Thursday, May 31, 2012

Looks like art

At the Palais de Tokyo in Paris

Sight lines

Having moaned so bitterly about not being able to see the Manet exhibition, it’s only fair to say that the Matisse exhibition Pairs and series (do we only go solo exhibitions by artists whose names start with M?) was perfect. The reason was that the Pompidou allowed fewer people in at a time and the half hour wait was worth every second for the space in the galleries. 

The other treat was a rare one these days. The Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg was a major lender and it turned out that a number of their works were not glazed. So let’s forget the nonsense about how new museum quality glass is all but invisible. It may be close to invisible but it also flattens out the paint. This was particularly obvious in this deeply satisfying and intriguing exhibition built around the simple idea of direct comparison. 

How the poor people who had dragged their sorry butts all the way to the Hermitage this month felt about missing out on so many great works by Matisse was something we decided to ignore. 
Image: plenty of room to view two 1910-11 Matisse works from the Hermitage Museum

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Advice to local bodies

Don't get French artists to design your street lighting

Open and shut case

Why do all art museums have pretty much the same opening hours? We figure it’s not totally based on the interests and convenience of the public.

The Palais de Tokyo in Paris has taken a new line. It’s open every day of the week from midday to midnight and runs events that attract a far younger audience in those later hours. And audiences do care. Next door at the Musée d’Art Moderne an unexpected closing on Sunday got a rush of wtf comments.

It certainly would be interesting to see what would happen if museums restructured their opening hours to the habits and customs of their visitors.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Industry ink: No 3

A couple of years ago we had the bright idea to feature a series on art tats. Well that didn’t really go anywhere apart from here and here. Now thanks to Facebook a new avenue for artist and art industry worker tattoo collection has opened up. 

Follow the money

How many New Zealanders live in Berlin? It feels like 93,537 but that might be somewhat exaggerated (in fact 370 New Zealanders are registered residents in Berlin. We’re picking most of them are either artists or in the creative business). Why do they come? 

Apart from the fact that Berlin is a casually cosmopolitan city that deeply appeals to New Zealanders, it is also swimming in cultural funding. This is kind of curious as the city itself is consumed by debt and jobs are hard to get. But just when you think the arts must struggle, the wealth of Germany slopes into town each year with a massive $NZ563 million for the arts. Just for Berlin. 

 And if that amount sounds like a recipe for champagne openings and stretch limos it is on top of funding by the city of Berlin itself of $NZ610 million and a further top-up of another $NZ200 million from outlying districts. That’s how the major theatre in the city can subsidise each and every bum comfortably eased into of its seats at around $NZ383. The visual arts only get a nibble at all this cash, just over 8 percent, but it still means $NZ86 million (close to three times CNZ’s annual funding budget) to play with each year. 

So what do Berlin artists and administrators do when they get together for a few drinks? What we all do. Complain about the shortage of funding.

Monday, May 28, 2012

''My mother's womb was painted by a wombat.'' 
Got to be the take-away line from Incredible blue a play based on the life of Australian artist Brett Whitely by Barry Dickens

Winging it

One of the great things an artist can do is to gift us our secret desires. Who hasn’t looked out a aeroplane window and wondered about walking along the wing? (OK, so we’re alone here -  no matter - we’ll push on). 

The Slovakian artist Roman Ondák played an intriguing part in Massey University’s One Day Sculpture programme back in 2009 with his idea of queues waiting patiently for nothing, nowhere in particular. In his solo show at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin Ondák  installed the sawn-off wing of a passenger plane and encouraged people to use it as a bridge to the next part of his exhibition. Ondák was inspired by the words often written on wings: “do not walk outside this area.” Ondák told the curator that when the wing turned up it was smaller than he thought it would be.

That reminded us of something we heard in Los Angeles when we were touring around with Michael Webb an architectural writer. We were visiting a new firm of architects and were very impressed by their huge working tables made from the wings of large aircraft. We were told, rather shamefacedly, that some B52 wings had been ordered up from the famous aircraft graveyard in Arizona but when they arrived they turned out to be 56.4 metres long (just over half the length of a football field). They wouldn’t even fit in the building. So back they went  ‘smaller’ horizontal stabilisers off the tailpiece were sent instead. 

Image: a visitor steps out at Roman Ondák’s exhibition Do not walk outside this area in Berlin 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wall doors

After posting about Tsai Ming-Liang's movie Visage and the back passages of the Louvre we can't stop seeing secret (and not so secret) doors in museums.

