Monday, April 30, 2012

Art rules OK

 This weeks New York Magazine features a long article on How to make it in the Art World, “a tongue-in-cheek rulebook for how to make it in the art world now.” Here’s a sample: 

Rule One: Reject the market. Embrace the Market. 
Rule Two: Stay on trend 
Rule Three: Make art that is difficult to collect (so the art museums will buy it) 
Rule Six: Outsource to China 
Rule Eight: Don’t be afraid to trade up (when a bigger gallery comes calling, listen) 
Rule Nine: Show up 
Rule Thirteen: Don’t let your gallerist take 50% of the profit. 
Rule Fifteen: Pretend you’re an outside even when you are at the center of everything 
Rule Seventeen: Be everywhere at once 
Rule Eighteen: Join the establishment but cling to your street cred. 

You can read the article and the rest here

One day in the Minister’s office

Minister: The Sunday Star Times Magazine has asked me to do one of those what-I-like columns called Culture Vulture

Advisor: Don’t do it Minister. 

M: Exciting. It’s a great opportunity. 

A: Minister don’t do it. 

M: Gosh, there are just so many things to think about, painting, photography, that installation thing. 

A: Seriously Minister, no 

M: (Checking his email) Hang about, here it is, they want to know my “favourite piece of sculpture”. 

A: Minister please, don’t 

M: I love sculpture it’s so… three dimensional. 

A: Minister… 

M: (distracted) Yes, yes? 

A: Don’t do it. 

M: But what sculpture? That’s the question. The trick is to pick one that will make me look well informed and ‘with-it’ at the same time. A plugged-in politician who’s not going to back off the avant-garde. 

A: D.O.N.T. 

M: I know, I’ll go for something political. A sculpture that’s not afraid to have something to say. 

A: (Head in hands) omg 

M: (seeing the headline in front of him) "Fearless Minister for Arts picks political sculpture." That’ll get me some respect. 

A: (silence) 

M: Ring the SST. We’re going with the statue of Keith Holyoake

A: Yes Minister.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The shipping news

The release of Titanic in 3D returns us to Kate Winslett’s character Rose admiring Picasso’s 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (ok, a reproduction of it). The real painting is of course much, much larger (2.4 x 2.3 meters) which would be a squeeze in a ship’s cabin.

Turns out that when James Cameron wanted to use the Picasso image in the movie the Artists Rights Society and VAGA who look out for Picasso copyright amongst others said no. This group is also the reason that no works by Picassos are included in the Google Art Project. But could they stop Cameron? Not a chance, although he did have to fess up with the fee when pushed later. Now he's being hit up again for the 3D version. Good luck with that. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Six to one

Not sure what the McCahon Trust or the Auckland Art Gallery will make of this use of McCahon’s famous 1950 painting Six days in Nelson and Canterbury but you can’t help thinking that McCahon would be on the side of the land.


The auction house is no place for an artist. When times are good they get to see bags of gold passing hands for works they sold for copper coins and when times are tough they see their work spurned. Did John Nixon - a highly respected Australian painter - need to see three of his four paintings on offer sell for a measly $7,350 in under a minute and one of them not even get a bid? No. Still at Art + Object last night most items seemed to sell and it became apparent that many of the reserve prices were around 20% below the low estimates. This meant that sales could be consummated on the night rather than subject to negotiation the next day.

There was little interest in bidding over the $100,000 mark. A C F Goldie managed it and sold but Don Binney and Shane Cotton both hit the ton only to be passed in. And no real interest in Colin McCahon once the darling of the auction room, a stunning Jet out of Muriwai drawing that would have sold for around $25,000 in the day limped to $14,000 and was also passed in.

But as always there were lots that sparked bidding wars as two or three must-haves went for it. An eclectic group of artists had this I’ll-top-that effect from Michael Parekowhai and Peter Robinson to Joanna Braithwaite and Peter Stichbury.

