Friday, May 31, 2013

A bit off

OTN will be taking a couple of weeks off and our last post for a couple of weeks will be tomorrow morning. We will start up again on 19 June from the Venice Biennale. Of course if there is any major news you need to know about in the meantime we'll post anyway. You can find the RRS feed for OTN on the right hand column of the blog.

Top Bill

If it has been hard for the New Zealand representatives in at the Venice Biennale to get any decent press Bill Culbert has broken the damn with this impressive slideshow coverage in Blouin Artinfo who describe Culbert's show as a "must see" and the artist as "an artworld secret for too long".  Four other New Zealanders will exhibit in Venice during the Biennale including Simon Denny who is in The Encyclopedic Palace, curated by the Biennale’s artistic director, Massimiliano Gioni. Denny’s work appears to extend another piece he did for the ICA in London last year.
Images: top Culbert and bottom Denny on show in Venice

Putting the fun into funding

The government's drive for new sources of cultural funding has a poster child in Boosted, the Arts Foundation’s crowd sourcing site. It’s been up for a couple of months now, so how's it going?

OTN joined up and in March chose to support the Christchurch Art Gallery’s effort to fund an outreach programme. The goal was $25,000 in 35 days. The first surprise (ok, we didn’t read the fine print) was that unlike other crowd sourcing sites Boosted banked our contribution a day or so after it was pledged. On other funding systems our dollars were claimed when and if the project reached its target. Of course the big difference with Boosted is that in reality you are donating to the Arts Foundation and not the project. It is the Foundation that decides whether or not to pass the money on to your selected project. OK they are almost certain to do so, but it is not guaranteed. As the Foundation has also undertaken to refund donations when projects don't reach their goal, it must be bracing for the heavy admin job of contacting hundreds of contributors (one unsuccessful project alone had over 55) when this happens. That's on top of providing tax receipts to the 600 plus donors (the average donation, not including Christchurch, is around $100) to successful projects

Back to Christchurch. By the middle of April nothing much had happened. Our project was only five percent funded and its prospects were looking grim. Suddenly a contribution of around $12,000 landed in the kitty via insurance company IAG. Hmmm, that was convenient. Then with three days to go, magic. Another $12,000 popped up, this time from the Christchurch Casino, and game over. It's hard to believe that the Christchurch Art Gallery didn't already have those large donations in its back pocket and was participating as an act of support to the Boosted concept. The downside was the danger of making the other smaller contributors feel rather surplus to requirements.

Tracking projects is definitely an issue for Boosted. There is nothing on the site we could find listing successful projects and unsuccessful ones just vanish in the night although you can cobble some information together from Facebook. We've been through the site but we're not quite sure what happens if a project is over-subscribed. There is some stuff about projects maybe being given more if the AF thinks they would do even better good things with it but it's wrapped in a lot of lawyer language.

And then there's the way the Boosted site stresses that projects have a limited time to raise their funds. Sure, it adds drama, but it's a little ingenuous as a number of 30-day time extensions have been allowed to projects that have only excited the smallest flutter of donor interest.

At the 50-day mark the Arts Foundation announced the funding of six successful projects. “We're thrilled to announce that, since launching, Boosted has raised over $50,000 for the arts! “ (this amount is now $70,000).  While Boosted certainly had raised $50,000 what was not mentioned was that over half of it came from two donations for one project.

A site like Boosted that gathers good art projects that need funding and manages donations is a great idea. But it probably needs some fine tuning to make it a little more donor friendly given that increased philanthropy is the aim. For example a clearer connections between the projects and the cash (not every donor is just in it for the tax deductions), better tracking to show what happens to every project, a cumulative list of past projects and results that stays up for easy reference (at the moment Google seems to be the only way to old projects, so a search box might be good too) and a FAQ that answers potential contributor questions.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Spilling it

If you follow OTN with close attention you'll recall that on or around the end of 2011 we removed a Found post for Nick Spill, conceptual performance artist and curator at the National Art Gallery in the 1980s. Spill considered that his secret life as a bodyguard didn’t bear repeating given some of the agencies he worked for and we guess their high class clients.