Friday, May 25, 2012

What $1.25 million buys you in Museum Land

"Mr Houlihan said that, while he was not offering the council control over what went into Te Papa, he was offering more "creative input". For example, if Wellington wanted to market itself as a science and technology hub, councillors or the mayor could not order a corresponding exhibition. However, Te Papa could arrange science days." 

For only $24,000 a week Te Papa CE offers to bend over sideways to make Te Papa more of a Wellington based museum in the DomPost 24/5/12. Image: a chemistry beaker

Time lords

The brief amount of time most art museum visitors give to a work of art is no big secret. Most of us would probably guess the average viewing time at around a minute or so a work, maybe half that. 

Whoops! A bunch of busybody student physicists has been sitting in galleries actually doing the math and the results are not encouraging. What started out as an exercise to track how visitors approached an exhibition (the physics guys felt it had similarities to - wait for it - “the activity of a group of subatomic particles that are moving unpredictably, seemingly erratically, in space”) pretty much found out what the average guard/ attendant/ invigilator knows already. 

Turns out: visitors move through a space in zigzagging patterns; different kinds of art seem to produce different patterns of movement and patterns of looking can be broken down into subsets. 

And the time thing? The longest anyone in the study looked at a single object was 45 seconds, but most often it was two or three seconds. 

As we had some trained OTN operatives free this week we sent them to do a quick sample map of movements in a contemporary art museum. The physics guys were right. The average time spent looking at objects was three seconds, 17 seconds on average for wall labels and 95 seconds to check a phone. 

Images: Top, movement diagram by physicists Andrew Oriani in a gallery of Modern and Abstract art. Bottom, movement map by OTN research team at the Pacific Standard Time exhibition in Berlin.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Ministers of the Crown have given 98 speeches between them so far this year. Thought you might be interested in some quotes from The Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage the Hon Christopher Finlayson, so we checked out his speeches on the arts so far this year. Oh … hang on a second …. there aren’t any.

Cell duty

How long ago was it (two years today) that we were posting on the books the minders were reading as they looked after art exhibitions? Now we can tell you that they too have moved with the times. There they all are on their phones texting or tweeting or reading emails or looking at Facebook. Yes, you’re still in with a chance to touch the art.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On the road

Local bodies and the Ministry of Transport play tribute to New Zealand artists on our highways and byways

The 99 percent solution

Here’s a thought. Perhaps the abrupt cancellation of Teresa Margolles’s exhibition So It Vanishes by the Dowse Art Museum a couple of months ago in fact demonstrated exemplary political engagement. Having just visited the seventh Berlin Biennale which proclaims itself as a important political event you might certainly think so. 

We arrived at this (admittedly abstract) bit of thinking after seeing another Teresa Margolles’s installation as part of the BB. This one is called PM 2010. Whenever a murder in the Mexican drug wars hit the front page of the tabloid PM Margolles reproduced it. That meant 313 times lurid pictures of the murdered, beheaded, dismembered and immolated losers in the drug wars were featured. And 313 times each of these horrible images was flanked by an equally lurid pic of a near naked model. The effect was numbing. 

Now while that may well have been Margolles’s point, in the context of the Berlin Biennale's claims to work with 'transformative social processes' it only served to show how superficial its politics really were. And this low political temperature infected all aspects of the Biennale. 

Outside one venue for instance people sipped coffee at the gallery café and chatted amiably while inside the building protesters sat around in one of the galleries they had occupied and… chatted amiably. The level of discomfort or challenge evident for the 99 percent or for the 1 percent was about zero. 

In contrast the empty space at the Dowse demonstrated how two differing sets of cultural and political ideals were unable to connect in that place and in that time. This silence communicated with more political weight than an entire state funded (#irony) biennale with its endless and circular questions, challenges and assertions. 

Images: Teresa Margolles’s installation PM 2010

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


"I sometimes feel that I have nothing to say and I want to communicate this." 
Damien Hirst 

Image: Damien Hirst work at the Tate

The King

How James Mollison must smile when he hears the prices realized in recent auctions. He was the founding director of the National Gallery of Australia in 1971 (now, after a subtle bit of rebranding, the Australian National Gallery) and the man who choose Colin McCahon’s Victory over death 2 when the offer of a McCahon painting was made to the people of Australia. 

