Saturday, March 30, 2013

Choc jocks


Regrettably a little late this Easter but you can order this Brancusi-like Easter egg from Jadiset Gourmande and tuck it away for next year.
Sorry to everyone quite rightly expecting this to be posted on Sunday

Thursday, March 28, 2013

In Wellington

Thinking about Bill Culbert.

It being Easter and all this will be the last post until Tuesday morning. OK there will be an egg on Sunday but only for those keen enough to look it up.

The taste test

When they set up shop Art+Object ratcheted the look and feel of the art auction up a few notches. New look catalogues, stylish display of the lots and professional marketing generated fresh excitement pre hammer time. Now they've gone and done it again. Check it out for yourself if the latest Art+Object catalogue comes your way (provocatively published days before the first big Webb’s auction of the year last night).

First up, it's big. It sure won't fit into your post box coming in at 34 x  24 cm. Second, it's ... well, what is it exactly? Part magazine, part coffee table book, part auction catalogue, it's A+O’s idea about how to get differentiated from the competition. The fact is if its just information you’re after this print publication wont have been your first port of call, all that’s been available for a week online at A+O's web site. But, if you pop over to Webb’s site, their online catalogue looks much the same with much the same detail.

And you have to figure that’s why A+O have gone big and gone glamorous. If online equals information, this jumbo-cat is to wallow in. Big images including a mega fold-out of Peter Robinson’s two by five meter loose canvas Painting, a dabble into the studio assistant as personality (a young guy with paint splattered shorts and unlaced trainers staring at lot number 5) and a fistful of plush ads for wine, fashion and cars. It’s a gutsy move and a big assertion of the A+O brand. Who'd be surprised now if they decided to stamp it on some other forms of art selling. 
Images: Top cover with 50 cent piece thoughtfully added by OTN's photographic team for scale. Middle, Peter Robinson gets the fold out treatment and bottom the strange double spread for Paul Dibble's sculpture The bushman's hop.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Talking books

“And for ten days and nights I wrenched and slapped and sanded until, with the flood still running through my head, the canvas put the holy fear of God in me, made the bloody hair on my bloody neck stand up on end.”
Artists Butcher Bones describing the production of his McCahon-like painting If you have ever seen a man die in Peter Carey’s Theft: a love story

Top of Top of the lake

A surprise cast member in Jane Campion’s much-anticipated crime series Top of the lake is a terrific set of opening credits based on a painting by Seraphine Pick. Apparently the original concept was to use images showing the painting evolving as Pick made it, but in the end the final work was filmed along with details of some of Pick’s signature elements and then animated by Leonie Savvides. 

Pressured no doubt by trying to fit a handful of sub-plots into a TV 'hour', the credits run very fast. After getting over the intrigue of working out whether you're watching the real thing, a photograph or a painting, they come to an end before you can catch your breath. This is definitely not Tony Soprano chomping on a cigar cruising through New Jersey in his own goddamn sweet time. But they are definitely worth viewing in their own right. 

You can see the complete sequence of individual frames from the credits here

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Looking at old photographs...

... and thinking about Peter Robinson.

Barbara Anderson 1926-2013

As tributes flow in for Barbara Anderson as an important New Zealand novelist, a fascinating aspect of her life has been forgotten. Barbara was also a much admired Cubist. 

In the 1990s she was one of the founding residents of both Cubewell House and later the National Mutual Building and was around during the development and presentation of most of the exhibitions shown in those two spaces. Cubism (be there or be square). 

Barbara was insanely curious, stylish and magnificently sure that younger people had as much to offer her as she had to offer in return. And so she did. She was admired and appreciated in equal parts by all her fellow Cubists. With her husband Neil they were for that moment an enlivening presence in the contemporary art world.  A big loss, but big memories too.
Image: Barbara and Neil Anderson on Willis Street just down from the Hamish McKay Gallery, 2003

Monday, March 25, 2013


"Does the person who makes the hubcaps or whatever they're called these days point at a passing Mercedes  SLK or whatever it's called, saying, 'I did that?' No. So why should assistants claim possession for their work? It's a job…. We're not here to mentor them. They're here to work for us."
UK artist Jake Chapman (of the Chapman brothers) talking about studio assistants in the Guardian

Give and take

The Kickstarter inspired crowdfunding site Boosted has just been launched by the New Zealand ArtsFoundation. Although it fronts up like Kickstarter (feisty attitude, snappy graphics and push) it isn’t really. Critically it lacks the personalised rewards and relationship building that are now the signature of crowd sourcing. As one savvy digital guy Nat Torkington points out, Boosted tends to see giving as its own reward - plus tax deductions.