Now Spill has come out from behind the security fence and published The way of the bodyguard. According to Spill the book has been written for “those who are curious about the world of bodyguards, those who want to get into the profession” (and let's face it who isn’t? and who doesn’t?) and next week will be available at Amazon for $4.99.

There are many tips along the way. “They [potential bank robbers] looked at my suit jacket, probably worked out I was wearing a bulletproof vest under my white shirt and tie and that I had a large handgun somewhere.” Bulletproof vest, check. Large handgun, check.

And, “ According to verbal judo doctrine an uncocked tongue is more dangerous than an uncocked gun.” Tongue cocked, check.

And, “The way of the bodyguard is to lose your ego.” Uncheck ego, check.

And, finally, “If a new bodyguard shows up to work for me without a flashlight, and a pen and notebook, I send them home.” Pen, flashlight and notebook, check, check, check.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Generous to a fault Justin Paton, who is curating the Bill Culbert exhibition in Venice, devotes one of his blog news stories to the last Venice representative Michael Parekowhai. It seems one of the many stick down signs that were applied to the foot paths is still hanging on two years later. Not bad given that the practice is technicially banned by the Venice officials. You can follow progress via Justin and other members of the Venice team here on the CNZ site NZatVENICE.

Living room.

When we were in Montreal we paid a return visit to one of the city’s most audacious buildings. Indeed given that the architect was 23 it probably set some kind of world audacity record. Habitat67 was constructed as a pavilion for the Montreal Expo of the same year. Its architect Moshe Safdie was only just out of architecture school and working with Louis Kahn in Philadelphia when he scored the commission.

The complex is astonishing, a twentieth century castle meets geometry. As the identical modules turn and reverse on each other they show how important the spaces between things and around things are to art and architecture. But so unnerving to to see though such a massive structure as it frames the sky and trees beyond. And it is massive. At opening it comprised 354 apartments and although some have now been joined together it has not affected the external appearance. Indeed it's hard to think of Habitat as a single structure so complex are its forms and the connections between them.

Initially it was intended to provide affordable housing but that was one ambition not realised. It is now a very private upscale housing complex with the expansive courtyards and natural stairs and its entry pathways tightly guarded. In 2009 Habitat67 was recognised as a heritage building but from what we could see Montreal's climate is not kind to concrete. There are many signs of stress and partial decay. Still the complex is an imposing achievement and still a powerful model for urban housing.

Just along the road is another structure built for Expo67 the Montreal Biosphere, Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome.  In architecture you would have to say 1967 was a very good year.

You can take a peek inside Habitat67 via this Leonard Cohen music video

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Looking up at the down

In Montreal we were thinking about Niel Dawson

Site specific

One thing you can say about NZ's museums and art museums is that we haven’t pillaged too much stuff from other countries - too late, too small, too distant. With strong Maori leadership we're also ahead in the repatriation of human remains although it’s estimated that around 500 Maori ancestral remains are still held overseas. And you do have to wonder why, say, a small university museum in Montreal needs to display the mummified body of an Egyptian or a treasured and sacred fetish figure from Africa. 

And then there's the works that will never be returned, the countless religious paintings and icons and sculptures that have been stripped from their context and narratives and put in museums. When you do get to see a great artwork in its original setting it's a startling experience. 