We watched the whole thing on the internet which weirdly had the screen prices running ahead of the sound. It was like we knew what the lots were going for before the auctioneer did. Maybe there’s the germ of a betting scam if anyone out there wants to go over to the dark side.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Branded: Garth Tapper

The moment when artists become brands

Pimp my gallery

As we've heard via a leak to the NZH Super City announces it is going to make the Auckland Art Gallery 'more commercial' (with or without its current director) and apart from a few tweets (we counted 10 and two of them were ours) no one seems to be very exercised by the prospect. You'd think a large bear had padded into the cave to eat someone, growled and when nobody noticed just slunk away. No harm, no foul. 

That doesn’t sound right, and when things don’t sound right, they probably aren’t. The big question here is what the Super City reckons 'more commercial' means. And, when you look at the way the AAG operates, it's hard to fathom where it could go next. There’s a definite sense that management have already jumped the commercial shark. 

Take for example their A red carpet venue hire brochure (you can download it here). Forget the good old days when you couldn’t drink in the galleries, let alone scoff down a canapé or get stuck into a side of dressed lamb. The curators and conservators lost that battle long ago. Now event-seeking punters are invited to “Entertain between walls hung with work by some of our country’s most respected artists. Perfectly proportioned for dinners and receptions…” or to “raise a toast beneath the barrel-vaulted ceiling… in the Mackelvie Gallery.” 

How can the new commercialisers top that? Are we talking sleep-overs? Pokies? Pick-your-favourite-painting-to-hang-in-the-bridal-chamber? Fact is, wont be until someone publicly articulates what ‘more commercial’ means that we will know what the future brings for the Auckland Art Gallery. Whoever they get to run it. 

Images: Left, 'the acoustics of the Lower Grey Gallery mean that live music – whether classical or modern - adds the ideal finishing touch to your event' and right, 'Whether a family or business occasion, experience the striking character and lavish opulence of this Victorian picture gallery'

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bacon bits

One day at the Francis Bacon shop:

Manager: I’m not happy with the way our Bacon product is going out the door.

Assistant 1: Sales sure are slow. Like we printed 20,000 of those postcards with his signature on them and we’ve still got 19,998 on the shelves. 

Assistant 2: Same with the triptych hankie sets.

M: OK. We need something more snappy. A little more Francis.

A1: How about a nice black tie with the website address in blue?

A2: Or a small book of FB’s quotes?

M: Quotes eh…that’s not bad. We could put them on stuff like coffee mugs.

A1: Hang on, I’ll get a quote book and look him up. 
(a few moments later)Here you go, “All painting is an accident.”

M: Good for kitchen towels maybe, but coffee mugs? Not so much.

A2: (leaning over book) “I believe in deeply ordered chaos.” Surely our customers would respond to that idea?

M: While they're drinking coffee? I don’t think so.

A1: How about this? “You’re born, you fuck, you die.”

M: Genius. Let’s do it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hell’s bells

Martin Creed is planning a major performance for the opening of the London 2012 Olympics. He is creating Work No. 1197: All the Bells in a Country Rung as Quickly and as Loudly as Possible for Three Minutes. It is set to happen at 8 am on 27 July. Creed is asking everyone with access to a bell (bicycle bells, doorbells, church bells etc.) to join in. The Central Council of Bell Ringers, who one imagines are always on for something a little different (#irony), will not be playing. You can catch some of Martin Creed's work on show at Michael Lett in Auckland until 12 May.

Other OTN stories on Martin Creed:

Knock at the door

Bingo! The Walters Prize finalists have been announced and the OTN panel scored a remarkable 4 out of 4. Congratulations to all those concerned. We know you have a choice of guessing games and we want to thank you for working with us. And congratulations again to Sriwhana, Alicia, Kate and Simon. 

One curious fact, all the nominated exhibitions took place offshore. Kate Newby in Bremen, Sriwhana Spong in Melbourne, Simon Denny in Sydney and Alicia Frankovich in Berlin. It makes you wonder how many of the jurors (David Cross, Aaron Kreisler, Kate Montgomery, and Gwynneth Porter) saw all, or even any of them? 

Well wonder no more (or only for a few more days) because we are going to ask them on your behalf. You certainly do get the feeling from the media release it could be a sensitive issue. The Rules are brandished to prove that choosing four offshore exhibitions is ok. ‘For the first time ever this year’s Prize features a group of works all of which were first shown off-shore, although there have been many works of this kind included over the years, as the Prize rules allow’. 

