Monday, October 31, 2011

This month was brought to you by the number 8

in october we: said goodbye to len castle • whinged about paying ten bucks to see te papa’s permanent collection • held a worst on display competition with ourselves • took us to the movies • coloured us mccahon • cooked the books • created a decision tree on the venice biennial selection • made fools of ourselves picking the wrong doge • went and done the headless chicken thing

Art at work

An Occupy Wall Street protester Dylan Spoelstra (described by police as ‘not the sharpest crayon in the box’) has been talked down from his perch on Mark di Suvero’s 21 meter high sculpture Joie de Vivre in New York’s Zuccotti Park. The sculpture - most often described in the New York media as a ‘statue’ - was moved to the Park from the Storm King Art Centre in 2006 and has been a focal point for Wall Street protesters. Posters and other stuff that was attached to the work during the protest was quickly removed (it probably didn’t hurt that di Suvero’s wife is NYC Department of Cultural Affairs commissioner). Spoelstra proved to be a stickier proposition staying put for a couple of hours calling for New York’s Mayor to resign. The police put air bags under the sculpture and eventually talked him down, but the general feeling is that the Mayor is not going anywhere.

Images: Left, Mark di Suvero’s Joie de Vivre. Right top, Dylan Spoelstra being talked down and bottom, protest action on di Suvero’s work

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Unhappy feet

The fact is we spoil you on Saturdays, and no more so than today with this video clip of a living headless chicken. Apparently it was a big influence on an OTN regular Maurizio Cattelan. Of course we have our own chicken-influenced artist Dick Frizzell. He romanced the famous dancing chicken that appeared in Herzog’s film Stroszek when he was in the United States in 1978. If the headless chook is too much you can see the dancing one here. Be warned, the secret is electric shocks up through the floor. You can see Frizzell's DC painting here

Friday, October 28, 2011

On the other hand…

“What Auckland Museum and Auckland Art Gallery need least of all is a lavishly funded competitor arriving on their patch, stripping them of audience and reducing their visitor numbers…. A Te Papa North facility would recycle exhibitions into the larger Auckland audience from Te Papa in Wellington, and would inevitably do so at the expense of our own museums.”
Rodney Wilson ex director of the Auckland Art Gallery and Auckland Museum talking down Te Papa North in the NZH


The massive surge of art book publishing in New Zealand feels weird in the age of the iPad and other e- readers and, let's face it, the age of the digitisation itself. Sure you can hunt and peck through any art book but the flow is generally left to right, page one to page whatever. 

The American artist Doug Aitken has never been a great lover of linear forms and he has now taken his explorations of multi-level story telling into the free (yes, free) iPad app Altered Earth. Here you can join him on one of his meandering explorations, or you can select images, films and sounds to make your own story, installations and connections. Bolstering Reader Power, the app never seems to start you off the same way or even offer the same images all the time.

The setting is the Camargue region in Southern France, a bleak landscape of marshes, deserted salt mines and abandoned fortifications. Today its beauty is being transformed again as bird and plant life flourish. While the app can be frustrating to navigate (it was very slow to install), it does show the potential of this type of presentation. If you have an iPad, pull a copy down. You might find the future of art books in your hands.
Images: Doug Aitken’s Altered Earth commissioned by the LUMA Foundation for Parc des Ateliers in Arles

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Or polish

“Art dealers, should spit on history, wipe it away and find something new.”
New York Art Dealer Mike Egan

Real good

If you come from Wellington - the home of WETA - replication doesn't surprise you so much. The workshop has become a world leader in producing replications that are totally convincing. Tough lines for any artist who is in the same game and no one is in it more than the Kaikohe based sculptor Glen Hayward. But somehow Hayward manages to bring to his life-like objects another strain of being so they flicker in and out of the real world like that Predator thing did when it was rushing through the jungle. So when we visited the McCahon House in Titirangi the other day to see Glen Hayward’s wind-up exhibition as its latest resident, it was hard to see there was an exhibition there at all until you settled into the space.