Mollison also judged one of the Benson & Hedges Art Awards back in the day when tobacco companies were respectable sponsors. Even from Australia Mollison could see that the Award had passed its prime but - gracious to a fault - he gave his selection full measure awarding the prize to one of Ian Scott’s Lattice paintings. 

Among his many inspired purchases for Australia are Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, costumes from the Ballets Russes, an astonishing collection of international photography and Willem de Kooning’s Woman 5

At a Sotheby’s auction in 1973 Mollison also arranged the winning bid for Andy Warhol’s silver screen portrait of Elvis. It cost Australia US$25,000. How he was mocked over the years for the public money he had ‘wasted’ on international art. 

Well suck it up mockers. Warhol’s Double Elvis sold last week for $US37 million. 

Image: Andy Warhol Double Elvis (detail)

Monday, May 21, 2012

From the stream

A new OTN series that scours the art related Twitter litter for did-you-see? tweets

Copy that

An OTN reader has sent in two more examples of ‘tribute’ wall works by Jan van der Ploeg that again uses Gordon Walters’s signature koru motif. In response to the images they note that it is difficult to accept these works as tributes to Walters when his name doesn't appear in any of the titles and is unlikely to be known outside NZ anyway. 

Fair point. We’ll swing it over from channeling to copycat. 

Images: Top, Jan van der Ploeg's Tribute 2012 exhibited in Collaborations & Interventions at the CCA Kunsthalle in Mallorca and bottom, Wall painting No. 328 Tribute-1  2012 in Virtual insanity at Fiedler Contemporary, Berlin

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Saturday footnote

OTN has always been pretty scatter-gun with its fashion advice but today we are talking direct to those of you who specialise in Robert Ryman-style white abstract paintings. Boy, do we have the shoes for you. 

 Image: Maison Martin Margiela Line 22/ Replica sneaker. Get yours here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Koru club

Jan van der Ploeg channeling Gordon Walters in his wall work Tributo at the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca. 
Image: photograph by Fausto Nahúm via

But I didn’t shoot the deputy

The CEO of the Super City’s Regional Facilities Auckland (aka RFA) has announced the new structure for the Auckland Art Gallery (you can read the full version here). This time it looks like they're in for the long game after some push-back on the initial proposal that was leaked to the NZ Herald

The current Auckland Art Gallery director Chris Saines will head up the new structure as director but a new post of Deputy Director is the one to watch. Although reporting to Saines, this role is the administrative lynchpin controlling pretty much the entire operations of the Gallery. If someone without significant art institutional experience - i.e. someone from a marketing, management, events background or from the RFA itself - is appointed to the role, it’s pretty much good night nurse. 

The curators sit out on their own reporting through the new Principal Curator to the Director. Out there too is one of those classic SPNS (Single Person No Staff) jobs Special Exhibitions that has probably been set up for Louise Pether. 

Reporting direct to the head honcho is usually the way to go in organisations but in this case everyone else (design, marketing, exhibition display, education, conservation) reports to the powerful new deputy director. In fact less than ten people report through to the director and nearly 50 to the deputy director along with another 60 guards and guides. And while the deputy director also reports up to the director, this role has been allocated ‘defined delegated responsibility’ which in management speak usually means – don’t mess with me. 

Musical chairs-wise, it looks as though the current four senior managers (operations, services, programmes and development) will be redeployed to three roles (services, learning and special exhibitions) so wait for the music to stop on that one. 

The Auckland Art Gallery is now seen as an integral part of Regional Facilities Auckland and there are strong signals in the briefing about cross-organisational functions. The RFA’s Centre for Performing Arts, Auckland Conventions and marketing, all now have a major foot in the gallery door and will be called on to organise events, marketing and public performing arts programmes (“protocols have been drafted” – oh, oh).

Three new jobs are to be filled via advertising rather than transferring current managers. Deputy Director, Head of Collection Services and Principal Curator. The backgrounds of the first two will tell the tale. Is it to be art or entertainment? OTY Auckland. 