And why were these four exhibitions selected? Let's go to the Jurors. “Ultimately, each project demonstrated a palpable influence on the art making and viewing communities from which it has arisen.” OTY on that one.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fair go

There’s been talk for a while now that a rival would arise and take on the Melbourne Art Fair. Why would anyone do that? OK, for a start the MAF has become kind of unwieldy. It certainly started as a focussed high end fair but over the years the edges have blurred to the point that you have to walk a lot of long corridors to find the good stuff. 

Now an alternative is on offer, a new fair (spoiler alert) running at the same time as the MAF. It’s to be called the New Fair and will be run by art larrikins Vasili Kaliman and Jarrod Rawlins of the dealer gallery Kalimanrawlins. For anyone who has visited international art fairs this is hardly shattering news. Alternate fairs pop up all over the place often piggy-backing on the big local fair. 

Still you do have wonder how it will fare (sorry) in Aus, a rather more combative environment. Kaliman and Rawlins are doing their best to stir things along by pronouncing their New Fair as “a more measured approach to Australian art fairs, tailored to a knowledgeable audience as opposed to the conventional bulk approach.” The New Fair will only feature five galleries (we’ve heard Foxy Production, New York, Hopkinson Cundy, Auckland, Kalimanrawlins, Melbourne, Michael Lett, Auckland, Robert Heald, Wellington) and a bookshop, so it is certainly not going to ramble. Interesting to see how KR go stepping forward with the Weetbix kids in this way. 

More details and dates available here in the Kalimanrawlins press release
Image: Helmet worn by Ned Kelly at the siege of Glenrowan on 28 June 1880 State Library of Victoria

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Well it is Saturday and we assume you did all your brain stuff over the week. So here's a bunch of cute cats posing like paintings. More on Buzzfeed

Images: From the top: Mariano Fortuny Odalisque, John William Waterhouse Echo And Narcissus, Frederic Leighton Flaming June, Joseph Ducreux Self Portrait Yawning (click on image for full cuteness potential)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Works on paper

You can follow the amazing Japanese architect Shigeru Ban's work on developing the Christchurch Cardboard Cathedral here on his web site.

Other OTN stories on Shigeru Ban
Image: Ban's initial sketches for the cathedral. (click on image to enlarge)

The wisdom of crowds

The Walters Prize finalists were to be announced earlier this week but no word so far. What with the Auckland Art Gallery being given the run around by the Super City they may have forgotten to send out a press release. Anyway, everyone you meet in Auckland seems to have come to the same crowd-sourced best-guess list: Simon Denny, Alicia Frankovich , Kate Newby and Sriwhana Spong (a couple of weeks ago most lists included Dane Mitchell but the smart money now seems to have converged on Frankovich). 

If these four are the finalists it certainly cements the change to the Walters Prize from being an award to artists who made "the most outstanding contribution made to contemporary visual art in New Zealand in the two-year period preceding its award..." to a selection of artists the judges think are doing the most interesting working at the time. If these four are the lucky ones it will certainly make for a terrific exhibition but it would be tough on Michael Stevenson (survey at the MCA) and Michael Parekowhai (Venice Biennale) who in earlier years could have almost been guaranteed a berth. On the other hand it would be a king hit for the K Road/Cross Street/Great North Road axis (4), Gambia Castle alumni (2), Michael Lett (2), young women artists (3, for the second WP in a row) and the city of Berlin (2).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Being perfectly Franco

"No one embodies this aspect of what art is becoming better than James Franco."