This is very different from the many (and you’d have to say often trivial and annoying) ‘gifts’ and ‘opportunities’ offered by most crowdfunding sites. It's kind of ironic that in a ‘everything-should-be-free-for-everybody’  digital society, when it comes to giving, you need to give something back and preferably something more personal than filling out an IR526 form.

So how far should Boosted go in rewarding contributors with either tangibles (postcards through to dinner with the performers/creators to art works) or intangibles (copious thanks, gold stars, names on boards)? Well it's hard to see how Boosted can grow without being at least a little more engaged with its gifters. The reciprocity principle demands it although we know the major downside for artists - being dragged to functions to meet or perform in front of sponsors, making works as thank-you gifts etc.

Still the visual arts at least are used to it, balancing with one foot in the world of commerce (dealers, art fairs and auctions) and the other in the world of 'support' (sponsorships, grants, fellowships and handouts).

Still, that’s not to say there is anything wrong with a world where sometimes, like cigars, a gift is just a gift.

NOTE: As Boosted explain on their site providing reciprocal gifts like postcards etc will preclude a donation from being a charitable one.  In order to be “charitable” (and in order to qualify for that tax deduction) donations must be “unconditional”.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dog days

As you will have noticed on OTN if things get desperate at the end of the week we reach for something big to entertain you. This week it is giant dog sculptures. You'll be familiar with Jeff Koons’s Puppy but who’d have thought anyone would invite Richard Jackson’s Bad dog lift a leg on the Orange County Museum of Contemporary Art. Big dog, good dog.
Images: top, Richard Jackson Bad dog and second row from right, Dutch dog and Sun spot a big dog work in Colorado. Next down, Jeff Koons Puppy and Balloon dog and bottom, Best friend in corrugated iron by DonsBigArt and Yoshitomo Nara at the Aomori Museum in Japan.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Branded: Daniel Malone

The moment when artists become brands

When art goes to the movies

Another movie featuring an art heist is about to hit New Zealand, this time from Danny Boyle. Trance starts with a painting being snatched mid-auction and hidden away somewhere. Its hiding place is the question that drives the rest of the story.
The nicked work looks like the Goya's Witches in the air that is (in the real world) safely on display at the Prado Museum in Madrid. Boyle probably picked this painting because it shows a typical Goya character with his head wrapped in a sheet  to block out the obscene sight of witches dining (you have to figure Magritte probably saw this painting too). Anyway, the blindfold is a neat metaphor for the amnesia that propels the thieves to hire a hypnotist to prize the whereabouts of the painting out of the recalcitrant mind of one of the gang. It’s that sort of film. You can watch the trailer and pretty much the whole of the heist stuff here.
Images: Top Goya Vuelo de brujos (Witches in the air) 1797-98. Lower, the auction room heist and removing the painting from the frame shot in the storerooms of the V&A. Click on images to enlarge.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Primary instructions