It turned out that all the works were based on details from the McCahon house itself faithfully reproduced - a clunky light switch with DIY conduit, the lid off a can, a set of washing tubs, a section of wall that looked for all the world like something from Julian Schnabel, a hump of concrete and brick. Ripped out of their homely context in the McCahon House to be live another second life in the residency studio.
Images: Top left electrics at the McCahon House, right, Glen Hayward's Seventh day (a very reasonably priced multiple in an edition of five that has been made available to help raise funds for the McCahon House). Bottom, Glen Hayward's exhibition at the McCahon House residency studio

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Big ears: rabbit division

Giant Rabbit sculptures. Can't live with them, can't live without them.
Image: Florentijn Hofman‘s 13 meter high yellow rabbit in Örebro, Sweden (Thanks yet again D)

Big ears

One day at the AAG:

“Let me tell you there are Picassos and Picassos and that is a Picasso.”

“Contemporary art still completely baffles me totally.”

“This is incredible”
“What is?”
“It is isn’t it.”

“It’s called ‘Boy with ponies’.
“He doesn’t look very happy.”
“He probably had to sit like that for hours.”

“Have you seen Danny?”
“He’s behind that E”

“Here’s the gift that guy gave us.”

“ What is it?”
“A model of the gallery.”
“Good thing they didn’t build it that small.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the road

And still they keep on coming, another in the OTN series celebrating the Ministry of Land Transport and Local Body support of New Zealand artists. (Thanks K)

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

Fire power

Australia’s arts czar, Art Gallery of New South Wales director Edmund Capon, has come out in strong support of artist Adam Cullen. The artist is deep in it thanks to the Goulburn police arresting him with a car full of guns of varying caliber and loading abilities which will put him in court on firearm charges this week. He is quite reasonably “very, very scared” as a 14 year prison sentence may be waiting for him at the end of all this. 

Still you can’t say Capon held back. He described Cullen as “deeply thoughtful and committed“ and (maybe pushing it out a bit) “one of the “most acknowledged and recognized contemporary artists” in Australia. A while back Cullen exhibited in New Zealand most notably at Teststrip and Fiat Lux. 

It's probably not a huge help that Cullen counts Chopper Read as a good friend although to balance that off he does have work in Elton John’s collection. Cullen’s defense will be that he was using the guns to make art. We’ll let you know how that plays.
Image: drawing by Adam Cullen

Monday, October 24, 2011


Nothing for you today, back tomorrow.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Top to tail

We’ve posted on Art Review's annual Top 100 most influential people in the art world before. This year, instead of art dealer Larry Gagosian, the number one spot is taken by an artist, the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei. A woman takes the number two spot (Serpentine Gallery Director Julia Peyton-Jones) and 19 women are represented in the top 50. Damien Hirst, once the leader and darling of the list, continues his slide, another nine places, to number 64. And spare a thought for the bottom five. They are: Johann König, Nicolai Wallner, Franco Noero & Pierpaolo Falone, Leonid Mikhelson and Gregor Podnar.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Art in the workplace

At Tokyo airport protecting art with a bit in reserve

Colour me shameless

When we suggested McCahon black and white as a colour range derived from his late paintings, we were playing the irony card. Turns out the Guggenheim, with out so much as a hint of it, had beaten us to the finish line way back (thanks R). The Museum is in bed with the Netherlands company Fine Paints of Europe and is offering not only the colours of its building as the McCahon house did, but also colour riffs based on paintings from their collection. How do they do that?

“Each colour was carefully chosen from paintings in the Guggenheim galleries. The selection was then refined in consultation with exhibition designers to ensure the colours are appropriate for a variety of architectural settings. Fine Paints of Europe precisely matched each colour and created the final formulations. Each Classical Colour relates to the painting from which it was derived and the artist who created it.” Take that Matisse.

Images: Top gallery colours. Bottom, swatch of colours based on paintings from the collection

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Branded: Gordon Walters

The moment when artists become brands

Man in a box

As is now often the case there were a couple of endurance-style performances at the Yokohama Biennale. One called Five points make a man was created by the American artist James Lee Byars shortly before he died. Staged in the Yokohama Museum of Art, it involved a young woman sitting still for a long period of time in a darkened gallery and then carefully carrying a small bowl of liquid out of the Museum’s public areas to ‘backstage’ where the task was handed on to another young woman. 