We've just been to St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valetta and met up with Caravaggio’s masterpiece The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.  Ok, it's not exactly accessible, but an extraordinary visual reward is guaranteed. Painted for a side chapel in the Cathedral used by the Knights of Malta, this painting hangs behind the altar exactly where Caravaggio intended. It even witnessed the day the Knights of Malta gathered to defrock the artist after another unpardonable escapade. Like many other art pilgrimages it has its challenges but you’ll never see anything like it anywhere else.
Image: Sure it’s behind a sign and you share the space with a small crowd but there it is, Caravaggio’s The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist right where it belongs.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Like a rolling stone

In Malta thinking about Te Papa

Model behaviour

‘It was like being a civil servant, except that you were naked.’
Quentin Crisp on his time as an artist’s model between 1942 and the early 1970s

Baby steps

Here’s something you probably won’t see in an art museum in NZ anytime soon. Ai Weiwei has just shown Baby formula 2013. It is a giant map of China made from hundreds of cans of baby formula featuring popular brands. Back in 2008 New Zealand's Fonterra was involved in the milk formula scandals through its investment in the Chinese company Sanlu. In that instance three children died and many were hospitalised after drinking milk contaminated with melamine. Even now years later Chinese mothers still travel to Hong Kong to get what they perceive to be safe formula. Ai Weiwei says of his work, “This is a most fundamental assurance of food, but people actually have to go to another region to obtain this kind of thing. I think it's a totally absurd phenomenon."
Image: Ai Weiwei's Baby formula 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013

One day in the TV studio

Director: Here’s your script, Mr. Dali

Dali: (reads) First it dissolves. Happy bubbles but devoted bubbles. The Alka-Seltzer shoots into the stomach. Here it neutralises the bad excess acid. Meanwhile this specially popular aspirin is speeding into your blood stream and places of pain so those beautiful places will feel beautiful again. Alka-Seltzer is a work of art. Truly one of a kind.

Director: OK?

Dali: Yes, it is good. I will make only one small change.

And he did.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Spare a thought for Te Papa as it prepares for not one but two blockbuster exhibitions this year (Andy Warhol and Treasures of the Aztecs). Both are crucial to ensuring attendances do not fall below the 1.3 million Te Papa has settled into over recent years. The trouble is that blockbusters tend to be expensive to mount and it's hard to predict the big winners. It certainly can be a complete crapshoot when it comes to making money or even breaking even.

Insight into what is involved in an Aztec Treasures type show has been revealed by the Australian Museum in Sydney with some numbers around its Alexander the Great: 2000 Years of Treasures from St Petersburg. Alexander pulled in a modest 161,145 visitors and according to the museum will ‘hopefully’ break even.  For context Te Papa's Monet and the Impressionists attracted 152,000 visitors in 2009

We did some estimates on what break even might mean for Alexander. Ticket prices were $28 Adult; $72 Family (2 adults + 2 children); $21 Concession; $14 Child and we figured of the 161,145 visitors 55 percent were adult, 25 percent kids, 5 percent families and 10 percent concessions. Then we threw in 5 percent for free admissions. In terms of ticket revenue this all adds up to around $4 million and yet Alexander still only broke even (hopefully). And the costs can be huge, Alexander required 29 curators to accompany it across the world. Still, the Australian Museum remains game; it's one of the Australian venues taking Te Papa's Aztec show.

The investment into these blockbusters is more about marketing the museum and attracting attention than it is about making a return. That’s why although museums can allow some blockbusters to fall on the red side of the ledger, they really do have to get those numbers through the door.
Images: Back in the day queuing for Tutankhamun at the British Museum in 1971

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Let it go Bob, let it go

“For that matter, the New Zealand official exhibit a few years ago at a European sculpture contest of a musical corrugated-iron farm toilet shed was certainly cause for national embarrassment.”
Bob Jones goes for the record number of factual errors in a single sentence (10) in attempting to describe et al.’s installation at the Venice Biennale in the NZH.

King hit

Art museums often complain that prices have pushed them out of the room as collectors. The other day we saw the other end of this story. Walking into Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts we were stopped in our tracks by a truly great painting by Gerhard Richter. Very impressively it was purchased by the Museum the first time it was exhibited back in 1987, long before Richter was established as one of the most important artists of our time. Even to pay what has been described elsewhere as “significantly less than US$100,000” for a Richter back in 1987 would have required steady nerves. It was his first show in the United States and many years before the 2002 retrospective at MoMA that confirmed his reputation. Now over half of Richter’s abstract paintings are in public collections.