Jeffrey Deitch director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art publically remarking on how Franco fits into the expanding definitions of art

The days of our lives

Episode 25
You’ll remember how Chris was going to be written out of Kitchener Street and asked to take the lead in a new series Super City that was having trouble with its demographics, only given his success in recent episodes of KS and getting such high ratings and stuff he thought he was better off staying on as the star and leading man. But turns out the producers wanted him for his creative skills so he could be like a totally creative centre of the SC show. And how this big time Australian producer Robert had set up this Russian Roulette kind of thing that would only keep one person from the core cast of Kitchener Street and Louise and Catherine were wondering if they were going to be the chosen one or if like they would even be in the cast at all and how they might end up having to do auditions for some crummy zoo reality programme or worse still a sports show. And the rest of KS’s cast and the non-speaking walk-ons had no idea what was going on with the storyline except that they had all heard about how the star was going to another show and they were getting like some slicked-up reality show ‘actor’ to take his place. OMG! And then Hamish from the History Channel told all his friends that the whole idea of Chris being killed off in the next episode of KS was just a leak like and that there would be a production meeting and that things would be ok only no one really believed him because Chris was going around saying how he totally didn’t like the sound of the Super City show or its production values and he didn’t want to be its star anyway.

Episode 26
This episode begins with a production meeting and a lot of harsh words being spoken and then someone says it wasn’t a good idea interfering with the star of Kitchener Street even if the last episode about Scotland had dropped a bit in the ratings and someone else agrees and says that maybe Chris can stay on as its star and not go over to the new Super City show after all. But then everyone wonders what would happen to the rest of the core cast on account of them having been told to do auditions for other shows. And Robert says that he's bringing over a star from a high-rating reality TV show to play opposite Chris in Kitchener Street and that was what he meant in the first place and that the media got it all totally wrong as usual.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Images: left, Vincent Ward's Breath - the fleeting intensity of life at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Right Australian artist Robin Eley

Beg yours

When faced with Wellington City Council's cut of $1.25 million from its $2 mil contribution to Te Papa’s $3.81 million sponsorship tally, Te Papa hit out at families in the name of PR (in their own words, “we're taking it out on the kids.”) They also threatened fewer exhibitions and staff cuts. 

Being negative is one way to go but why not: 

Get more sponsorship? Having nearly 60 percent of Te Papa's sponsorship coming as an annual grant from local government doesn’t sound like anyone’s been trying too hard.

Streamline and rationalise the huge amounts spent on exhibition design, furniture and temporary exhibition display. 

Bring the art downstairs. It is still cheaper to display and change out art exhibitions than anything else. And remember that art museums and art exhibitions are huge attractors worldwide.

Work out what the Wellington City Council is really on about. Mounting a public campaign in Te Papa’s foyer doesn't seem like the smartest way to encourage Councillors to see Te Papa as a positive presence in the city. How about an an art partnership between the City Gallery and Te Papa...oh that’s right we’ve already suggested that.

If none of that helps, ok ... then you get to shake-down the kids, close the galleries and sack the staff as per the current plan.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On the Road

The Ministry of Transport and Local Councils pay homage to New Zealand's visual artists. Good job.

Spinal tap

News this week that the director and senior team at the Auckland Art Gallery are to be disestablished (read biffed) and must apply for new jobs in a more 'commercially focused' organisation.

This move has been very sudden (staff at the gallery were as surprised as everyone else) but just what 'more commercially focused' means has yet to be elaborated. It’s not hard to guess though. More events, more sponsorship, more people through the door, more tourists, more retail.

Under the new Auckland Super City structure the Auckland Art Gallery is the responsibility of Robert Domm, now chief executive of Regional Facilities Auckland. His portfolio is event-centric: Vector Arena, Town Hall, Aotea Centre, Mt Smart Stadium, Convention Centres and Western Springs. The Gallery’s closest cousin in the mix is the Auckland Zoo. But hang on, the AAG is an art museum, not an event centre. If that's not what Auckland wants that's certainly a discussion but the Auckland Art Gallery is of importance to the whole country and what it becomes needs to be through open debate, not strangulation by endless cut backs and reorganisations.

Ironically this is all happened at the same time as the exhibition Made Active drawn from the Chartwell Collection opened at the Gallery. It was after all a similar facilities-based ‘correction’ by the Hamilton City Council that saw Chartwell leave that city and end up in Auckland in 1997.

Piling on the ironies, we should mention that the annual Museums Aotearoa conference starts tomorrow in Wellington. Seldom has a professional gathering been better timed than this one.