Image: an octopus

Thursday, May 17, 2012


“But this charm was the show’s problem. At best, the works offered viewers a knowing chuckle; at worst, a smug grin. The collective effect confirmed the current dominance of a particular – and particularly strange – New Zealand aesthetic, a kind of lo-fi, apolitical cool that often seems finicky and far too concerned with its own looks to step outside its comfort zone. Its potential for fussy self-regard was reinforced by the lack of contextualizing voice: there were no wall labels, and the throwaway catalogue made no attempt to create links or frictions between the works.” 
Anthony Byrt reviews the Wellington City Gallery exhibition Prospect: New Zealand art now in Artforum

Love child

Try getting your head around this. An art collector living in Monaco buys a version of the famous Robert Indiana sculpture LOVE only this one says PREM which is (as you all probably know) the Hindi word for love. 

The collector had purchased the work for $1.5 million only to have the artist declare in public that it was nothing to do with him and that he disowned it. So guess what? The Monaco man is suing the Love guy. 

Dig a little and you find that Indiana has been involved in all sorts of love action, including doubled-up versions of the English text as well as versions in Italian and Hebrew. According to Indiana’s ex business partner John Gilbert, the Hindi language work was authorized by Indiana and payments were made so into court they all go with auctions of the PREM work at Christies in Dubai and Sotheby’s in Milan cancelled. Love sculptures. Gotta love ‘em. Other 

OTN stories on Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture: 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wild thing

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, ‘Dear Jim: I loved your card.’ Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’ That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.” 
Maurice Sendak who died last week quoted on Goodreads

World events

It is very noticeable when you travel nowadays that a large number of New Zealand artists are at work around the world. They are of course part of a grand tradition with predecessors like Frances Hodgkins, Billy Apple, Boyd Webb and Michael Stevenson just for starters but the number has increased hugely in the last decade. 

We have already mentioned meeting Fiona Connor who was preparing for her Hammer Museum appearance in Los Angeles (she has been given the large marble entry foyer as her space). Then we visited the ICA in London to find that half of its current exhibition In control had been curated by Simon Denny who also has work in the show. The exhibition marks the passing of analogue television as TV goes digital and Denny has installed in it a monster piece of broadcasting equipment that now no doubt could be run from an iPhone. When we texted Simon to say we were standing in the ICA he was off to install his solo show at the Aspen Art Museum

And as if that weren’t enough global NZ activity, you can add Francis Upritchard’s upcoming solo show in the Zaha Hadid designed Contemporary Arts Centre in Cincinnati. Small world. 

Images: the section of the ICA’s exhibition In Control curated by Simon Denny with his own work far right

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

One day at the art museum

The loneliness of guarding no art at the Los Angeles Contemporary Art Museum


We’ve seen a fair bit of art shipped in and out over the years from the weighty (a work on paper by Colin McCahon in a crate so large and so heavy it filled our living room for six days while we struggled to get the public art museum that had sent the damn thing to remove it) to a light handed truckload of works by Don Driver. They arrived at the Dowse in the 1970s for an exhibition on the back of a flat-bed covered with a tarp. You guessed it, the tarp turned out to be one of the works put to work itself by the driver (small d). 

A couple of days ago at CalArts in Pasadena waiting to watch NZer Sean Grattan’s film HADHAD, we were put to work along with Fiona Connor by artist and faculty member Darcy Huebler. A truck that looked to be the length of a football field had turned up with a bunch of her paintings. The driver was a laconic Texan from Houston who guided his monster up winding drives and around tight corners to back it into an undersized loading bay and unload three kinda small paintings. 

Art transport has come a long way from the days when we moved the sixteen panels of Colin McCahon’s Second Gate series by wrapping them in rugs, leaning them against the wall of a hired van and keeping someone in the back to make sure they didn’t topple. Nowadays of course they’d be in a number of huge heavy crates and probably too expensive to travel to anything but major shows. Things change. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

In London

Thinking about Alicia Frankovich

The chair is the same but not as this is

One of our very early posts (number 43 for OTN statisticians) back in 2006 was about a visit we made to search out ex National Art Gallery curator Gary Sangster. At the time he was running Headlands, an artists residency just out of San Francisco. When we made it out there our attention was caught by the dining room that had been ‘arranged’ by the American artist Anne Hamilton. She had selected an eclectic assortment of chairs, cutlery, crockery and kitchen utensils from locals and artists who’d been at Headlands to fit out the area. 

Yesterday we saw this idea taken to its logical and hilarious conclusion by Martin Creed in the restaurant Sketch in London. Creed has ensured that there isn’t a single object in the room that is the same as any other. Every glass, fork, table, napkin, vase, plate is different. The effect is surprisingly cozy, Martin Kippenberger meets high tea. 

