Saturday, June 30, 2012

Not losing your marbles

In Berlin and we assume other cities when statues require repair, concrete stunt doubles are erected in their place while the work is being done. This is probably in the interest of historical continuity. Nowadays tourists come pre-armed with Google-like power recognising sites from photographs and they notice when a bit is missing. This calls for a lot of statue management. We noticed one of the by-products on the border of the large park used in Documenta. In a small shed behind one of the installations you could see a small gathering of statuary out the back, taking a break between engagements.

Friday, June 29, 2012

After the fall

Christchurch people would have felt a jolt of recognition at Matias Faldbakken’s contribution to Documenta. Hidden away in the back of the Kassel Public Library the Danish artist had pulled out the books in the Self Help section and left them on the floor where they fell. Perhaps it is a “cannily coded discourse on loss and catastrophe” as the catalogue has it or maybe, more realistically, just something people could do without happening again.


In the early eighties when we were visiting artists’ studios for material for the book Contemporary New Zealand Painters we had our son Pippin aged one in tow. Often we left him to his own devices and usually that worked out ok but in Alistair Nisbet-Smith’s (he was to have been in volume two) studio we came unstuck. He pretty much used the floor in front of his easel as a palette making it a mass of stalagmites of encrusted oil paint mixed with cigarette butts and piles of ash. 

And that’s what Pippin crawled through. Thought of that moment when we found this great feature on artists palettes through the ages. You can see more of them here

Images: Left to right top to bottom. The palettes of Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas and Gustave Moreau

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In Provence

They're channeling Richard Prince

Back to the future

Something that really hits home when you are visiting museums in Europe is how prescient Len Lye was in the early part of the twentieth century. His animated film Tusalava of 1921 is on permanent display in the Pompidou in Paris as one of about half a dozen films they use to mark the evolution of the medium as an art form. If you want an idea of how generative the Lye film is check out the number of soundtracks that have been put to in on YouTube.

We were also intrigued by a small kinetic piece by Naum Gabo. Reconstructed from a work made in 1919, it was an obvious influence on Lye. By pressing a button under the glass case you can watch the tiny sculpture thrum into action. It’s like looking at an ultrasound image of an embryo Len Lye. 

Images: Top, Tusalava on exhibition at the Pompidou and bottom, Naum Gabo’s Kinetic construction standing variation 1919-1920 (reconstructed in 1985)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Berlin

Thinking about Peter Robinson


Smart operators in the commercial world have checked on art to get heads-up on the way things are moving for some time now. They've figured fairly early on that some artists are more tuned into the zeitgeist than a hundred copywriters, half a hundred art directors or 25 planners. 

This mega work by Turner Prize winning Mark Wallinger in Gateshead will certainly ring a bell with New Zealanders. Colin McCahon got to ‘I' early in his career and worried through I AM Thou, I AM Scared, I AM. His 'I' stretched for the all-encompassing spiritual other. Decades later Wallinger reaches for the same letter only this time it’s a self-portrait. 'I' as in ME. 

There's quite some distance between an artist posing a question of faith and one who asserts himself as the answer. From collective doubt to the power of the individual. You can already feel an ad campaign coming on. 

Image: Mark Wallinger's Self-Portrait Times New Roman at the Baltic in Gateshead

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Art in the workplace

Art doing its business in the foyers of the world

Do do that Voo Doo that you do so well

As you all know OTN is always on the look out for art themes, and one you can’t avoid at the moment is the occult. Hard to find an exhibition where someone is not casting spells, telling fortunes or summoning up something or other. 

All this makes you appreciate the prescience of Auckland artist Dane Mitchell. He arranged for a witch to curse the space under the stairs of Starkwhite’s downstairs gallery in the exhibition Vanishing point back in 2005 and then went on to chat with the recalcitrant spirit of Rita Angus a year or so later. Unfortunately Dane’s escapades with Wellington’s painterly ghost did not make it into Gaylene Preston’s documentary Lovely Rita but you can catch up with them via the DVD extras. 

