Wednesday, October 31, 2012


A reader (thanks G) sent us this Kate Newby lookalike

Show and tell

It’s not that often that the people who run our art museums reveal their personal take on art. Some of them even take this reticence to the extreme of deciding not to collect art for themselves fearing it might conflict with their public responsibilities. That was then. Now social media is ripping open the silos between public and private in many spheres and the visual arts are not excluded. The personal preferences and thinking of the people who are shaping public institutions are turning out to be of interest to audiences. In NZ this possibility is in its infancy and marketing departments are still firmly in control of the public interface, but personality does attract audiences and everyone likes to get behind the scenes. How else did reality TV conquer mainstream media?
The new Director of the Dowse Art Museum Courtney Johnston has certainly chosen to live her life with the curtains open. As a radio commentator (Nine to Noon), regular blogger and passionate tweeter her followers have a good fix on the art she finds engaging, what works she has personally acquired and what she is curious about. You want to see what sort of art attracts her eye from the nineties for example? All you have to do is go to her nineties set on Digital New Zealand. She has also made single artist sets with commentary on people like Peter Peryer, Colin McCahon, Ann Noble and more surprisingly Richard Sharell. Sure some of these selections are bound by the availability of online images but at the very least they give you a taste of the way one of our art museum directors puts her ideas together.
At the moment you can’t search Digital NZ on Johnston so here is a sample selection of links to her sets. Fiona Pardington, Peter Peryer, Kobi Bosshard, Julian Dashper, Richard Sharell,
--> The Australians, Fine lines and McCahon: light and waterfalls 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The difference engine

"The art market is a distribution system. It’s a voting machine. Art History is a value system or a weighing machine."
Marion Maneker of Art Market Monitor

Show time

Our long battle to get some sort of recognition for animal artists has been a lonely one. To be honest, most of the support has come from the lunatic fringe and people who thought we were interested in art about animals, but now the whole field of animal art has entered a new plane thanks to the well-known German artist Rosemarie Trockel. As a curious link we met Trockel when she was in New Zealand when the City Gallery in Wellington opened the current building with a big survey show of her work curated by Greg Burke. 

 Anyway, Trockel may be one of the first artist curators to include an animal artist in a public art museum exhibition with her selection of work by Tilda, an Orangutan artist from the Cologne Zoo. Tilda joins a number of other untrained (human) artists whose work is presented alongside that of Trockel herself in Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos at the New Museum in New York. 

Artist support like this is rare. The only other instance we have been able to find is when a work by Congo (1954-1964) the famous Chimpanzee artist (discovered and given his first pencil by zoologist Desmond Morris) was owned by Pablo Picasso. More animal art facts as they come to hand. 

Image: Three paintings by Tilda hanging at the New Museum as part of Rosemarie Trockel’s work Less sauvage than others

Monday, October 29, 2012

Branded: Ross Ritchie

The moment when artists become brands

Old school

A couple of years ago, almost to the day, Te Papa stripped out its contemporary art galleries and filled them with Brian Brake photographs. At the time we predicted that this would herald an end to those half-hearted guarantees by Te Papa that they would always having contemporary art on view. How did we do with that prediction? 

Regrettably, just great. For 100 days from 20 October the contemporary art space has now been given over to the gold-frame show Angels and aristocrats. This leaves the most recent piece of art in the fifth floor galleries to be one dated 1978 which is one year older than this year's winner of the Walters Prize. It’s The scarred couch, the Auckland experience by Phil Clairmont rather thrillingly described by Te Papa “like a wounded beast, the massive body of the couch convulses…” – c’mon guys, it’s a piece of furniture 
OK, there is Shane Cotton's painting Whakakitenga kit e kenehi hanging in the entry foyer to the fifth floor that is only 14 years old, but as to sculpture or installations or large scale photography, or video or performance? Nada. There you go then. Not a single work on display from the first 12 years of the 21st century.
So here's the question. Do we really need a shiny new silver National Art Gallery for Te Papa to programme? Based on their inability to maintain a sustained interest in contemporary art the answer to that would have to be… um… no.
Image: modern art at Te Papa