The New Zealand art museum world is small and the knock-on effects of change to the ‘commercial’ can be huge. Politicians and senior bureaucrats keep a close eye on what other local bodies are doing. When the direction of a major gallery is changed abruptly without opposition it quickly becomes oh-let’s-do-that in other centres.

So events in Auckland will certainly send a chill through the Museums Conference but if they are going to change anything they will need to do more than just shiver.

Hamish Keith on Twitter 18 April

Monday, April 16, 2012


William McAloon's funeral will be held today at 11 am at Old St. Pauls in Wellington

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Arts on a plane

You’re an artist sitting in your window seat on a plane off to a residency, an art fair, a biennial or something like that. Suddenly you have this great idea. Grabbing your blowup pillow you excuse yourself, climb over the two passengers between you and the aisle and head for the toilets down the back of the plane. There you cram yourself in and grab at the towels and toilet paper using them to transform yourself into old master paintings. Well that’s what American artist Nina Katchadourian did anyway. You can see more of her work here.
Did we mention that she did all this flying back and forth to Dunedin where she was doing a residency at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery? Should have. (thanks A)

Friday, April 13, 2012

One day at the Museum of Modern Art

Why Auckland...

... can never be the Cultural Capital.

That was then

In his most recent publication Envisaging Vocational Rehabilitation, Simon Denny reaches back to a revealing questionnaire from Auckland's Metro Magazine back in the Age of Bling. The goal which absolutely nails 1981 is "how to work out your Upward Mobility Quotient." 

If you're after an eighties flash back here's Question no. 6 to help you put art and style in place. 

“You decide it’s time you re-decorated the living room. The scheme you pick is ...

A. Suede leather couches and steel/glass tables with genuine Persian rugs, a few tasteful sculptures and the odd Toss Woollaston original.

B. Turquoise vinyl three-piece suite, carpet in autumn tonings of orange and brown and an emerald green bean bag.

C. Cream carpet, cream furniture, cream walls, cream sheer curtains, cream cushions.

OTN badge and cap for the best suggestion of who might have made the tasteful sculptures

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cultural Capital (sic)

"We already have WOW and the Sevens and now Wellington City Council is looking to add another major event to Wellington's schedule."
The Dominion Post reporting under its header "new attraction sought for ‘arts capital’"

Man in a box

Best lookalike artist studio, miniature division? Got to be Charles Matton's recreation of Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture studio in a demanding 1:7 scale. To begin with Matton produced his tiny worlds to photograph, but later the small glass fronted boxes (each around 600 to 900cms high) were exhibited in their own right. He worked from photographs (in Bacon’s case from the famous Michael Haltz images) and his recreations included an homage to Edward Hopper, Freud’s study in Vienna and Marcel Proust’s library. Matton died in 2008. And yes, there is a book.
Images: Matton does the studios of top left Giacometti, right Bacon and bottom Lucien Freud

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

William McAloon 1969 - 2012

On Sunday we lost our very dear friend William McAloon. Along with the terrible blow to his wife Courtney, his family and friends, William’s death leaves a huge gap in the visual arts community in New Zealand and the conservation of our historical memory.

For the last seven years William has been curator of Historical New Zealand Art at Te Papa and you had to be up early in the morning to find a fact in that domain not already tucked away in his head. Over many, many lunches at Sweet Mother's Kitchen we had the rare pleasure of what in retrospect were relaxed master classes on our early contemporary art history. 

That is not to say that life was always a breeze. William sometimes seemed to be in too small a boat to cope with the storms he faced and it was to his great delight that he had Courtney alongside to debate, entertain, support and love him. 

William leaves behind him an impressive array of publications, some terrific purchases for Te Papa, and an enduring memory of a man with great taste who still thought facts were important and that history mattered.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Dora

Antonio Banderas as Picasso? OK. Gwyneth Paltrow as Pablo Picasso's lover Dora Maar in Spanish director Carlos Saura’s up-coming film on the great artist? You be the judge.
Images: Top, Gwyneth Paltrow. Bottom left one of Picasso’s many portraits of Dora Maar and right Dora Maar.