In summation of this recent spiritual turn by artists around the world, the Quai Branly Museum presented the exhibition Masters of chaos. The curator Kean de Loisy selected some of the Museum’s most powerful objects and placed them in dialogue with contemporary pieces that drew on transgressive ideas of shamanism (Joseph Beuys) and shape shifting (Paul McCarthy and Jonathan Meese) and spirits (Annette Messager). 

One installation that stopped most people short was a small altar that had been specifically created by the Voo Doo priest Aze Kokovivina in the exhibition. Most visitors were attracted to the motley pile of waxed objects and detritus and then on reading the description, as quickly put as much distance as they could between them and it. 

Images: Left, Dane Mitchell’s cursed space at Starkwhite and right, Voo Doo shrine at Quai Branly

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sitting room only

OTN has always taken an interest in the behaviour and working conditions of gallery guards. Here from the hard-core no-nonsense Swiss a classic you’re-not-here-to-settle-down-and-be-comfortable seat for guards at the Foundation Beyeler in Basel.

The unkindest cut

 Creative New Zealand is often puzzled as to why it doesn’t attract more publicity and profile from the Venice Biennale. It’s not so surprising really. Virtually every time CNZ heads into one of these hugely complicated events it does so with staff with little or no previous experience of the event. 

 And then there is the commitment problem. To date neither the Arts Council nor the Minister have publicly supported NZ’s long term participation in the Biennale beyond next year. From the record then, next year's outing with Bill Culbert will be the last to be funded. There was a flurry back in 2009 about setting up a Foundation to take over from CNZ but hard to find any reference to it now. As for the Cultural Philanthropy Taskforce, which might have looked to the future of our commitment to the Biennale, doesn't mention specifics like Venice in its ideas about how to grow the pie. So as it stands, it looks like independent rich people/ philanthropists will be expected to stump up with the million plus – good luck with that. 

A textbook example of CNZ’s ambivalence about its participation at Venice is summed up in a recent press release (you can read it here) announcing the venue for Bill Culbert’s contribution next year. It turns out CNZ has secured the same space that was used for the et al. installation in 2005 plus the use of the church that backs onto it. Makes sense. It's very well positioned on the way to the main Biennale site and a well-known venue. So good news. 

But could they bring themselves to even name the et al installation in the main copy? No, they couldn't. Although The Fundamental Practice has proved to be a major part of New Zealand's history at Venice it is described in the press release as a generic “New Zealand presentation in 2005”. Evidently nervous that resurfacing the media storm that surrounded et al.'s selection seven years ago might reflect badly on Culbert's participation CNZ chose to edit their own history.

You can read a full account of the et al. media issue here

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Skinny dipping

Continuing on the David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest jag here's a DFW line that rang a bell given OTN's interest in tats. 

 "'Act in Haste, Repent at Leisure' would seem to have been almost custom-designed for the case of tattoos."

Images: Warhol tats (various)

Friday, June 22, 2012

We were

Thinking about Fiona Connor when we were in Nice

It's all about the there there

One of the themes* that stood out at the Basel Art Fair this year was artists amplifying context. Painters in particular were adding carpet, shelves, lights and barriers to give further dimension to the experience of looking at the work. And amplification by context is not just trending in the visual arts. 

Last night we attended 12 hours of a 24-hour theatre spectacular based on American David Foster Wallace’s book Infinite Jest. The piece played out across Berlin in incredible building structures repurposed for the event. Context on a mega scale lending depth and weight to what were often monologues or dialogues in conventional formats. 

The most amazing setting was a structure used to test models in preparation for building large ships. If you ever wondered where Franz West’s colour range and shapes come from, look no further than this pink metal eccentricity. In the basement are two massive pools used to set different experimental conditions. In Infinite Jest two actors stood (well, one was in a wheel chair) in red plastic skiffs delivering their lines as Maranthe and Steeply. This elaboration of performance by context continued throughout the night. In fact while the theatre part wasn’t that great… the context. Wow. 

*Ohers were cartoons, shiny surfaces, poles, antlers (still) and collage on photographs. 