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Puppy love

Looking for a Saturday morning DIY project? You could do worse than build a Frank Lloyd Wright doghouse (always assuming you have a dog). Thanks to one of our favourite sites, Letters of Note, here are the plans and a pic of the FLW kennel along with a letter from the young boy who wrote to FLW asking for one. You can read the full correspondence and background story here on L of N.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Spill over

ACC channels Ed Ruscha at our local supermarket

Stand up and be counted

We've posted before about the millions of photographs taken of artworks in museums every day and how the Mona Lisa and other destination paintings are almost impossible to see for the hordes of point-and-pressers crowded around them. Now the latest iteration of art-photography is gathering steam: snap a photo in front of your own special artwork. Two for one - an artwork and a friend.
Less endearing are the photos of the rich and the powerful standing in front of paintings they own or control.  It's a modern day version of the tradition by which landowners have their estates oiled in behind them by the likes of Thomas Gainsborough and the rest. As John Berger said of Gainsborough’s famous landed gentry painting Mr and Mrs Andrews, “their proprietary attitude towards what surrounds them is visible in their stance and their expression.” So too with modern day portraits of high flyers and their art.
We were reminded of all this when we saw these pics of businesswomen before art in a Next magazine (who knows what issue, we’re talking doctor’s waiting room here). Inevitably the two paintings are by men, but then you can’t have everything.
Images: Top to bottom, Thomas Gainsborough Mr and Mrs Andrews, snapping at the Mona Lisa, peace-signs and Pollock and what comes in Next

Thursday, October 25, 2012

From the stream

McCahon infiltrates the M of E

Mark it

Where would we be without the art market? As regular readers will know it's worth about two posts a week (bless it) for OTN. But in the UK art writer Sarah Thornton (Seven days in the art world) is as mad as hell and won’t take any more of it. She's stomped off leaving these ten reasons for not writing about the art market behind her.
1. It gives too much exposure to artists who attain high prices.
2. It enables manipulators to publicize the artists whose prices they spike at auction.
3. It never seems to lead to regulation.
4. The most interesting stories are libelous.
5. Oligarchs and dictators are not cool.
6. Writing about the art market is painfully repetitive.
7. People send you unbelievably stupid press releases.
8. It implies that money is the most important thing about art.
9. It amplifies the influence of the art market.
10. The pay is appalling.
OK, fair enough. Now here's our ten reasons why OTN still finds the art market totally entertaining:
1. You usually get it wrong (which is good medicine for show-offs).
2. In NZ at least the art market is one of the few areas where people are happy to express strong opinions about art
3. It gives a big group of university funded artists something to not participate in
4. It is run by dealers and auction people who have opinions, know a lot, and are better dressed than your average reporter.
5. It brings to the world of one of its most mysterious processes: the pricing of art.
6. Drama and excitement.
7. It’s a world free of wall texts, computer graphics and labels.
8. It is going into a time of fundamental change with bets off as auction houses compete directly with dealers and both try to work online
9. The “what’s it worth” conversation.
10. The chance to bet on how long it will be before Sarah Thornton writes on the market again.
You can get Sarah Thornton’s list with her annotations here

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Classical gas

Richard Prince does Lemon Fizz. The whole sorry story here.

By the numbers: international edition

2  the number of Gerhard Richter paintings the same size as the one recently sold at auction that Eric Clapton still owns
3  the percentage charged for buyer’s and seller’s commission by online seller ArtViatic
5.5 the number in thousands of square meters that is the size of Larry Gagosian’s new gallery in Paris
20 the number of years that artist Damian Hirst has lent his giant statue of a pregnant woman waving a sword to the village of Ilfracombe in England
26  the age in years of Wlodzimierz Umaniec the man who defaced the Rothko painting Black on Maroon on 7 October
39  the number in millions of dollars that it cost to set up Documenta 2012 in Kassel
41.2 the number in millions of dollars paid at auction for one of Eric Clapton’s Gerhard Richter painting
110 the number of years the American magazine Art News has been on the stands
127.5 the amount in millions of dollars fetched by Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings at auction over the financial year 2011-12
9000 the number of butterflies killed during Damien Hirst’s survey exhibition at Tate Modern in London