Why drawing died.
And again, thanks to I love charts

Sitting ducks

Anyone who is a regular at art openings will have been to at least one after show dinner. At worst you’re trudging the streets in a pack of twenty looking for a restaurant (“no, we won’t have to book, there’s plenty of places") or the place has been pre-booked ("there’s 30 of us now and we're two hours late, can you manage?”). Even if you get inside the doors though, you'll still be left with the biggest question of all: where do I sit? Or, even more importantly, who will I end up sitting next to?
Fortunately help is at hand thanks to some brain time by Alex Cornell. He points out that “as the diameter of the table increases so does the importance of who you sit next to.” Safest are four person round or square tables where at least one of the three should be good company and is easily available from every sitting position.
A room with two tables of any size? As Mr Cornell says, “You’re fucked.“ He explains. “Whenever you make your choice of where to sit you will always choose too soon. You can only lament as the other table’s attendance crystallizes into what is clearly the superior group. Sometimes it’s best to visit the bathroom while seats are chosen, so any seating disasters are the result of chance, and not your own miscalculation.” You can read Cornell’s comments on other table arrangements and important concepts like diagonals, quiet spaces and lonely end-seats here.
And if you want a reminder of just how bad these dinners can be, try watching the ultimate glad-I-wasn’t-there after opening party in this clip from Julian Schnabel’s movie Basquiat.
Image: 'Andy' and Co. at the diner from hell in Basquiat

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Buy the numbers

“As Director, you will be responsible for animating our iconic building with a dynamic programme of exhibitions that bring people to the Gallery in larger numbers than ever before. As the Gallery’s main ambassador to the community, as well as the wider art world nationally and internationally, you will act as its ‘face and voice’.”
Job description Auckland Art Gallery director 

Sunnyside up

Anyone who's talked with Billy Apple will know of his struggles to get the Billy apple up and running - that’s a Billy Apple apple, grown on a tree and named Billy. Now we've come across a potential fast track: burning a Billy Apple Trademark directly onto a ripening apple via a photogram process. Another art association would be Dennis Oppenheim’s 1970 work Reading position for second degree burn. Oppenheim left a book on his chest as he lay in the sun to capture a pale book-shaped patch against red sunburnt skin. Everything you ever needed to know about Apple branding here.

Images: photograms printed on apples including top the Tsar of Russia and his wife made in the late nineteenth century.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


In the story of gold frames there's probably none sadder than those hanging in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. New Zealanders might be forgiven for thinking they've stumbled on a Julian Dashper installation but this image is in fact a reminder of the day in 1990 when thieves stole $US500 million worth of artworks from the museum. You can see them here on the FBI’s stolen art site. Now the Gardner is offering a $US5 million reward for information leading to the return of the works and today the FBI has announced it knows who stole the works, but doesn't know where they are. You can read this amazing true art-crime story here.
Image: once were paintings at the Stewart Gardner Museum

Never mind the quality

Art famously sells by size, until it gets to a certain size that is. So when the latest Webb’s catalogue arrived we got out the calculator to work out the cost per centimetre for a selection of items based on a purchase price mid-estimate. 

Here’s the results.

$344.50 A classic C F Goldie portrait
$59.32 A 1982 Tony Fomison painting
$36.00 An Evelyn Page portrait of her husband
$30.90 A classic Michael Illingworth painting
$10.00 A Rita Angus watercolour of irises
$18.00 A Tony Fomison drawing
$16.43 A W D Hammond painting in a gold frame
$16.19 A Pat Hanly painting from 1977
$12.90 A Colin McCahon Northland painting on paper
$8.65 A 1979 Ralph Hotere banner
$8.13 A diptych on board by Dick Frizzell
$7.24 A 2004 Michael Smither cave painting
$6.54 An early Frances Hodgkins watercolour
$5.42 A 1990 W D Hammond painting
$4.44 A 1972 Te Henga painting by Don Binney
$4.24 A very large W D Hammond bird painting
$3.70 A Tosswill Woollaston landscape
$2.58 A 1977 Milan Mrkusich abstract
$2.43 A classic Jeffrey Harris painting from1970
$1.90 A Max Gimblett painting from 2008
$1.68  An early religious painting by Michael Stevenson
$1.01 A Michael Parekowhai flower photograph
Image: catalogue image of approximately $4.24 worth of the large W D Hammond as estimated by Webb’s (detail)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Holy sculpture!

Another fashion designer reaching into the fine arts. This time it’s Danish designer Peter Jensen channeling Barbara Hepworth.