Images: top Architect Ludwig Leo's 1975 Instututs für Wasser-und Schiffahrtstechnik in Berlin and bottom Infinite Jest being played out in one of the Institute's testing tanks

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cut it out

A French cut-out sticker book on Fernand Leger channels Richard Killeen.

Dum da da dee da

While it’s no big secret in New Zealand that Alan Gibbs owns the biggest Bernar Venet in the world, in Nice there are so many B Venets all over the town that it makes you think he must be a local boy (he is). 

Of course not everyone can have the biggest public Venet so he obligingly makes a range of sizes. The ones we spotted in Nice were in Medium and Petit. Unfortunately M. Venet had reckoned without the fearless skateboarders of Nice and the diligent local authorities who have been obliged to add a couple of judder bars to one Venet to keep the kids at bay. A shame really as it would have been something to watch someone come down that pipe. 

Images: Bernar Venet public sculptures in Nice, top, Medium, bottom, Petit and bottom right Petit with judder bars.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

From the stream

Byrt and Keith slug it out as to what sort of art gallery Auckland actually has. 
(You can view the full conversation by putting “we have a historical institution with a bit” into the Twitter search box.)

What goes around…

A while back we wrote about the rehabilitation of contemporary Maori artist Sandy Adsett by Te Papa (same thing has happened to contemporary Maori artists in the new Auckland Art Gallery hang). 

Sandy Adsett certainly would have smiled if he'd visited Simon Denny’s installation Channel Documentary at Basel. Included in the timeline constructed by Denny is an examination of the creative processes developing the new New Zealand passport and it turns out that Adsett was central to this design. Indeed a documentary commissioned by Denny featuring Adsett plays as part of the installation. Adsett and his contemporaries were sidelined in the Walters Koru debate sparked by Robert Leonard. He raised questions about the relationship of art and design (among other issues) and put artists like Adsett and Walters side by side in the exhibition Headlands at Sydney’s MCA. 

That was back in 1991. So when was the last time you saw an act of curatorial provocation? Now 20 years later in the centre of Art Statements there is artist Sandy Adsett discussing Maori design. On Twitter all this would be tagged #deeplyironic. 

Image: Sandy Adsett featuring in Simon Denny's installation Channel Documentary

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Memory lane

You want to pay homage to a famous local artist, so what do you do? In Aix-en-Provence in France you put up a statue and name a parking building exit after him.

Mountain men

The tiny ridge you can see here is Cezanne’s Montagne Saint Victoire near Aix-en-Provence. Even seen by the naked eye - far less an under-powered camera - the mountain is a good deal less imposing than the one Cezanne presented to the world. It’s disappointing really, until you start figuring out Cezanne’s transformations. 

By tilting up and flattening the foreground, while at the same time collapsing the middle ground and bringing the background forward, he influenced a whole generation of artists and gave modern art a good kick-start. Many years later, on the other side of the world, his revolutionary approach to pictorial construction continued to resonate. Toss Woollaston always had Erle Loran’s Cezanne’s composition: analysis of his form with diagrams and photographs of his motifs close at hand and his landscapes can be read in part as homages to the discoveries Cezanne made at the foot of Saint Victoire.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mightier than the sword

At the C|O museum in Berlin we saw a survey exhibition of American photographer and film maker Larry Clark. As you might expect the show was a hymn to the male penis and the syringe but the large banner promoting the show? Not quite so much. Obviously not wanting the sex thing to stand out and cause a fuss they chickened out and went for a shot of his partner's pubic hair with Larry's named tattooed above it.

Your tax dollar at work

The latest round of Creative New Zealand funding has been announced. 

Here are some of the numbers: 

14      the number of visual arts grants 

25      the percentage of the total funding given to the visual arts 

43      the percentage of visual arts grants given to offshore ventures 

71       the number of grants awarded 23,293 average amount in dollars per grant. 