The other work was less obviously metaphoric and we caught it at a Biennale Waterfront site that gave space to artist galleries and groups to exhibit and perform relational aesthetics to their hearts’ content. So lots of sewing bees, discussion groups, lectures, cooking and audience participation when they could persuade anyone to join in. One lone artist took a different route. Standing, his body hidden and only his feet and legs protruding from a large black box, he offered to make a drawing for around eight dollars each. 

Was he committed to be there all day, every day of the Biennale? If so it was an endurance performance up there with Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is present. But there were no queues for Mineki Murata. We slipped a five hundred yen coin into the slot and the box began to rattle and shake and the legs to shuffle and wobble as the drawing was produced. It took a while and there was a lot of banging, muttering and drawing noises but eventually the work emerged through another slot in the front of the box. You can see the drawing and judge how good we are as conceptual art collectors here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


A nifty cartoon featuring Colin McCahon's paintings over on Arctic Circle Cartoons. You can see more of Alex Hallatt's work here.
Click on image to increase size

Suck it up

There’s been talk about a Te Papa presence in Auckland for a while now and yesterday a proposal for a Te Papa North was finally announced. The big idea is a new venue doing a dance between showing our National Collections (art, history and natural history) and delivering temporary exhibitions down on Auckland’s rejuvenated waterfront. 

Refreshingly, Hamish Keith told the NZ Herald that the TPN team has been concentrating on what the building will do rather than what it looks like although the dreaded S-word is in there too (that’s S as in “Signature Building”). As for the do-ing part, TPN is slated as “a space for roaming exhibitions, rather than being a fixed museum or art gallery.” That certainly brings up the question of how exhibitions of Te Papa’s collections would fare in competition with a money spinning temporary exhibitions like The Motorbike as Art

Apparently the director of the Auckland Art Gallery and Auckland Museum are “enthusiastic about the proposed project” which feels a bit out of left field. Hard to see how a big box venue showing exciting temporary exhibitions on the waterfront would do anything to help the AAG or AM’s profile or audiences. 

Still the timeframe we’re talking is 10 to 20 years so tons of time for things to change. And they will.
Image: A generic rendition of a ‘Signature building’ as presented with the Te Papa of the North proposal

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


In front of the Yokohama Museum a barrier line to stop you touching the protective cone warning you about the crack in a paving stone.

It figures

Reports on the two-for-one Polynesian exhibition Oceania (shared by Te Papa and the City Gallery) are not encouraging. The two times we went we were all but alone in the City Gallery, although there was an ok audience at Te Papa. While there are some outstanding objects on display, it was always an odd choice for a crowd pleaser, and a bit of a push thinking it would be a must-see for RWCers.

The City Gallery show in particular mostly includes work that is very familiar (although it would be fresh to RWC tourists) and verges on the comically inclusive; if the word Pacific is in the title, welcome. There was also an opportunity lost with the exhibition design which simply follows the typical City Gallery Modernist format.

Last week, to boost figures one assumes, admission to the show was on offer for half price if you got the password right. Now you can be seen for free (which is as good a way as any to really irritate everyone who has already paid – you know, the faithful). The other reason for this largesse is more slippery - free entry muddies attendance figures. Nothing tells the tale of an exhibition's success, or lack of it, more accurately than ticket sales.

Monday, October 17, 2011


In August we mentioned how photographer Cindy Sherman was working with big fashion brands. Here she is stepping out with M.A.C in Tokyo's über fashionable Omotesando district.

No accident

If you are interested in Japanese photography say pre-eighties, you have to be interested in photobooks. Rather than prints, these books have been the main way Japanese photographers have presented their work since the 1930s and they have become increasingly valued and expensive. 
Our friend Ivan Vartanian, a publisher who lives in Tokyo, has become expert in the field producing a major reference book Japanese photobooks of the 1960s and 70s with Ryuichi Keneko. As international interest in these books has grown rapidly, some of the classic books have been reproduced as well as many new ones created. 