Images: table arrangements at Sketch

Friday, May 11, 2012

Branded: Regan Gentry

The moment when artists become brands

Crawl space

A number of art museums have encouraged artists to use their spaces as the background or content for their films (and others didn't). Probably the best known are the final of Matthew Barney's Cremaster cycle shot in the Guggenheim and Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark filmed in the Winter Palace of the Russian State Hermitage Museum. 

Then the Louvre of all places got in on the game and commissioned Malaysian born Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang to make a film for them. Visage turned out to be the story of a Chinese filmmaker who goes to the Louvre to shoot a version of J-t-B’s head-hunter Salome. Tsai Ming-Liang uses the bowels of the Louvre to create a pretty believable abattoir with his lead crawling through the vents and sewer tunnels (usually restricted to the fire department) that are hidden behind the walls of the main galleries. 

That’s why one of Tsai Ming-Liang ‘s characters can appear through the skirting panels just nearby Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks. Gowns are by Christian Lacroix. 

Images: Through the skirting boards in Visage

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Late last century Francis Pound wrote his book Frames on the Land: Early Landscape Painting in New Zealand. Now, high up in the Waitakaries, his dream comes true.

Walking the plank

On 3 September 2009 we published the first of the OTN Art in the Workplace series: art at work in the foyers of the world. Since then there have been 35 of them (they aren’t that hard to find). 

Now in a grim copycatting venture “Foyers in Wellington's central business district are about to become art galleries as a new tour opens them up to visitors.” That's from Brent of the Property Council who's in charge. Brent is even going to print a walking map for tourists. 

The Foyers of Wellington tour is being set up to coincide with Wearable Art in September. Brent reckons "what's going to come out of it is what makes Wellington different." 

What can we say? We’re sorry. They were meant to be a joke. 

 Image: OTN’s first foyer art shot from 2009

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Thinking about

Just round the corner from Hopkinson Cundy and still thinking about Kate Newby.

Blind man’s bluff

How many of the Walters Prize jurors saw how many of the exhibitions they ranked the best of the last two years? 

Ok, here we go: 

• None of the jurors saw Alicia Frankovich’s performance in Berlin 

• None of the jurors saw Kate Newby’s installation in Bremen 

• One (we’re being generous here) of the jurors possibly saw Simon Denny’s exhibition in Sydney 

• Two of the jurors saw Sriwhana Spong’s exhibition in Melbourne (having said that, one of them was already involved) 

Out of 16 possible exhibition experiences we reckon the jurors racked up three. We also understand that at least one juror and possibly two saw none of the exhibitions at all. 

This is probably why although David Cross, Aaron Kreisler, Kate Montgomery and Gwyn Porter were willing to designate specific exhibitions and installations as the benchmarks for their decisions were too embarrassed to respond to our email asking who-saw-what. 

 If you're still with us, here's what we reckon should happen:

 First, get rid of the naming of an exhibition for each artist. Ironically the patrons who put the money up in the first place didn’t envisage specific exhibitions being named. They just wanted the jurors to choose the four artists they thought had done the best work over the preceding two years. Naming one exhibition was an idea introduced by the first jury. Presumably it was intended to give the artists more control in how their work was presented in the Walters Prize exhibition. That might have been a good idea at the time but it's caused endless trouble since. Who’s going to be surprised if the AAG doesn’t allow Kate Newby to pour concrete over its brand new gallery floors as a way to refer to her nominated Bremen installation? 

Second, keep with the Walters Prize exhibition but drop the idea of artists replicating exhibitions. And why not tour it to other parts of the country, it certainly deserves a wider audience and more promotion. That way the artists would be offered the chance to come up with something new that worked within the gallery's capabilities. They’re good at that sort of thing. 

Third, look hard at the make-up of the jury. Including people with more diverse interests might better reflect the range of work done over the last two years. 

Fourth, encourage discussion of the selections and be grateful that the Prize continues to spark passionate debate in the art world at least. Who believes that Michael Stevenson’s survey show at Sydney’s MCA wasn’t one of the best exhibitions of the last two years? Let's hear why the jury left it out. Why are all the artists so young? What happened to all the artists who didn’t go to art school in Auckland? Is painting really dead? Do artists make better exhibitions when they are out of NZ? Talking about all this stuff won’t do any harm. People only gossip about things they are passionate about. 

