real art gallery. It’s the kind of institution a city the size of Auckland ought to have. There’s a lot of new exhibition space, a research library that's open six days a week instead of two and the corporate entertaining foyer turns out to be far less overbearing than was feared. Given what the architects had to cope with (a restricted site, incorporation of heritage buildings, trees and height restrictions) it’s probably inevitable there’s some complicated navigation, more corridors than you’d hope for and a few odd shaped spaces here and there. Overall though Auckland has got a building of substance and quality.

The opening suite of exhibitions is about the collections. It felt as though every one of the key works that have become so familiar in the Auckland Art Gallery's telling of New Zealand's art history was on show. With the exception of firmly placing contemporary Maori art into the mainstream, the story told by Gordon Brown and Hamish Keith way back in the late sixties seemed to remain pretty much intact. The other great debt is evident in the Gallery’s reliance on the Chartwell Collection to present its three gallery survey of contemporary art. The curatorial staff must lie awake at night praying that the Trust never takes pivotal works like Hotere’s massive mural Te Aupouri away from them.

The all-the-collection-that-fits focus in the contemporary galleries on the ground floor has resulted in some unfortunate overcrowding and a number of jarring juxtapositions. Overall it’s probably best to leave skying and double hanging to experts like Peter McLeavey. On level one the early art of New Zealand and art from Europe looks terrific. There's a lot of it and while easel painting and sculptures that love the plinth are an easier hanging proposition than your more unruly contemporary works, it is still great to see them displayed with such clarity and confidence.

On level two contemporary art gets a sharp smack from the architecture. Spaces intended to accommodate the contemporary programme are dominated by a handful of over-egged designer-pillars that are doomed to be a major distraction until they are inevitably dealt to. In the opening exhibitions on this floor et al. sensibly hid their pillar by wrapping it in black polythene, Peter Robinson and Dane Mitchell took the hit.

So now Auckland has an institution which will allow them to once more be the anchor of art in New Zealand. They have the collection, they have the resources, they have the public behind them, and now they have the building.
Image: Three large galleries for contemporary art on the ground floor

Saturday, September 03, 2011


Dude where’s my boat?
Images: Top WETA rugby sculpture (detail) 2011, bottom Rita Angus Boats Island Bay 1963

Friday, September 02, 2011

Aussie rules

“avant-garde crap.” 
Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition in the Australian House of Representatives describing the parliamentary collection of paintings.

Image: genuine avant-garde crap, Paul McCarthy's Shit pile

Pining for Totora

If you’re an arts organisation, well any organisation really, what you need for long term planning is assured funding either from profits or taxes. Creative New Zealand has been working on a revamp of its multiyear funding of arts organizations for some time. It has dumped its old Recurrent Funding Programmes and come up with two new ways of slicing the same old cake. It’s a wood theme, Totara offering funding for two to five years and Kahikatea (Pine) for six months to two years. Good news for Team Totora who (you guessed it) are mostly involved in the performing arts. 

No organisation was given the to-die-for five year funding but three years, as any party in Government will tell you, is better than nothing. And in ‘category visual arts’ that’s what Artspace finally scored as did Objectspace, The Physics Room and the Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust. You can check out who got what here including the slimmer pickings for the Pine people.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Advice to collectors

"Sometimes we don't know if the stuff we're buying is historically significant, but because the prices are so high, we need to believe they're important,"
Dallas art collector Howard Rachofsky in the WSJ

Label Land

A new series that looks at museum labels: what they say, don’t say and would like to have said if only they could.

Listed below are descriptions of artists taken off a bunch of labels at a group show. The challenge is to attach the correct label to each of the artists. Off you go, answers below.

a) “Key artist of his generation”
b) “Highly regarded artist”
c) “Self taught artist”
d) “Well known and much admired artist and teacher”
e) “Key artist to have emerged in the nineties”
f) “No longer active”
g) “A vital force in the history of New Zealand art”

1) W.D. Hammond
2) Shane Cotton
3) Julian Dashper
4) L. Budd
5) Ralph Hotere
6) Robert McLeod
7) Jeffrey Harris