29,821     the average amount in dollars per visual arts grant 

1,653,814   the total amount in dollars on offer 

And here’s how much and for what: 

$30,200 Portikus towards an extensive monograph published on Michael Stevenson 

$15,153 Hopkinson Cundy towards the presentation of a solo exhibition by Ruth Buchanan at Liste 17, Basel 
$23,347 Michael Lett Gallery towards a solo presentation by Simon Denny at Art Statements, Art Basel

$18,989 Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art towards a site-specific artwork by Dane Mitchell in 2012 
$28,500 Melanie Oliver & Laura Preston towards the exhibition of works by Marnie Slater and William Hsu for City States in association with the Liverpool Biennial 2012 

$65,000 Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art towards the participation of New Zealand artists in the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art 

$50,000 Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki towards New Zealand artists' presentations at the 5th Auckland Triennial 
$40,000 Headland Sculpture On The Gulf Ltd towards artists' fees for the biennial outdoor sculpture exhibition on Waiheke Island 
$44,102 RM Gallery on K-Road in Auckland towards a 12 month series of exhibitions and events 

$32,070 Maria de Jong towards the development of a book about Maori sculptor Fred Graham 
 $15,380 Ruth Buchanan towards the production of a new artist's book The weather, a building

$35,000 Mark Williams towards the development of editorial content and the collection of works for an artist film and video site 

$12,000 Mike Ting towards second semester attendance at the European Graduate School, Switzerland 

Other exhibitions: 
$7,750 New Zealand Icefest towards six artists' presentations on their work following visits to Antarctica 

Image: a pie

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Art in Adland

A billboard in Basel uses Maurizio Cattelan's The Ninth Hour to push product 

Image: Bottom  The Ninth Hour by Maurizio Cattelan

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stand and deliver

Simon Denny's prize winning installation at Michael Lett's Art/Statements stand at the Basel Art Fair

Big Ears: omnibus edition

At the Basel Art Fair: 

“What’s the situation with that mark on the wall?” 
“That’s accidental. It was not made by the artist.” 

“I haven’t been able to get five minutes with Mark for years.” 

“I like to buy my art fast. Yesterday I bought a Dubuffet pretty fast.” 

“So he was a dealer?” 
“Yes. He was very active for a while, but not active so much now.” 
“Not interesting then?” 
“Not interesting.” 

"Of course she ended up suing me.”

 “Have you seen the Koons?” 
“No. Is it good?” 
“It’s Koons.” 

"We live next door to Leonardo DiCaprio. He lives with his mother. Did you know that?”

“Basel is just days without food and sleep so far as I’m concerned.” 

“I said it was eight thousand bucks and he offered seven, so I told him ‘we’re not having this conversation.’” 

“So he bought this Franz West sculpture and didn’t even know it came with a car. He thought he was just buying a group of sculptures. When they delivered it to him they said, ‘where do you want the car?’ Hard to believe huh!” 
“But true?” 
“But true.” 

“I’m just going to go over there and pat the dog.”

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Enough said

Sometimes you see an object so extraordinary that words fail you… 

Image: Shaman’s cup, collection of the Quai Branly Museum, Paris

Sale maker

On the way to the Basel Art Fair we had to kill a couple of hours in Nice on the beachfront (it’s not all fun and games). Just along from where we were sitting a guy set up shop by arranging a heap of oil paintings of Paris down on the pavement. 

We then watched as he put the hard sell on passers-by, pausing every ten minutes or so to chat with any young woman who came into range or philosophising with his mate the glass jewellery seller: “In Nice everything is possible.” 

 Two hours later and not a sale in sight. Suddenly there’s someone doing the art gallery shuffle in front of the work. Step forward, cock the head, step back, pause, step forward, touch the chin, step back, look up. Sold! Five minutes later the gallerist rolled up his stock and moved on to find another place to set up. Just like art fairs really. 

Images: Top row, the set up. Second row, pitching the work. Third row, the sale and bottom row, moving on.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In Provence

Thinking about Peter Peryer

Denny uses silver fern to strike gold

Simon Denny and Michael Lett have hit the jackpot at the Basel Art Fair’s Art Statements exhibition. Not only was the Denny show a sell-out on day one but the Berlin-based New Zealand artist has also won the $NZ40,000 Baloise Art Prize. 