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Taken as read

“…this is the most vibrant and the one with the most amount of red in it. Red is a very successful colour these days.”
Auctioneer Tobias Meyer describing the Gerhard Richter painting Abstraktes Bild (804-9) sold on Eric Clapton’s behalf at Sotheby’s

That was the week the Walters was

The winner: Kate Newby might have felt her chances were slipping as judge Mami Kataoka introduced her work as “probably the least eloquent”. Fortunately she went on to add  “it embraces memories of locations” and concluded by announcing Newby the winner.
The MC: Chris Saines went DIY on the introductions, which was a tough break for the Ridge family.
The past: For the first time past winners of the Walters Prize were invited to the dinner and were welcomed with a huge round of applause.
The jury: Having arranged for artists to haul their sorry asses from Europe and the Arctic Circle to attend the Walters Prize dinner, two of the jury (David Cross and Gwynn Porter) didn’t manage to make it over from Australia.
The judge: Mami Kataoka caused a brief will-she-split-the-prize moment when she talked about not liking hierarchies or choosing one artist ahead of another.
The fortune teller: Josie McNaught with great aplomb claimed to know the winner on her lunchtime radio show and Facebook, then she gave a name, and got it wrong.
The media: Next morning when the NZ Herald did announce the results it was in just a para and claimed that Kate Newby was “a strong favourite to win”. Yeah right. The Sunday Star Times ‘reporter’ at least spread bits of the AAG’s press release over eight paras with a pic of Kate Newby, which was nice. Unfortunately he also did a sex change on the judge.
The jury again: claimed (well one of them did anyway) that the AAG refused to let them speak to the media on the who-saw-what issue. Long-nose award for that one?
Image: Kate Newby I'm so ready 2010

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The envelope please

The winner of the Walters Prize has just been announced at the Auckland Art Gallery. It is Kate Newby

The top 10 percent

It’s list season again as the Northern and first off the block is Art Review with its top 100 most influential people in the art world. Well rest easy it is much the same as last year with only two changes in the critical top 10. There are three women of the eleven chosen (the Serpentine gallery gets to have both its directors in place 10 which is their first time this high) and only two artists Ai Weiwei for his politics and Gerhard Richter for his muscle in the market. Larry Gagosian is up a place from last year at two and might be on the way to the top again as he was in 2010. He is one of three dealer gallerists on the top 10.Top this year is Documenta curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargeiv who you will remember also judged one of the Walters Prize finals. Last in at 100 is eponymous Slovenian Gallery owner Gregor Podnar. You can see the full 100 here.
Image: Carolyn Christov-Bakargeiv with Francis Upritchard’s award winning work for the 2008 Walters Prize.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Another sector of the arts in Auckland goes for the AAG treatment. Thanks P

It’s a wrap

When Queensland chose to spend over a million bucks on Michael Parekowhai’s large bronze The world turns, you had to figure there would be some grumbling. First out of the gate was local artist Fiona Foley who played the not-made-here card-not-made-by-us card. It’s hard to believe the criticism would have been leveled at art super star Rirkrit Tiravanija (who was also on the short list) had he won the commission – it’s a close neighbour thing. 

Now it’s the turn of the new Arts Minister Ros Bates. Her first job, as she told the media back in April, was “to find out where all the bodies have been buried.” This week she’s taken the better-ways-to-spend-the-cash (i.e. on Australian artists) route and singled out Parekowhai’s sculpture as a rod to beat the previous administration's backing. 

Bates - previously a health professional and media consultant - declared the work a hangover from the previous Government’s “shocking misuse of taxpayer dollars” adding (in case you didn’t get how an art work could bring down an Australian state’s economy) “it’s this kind of reckless spending that drove Queensland into a spiral of debt.” 

Nothing new in Australian politicians (well most politicians really) giving art a good kick. Back in 1978 Canberra was set alight as MPs tried to out-do each other insulting the Colin McCahon painting Victory over death 2 when New Zealand gave it to the National Gallery of Australia. 

This time round, apart from Parekowhai’s work being used to bash a previous administration, there’s another more intriguing angle. There is a definite possibility that the Minister is using Parekowhai to try and create a good old art scandal diversion. Turns out her son is currently the subject of a nepotism scandal with a Crime and Misconduct Commission looking into his appointment to a Government job. This subject she is not so keen to talk to the media about. 