Pic of the crop

Back in the late seventies and early eighties we went round the country in our holiday breaks interviewing artists for the book Contemporary New Zealand painters. The photographs had already been taken by Marti Friedlander who had been committed to recording NZ artists for many, many years but we also took the odd pic ourselves. And it’s something we’ve kept up over the years. 
Rather than have our photos lying around in files we’re now going to make them available to anyone who wants to use them. Just add our credit line and we can follow up with bigger files if anyone wants them in the future. We’ll get in touch with the artists first of course and eventually put as many as we can up on Flickr. In the meantime we’ll give you a taste from time to time.
These first two shots were taken in Toss Woollaston’s Riwaka studio in 1980. Our son Pippin was about eight months old and was put to work cleaning studio floors while we talked with the artists.
Image: M. T. Woollaston 1980. Photo: Jim Barr and Mary Barr

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pop goes the easel

Artist easels, each one individually painted to look as though it has been in the studio forever. As one enthusiastic owner writes:

“I was reluctant to dish out the big bucks for this easel, but my husband knew how much I loved it and secretly purchased it for me as a birthday gift. I love it! Have no idea why I hesitated to buy it, it fits so perfectly with my living room d├ęcor and is such a conversation piece”. 

Comes without any of the awkward taste issues around gifting original art works and is available at Anthropologie for $2560 a pop.

Friday, March 15, 2013

On the road

Another shining example of the Ministry of Road Transport and local bodies paying tribute in their own way to the country's artists.

Fund and games

The latest Creative NZ funding round has been released. CNZ promised the Quick Response grants would be announced at 5 PM today and a reader tells us they were definitely up at 5.05 PM. That means we owe CNZ an abject apology for giving it the you-are-late stick earlier last night. The fact is CNZ publishing funding round results to a pre-announced schedule is a big and welcome step forward. 

So how did it go? This lot of grants are max $7,000 so while they’re not major they are certainly enough to help fund artists into overseas projects and that’s what 56 percent of the visual art funding went to.  In terms of funding going direct to individual artists it was 40 percent for visual arts. As this funding level is so low it’s probably time to cut out the middle men and give it all to artists direct. The visual arts got 24 percent of the total Arts Board funding of $284,198 and if you add Craft/Object funding (which includes artists like Joe Sheehan) it comes closer to 33 percent.

Total funding for this round totalled $379,171 of which the Arts Board got 75 percent, Pacific Arts 7.4 percent and Te Waka Toi 17.6 percent. 

Grants to the visual arts in this round have dropped 50 percent from those given in the same funding round last year.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Art is where you find it

In another life we have been taking a set of photographs we have called Once were petrol stations. This is to explain why we have been showing an interest in a new petrol station that is being build just round the corner. So we were there yesterday when, as you do with your modern petrol station, they brought in the sculpture to install.

Potted history

With the Creative NZ cake being cut into thinner and thinner slices it's easy to forget how important some of those slices have been. We saw a solid demonstration when we visited John Parker a few weeks ago. He was in the midst of a firing for his next exhibition and as we stood around the kiln John mentioned that he had been firing his work in it for 23 years almost to the day. He has had two arts council grants. With the first he bought a wheel and with the second of $14,000 in 1990 this electric kiln. Thousands of pots later it's still going strong.

You can check out who received grants from the latest CNZ round by going here at 5 pm. The fact that we know this is thanks to CNZ now pre announcing when grants will be made public.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Open door policy

‘If that’s coming in, you’re going out.’
Mega UK collector Frank Cohen’s wife Cherryl in response to a new art acquisition as reported by the Financial Times.


Along with most art museums in NZ the Auckland Art Gallery posted tributes to Ralph Hotere on its blog Outpost. The posts were a powerful reminder of how quickly art museums can respond in situations like this to show they are an integral part of the wider art community. Included in the Auckland Art Gallery post was some info about the installation of Hotere’s 18 meter long mural Godwit/Kuaka. Apparently there were discussions with Hotere himself about how the new long corridor space at the Gallery perfectly matched the corridor where the mural had been originally installed at the Auckland International Airport. Later in the post, however, it also said the mural had been displayed on “the rear wall of the airport’s Arrivals Hall.” Confusing, but interesting just the same.