And how the marketplace loves Gerhard Richter. Even Richter thinks it's on another planet when it comes to his work. "It's just as absurd as the banking crisis. It's impossible to understand and it's daft.” Last year Eric Clapton sold one for $33.4 million making Richter at the time the world’s highest priced living artist. It’s big business the Richter business with total sales for the 30 years leading up to 2010 at $538,118,111, with the single boom year 2010 accounting for $76.9million of that total. So great call by whoever was in charge of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in the late eighties.

Image: details from Gerhard Richter’s diptych AB Mediation 1986

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Stupid, stupid, stupid: the mistakes we make

For anyone who wondered why the Auckland Art Gallery would put out a media release on a Sunday afternoon announcing its new director, you can rest easy. Thanks to OTN’s limited understanding of the International dateline, and the fact that Twitter etc call 'local time' where ever you happen to be, the dates in timeline for the Rhana Devenport appointment post are all one day early (apart from AAG’s 13 May media release). The story in fact started on the Monday (when staff were told) rather than on Sunday so no embargo was involved. The order is the same and so, unfortunately, was the low-key response.

The duck Christo problem

When Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s inflatable sculpture Rubber duck was reduced to a puddle in Hong Kong harbour, it gave OTN the opportunity to combine two favoured themes - the big and the lookalike.  Hofman has created a number of his 15-meter ducks. One was recently floating in Sydney harbour and is now in storage waiting for a return gig next summer. As the Hong Kong Duck is down for maintenance we can match it up with Christo’s 1983 Biscayne Bay installation Surrounded islands. Hofman also attracted OTN ‘s attention when he made not one but two giant rabbit sculptures.

Images: Top left, Rubber duck deflated in Hong Kong and right, one of Christo’s Surrounded islands. Bottom, the Hofman duck in Sydney

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Jim Barr (Dowse Art Gallery)
Luit Bieringa (Manawatu Art Gallery)
Pat Day (National Art Gallery)
Austin Davies (Suter Art Gallery)
Ken Gorbey (Waikato Museum of Art and History)
Rodney Wilson (Robert McDougall Art Gallery)
Les Lloyd (Dunedin Public Art Gallery)
Bill Milbank (Sarjeant Gallery)
John Perry (Rotorua Art Gallery)
Ron O’Reilly (Govett-Brewster Art Gallery)
Ernest Smith (Auckland City Art Gallery)

Carpet bomb

A visit to the Philip Johnson Glass House resulted in a heap of pics that look much like all the others so we'll spare you. Also on the property are a bunch of other buildings and structures by Johnson that are not in the classic style of the Glass House and most of them exude a sniff of outdated whimsy. And of course as Johnson was also a major art collector and super-patron of MoMA there are also two art galleries on the estate. One is a rather airless subterranean painting gallery and the other is set up for sculpture (you can see some pics we took here).

The big surprise in the painting gallery (ok shock really) was to find that the famous movable walls were covered, Austin Powers-like, in carpet. Yes, carpet was a Philip Johnson favourite that he'd used as early as the sixties in the Kreeger house. Somehow he convinced his clients that laying fireproofed beige cotton carpet over plaster would highlight the art while providing ease of installation (no visible nail holes, no touching up). In his enthusiasm he forgot to mention one small fact: while it looks ok at a distance in photographs it looks plain weird close up. Still if weird is what you want, you can see how to lay carpet on a wall here. 
Images: Top Philip Johnson’s painting gallery and bottom, yes that’s carpet.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Christina Barton (Adam Art Gallery)
Elizabeth Caldwell (City Gallery)
Julie Catchpole (Suter Art Gallery)
Fiona Ciaran (Aigantighe Art Gallery)
Rhana Devenport (Auckland Art Gallery)
Jenny Harper (Christchurch Art Gallery)
Penelope Jackson (Tauranga Art Gallery)
Courtney Johnston (Dowse Art Museum)
Charlotte Huddleston (St Paul St Gallery)
Helen Kedgley (Pataka)
Cherie Meecham (Waikato Museum of Art and History)
Melanie Oliver (Physics Room)
Caterina Riva (Artspace)
Linda Tyler (Gus Fisher Gallery)

Front Rhana

Is there a more important NZ art story than the appointment of a new director for the Auckland Art Gallery? Probably not and this time it comes with any amount of interesting baggage. For a start Devenport will be the first woman director of the Auckland Art Gallery, the fifth Australian (taking to over 50 percent the number of AAG directors that have come out of Australia) and will head a senior management team entirely composed of women. 