Finally, against all the stereotypes, the Queensland Premier Campbell Newman says he can see the artistic merit of Parekowhai’s sculpture. "Having had a look at the artist's impression, I rather like it myself," he told a Brisbane radio show. 

Image: The world turns being lifted out through the foundry roof and onto a truck to start its trip to Australia. Coming ready or not. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

On the road

The Ministry of Transport and local bodies give it up for New Zealand artists

That’s the spirit

In our continuing quest to track art museum tie-ins designed by marketers to attract audiences, how about this effort from the Denver Museum? The exhibition coming up was BecomingVan Gogh. What do you think the team came up with to get more cash in the till?
Who guessed a specially brewed beer along with a name-the-beer competition offering a prize of free tickets, a Van Gogh t-shirt and discount voucher? Very Vincent.
Still could have been worse, they might have teamed up with and had their absinthe-based cocktail Van Gogh’s ear (fill a Collins glass with ice and dribble two oz. of absinthe slowly into the glass. Add a slice of lemon and pour grapefruit juice into the glass. Swirl in an oz. of grenadine) on offer at the door.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Here's some good news. Zara Stanhope has landed the job of Principal Curator for the Auckland Art Gallery. That's the new position under the restructuring and nice to see it filled so quickly. Zara has been in Australia (she was Senior Curator at Heide Museum of Modern Art) since being the first director of the Adam Art Gallery in Wellington.


A poster on the streets in Wellington channels Rembrandt's painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp

This way up

The new director of the City Gallery in Wellington Elizabeth Caldwell certainly has her work cut out for her. The latest annual report from the Wellington Museums Trust shows that in the last year attendances at the City Gallery took another slide continuing a trend over the last four years. 

Attendance figures peaked in the 2007-2008 year at 203,919 but are now down to 143,000 lifting the subsidy per visitor to $16.79. And as if that's not enough the approval rating for the City Gallery is also on a decline. This year’s report has it at 86 percent with general awareness of the Gallery by the Wellington public down to 79 percent, a six percent drop on last year. 

In this context then it's got to be full marks to the Museums Trust for announcing in its annual report that it has decided not to impose a door charge. 

The City Gallery's struggles appear to be with exciting, fresh programming that builds a repeat audience. A surfeit of sculpture shows, eccentric combos (think Rob McLeod with Rohan Wealleans) and an overall lack of direction have undermined the Gallery's standing. Something that will make a real difference is the appointment of a senior curator. It's getting on for a year since the last one (Kate Montgomery) left the building so it's hard to understand why this job hasn't been filled by now. There's always the suspicion that delays in appointments help trim budgets but saving money isn’t going to save the day. 

You can get a copy of the Wellington Museums Trust’s 2011-2012 Annual Report here

Images: Left, Rohan Wealleans and right Rob McLeod at the City Gallery

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Dream time

Now that the barriers between design and the visual arts are easing, this is the perfect time to take another look at what used to be called commercial art. Fortunately one of the most beautiful and comprehensive reviews of one area of such design has just been published and it's all about NZ. Selling the dream: the art of early New Zealand tourism comes from the publisher Craig Potton and has been conceptualised, assembled and designed and by Peter Alsop, Gary Stewart and Dave Bamford. That it's the result of dedicated collecting and researching over a very long time is evident on every gorgeous page. 

One thing you notice is how many of the images that feature in the book are by unknown artists. While there are the well-known visual art-crossover names like Leonard Mitchell, Marcus King Russell Clark and John Holmwood, most of the credits are for anonymous artists at work in places like the Tourist Department and the Railways Department. This makes it a real Wellington book as the government departments running NZ tourism were based in that city for so long. There's a lot of amazing new material to discover and some stunning images. One favourite is Leonard Mitchell’s classic man alone on a mountain top which we remember bowling American art historian Charles Eldredge for a six when he was curating the touring exhibition of New Zealand art Pacific Parallels.

Will there ever be a better book than this one on New Zealand’s unsung commercial designers? It’s hard to imagine looking at what a terrific job has been done here. 