Fifth, as part of this open discussion insist that the jury makes a statement about their selection that has some ideas rather than blowing finely crafted art-talk slash PR smoke. 

COMMENT 9 May: Peter Madden has suggested that "Selected artists must have lived worked or shown in New Zealand over the Preceding Two Years" should be added to the rules, which seems fair enough. 
Image: The Walters Prize jury are taken to a secluded room in the Auckland Art Gallery to begin their deliberations (re-creation only)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


Seeing the boy with a pig in yesterday's New Zealand Herald and thinking about Jeff Koons' Ushering in banality

Holmes’s art attack

We’ve posted before on how the NZ media’s approach to contemporary art is usually how lame it is unless it's going for large sums at auction. One of the most unpleasant outbursts in recent times was via a Paul Holmes's interview. 

It was with the then Chair of Creative NZ, ad guy Peter Biggs and was about et al.’s contribution to the Venice Biennale in 2005. Holmes used most of the time to foam and froth, not giving Biggs much opportunity to comment. For et al. as the focus of this incoherent art-rage it was a miserable experience that certainly took the gloss off representing New Zealand at Venice. 

Now New Zealand Herald blogger Paul Casserly has come up with some intriguing thoughts around why Holmes was so unpleasant. And guess what? Casserly reckons it wasn’t about et al. at all. 

Turns out that Biggs’s agency represented Mitsubishi and they had pulled around a million dollars worth of sponsorship from The Holmes Show after his “cheeky-darky” remark. 

Casserly comments about the Biggs interview, “You'd be forgiven for thinking [Holmes] hated modern art, but I reckon what we were looking at was riddled with payback.” Which while it doesn’t make it any better, does make sense. 

You can read Casserly’s piece here and see a snippet of the Holmes/Biggs interview here at 4.56 mins in. 

Images: Top, Holmes talks over the top of Biggs. Bottom Biggs finally gets a word in
Reader Paul Holmes (probably not the one you are thinking of) sent in this link to the full interview, and this one to the subject as it played out on the six o'clock news (Thanks Paul)

Monday, May 07, 2012


"The gentrification of contemporary art itself is an old story in two parts. Part one is about a 20th-century model of an avant-garde, with artists as feisty cultural delinquents and idiot savants who set themselves outside the mainstream to make baffling things and think deep thoughts. In part two, set in the 21st century, the model has changed. Now artists, whether they know it or not, are worker bees in an art-industrial hive. Directed by dealers and collectors who dress like stylish accountants, they turn out predictable product for high-profile, high-volume fairs like Frieze."
Holland Cotter on Art Fairs in the NYT. You can read more here 

Image: ex Govett-Brewster director and curator Greg Burke finds himself in the NY Times as he visits the Frieze Art Fair. The installation is Trabantimino by Liz Cohen

Some of the people some of the time

Te Papa’s DIY campaign to stop the Wellington City Council cutting its sponsorship to one million dollars a year is now in full swing. So how’s it going? 

As at the end of last week they had around 2000 Post-it notes on a board in the foyer and a handful of submissions in a Perspex box. The Post-it notes reflect the reality that Te Papa is child focussed. Around one third are by kids and most of the rest by people supporting Te Papa’s activities for kids. 

Onto the social networks. Te Papa has 24 pics of the Post-its on their Flickr Stream (most sideways for some reason), their #saveourservices has one tweet which rather curiously reads, “You can’t eat money,” and don’t seem to be using Facebook. Te Papa’s PR guy has put up three posts on the Te Papa blog with some support info. He makes the point that 30% of the WCC Te Papa sponsorship comes for ratepayers with the bulk coming from rated businesses. Plus apparently 60% of Wellington visitors visit five or more times a year and 36% twice. By our calculations this means around 177,090 individual Wellingtonians attend the museum annually. 

Then there’ a general call for Wellington people to make a submission to the WCC coupled with the threat of charges to use Discovery Centres, increases in charges for StoryPlace, fewer free exhibitions and fewer new exhibitions. That should work.
Image: Post-it note power at Te Papa

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Hands up if you like Munch

One of the most famous images of our time has to be Edvard Munch's The scream. Has any Norwegian painting of a person on a bridge been more duplicated in more versions? But for our money it was Australian sculptor Ricky Swallow who nailed The Scream’s strange attraction for popular culture with his photograph Picture a screaming sculpture.