The Prize includes the purchase and donation of a substantial work to a public art museum and in Denny’s case the Modern Art Ludwig Foundation in Vienna is to be the recipient. The work in Denny’s exhibition is based on the most recent redesign of the New Zealand passport. 

Simon Denny follows in the footsteps of some very well known artists who also had shows in Art Statements including William Kentridge, Takashi Murakami, Ernesto Neto, Jorge Pardo, Elisabeth Peyton, Gregor Schneider and Kara Walker. So right up there. 

It is also very good news for Creative New Zealand. In the face of some criticism it has supported galleries like Michael Lett and Starkwhite (et al. in Art Unlimited and Dane Mitchell in Art Statements) to participate at Basel. This year Hopkinson Cundy is also at Basel as part of Liste. This is the around the fifth outing for Lett at Basel. Last year he presented Walters Prize finalist Sriwhana Spong at Art Statements.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Back up

You seldom get to look at the back of paintings in public art museums and when you do, what you find is seldom exciting. One exception at least is the reverse of American Tom Wesselmann’s shaped painting Still Life 56 in the collection of Musee d'Art Moderne et d'Art Comtemporain (MAMAC) in Nice. 

There in a graphic script are a rash of instructions by the artist to ensure the multi-part painting is assembled correctly. Wesselmann took no chances. “Save bolt & replace on wire during storage” he suggests and “See important note on opposite end of stretcher.” 

What was that note we hear you ask. Unfortunately it was too tricky to reach and photograph without sending the entire installation tumbling to the floor and Tom Wesselmann wouldn’t have liked that one bit. 

You can see the front of the painting here. Click on image to get a better view. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

On the road

More tributes from the Ministry of Transport to the fine artists of New Zealand

Gold rush

For our art schools the traditional Publish or Perish of academia is more like Show or Go. The goodies of academic life (which seem to be mainly about time off from teaching and funding for projects) are showered on those staff members who exhibit most often and most prestigiously. 

And as these art school based teachers often also bring cash with them to subsidize the presentation of their work, the enthusiasm for their showing them and producing publications is growing in museums as well as artist run spaces. One day someone is going to work out how much money the universities put into the production and presentation of art and art catalogues - we haven't got the spirit for it. 

Virtually all university teachers are required to enter the PBRF (Performance-Based Research Fund) process, those who don’t are eventually buried deep in the university basements. Essentially details of research outcomes are entered into a fiendishly unrelenting database which is then reviewed. At the end of the process a grade pops out: A, B, B- etc. 

The first evaluation in 2003 was a bit ragged. Staff were even allowed to include exhibitions held in the gallery run by their institutions and curated by their colleagues. This I’ll-show-them your-art-if-you’ll-show-them-mine approach (conflicts of interest as they are known elsewhere) is now more tightly monitored. How does this affect the art audience? First up, more extravagant (university funded) exhibitions, a rash of publications their lavishness having little or nothing to do with the art interested public’s reception of the work, academic texts rather than explanatory ones and nothing much that would rock even the unsturdiest boat. 

This is not to say that some PBRF funding doesn’t support an important exhibition or a thought provoking publication, but they are increasingly the exception to the rule. But as they say, somewhere between the market and the PBRF, there’s got to be a pony. For our Dummy’s Guide to PRBF go here

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Choc and awe

The Cadbury's people have never been shy about pointing their chocolaty finger art’s way. Our last Cadbury’s post had them making an ad where the denizens of chocolate land munched on the arm of the Venus de Milo and now, in their latest ad epic, they go the whole destructive hog and split a statue clean in half. 

What follows is definitely silly and involves purple-clothed people emerging from the statue's base, choppering in some playground gear and then inexplicably cutting to a Guggenheim Museum-style foyer to exhibit a giant mixing bowl. What’s it take to sell fine chocolate? Based on our survey of two: sacrificing art, that’s what. 

Images: Joyville the latest Cadbury’s advert. You can see it here.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The Simpson's

Nail it.