Image: Left: Selling the dream. Right, an illustration titled The great Franz Joseph Glacier by Leonard Mitchell for Scenic playground of the Pacific published by the Tourist Department around 1935

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mightier than the pen is

Another mash up of OTN favourites this time lookalikes and giant outdoor sculptures. On the left at just over 20 meters high the proposed sculpture Verity by Damien Hirst that is being installed at Ilfracombe in North Devon this week and on the right Mother Russia a Hirst belittling 52 meters high on Mamaev Hill in Volgograd

One day in the offices of Dr Seuss Enterprises

Director 1: I've been thinking that we need another Dr Seuss Fine Art Gallery out there in the world. Just having one here in Chicago and one in Sydney is small-time thinking, it lets down our collectors. 

Director 2: Do you think anywhere else will be interested? I mean, they're only reproductions, you know ... they were made after He died. 

D1: Ok, so He didn’t make them Himself, big whoop. He never liked the idea anyway. Frankly all this stuff about prints needing to be overseen by the artists or signed on the sheet is just professional nitpicking. What we need is some big-picture-thinking. How about stretching out even beyond Sydney. Is there anything like that?

D2: There's Wellington in New Zealand.

D1: You're kidding me?

D2: Absolutely not. Think about it. “Dr Seuss Galleries only in the USA, Australia and NZ". 

D1: Put that way I'm not so sure ... still, as the great Dr Seuss, God bless Him, would say “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” 

D2: So ... we’ll do it? 

D1: Why the hell not. But it’ll need a lot of publicity to kick it off. And that means a big time NZ art celebrity to open it. Anyone spring to mind? 

D2: Sally Ridge for sure, I checked her out on the Internet last week. 

D1: Last week? … probably left it too late. How about some big shot art museum person? 

D2: Yeah, I've got one of them too, the CEO of Te Papa. It's the national museum of New Zealand. 

D2: The CEO of Te Papa. Open a Dr Seuss reproductions gallery! Give me a break. He’d never do it. Not in a thousand years. 

But he did

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lean too

We’ve already posted on this angle being taken in sculpture by our own John Radford in Ponsonby but here’s some more works submerging or, more optimistically, emerging. 

Images: Top to bottom left to right. The Glue Society’s Buried digger, Bicyclette Ensevelie by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen in Paris, Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Cornelia Konrad’s Still life in Essen, Trowel I by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen at the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, furniture project by artist Hannes van Severen

Friday, October 12, 2012

Had to happen

Mari Kasurinen's My Little-Damien

The knowledge

Mami Kataoka, this year’s Walters Prize judge, will be back in New Zealand next week to decide who gets the cash and the trip to New York. Looking back over the winners so far (Yvonne Todd, et al., Francis Upritchard, Peter Robinson and Dan Arps) it hasn’t always been easy to guess the winner but recently we did meet someone who has guessed every winner from Yvonne Todd on. Not only that, they are also confident that they'll be able to tag this year’s one too. 

 So, if you want to be at the Walters Prize dinner next week and have the pleasure of just shrugging your shoulders in a so-what-I-knew-that-already kind of way when Kataoka makes her announcement, here’s what you’ve got to do. (Spoiler alert: it involves research.)

 No big surprise that each Walters judge brings along the way they frame up art before they came to New Zealand. This frame is what you need to define as it determines who they give the prize to. It’s as easy as one, two. 

1) Get a list of the most recent exhibitions, projects or biennales curated by the judge and read up on them very carefully to figure the kind of work that will be top of her/ his mind. 

2) Check on any recent (has to be very recent) statements the judge has made. 

Then simply apply the frame you have developed and see which artist fits it best, or equally, who falls outside it. 

But does it really work we asked. How about Dan Arps. Surely he was a dark horse winner? Not so if you look at judge Vicente Todoli’s most recent exhibition before coming to NZ. Apparently it was all very Arps-like and, as important, not at all Connor, Leek or Monteith-like at all. OK, how about Yvonne Todd? No one picked the first winner. Not so. Turns out a month or so before he came to Auckland Harald Szeemann who had famously supported young artists all his curating career said in an interview that he was focussing on supporting the work of young women. Game set and match. The three other artists nominated were men. 