The image is of a wooden sculpture Swallow carved based on the Ghostface mask in the horror movie Scream. That mask was in turn based on one made in 1991 by a Fun World employee Brigitte Sleiertin as part of a series entitled Fantastic Faces with her mask being known as The Peanut-Eyed Ghost (thanks Wiki) but its association with Munch’s The Scream has since left her title lying in the blood-sodden dust.

We are telling you all this because as you will know the last privately owned version of Munch’s famous painting came up for auction the other day and sold for $NZ147 million. The general feeling is that someone from Qatar put their hand up and then got back to reading their book until they won the prize.

Images: The four known versions of Munch’s The scream. Top left, the one sold at Sotheby’s for $NZ147 million, a pastel on card with its frame inscribed by Munch with one of his poems. Top right, the best-known version in the collection of the National Gallery in Oslo. Someone has inscribed into one of the clouds (possibly Munch himself) “Could only have been painted by a madman.” Bottom left, possibly the first version and in the collection of the Munch Museum. Bottom right, also considered a contender for the first scream award this is the version that was famously stolen in 2004 and latter returned (slightly damaged) to the Munch Museum 

Friday, May 04, 2012

Once removed

Today’s post has prompted a reply from the Auckland Art Gallery and they have removed themselves from the Walters Prize did-they-see-it-did-they-not debate. Well they would, wouldn't they. Here’s Auckland Art Gallery Director Chris Saines on the subject. 

 “The Gallery appoints a wholly independent jury and all we ask is that they meet the criteria of the Prize award in making their nominations (exhibited within the last two years etc). The Gallery does not query the selection further or seek details as to how or why decisions have been reached over the day they meet. The jury are required to write a joint 'statement' and that is the end of their public role until the exhibition opens (4 August) and they contribute to the public programme.” 

 Hmmm. We can remember at least one selection ‘query’ was made by the Gallery. How about 2010 when Michael Stevenson was dropped by the Auckland Art Gallery over budget concerns after being selected by the jurors? 

Moving on. Wednesday we’ll give you the best guess on how many jurors actually saw the exhibitions that they chose as the best shows over the last two years. 

Does any of this matter? Well the Auckland Art Gallery certainly seems to act as though it does. For the last five Walters Prizes they have flown a high-profile judge half way round the world to pick the winner from specially staged exhibitions. They have not asked them do it at home from photographs. 

So anyone who has info on which jurors were where when the four finalist exhibitions were on, let us know and we’ll put it into the mix. 

The jurors were: Gwyneth Porter, David Cross, Aaron Kreisler and Kate Montgomery. 
The exhibitons: Introductory logic video tutorial, shown at Artspace, Sydney (5 March-10 April 2010) Floor Resistance, shown at Hebbel Am Ufer, HAU 3, Berlin, (25 June 2011) Crawl out your window, shown at Gesellschaft für aktuelle Kunst GAK, Bremen (28 August-7 November 2010) Fanta Silver and Song, shown at Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne (4 February-5 March 2011)


As promised we emailed each of the Walters Prize Jurors: David Cross, Aaron Kreisler, Kate Montgomery and Gwyn Porter with the who-saw-what? question. They were pretty bold to select four exhibitions from outside New Zealand and we were keen to find out more about what point it was they were making. 

Unfortunately we’ve not even managed an acknowledgement of our email from any of them. We can only assume this is a combined effort to limit the discussion to the rather vague remarks in the media release

A week ago we emailed the Auckland Art Gallery (Louise Pether) and it doesn't look too promising from that direction either, although we did get a response from her on Monday agreeing to get in touch with the jury members. Since then we have heard that the Fearless Four have had a (further?) discussion about whether or not to release the who-saw-what info. Seriously, what do they think is going to happen? 

Just to put it through the wash for the final time we'll ask the Auckland Art Gallery Director Chris Saines (stats that keep the juror's names out of it are fine...'two jurors saw one of the exhibitions, one juror saw non' etc.). If all that fails we’ll fall back on information sent in by readers, dates gleaned from Facebook, Home pages and Twitter to give you a best guess which (blush) we are pretty good at. 

In yet another weird twist the Auckland Art Gallery has scheduled the opening of the Walters Prize exhibition for 3 August which falls in the middle of the Melbourne Art Fair (1 – 5 August). This surely means the dealers representing the four selected artists will risk missing out on the Walters opening. They all have stands in Melbourne. Still time to change what presumably is a marketing glitch. 