Te Papa and Auckland Art Gallery go head to head on Google

Last week the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki and Te Papa launched as part of Google’s Art Project. On this site you can view art works in public collections around the world. The basic offering gives you art works in extreme close-up so you can get some feeling for texture. That particular feature is more useful on Rohan Wealleans, say, than Gordon Walters. 

Google will no doubt hope that the contributions by Te Papa and the Auckland Art Gallery will increase and that other NZ institutions will participate. We're waiting for NZ to venture into Street View-like presentations where you can get some idea of walking around the galleries. The Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar is particularly glamorous.

Then there's the curation. It's fascinating to see how the two NZ institutions chose to represent themselves in this global melting pot. First up, women make up around 25 percent in both selections although Te Papa only shows work of women pre 1930.

In its 85 artworks by 79 artists the Auckland Art Gallery went with a wide cross-section in terms of date and media. The most recent works seem to be (you can't filter by date) Andrew McLeod's Fuseli tribute I and Bill Culbert's Flat out, both from 2009. By contrast Te Papa chose to ignore the last 40 years in its visual art offering. Only work made before 1970 (works by Gordon Walters, Pat Hanly and Ian Scott all from 1969 mark the cut-off) is included. 

Then, in an X-Files moment, both institutions have included almost identical paintings by Ian Scott (AAG Sky dash 1969 and Te P Leapaway girl 1969). Even the artist might find this a little surprising. Who'd have thought the up-skirt girly meme would have such legs?

Images: enlarged sections from images in the Auckland Art Gallery section of the Google Art Project. You can see if you are right about their names and dates here.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Over egged

Here you go, the ultimate Easter egg. Christie’s in London are going to put up Jeff Koons’s Baroque Egg for their June 27th sale with an estimate of $4.8 - $6.8 million. If you're a starter be warned there are four more lurking around somewhere. The last one to market sold for $6.6 million November 2011.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Your 73 seconds of frame

OK this is a bit loose, but we are running an art blog and frames are in

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Goldie standard

“Paintings by Goldie are rare and attract interest from a broad range of people.”
Webb’s managing director, Neil Campbell NZH 30 March 2012

“Goldie's paintings were not particularly rare, but were still worth a lot of money.”
Dunbar Sloane's fine art valuer Alice Masters Dominion Post 1 April 2012

By the numbers: International edition

3           The number of art museums that joined forces to purchase Christian Marclay’s The Clock. (Tate in London, Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem)

3            The average number of seconds visitors to the Guggenheim Museum spend looking at an art work.

8           The number in millions of individually painted porcelain sunflower seeds purchased by Tate as the work Sunflower Seeds 2010 by Ai Weiwei

10         The weight in tonnes of eight million individually painted porcelain sunflower seeds

12.5      The number in millions of $US paid in 2008 per Elvis for Andy Warhol’s painting Eight Elvises 

70          The percentage of the fine art market occupied by Modern and Contemporary art. 

100       The number of names on the waiting list for a silver painting by artist-of-the-moment Jacob Kassay

25,781 The number of individually painted one millimetre spots that will need to be applied by Damien Hirst’s assistants to create his latest dot painting

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Branded: Sriwhana Spong

The moment when artists become brands.
(Thanks K)

The id thing

For all the new artist spaces and the influx over the years of more dealer galleries, café art exhibitions never died. In Wellington in particular they have a long history from the French Maid Café in the 1950s. One classic café show we have fond memories of was Monsters from the id, a 1988 exhibition (probably named after Doc Ostrow's famous line in the 50s movie Forbidden Planet) and curated by Robert Leonard in Wellington’s City Limits. et al. was in it, so too was Terrence Handscomb with a wall work (a mural that confused the hell out of the café’s owners) and Derek Cowie. He made a screen of painted plastic discs with his signature camera imagery on them and if you happened to look across the street, there was another pinned to the top of the bus shelter. 

Today with the constant flow of art students being graduated in the region there is no shortage of stuff to hang on walls. We saw these Gimblett-like paintings at the Deluxe a few weeks ago where the shows change faster than you can visit. In the end the question of the day’s gotta be - when’s the first dealer gallery going to install a coffee bar?