Thanks to our Walters Prize guesstimator, you know who you are.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

White Cubism

“MoMA has been hugely influential, so that almost all of the other museums in America have a modern wing attached to them. And frankly these wings impress me as deadly: the same white walls with the same loud, large, obvious, instantly recognisable products lined up on them. Nothing in the so-called academic institutions of the 19th century approach them in orthodoxy and predictability.” 
Nicholas Penny, Director, National Gallery, London in The art newspaper

Crowd sourcing

Art museums the world over have become obsessed with getting bums through the door. It’s turned out to be one of those ideas that makes sense right up to the minute it doesn't. Yes, be careful what you wish for. Anyone who has tried to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre or struggled through the crowds at MoMA or the Met knows that now the experience is often not worth the ticket price. Long queues to get in, longer queues to park your coat and bag if it’s Winter and then a constant crush on the stairs, in the corridors and lined up in front of the most famous works. It's crowds all the way down. 

Some museums have reacted to the avalanche of visitors by putting on time restrictions and others by limiting entry numbers but the best visitor strategy is to concentrate on works that aren’t on the greatest-hits list. When you speed walk (ok run) through the Vatican’s corridors to try to have the Sistine Chapel to yourself (we did it back in 1975 by following Georgina Masson's instructions in her classic guide to Rome but it may not be possible any more) you zoom past Raphael’s masterpiece The School of Athens in a room that rarely has more than a few people in it while the Chapel itself is quickly packed with craners. It's the same in Paris where the Mona Lisa shares space with da Vinci's beautiful but not as famous and therefore not as crowded Madonna of the rocks. 

In all the competition over increasing attendance numbers the irony of the next few years may well turn out to be instead how to let fewer people into the building. 
 Image: Crowds at MoMA

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

X marks the spot

The recent outpouring in Twitter over the defacing of a Rothko painting in the Tate the other day (here’s a good summary on Best of 3) got us to checking out how many times that artist has appeared on OTN over the years. Well that was a bit of a surprise. Turns out we have featured or mentioned Rothko 17 times, including a terse post of 16 May 2007 “Sell Rothko” (so much for us knowing anything about the art market).

Rothko on OTN::

His inclusion in 1952 MoMA show 15 Americans Sell
Rothko Hanging on the set of I am legend
 Getting rained on in Australia
Coming in second fiddle to a four year old
Being insulted by the Arts Channel
Telling it like it is Being hung upside down
Getting rained on – again (well, it was a great story)
Starring in Kick-ass
Standing up and being counted
Being on MTV
Making a guest appearance in the AAG’s collection
Starring in Entourage
Spotted in an Auckland Sushi bar
Influencing McCahon
Starring in Mad Men

Image: Mark Rothko’s 1958 canvas Black on Maroon the way it should be

Stand up

Well you have to hand it to Alastair Carruthers, Chair of Creative New Zealand. Not only did CNZ put up a video tour of the Contact exhibition in the Frankfurter Kunstverein on YouTube just days after the opening, but Carruthers stepped up with Haniko Te Kurapa and fronted it himself. The two give a very useful tour of the show talking with the curator Leonhard Emmerling and the Kunstverein director Holger Kube Ventura who also commented on the exhibition’s themes. “It’s completely different to what we had before … with the other shows of guest of honour countries…. It’s a much more political show … with Iceland I was wondering why are there not any political questions from Iceland? It is just the opposite here.” 

So did CNZ stand behind the politics of the artists, curators and especially the hard-hitting Peter Robinson work with the swastika? They did indeed. Robinson’s paintings are featured full frame with Carruthers describing them as a “series of confrontations laid down by Peter Robinson with his extremely provocative images. A remarkable thing, to not just present a Maori Pakeha confrontation, but [also] to bring a swastika to Germany, does feel kind of bold.” 

Say what you like about Creative New Zealand (and we have at times) you couldn’t expect anything more from your arts funding body than this. 

Image: Alastair Carruthers (left), stands in front of work by Judy Millar, talking to Kunstverein director Holger Kube Ventura

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Rubber necking

"When it fills up, you can feel the heat rising. We even get pickpockets in here, just like at a street market. There are only two of us against thousands." 

An unnamed guard comments on the overcrowding caused by tourists trying to see Michelangelo's frescos in the Sistine Chapel.