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Bums on seats

In the game of musical chairs one chair is removed and when the music stops everyone scrambles for the chairs that are left. Now imagine a game where six or seven players were removed instead. Empty chairs all over the place. Welcome to the world of the public art museum. 

Wellington City needs a senior curator. 

Dunedin Public Art Gallery needs a director (it took them nearly a year to get one last time) 

Te Papa needs a Senior Curator, Art (they go through about one every two years although the last one only lasted nine months) and tragically a Curator Historical New Zealand art 

Christchurch is out of its permanent home for at least another twelve months and its contemporary curator Justin Paton in France for the rest of the year. 

Auckland is about to lose its top line of management and nearly lost its director. Also word on the street has it that Te Papa tried to poach Mary Kisler, Mackelvie curator of International art, from them (#fatchance). 

Where are all the talented and experienced people to fill these roles going to come from? The same people circulating around the jobs is proving a short term fix. The truth is that curators are thin on the ground and the attrition rate is scary. Senior curators Robert Leonard and Gregory Burke left to work in other countries but too many people simply get out the business altogether. Take Lara Strongman, Courtney Johnston, Heather Galbraith and Kate Montgomery,  all in curatorial roles at the City Gallery and now doing anything but. 

So fun and games. And that is what we will tag it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Shock of the new

“[It] was just riveting. You wanted to laugh, you were shocked, you were planted to the floor. I was galvanized by the object. It has such an amazing physical presence… ‘Uncanny’ is the word that comes to mind. There were so many different things going on at once in the piece. It was hilarious, it was smart, and it was chilling… It had that kind of Utopian high-gloss modern clarity to it.” 
Kirk Varnedoe chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art describing his first sighting of the Jeff Koon’s sculpture Rabbit

Art, you’ve gotta love it

Can you make money on contemporary art? Yes of course you can, but it’s not easy and you have to be focussed. That’s why most art commentators always go for the if-you-don’t-love-it-don’t buy-it line. That's certainly the lesson to be learnt from the sale of the Times Group collection at Art + Object the other night. 

Thanks to A+O’s passion for the market and their willingness to share we've been given a fascinating snap shot of a collecting group and its foray in the marketplace. 

The Times Group was formed 10 years ago and had 21 members who each put in $9,000 for a total investment of $189,000. For that they purchased 50 works at an average price of $3,780 and sold the lot in one go for $200,000 with the top 10 sales representing just over 40 percent of the total. After commissions the Times Group ended up with $180,600. So $8,600 each in the hand or, crudely put, $400 shy per person on initial investment. Given they were mostly buying in good times and selling in recession it could have been worse.

Setting aside how smart their selections were (average), the question rests on how they saw their investment. Having art you really like (chances are members of the group were bidding and buying at the auction) around the house for 10 years at just over 10 cents a day has got to be a bargain basement deal. 

 If they were in it for a financial return on the other hand, not so good. Even tucked away in the bank you’d get considerably more than nearly-your-money-back over 10 years. 

Love it is then. 

You can see more detail and prices here on the A+O blog

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The dogs howl but the caravan moves on.

UK artist Douglas Gordon channels Michael Parekowhai with a stuffed wolf at the Galerie Jensen in Berlin. (Thanks B)

On rotation

There are many art worlds apart from the one you see in the public art museums and contemporary art dealers and some of the artists who exhibit and feed into these diverse art worlds are among the most successful (Capitalism-wise). 

Few could touch the American artist Thomas Kinkaid whose the-light’s-on-in-the-cottage paintings sold as fast as they were shelved in the outlets he established in malls right across the United States. Kinkaid actually trademarked the phrase “Painter of light” best associated with J W Turner and reckoned that one in 20 American homes had a work of his on its walls. Sadly art, as it can, extracted a toll. 

After a very public bankruptcy and a struggle with alcohol, Kincaid died this month. On a brighter note though, Christmas is nearly on us again as this ad for Kinkaid’s Christmas Tree in last Saturday’s Dominion Post magazine demonstrates. 

If having Santa and his reindeer flying round and round the top of a baroque Christmas tree is your idea of a table centrepiece, you need to get to the Bradford Exchange with your three hundred bucks. And you need to do it now. There are only 238 days to Christmas.