Devenport is of course from the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery that must now be the pre-eminent launch pad for senior art museum staff in this country. Cheryll Sotheran to the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Te Papa, John McCormack and Pricilla Pitts to DPAG, Greg Burke to Toronto's Power Plant and Robert Leonard to the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane. Then there's the selection of Devenport when Christchurch Art Gallery's Jenny Harper is understood to have been in the running. As Harper is one of the most qualified museum professionals in the country you'd think this would be cause for at least some discussion. Devenport did after all come in from behind to beat the odds on favourite.

Plus there's Devenport’s commitment to Asian art. This focus was seen in her programming of the Govett-Brewster and will be complemented by her new principal curator Zara Stanhope who has just completed a PhD on cross cultural contemporary art practice with her research based in Asia. One in four people living in Auckland city identified with an Asian ethnicity in 2006, and this is expected to increase to one in three in 2021 so this appointment could bring big changes to the direction of the AAG. Devenport has already hinted at this. You would think, wouldn’t you, that combined these factors add up to a great story? So how surprising it is then to see the minor attention it has attracted.

The chronology. It seems that the Auckland Art Gallery issued an embargoed media release with the announcement sometime on Sunday 12 May. It was almost immediately broken by Metro magazine in a tweet at 7.28pm. The response on Twitter was muted to say the least. A few regulars picked up the early Metro tweet, including Leg of Lamb, Anthony Byrt, Courtney Johnson, Newstalk ZB and four others who retweeted Metro.

The one substantive comment we've found was made on Monday morning at 8.42am by Hamish Keith. He expressed dismay: “New Zealand’s greatest ever Director, Jenny Harper – passed over for Auckland Art Gallery job – bloody shame.”  And later tweeted that “…Jenny’s track record leadership and scholarship are among the best I have encountered in my career.”  

The AAG itself finally acknowledged the appointment with an oh-by-the-way tweet at 9.16am (“We are looking forward to our new director Rhana Devenport who starts in July.”) and that night Newstalk ZB made the announcement online at 6.24pm and half an hour later Scoop published the media release probably in line with the embargo.

On Tuesday morning OTN posted and the mainstream media came on board with the NBR taking up the story and filling it out with what appears to be interview material from Jenny Gibbs strongly in support of the appointment. Then at 5am on Wednesday the Taranaki Daily News ran the story and followed up the next day with a ‘first woman’ piece.

Sticking to its guns the AAG still has nothing on Facebook (apart from auto-postings from other pages), no news, no blog post and no sign of the media statement on its site. The New Zealand Herald, at least online, appears to have spiked the story.

The Auckland Art Gallery is the major art institution in NZ and yet no one seems all that interested in its leadership or what changes might be in store. There was a time when this sort of appointment might have made the front page of the Metropolitan daily rather than just raising a flutter of insider tweeting.

Image: The AAG announce the appointment of their new Director on Twitter

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Showing off on Saturday

Some of you may recall and perhaps even played Pippin Barr’s game based on the Marina Abramović survey exhibition at MoMA The artist is present. It turns out you were not alone. The other day Pippin got an email from Abramović saying she had played the game but lost her place in the queue when she left her computer to make lunch. She summed up the experience, “so I never got to sit with myself”. Now, following a meet on Skype, she and Pippin are going to collaborate on some more games. If you find that impressive, join the queue.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Man up

“In this years Venice Biennale, out of 31 countries that will show solo artists, 74% solo artists will be male and 26% will be female. Assuming all of these countries have similar ratios of artists in general and art school graduate ratios as Australia has, (35% male grads and 65% female grads) a male artist will have above 5 times more chance of showing at the Venice Biennale than a female artist.”