Ivan has worked with a number of famous Japanese photographers and his most recent project has been with Daido Moriyama. They have collaborated on re-presenting a body of work from the 1960s originally published as a monthly series called ACCIDENT in the magazine Asahi Camera. The result is a limited edition sculptural book that unfolds like a Japanese screen to reveal a series of black and white silkscreened images. 

When we saw this work it was displayed on two beautifully crafted tables and backgrounded by a painted mural based on one of the images (you can see the mural being painted here). At a time when physical books as a mass medium are under threat, this installation demonstrated how the presentation of photography has the potential to become both more experimental and experiential.
Image: ACCIDENT by Daido Moriyma and published by Goliga on exhibition at the Taka Iishi Gallery in Tokyo

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Are radiation hot spots here in Tokyo anything to worry about? Not according to Kaoru Noguchi, head of Tokyo’s health and safety section. “Nobody stands in one spot all day,” she said. “And nobody eats dirt.”


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Black in the day

Back in the 1980s we were involved in an exhibition curated by Charles Eldridge that toured the United States called Pacific Parallels. As part of the deal we got a free trip to Kansas (seriously) to talk at the university in Lawrence. We were there at the same time as Peter Peryer who was included in the exhibition. When the three of us turned up to give our talks to a crowd of around 200, we were all wearing black although we could have been dressed in tutus for the shock it caused. Apparently another NZer in the exhibition had arrived the previous month also head to toe in black and what had been seen as personal eccentricity began to seem like a national characteristic. We were asked if everyone in New Zealand dressed this way. Of course we said yes and like to think NZ style has become something of a legend in Lawrence, Kansas. 

This is really just a set-up so we can move on to an RWC-related exhibition we saw in Auckland called Black in fashion (we stand by our post title). It was a mini-survey of black garments worn by NZ celebrities over the years, and there in the centre was our own man in black Gary Langsford of the Gow Langsford Gallery. He was quoted on the label as saying he always wore black so he didn’t conflict with the art. Wish we’d thought of that in Kansas.
Image: Gary Langsford avatar sits it out at Black in fashion

Friday, October 14, 2011


I think architects deal with utility, connection, function. Sculpture is purposefully useless in terms of utility and function. It's only useful in terms of evoking feeling and sentiment. I think people who move into architecture most likely find sculpture difficult.
Richard Serra interviewed in Artinfo

Doge ball

It was a classic this-is-the-house-that-Jack-built moment as we stood on the platform of Mejiro metro station and saw across the lines a billboard featuring the Bellini portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan. This was the guy who lived in the Palazzo Loredan dell'Ambasciatore that is owned by Filippo Gagia who rented the ground floor to CNZ so that Michael Parekowhai could show his work in the Venice Biennale. Same hat, same white cloak with snail buttons. 

But hang on, what about that double chin? Turns out it’s another Doge altogether, an earlier Doge, Doge Giovanni Mocenigo to be precise. Damn. Then to add to (or rather subtract from) our spooky Tokyo coincidence, it turns out it wasn’t even painted by the right Bellini (or, blush, even in the same century) but by Gentile, the famous Bellini’s brother. Still, for a moment there... 

You can see the Giovanni Bellini portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan here.

Image: Tokyo billboard featuring Gentile Bellini’s portrait of Doge Giovanni Mocenigo

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world.