REG COMMENTS: Photospace in Courtenay Place advertises coffee. And James Gilberd does make a baristacally good brew. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The game maker is present

You may remember the why-shoot-at-things-when-you-can stand-in-a-queue-for-five-hours computer game based on Marina Abromovich’s performance. The artist is present caused an internet buzz resulting in around 150,000 people joining the virtual queue to sit with virtual Marina in its first month. Now, as part of the increasing interest art museums are showing in digital based work, Pippin Barr (did we ever mention that he is our son? Possibly) has been invited to join a two-day symposium and to talk about his game at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. You can check out the other panellists and details here.
Image: MoMA is closed. The artist is only present during the museum’s opening hours.

Art goes to the movies: Headhunters

The Nowegian film (Hodejegerne) Headhunters now on general release revisits the popular art-heist genre. This time the art thief is a part-timer using his day job to get info on plump art works ripe for the picking. As usual the art to steal is old art, although we do see a Julian Opie triptych in his office and learn that it is worth NK250,000 ($US43,000) which seems a bit light-on given that a single canvas Opie sold at the Armory show last month for $US35,000. Turns out the NK250,000 figure comes straight from the 2008 Jo Nesbo book the movie is based on.

Anyway, after doing the old switcheroo (Xerox for original) and nicking a Munch print, Roger goes after the big prize. This turns out to be a Peter Paul Rubens worth “Tens of Millions.” That's probably about right as Massacre of the Innocents sold for $76.6 million in 2002. The 'Rubens' that our art thief Roger goes after is a pig hunting scene. It's probably based on an oil-sketch The Calydonian Boar Hunt that was in fact stolen from the Fine Arts Museum of Ghent in Belgium in 2001 and recovered a decade later in Greece. (It had been hidden away by a 40-year-old TV show host and a 65-year-old former antiquarian until they tried to sell it in Athens to undercover officers for $8.4 million – the art underworld, you’ve got to love it). The recovered work has now been downgraded and attributed to 'school of Rubens' while the Headhunters' version (also an oil-sketch) is enough to send any Rubens fan sliding under the seat. The movie's message? Don’t steal bad versions of Peter Paul Rubens.

Images: Pondering the big art issues in Headhunters

Monday, April 02, 2012

Still in the air

More on the mega Jeff Koons sculpture Train. New York has now put its hand up. The deal for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art remains stalled, but don’t get your hopes up. The NY bid is based on Robert Hammond and Joshua David (founders of Friends of the High Line) having “had a crush on Train for a while now.” That crush is not backed up with funding. Not yet anyway.
Image: Artist’s rendition of Train hanging above the High Line in New York

Is it time for the City Gallery and Te Papa to partner up?

Given the Wellington City Council’s drive to cut costs and Te Papa’s struggle to develop a credible contemporary art presence, maybe now's the time for the City Gallery and Te Papa to get together on a permanent basis. It could be a simple and elegant solution and benefit both. 

Te Papa would get an established contemporary art space, curatorial support and a way to escape its embarrassing inability to build a new art gallery. Forget Te Papa North. With the City Gallery spaces the national museum could properly show not only its own large contemporary collection but also mount an expanded programme of temporary national and international exhibitions. Historical art could stay where it is in the, almost entirely history-focused, Mothership with a bit more space to play with.

For the Wellington City Council there'd be a significant cut in operating costs at a time when it is under major financial pressures. And it would still keep a serious contemporary art presence on Civic Square.

City Gallery would get access to a large collection, curatorial support and avoid death by a thousand cuts - door charges, scaled down budget and reduced staff. It would also have a place in the queue for Te Papa marketing clout. 

Sure there are risks. Bureaucratic overload is one. Hi-jacking by other Te Papa interests is another. And you could certainly expect resistance by existing power structures along with in-fighting over ownership and status. But it's got to be an idea worth considering.

Te Papa struggles with contemporary art and the City Gallery is going to struggle with funding and resources one way or another. Besides the City Gallery has already dipped its toe into these waters, showing works from Te Papa’s collections and mounting joint exhibitions (and let's not forget Oceania). Making the relationship closer and more formal could easily be the best thing for both of them.