Taking the world to Paris

Heading into the Pompidou in Paris we looked up into a space that will always be owned for us by Neil Dawson. Back in 1989 he was the only New Zealander invited to participate in the controversial (and as it has turned out prescient) exhibition Magiciens de la terre

The exhibition featured 50 artists from what was described as the "centers of contemporary culture” and 50 artists from” the cultural margins.” Guess where NZ’s sculptor was located? 

Dawson’s installation Globe was the planet Earth as seen from outer space suspended above the famous museum’s large forecourt. We remember a scratchy phone call late one night with a very tired Neil telling us of his escapades, including paying off a city official in a dark alley so he would allowed to attach the wires to the buildings opposite the Pompidou. The staff of the great museum took a very French view of Neil’s travails which seemed to involve looking the other way and humming softly to themselves. 

Suspending Globe outside the Pompidou - so far as we know no one has ever attempted such a thing again - has to be one of the most gutsy feats attempted by an NZ artist. That it was done virtually unaided by Neil with the assistance of Bruce Edgar is all the more remarkable. 

Images: Top, visiting the Pompidou this week. Bottom, Neil Dawson’s Globe installed as part of Magiciens de la terre in 1989. You can read about Globe being constructed here and see Neil Dawson’s site here 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Marketing 101

Here’s one way to do things. We arrive at the Contemporary Art Museum in Nice and move up to the desk to pay. “Where are you from?” we are asked. “New Zealand”, we say. A brief pause and then, “For you it’s free.” 

Was there even a door charge in the first place? We were too delighted to even check.

One day in the French King’s sculptor’s studio

Sculptor: Est-ce que (then, lapsing into English) the horse? 

Assistant: Oui (same) it is. 

S: A bit on the chubby side isn’t it? The stomach nearly hits the floor. 

A: I think it is having trouble breathing. 

S: Well, we can’t do anything about it now. Bring in the King’s stunt double, I just hope I have enough clay. 

(The King’s double arrives and is seated on the King’s horse) 

S: I said we wanted someone who looked like the King, not someone twice his size… the horse is going to give. 

A: (Looks around helplessly) 

S: For god’s sake, prop it up or the whole thing will go critical. 

A: With what, Monsieur? (lapsing back for a moment) 

S: I don’t know, a bucket, a pile of bricks, that tree stump over there. 

And that’s what they did. 

Image: replacement for the original bronze statue of Louis XIII that was cast in 1639

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Art is where you find it

A spectacular sooty drawing of chimney tracks revealed when an old Paris apartment block in the 20th was demolished.

It’s a guy thing

A couple of weeks ago Art + Object released some more sales stats, this time showing how the top end of the art market went at auction last year. They show that while women may have made some inroads into representation in the public art museums (even though the scale of the men’s art often skews the more positive statistics) they are still nowhere in the market.

Here are the six top sales that achieved auction records for the artist at auction last year. 

Edwin Harris $84,375 
Michael Parekowhai $78,750 
Peter Stichbury $56,250 
Julian Dashper $42,750 
Liz Maw $29,900 
Geoff Thornley $28,750 

Only one woman is represented with a meagre 6.2% of the total value of this slice of the market topped by the old timer Edwin Harris. 

Is this just a New Zealand phenomenon? (#rhetorical). If you look at the ten highest prices overall for last year it’s a similar story with only one woman included: Evelyn Page who accounted for 7.6% of the total. Among the top ten most expensive post-war artists internationally there are no women. Bottom spot 10 is taken by Jeff Koons’s Balloon Flower for $33.9 million but even this is well over double the highest price paid for a female artist. That would be Louise Bourgeois’ Spider which was knocked down for $14.2 million. 

In fact, the entire value of all ten of the top-selling female works coming in at $78.8 million is just 10.6% of the value of the top ten men. There’s a ways to go. 

You can see the highest prices paid for NZ art here, the best artist prices paid here and the world info here.
Comment by Damian Balle: The figures listed on the Australian Art Sales Digest website aren't completely accurate; in their sale of the David and Angela Wright collection in June of last year, Art and Object set a new artist record for the sale of Judy Millar's work - $42,210 (hammer price: $36,000, lot 14). Art and Object posted on their blog re. the result at the time. So the situation is slightly less grim.