Roll play

Walking through the up-market Tokyo Midtown development, we came across a Christchurch connection. Members of Shigaru Ban’s architectural team were installing one of his cardboard roll structures – to be completed in a few days. This is the same man who has offered to work with the Christchurch Council to create a temporary cathedral that could also serve as a multi-purpose community center. Shigeru Ban is noted for remarks such as, “I don’t like the building that uses so much waste just to make a funny shape,” so there is some irony in one of his works being located in a Japanese consumer paradise, but the quiet order and discipline of his building process demonstrates the potential of his approach in Christchurch.
Image: Shigaru Ban staff at work at Tokyo Mid Town

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In Tokyo

Thinking about Peter Robinson

A decision tree

Bringing balance to Venice in 2013

Four women and three men have represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale
Choose a male artist

The surnames of four of the artists representing New Zealand at Venice start with a letter from the second half of the alphabet and the surnames of three from the first half
Choose an artist whose surname starts with a letter from the first half of the alphabet

Four Elam graduates and three Ilam graduates have represented New Zealand at Venice
Choose an Ilam graduate

Four of the artists representing New Zealand at Venice have been under fifty years old and three over fifty
Choose an artist over fifty

New Zealand’s representation at Venice has followed the pattern: pair of artists/ single artist/ single artist/ pair of artists/ single artist/
Choose a single artist

Four of the artists at Venice were living in New Zealand and three were living abroad
Choose an artist living abroad

All the artists representing New Zealand at Venice have exhibited sculptural installations

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Plain English

“I love him because he would rather say house than edifice.”
Artist John Baldessari praising art writer Calvin Tomkins

A brute force

One of the most popular exhibitions held in the Auckland Art Gallery in 1958 was the Hiroshima Panels by husband and wife Iri Maruki and Toshiko Akamatsu. The ten paintings depicting the horrors of the atomic explosion in the Japanese city of Hiroshima drew some of the largest crowds the Gallery had ever had through its doors.

We were reminded of this in Tokyo when we saw a proposal for the Atomic Bomb Memorial Building in Hiroshima. Intended to house the panels, the concept and initial design were developed in 1955 by the Japanese architect Shira Seiichi. Beautiful as the memorial was, it was never built but the proposal was recreated for the exhibition Metabolism, the city of the future at the Mori Art Museum.

The exhibition was pretty much a history of utopian modernism as expressed in brutalist architecture and grandiose city plans. Presented in models, photographs and video reconstructions the exhibition shied away from the fate of many of the buildings and projects featured.

It is worth noting that while some went on to become architectural classics (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum,  St. Mary’s Cathedral, Yoyogi National Stadium) a surprising number have been demolished. A fascinating coda to the exhibition would have been photographs of the buildings as they are today. After all, we are that future this band of architects had in mind.
Image: a contemporary visualisation of the proposed Atomic Bomb Memorial Building in Hiroshima

Monday, October 10, 2011

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

The fund fair

The latest Creative NZ funding round has been announced (the low value quick response ones) and the visual arts got 16.5% of the money handed over, neatly matched to the 16% that CNZ gives the Visual Arts from its total annual funding. The maximum you can get? $7,500. 

So where did the money go? Nearly half of it went to publications, the current darling of CNZ. It is a touch ironic that all this publishing is of paper-based books at a time when the entire publishing industry is on its tree-based knees. A book (hardback, illustrated, at least one tangential text/essay) has become a calling card for any self-respecting artist and a professional necessity for tertiary level teachers. 

This really is the time for CNZ and the universities to exercise leadership and put their effort into digital publishing. Digital products may not be so easily absorbed into the CV promotional mill, but they have a better shot at wider and cheaper distribution and access. 

As to funding cheques that had an actual artist’s name on them, there were three and they went to Dan Arps, Kathy Barry and Layla Rudneva-Mackay for a total of $18,410. You can see what everyone else got here.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


When the McCahon House Trust went about refurbishing the Titirangi home of Colin McCahon of the 1950s, a special colour palette was developed by the New Zealand paint company Aalto. The colours were matched to paint scrapings taken from the exterior and interior surfaces of the house. A muted range of browns, greens and blues was launched. 

Years later OTN is delighted to present a new range of colours based on McCahon’s work of the 1970s and 1980s. This scheme was devised after a close examination of McCahon’s late paintings and has resulted in a highly focussed range that we are confident will, in the spirit of McCahon himself, both delight and enrage. 

As with the Aalto colour range each OTN shade is individually named; Visible White and Mystery Black

Caution: Attempts to duplicate OTN colours by eye or by electronic means may give the illusion of a match but on the walls the resulting colours will lack the depth, subtlety and complexity of the original. Combinations of such colours will not 'work' in a colour scheme.