In less than half an hour there was a comment on the blog from someone who had been responsible for airport civil maintenance at the time the Hotere mural was at the Airport. The Auckland Art Gallery had it wrong, he said. Hotere’s mural was not in a corridor and nor was it in a ‘welcoming Arrival Hall’ but in the incoming passenger processing area. (It was Pat Hanly and Robert Ellis’s works that hung in the corridor). OK, so now what?

Well, nothing really. A couple of weeks later and there has been no response from the Gallery and it really feels like a lost opportunity. Is the Airport guy right? And if so what’s all the stuff about being in a the corridor about? And where exactly was it hung? It was an unusual chance to discuss an interesting and topical piece of art history, and it could have almost been done in real time. The thing is many people have these blogs on RSS feeds and read comments like this as they land. OK sure you might get some silly responses but to leave questions like this hanging misses a great opportunity to build interest, build audiences and clear up the corridor thing all at the same time.
Image: Ralph Hotere’s 1977 Working drawing for the central panels of the Auckland International Airport mural in the Hocken Library collection. In his book Native wit Hamish Keith who commissioned the work states that the Hotere hung in the Customs hall. 

COMMENT: (Andrew)  "I'm glad someone has finally cleared that up. Although I really enjoy the experience of swimming through the waves of colour that accompany you down the new corridor, it doesn't come close to the magnificent experience of seeing it whole when it was first shown at Auckland Art Gallery as part of the Out the Black Window exhibition. I've always wondered how people had mistaken 'arrivals hall' to mean a hallway when it was more of a town hall. The airport guy is right. The processing area (or customs hall) was basically the baggage hall, which it hung high above - I'm quite well acquainted with an ex-airport gal who worked under the mural for many years. We've been mystified for a while about the corridor thing."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Branded: Dawson

The moment when artists become brands.

Other artists in the transport series:

Head of state

When it comes to damaging public sculpture in the name of religion, politics or plain bad temper, heads get a real beating. A stroll through any antiquities museum will reveal broken noses, scratched-out eyes and, when things get really out of hand, full decapitation.  We had one of our own beheaded in 1987 when a group called Upokokohua took off with Sir George Grey’s head which up to that time had been located on top of his statue in Auckland’s Albert Park. A new head was made by sculptor Roderick Burgess (he also did the controversial Sir Keith Park effort in London which briefly appeared on the Trafalgar Square Fourth plinth).

All this brings us to another re-headed political statue. This time it's one of Margaret Thatcher currently on offer to her hometown Grantham. When on display in London in 2002 Thatcher’s head was removed from her marble body by an outraged visitor using one of the protective metal stanchions for the job (another reason to back OTN’s campaign to remove protective barriers around sculptures). The repaired sculpture is now on offer to Grantham but there's not a lot of support for the idea with one councilor opining that it could be ‘asking for trouble’.  There are two other sculptures of the ex-Prime Minister on view, one in Westminster (standing) and the other in the United States (sitting).
Images: Top Baroness Thatcher before and after. Bottom same with Sir George Grey

Monday, March 11, 2013

Art in the workplace

Art at work in the foyers of the world

Patron padrone

Even in its wildest dreams the politicos couldn’t have imagined that their plea for philanthropists to take over arts funding would result in packs of patrons roaming the streets of Venice acting as supporters of team Culbert and team George.

New Zealand has exhibited at the Venice Biennale since 2001 and each outing has been backed by a group of patrons as well as Creative NZ. This year turns out that John and Jo Gow (Connells Bay Sculpture Park on Waiheke Island and also NZ at Venice patrons ) and dealer Rebecca Hamid of RH Gallery in Nelson have launched a competitive patronage package. This one is funding Darryn George to show in the curated exhibition Personal Structures exhibition at the Palazzo Bembo in Venice. It seems to have much the same trappings as the NZ at Venice one for Bill Culbert (editioned George prints for sale at $2,500, $5,000 and $5,000+, tours in Venice etc) but of course with Culbert as the official NZ representative his comes with Venice gold, the almost-impossible-to-get Vernissage tickets. 
So how much is this new group trying to raise? You’d have to guess you'd say - a lot. Showing at Venice is not cheap even at the edges. The PalazzoBembo where George has been invited to show (Judy Millar was there at the last Biennale and Scott Eady will join George in this one) offers its spaces at $2,200 per square meter. When you add making the work (a ‘fabricated room’ to fit within the existing space along with ‘a high tech lighting system’) freight, airfares, accommodation etc George's budget must be in the region of $150,000. That’s a lot of money to suck out of a well that the Culbert patrons must have thought was theirs for the drinking. How this will all be negotiated with George’s other dealers is anybody’s guess. Look out for more of these patron/dealer/artist mixes as biennales, art fairs and artist projects expand in scale and ambition and the costs escalate.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Saturday style section