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

In the Quai Branly

Thinking about Martin Creed (again
Image: Ivory figure in costume defecating. 16th C. French

Tape recording

We’ve not seen much of the Swiss artist Thomas Hirschorn’s work in New Zealand although he did contribute to One Day Sculpture with his work Poor racer and we understand Gregory Burke ex-director Govett-Brewster is working with him in New York on a project.

We saw this telling piece titled Outgrowth at the Quai Branly in the exhibition Masters of Chaos. Hirshorn had identified crisis hotspots around the world and represented each one with images clipped from newspapers and magazines located under its own globe. To mark where the crisis had manifested Hirshorn built up lumpen globs of packing tape in proportion to the horror and scale of the event.

For anyone still wondering why the rich of the world are all headed down south to claim property and residency, one striking feature of the 113 globes was that New Zealand (and mostly Australia) was never touched.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Art at work

Taking Calder cover in Paris

The play’s the thing

A calm appears to have settled over the Auckland Art Gallery now that the new management structure appears kinder to existing staff (in the short term anyway). In general, restructurers push hard at the outset and then encourage attrition. This will probably be the way it goes here too with the new deputy director in a good position to make sure it happens. 

More important is how far the Gallery allows itself to be pushed into taking up the new opportunities touched on by its new boss. You can almost hear the thoughts dancing in their heads, ‘hey, why don’t we….’ 

Convert the contemporary exhibition space on level 2 (the wooden pillars didn’t work for art anyway) into a function area. It has nice indoor/outdoor flow and catering facilities. It could have been made for it - probably was. 

Downplay the role of sculpture as it limits the suitability of spaces for functions. Choi Jeong Hwa’s high hung Flower Chandelier shows the way forward. 

Review opening hours to work out how to better serve the wedding trade

Give more attention to children and their needs. 

Take a more creative approach to box office. 

Arrange more charge exhibitions and events and use multi-visit passes with benefits (discounts, clubs, the usual) to ease the pain. 

Diversify retail options with co-branded pop-up stores to support exhibition themes. 

Put marketers in charge of writing labels and wall texts (it worked at Te Papa and hardly anyone complained) 

Charge for guided tours. 

Work out a slate of special exhibitions – fashion is always a winner and a Louboutin is on offer

Reduce the public opening hours of the library. 

Triple photocopying charges. 

Cut back staff travel. 

Close at least one day of the week (Tuesday feels good) 

Drag the chain on appointing a senior curator. 

What would it take to stop this sort of stuff? We understand a group of artists and other art-interested people from Auckland have written to Robert Domm calling for the development of their ideal gallery. You can read their demands here

 Trouble is that the Auckland Art Gallery is coming under serious attack and ideals are not going to win the day this time. What’s needed is the same thing that is always needed at times like this, a band of committed people who want the sort of positive change that can only be achieved by active supporters, effective organisation, hard work and a goal. 

Image: a rubber stamp

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Look and like

One thing you often here is how people have suddenly found themselves driving through a McCahon landscape or seeing Rita Angus sheds or noticing Don Driver type tarpaulin works as they move around the country. It’s the same here. Of course the streets are where much of contemporary art’s ideas have their beginnings and its droll to see it folded back in again as you wander round. Here’s three lookalikes we have seen over the last few days. 
Images: city lookalikes, top Franz West, bottom left Jeff Koons and right Nam June Paik

Friday, June 01, 2012

In Berlin

We were thinking about Michael Parekowhai again

Drawn to it

Here’s some drawing exhibited in an unusual situation. We’ve posted before about simulated buildings made up of giant photographs screened onto vinyl, but here’s a twist. These balconies are drawn onto some sort of material to stand in, we suppose, until the real ones can be repaired or reattached. As a bonus the drawings follow the traditional wrought iron curlicues that appear in so many paintings by Matisse and Picasso.