Images: Left Aalto McCahon French Bay House Palette, right the new OTN McCahon Late Paintings Palette

Friday, October 07, 2011


Image: We are all here to do what we are all here to do by Fabio Lattanzi Antinori and Alicja Pytlewska

Right hand Man

Albert Lewin (the director who got Ivan Albright to knock up the picture part of The Picture of Dorian Gray) was also a good friend of the American artist Man Ray. In 1950 the movie Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, one of Lewin last productions, also gave him the opportunity to bring his artist friend onto the team. Initially Man Ray was hired to take colour photographs of the film’s star Ava Gardner and one of these did appear in the film as a miniature portrait. Man Ray was also asked to paint a portrait of the star to serve as the canvas completed by the movie's other big star James Mason who was playing the Flying Dutchman. As it turned out Man Ray’s painting never made it on to the screen elbowed out by a de Chirico-like product painted by the movie's set designer Ferdinand Bellan.

Images: Top to bottom left to right, Man Ray’s famous photographic portrait of Ava Gardner, Man Ray painting Gardner’s portrait for the movie, James Mason doing his actor art thing, the actual portrait of Gardner used in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman and one of Man Ray’s photographic portraits presented as a painted miniature in the film.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Just writing

“I am not a writer. I never have been and don’t ever want to be one. I find every word written too difficult to write. Even this.”
Julian Dashper in his book This is not writing published by Clouds and Michael Lett 2011

An action figure too far

We've featured the artist action figure man Michael Leavitt before and the only reason to do so again is because Michael appears to have gone an action figure too far. What was he thinking when he came up with an action figure representing one of Feminism’s figureheads looking like a Warehouse stripper? Has this man no sense of metaphor at all? Barbara Kruger - who visited New Zealand for her survey exhibition initiated by our own National Art Gallery back in the 1980s - didn’t strike us as the kind of person to be amused by such rendition. The internet being what it is, it probably won’t be too long before Leavitt gets the message.

Other Action Figure activity on OTN
Ready, set, action figure
Vinnie with moveable limbs

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Art at work

Seward Johnson’s super-sized statue of Marilyn comes into its own on a windswept rainy day.Via notemily
Thanks for the head's up P

News flash

The Otago Dailiy Times has just announced the next artist for Venice (Bill Culbert). Nothing up on the CNZ news site yet so looks like its ODT will be in for a bit of stick for breaking the news early instead of OTN.
The people who were on the panel who selected Bill Culbert as the next Venice Biennale artist were:

Alastair Carruthers (Chair of the Arts Council)
Jenny Harper (Christchurch Art Gallery)
Christina Barton (Adam Art Gallery)
Elizabeth Caldwell (Dunedin Public Art Gallery)
Heather Galbraith (Massey University)
Michael Houlihan (Te Papa)
Peter Robinson (Auckland University and 2001 Venice Biennale artist)


Exhibiting sculpture in public institutions is not easy and it has certainly got harder. Back when most of it was shown on plinths it was also kept out of harm's way, but once British sculptor Anthony Caro and his modernist friends did for the plinth, sculpture was on the floor and public art museums were faced with the problem of protecting it.

The trouble is barriers and podiums and stanchions and do-not-touch signs too often make a mockery of contemporary sculpture. Three particularly extreme examples are on view right now in New Zealand. One is Michael Parekowhai’s Atarangi which has been included in a Te Papa history show. You may never again in your lifetime see a large scale sculpture in a display case. Next there’s Peter Robinson’s My Marae, my Methven at the City Gallery. This Gallery with its claims to leadership in contemporary art simply shouldn’t have done it. Even Te Papa with no such claims does display this particular work on the ground, where it belongs. 

For the trifecta you need to be in Auckland to check out the bizarre display of a small bit of Fiona Connor’s installation Something Transparent (Please Go Round the Back). Sad for a start that the Auckland Art Gallery only has one of these doors (at least four or five are needed to give some idea of the original concept), but the one they do have still didn’t need protection by being slammed into the wall as though it were a giant matt. And then, having denied it three dimensionality they added a barrier. 