If you’re a regular follower of OTN you will know we keep a sharp eye out for those artist-based gifts that keep on giving. This range of bags comes from artist Olaf Breuning who did a stint in New Zealand back in 2002 including a show at the Hamish McKay Gallery. A couple of years ago he teamed up with Bally a luxury leather goods manufacturer in Switzerland to create the Bally Love #2 Capsule Collection. You can watch Olaf touting a couple of the bags here.
Images: top Breuning's original tape and paper prototypes and below the Bally leather versions

Friday, March 08, 2013

Twin peaks

Looking at old photographs and thinking about Ronnie van Hout

A reader has just emailed to say that Len Lye's Water Whirler on the Wellington waterfront is up and whirling again. (Thanks C)

Curator tales

Te Papa is now advertising three new positions for the curatorial team for art. This is part of a restructure that allocates the art curators to the ‘Museum of the Future’ (new art) and the ‘Living Museum” (old art). The new positions are for:  modern art, historical international art and historical New Zealand art plus there's half a curator for historical photography.

The long-awaited role of Senior Curator (Sarah Farrar is currently acting in the role) has still not been advertised but there are strong indications that it is not being seen as a key position. The first is that the Senior Curator won't have any input into the selection of this new bunch of curators and the second, from the new job descriptions, is that she or he will only have a ‘mentoring and coaching’ relationships with the other curators rather than line responsibility. The curators will report directly to the Operations Manager (oh, oh). We have also heard there might be a Head of Art job to come. Wonder what they'll do? So by our count Te Papa now has around nine art curatorial positions. Let's watch out for announcements about more/ better space for art and funding shifts.  After all, these people are going to have to do something. 
You can read the job descriptions and what Te Papa hopes from these new appointments here.
Image: a genuine curator’s egg

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Looks like art

Colour Field painting with tulips

CNZ grant

The new Chair of Creative New Zealand is Dr Richard Grant an ex diplomat who most recently ran the Asia New Zealand Foundation. On your behalf we spent a couple of hours last night trying to find out his connection to the arts by Googling and making a few calls.

What we found out about the new Chair of CNZ:

He has a “strong understanding of Crown governance”
He had a “distinguished diplomatic career”
He has been a member of the Arts Council for eight months
He thinks “Creative New Zealand does important work in developing New Zealand's cultural strengths”
He is a strong advocate of strengthening our ties with Asia

We found nothing about any involvement in art of any form except for this sentence at the end of the official media release. “He has a strong interest in arts and culture.”

Exciting times for the arts.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Finders keepers

Today on its very entertaining blog Bunker Notes the Christchurch Art Gallery put up a quiz. Showing details of works that feature smoking (cigarette variety), you're asked to identify the complete art work. Most art savvy people could easily identify three, even four, of the works but the two drawings are pretty mysterious. Now there's a solution. Thanks to Google image recognition all you need to do to win competitions like this is to pop the image into the Google Image search box. All the details came back with pics of the full image, although one of them needed the words Christchurch as a kicker. This is going to revolutionise (maybe it already has) art history research.
LATER (08-03-03): Since posting this the Christchurch Art Gallery has taken their quiz post down for copyright reasons. Kind of ironic given that all the images are out there on the internet anyway, but there you go.
Images: the Christchurch details, even when significantly further reduced still picked up their originals via Google image