"Is that the PR Department?....Oh, forget it."

For the Waikato Museum it was good news and bad news. The good news is that they got a mention on a prime time popular TV show. The bad news? It was 7 Days

The why-us? moment came as part of the A&Q segment. Two competing teams of comedians are given an answer related to a news event in the last 7 days and have to work out what the question was. 

The answer was (you guessed it) the Waikato Museum and the question snapped back by Urzila Carlson? “If Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, what is the saddest?” It got worse. 

You can see the full episode here

Monday, October 08, 2012


Unless you’ve been off the grid for the last six months you'll have caught up on 80+ year old Cecilia Giménez’s ‘conservation’ of a painted icon in her local church in Borja, Spain. The original in Santuario de Misericordia was painted by Elias Garcia Martinez in the nineteenth century but the mutant results of Giménez’s efforts have become internationally famous as Beast Jesus. As her church has won fame and income from her work, Giménez is now demanding some sort of royalty arrangement. Good luck with that Cecilia. 

But however things work out for the artist, the meme isn't about to disappear very soon, if this Halloween costume spotted on metapicture is anything to go by. 

A clash of symbols

We’ve mentioned before how hard it is to find out what’s being included in the big art exhibition supporting NZ’s participation in the Frankfurt Book Fair, but a Twitpic in the stream from Frankfurt let in a chink of light.  It shows a Peter Robinson triptych that features (among other elements) a version of the swastika. 
Although the swastika Robinson has chosen is the reverse of the Nazi one and shown on its side, its standing in as a symbol of Nazism and the far right is self-evident. Not surprisingly Germany has specific laws prohibiting the use or display of the swastika even when done satirically or in opposition to Nazism although this prohibition is usually limited to the specific swastika design used during the Nazi era. 
Robinson in his use of the symbol is of course addressing the continuing and disruptive power of the far right internationally as well as in New Zealand and pointing out how far we are from reaching some level of real equality.
Still, you’d have to say including this work in an exhibition in Germany is certainly a stand-up provocative act of curation. After all the curators will be aware of the conflict that surrounded Jenny Harper hanging a similar Robinson swastika work in her Victoria University office back in 1998. Presumably, having taken the work into Germany, the curators, CNZ and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage are all prepared to stand behind it should there be any similar objections from a public somewhat more sensitive to these issues than we are. 
Image: Top, Peter Robinson’s work being readied for exhibition in Frankfurt. Bottom, the modification of a swastika to a less offensive form the Olympic stadium built in Berlin in 1936
LATER: You can now see a few images from the opening here on Barbara Walzer's photostream and more installation images on the St Paul’s Facebook page. 

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Runway Boogie Woogie

It isn’t fashion week if there isn’t another version of YSL’s riff on Mondrian’s painting. Has to be the most copied composition of all times. 
Images: Top to bottom, left to right. Grace Kelly wearing the original YSL dress, Costume National, Sarah Scofield swimwear, Diane von Furstenberg, Francesso Maria Bandini, Virtual Heela, BC BG Max Azria, the original YSL version, Anns Klein Ladakh, Morgan, a DIY from supplied pattern, Etsy, Paul Smith and Opening Ceremony

Friday, October 05, 2012

On the road

The Ministry of Transport and Local Bodies in support of New Zealand's artists

Death of a thousand cuts

Now it’s hard to remember the spasm of shock that ran through the art world when art dealers raised their commission from the traditional 331/3 to 40%. That rise of 6 2/3 percent has of course long been assimilated. But now, if Australia is anything to go by, and it generally is, we are on the verge of swinging over to 50 percent an increase of 10 percent on most current commission. 

 That really is a bit more serious and highlights the dealer artist relationship as never before. Even 60/40 gave the impression that the people delivering the goods were leading the business rather than the distributors, fifty-fifty, not so much. 

Dealers will tell you that even at 50 percent there is not that much to be made across the board given the costs of the freight, insurance, the art fairs, the documentation and the publications. For the few of them that offer those services at the highest level there is no doubt an argument to be made. 