These three obviously side with the painter Ad Reinhardt who once famously quipped “Sculpture is something you bump into when you back up to look at a painting”.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

In Newtown

Thinking about Derek Cherrie in the Auckland Art Gallery

Ring me

Having a world rated jeweler like Karl Fritsch living in New Zealand has certainly upped interest in jewelry as art. Whoever snapped up Francis Upritchard’s Brown Sloth Creature for $22,900 at the last Webb’s auction also snaffled around $9,000 worth of Fritsch rings. They had been slipped onto the sloth’s fingers (do sloths even have fingers?) and certainly made the work something of a bargain. 

At the Govett-Bewster's recent Stealing Senses exhibition (also seen at Hamish McKay Gallery), Fritsch, Upritchard and Gamper proposed that craftspeople and artists work together to make “total art” and “break down the distinction between amongst art, craft and design.” Of course they were talking more than just crossovers, but it did set us on the hunt for artists who have worked in a craft mode and, in particular, with jewelry. Here's what we found in a first sweep.

Images top to bottom, left to right: Alexander Calder necklace, Robert Indiana ring, Max Ernst brooch, Tim Noble and Sue Webster cuff-links, Salvador Dali brooch, Roy Litchtenstein pin, Lucio Fontana arm bracelet and Damien Hirst cuff-links. And for a special treat, check out some of Karl Fritch’s work here.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Double dipping

Today over on Best of 3 Courtney Johnston lets fly at Te Papa and the City Gallery for charging for an exhibition that is essentially drawn from Te Papa's permanent collection. Quite right too. As she also points out the City Gallery has pretty much become a charge gallery since reopening. You can read the full piece here.  And full credit to everyone concerned for not using a nose as an illustration.

E.C. does it

From time to time you hear complaints about an art critic being on the harsh side, but generally these days most art writing veers from positive to neutral, and often swings into promotional. Maybe it's a reflection of the fact that so many artists are now integrated into the well-paid classes, particularly from teaching jobs, and have the respect that comes along with that standing. 

It was certainly bracing as curators to come across a full-page headline in the NBR announcing “Barrs' exhibition a patronising joke.” That was Lita Barrie putting the boot into our 1987 exhibition When Art Hits the Headlines. Back then critics like Rob Tayor and Lita Barrie and later John Hurrell took no prisoners, but even their tough judgements paled into insignificance when compared to what artists in the fifties and sixties had to swallow. 

Reading through back issues of Arts & Community last week, we came across this 1971 stinger from E C Simpson, author of A Survey of the Arts in New Zealand, slagging off Colin McCahon’s painting Victory over Death II

“[T]his appears to be the hysterical effusions of a hot gospeller at a religious revival meeting. If Mr McCahon feels psychologically impelled to vomit stuff of this kind, need he inflict it on the public? Or is it done to relieve his tension on the advice of his psychiatrist?”

For the other side. Seven years later when this painting was gifted to the National Gallery of Australia, the director, James Mollison, called it “one of the most important paintings to have been made in this hemisphere in recent times.” 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Len Castle 1924 - 2011

We have just heard Len Castle died late last week. Back in the 1970s the Dowse Art Gallery, as it was then, received a letter from Len Castle. It asked whether or not we would mind if he changed out one of his ceramics that we had selected for a group show. Mind? The man was one of the two most influential clay artists of the time and there he was seeking the opinion of someone who had only been in the job six months. Later we would learn that this humility showed the understated confidence of many great artists. The inner calm that allows them to make the new and act like the wise old. There will be many, many better informed words written about Len Castle over the next few months, but we just wanted to say what a pleasure it was meet the man all those years ago and get to know a small part of his very significant work.
Image: Press Moulded Blossom Vase by Len Castle

Balls up

For your Saturday entertainment this clip that has nothing to do with art and everything to do with rugby. Our excuse is that it was sent to us by an artist (thanks P) and we're sticking to it.