But how do you make a living as a practicing artist on 50% percent? Say you have an exhibition of 10 paintings at $10,000 each and sell 70 percent of them, a champagne inducing event for many artists. That’s $70,000 across the counter (we’ll ignore GST) well more like $65,000 as the dealer has almost certainly given a 10 percent reduction to the bigger collector clients. The dealer will now take their half leaving 32,500. Time to deduct the cost of stretchers (you wont sell at $10,000 unless they are a reasonably good quality), paint, canvas, studio costs – rent, insurance etc and travel to the opening say $6,000 leaving $26,000 which will be taxed at say 25 percent to $19,500. To get the after tax salary of a lecturer at an art school you’d have to do that three times a year. That’s 21 sales at $10,000. Oh, and don’t forget to deduct $40 for the champagne.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


Left the Wellington City Gallery's latest exhibition poster designed by John Reynolds and right David Shrigley. (Thanks again C)

The Italian job

Could anything stop the long queue of serious artists who are waiting to put their work up as collateral on 15 minutes luxuriating in the glamour of the fashion world? Doesn’t look like it. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that artists like Gilbert and George had to make a sneak run to out-of-the-way Tokyo to strut their fashion stuff and avoid a WTF pie in the face from the artworld. 

But now that Jenny Holzer has reached out to Italian Vogue you can forget all that old-school decorum. Even spun out as an-opportunity-to-get-a-wide-audience-not-even-possible-in-the-art-world, Holzer pimping up some of her most powerful TRUISMS including TORTURE IS BARBARIC and sending them down the cat walk is breathtaking. 

And while Holzer agreeing to have her ‘TRUISMS’ spread across the cover and pages of Vogue may have been intended as deep irony, at least one of them still rings true: the abuse of power comes as no surprise.

Anyway, now the gates are wide open it’s clear sailing for that cat food commercial you’ve had your eye on Gerhard, and Roni, the Zyliss Easy-Chop endorsement? Why the hell not. 

Image: H.C. Experimental – Photographer Peter Lindbergh (2b Management) collaborating with conceptual artist Jenny Holzer for the September issue of Vogue Italia. You can see the rest here

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Jolly good company

The 2012 Turner Prize exhibition of nominated artists (Spartacus Chetwynd, Luke Fowler, Paul Noble and Elizabeth Price) has just opened at the Tate in London. It brings to mind the impressive list of the many great artists who were nominated for this prize but did not win. They include: Art & Language, Gillian Ayres, Patrick Caulfield, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tacita Dean, Lucian Freud, Richard Hamilton and Boyd Webb. Our own Walters Prize has a similarly strong line up of nominated alumni who did not take out the prize including: Fiona Connor, Phil Dadson, Jacqueline Fraser, Ronnie van Hout, Lisa Reihana, John Reynolds and Michael Stevenson 
Image: New Zealand born Boyd Webb’s Untitled from 1988 the year he was nominated for the Turner Prize (collection: Christchurch Art Gallery)

A day for Knight

The latest Artforum fell out of our mailbox yesterday. Fortunately we were able to jump back in time so we weren’t injured. It’s the Fiftieth anniversary issue and by far the fattest edition (550 pages, just under two kilos) of a magazine that has grown its girth with the market over the last 30 or so years. 

This anniversary seems the right moment to remember the personal association New Zealand has had with Artforum thanks to one of its Publishers, Knight Landesman. Knight has visited several times and he has been an indefatigable host to New Zealanders in New York. Anyone who has done the Saturday gallery round with Knight comes away with two things. One, how everybody (no exceptions) in the New York art world knows Knight and how all of them (ok, maybe there is one who doesn’t) seem to love him, and two, how you need a full Sunday to recover. 

Someone once said you could analyse the art market’s health by making a bar chart of a year’s worth of Artforums and watching the piles grow and diminish. If that’s the case, recession or no recession, the international art market is in awesome good health.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Earth, wind and fire

In september we: visited mona • marvelled at how much ding the universities are putting into the arts • fretted over the chartwell collection • lol at te papa’s attempts to ‘commercialise artefacts’ • wondered why that guy was trying to stick his foot up a dog’s bum • remembered don binney • patted everyone on the back • tweeted from the paris auctions • found that poster • lamented the demise of curators • discovered a killer cockroach artist and ran the numbers on larry gagosian.
For everyone who put up with our completely random links congratulations and apologies. Fixed now.