The boundary between art and fashion isn’t blurred any more. To use a fashion term, it’s seamless. At the moment in New York within three blocks there is not one but three mega stores vying to take the art fashion crown, At Barney's it's Lichtenstein all the way with three windows onto Madison Avenue devoted to blow-ups of his limited editions. From a beach ball to a frisbee (decorated with the Lichtenstein cat painting once owned by Andy Warhol) in the familiar RL style they are all to be had in store. A few block down the Japanese retailer UNIQLO is dishing out Andy Warhol on Ts and has sponsored a free night at MoMA for the rest of the year. And finally a more up-market was on offering at Calvin Klein with Ellsworth Kelly’s 1952 dress design updated (you can see the original being worn here on OTN) and in its window tastefully 'curated' in front of a Kelly print.
Images: Top left the Kelly dress at Calvin Klein and right the window at Barney's. Middle Barney's flogging Lichtenstein-like product. Bottom, meanwhile over at UNIQLO

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Art at work

Playtime on Fiona Connor's Frieze installation Style guide spa
Photo: via Fiona Connor


Here’s a story we heard from the guard standing by Marcel Duchamp’s The large glass in the Philadelphia Museum. When the collection of Duchamp’s work owned by Louise and Walter Arensberg was donated to the Museum, Duchamp designed the first installation himself (and some of the key works are still where he placed them). During this process Duchamp learnt that outside one of the blank walls in his gallery was a large courtyard and fountain. He asked for a window to be cut into the stone wall and to Duchamp’s delight the gushing water of the fountain outside was reflected in The large glass. Typically though, despite most of his key works being included in the gallery, there was no sign of his readymade sculpture Fountain.
Images: Top, Duchamp’s The large glass with our guard behind it. Bottom, the ‘Duchamp’ window and the view of the fountain beyond.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The never ending story

“I never really think about the money I just think about the next piece and about how we’ll do it and how much it will be. And sometimes I think, Wow, that’s a lot. And sometimes we have it, and sometimes we don’t.”
American artist Paul McCarthy in the NYT


On Saturday in New York we were able to see not one but two big exhibitions of Jeff Koons. Infamously the two shows were on at two competing dealer mega galleries Gagosian and David Zwirner.  David Zwirner has only ever lost one of his big-time artists (that was Franz West and he went to Gagosian) and Gagosian doesn't like losing anything so all eyes are on how this Koons arrangement evolves. And how the hell Koons pulled off  this doubles stunt is anyone’s guess but it's definitely a muscle flexing demo of his pulling power with rich collectors. Anyway there were Koons to burn at both barn-sized spaces but very different approaches to their ARIPs (Audience Relationship Interface Protocols).

Gagosian was guard heavy. Ten of them in fact (more than one per work which were in fairness finger-licking shiny stainless steel) and dressed in black along with a grey-suited boss who scuttled around repositioning his team like a neurotic cricket captain adjusting the out field. No touching, no photography, no bags. When we did take a photo from the street through the window a guard inside was not a happy person.

At Zwirmer's a couple of guards handled the whole area. Photography was fine, posing in front of the works was ok and bags and backpacks didn’t seem to be a problem.

Then we went to Zwirner’s other gigantic gallery on the next block to look at sculpture from another galaxy altogether.

Images: Guarding Koons at David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Top spot

Govett-Brewster director Rhana Devenport will be the first woman to take up the director’s job at the Auckland Art Gallery. She will lead the charge for the new commercial model as the Gallery works within Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA), the council-owned body that oversees the art gallery, Auckland Zoo, Auckland Museum, Mt Smart Stadium etc. All three top positions in the Auckland Art Gallery are now held by women (Director, Deputy Director and Principal Curator).

Devenport has been at the Govett-Brewster for around seven years and for the last two or three has been heading the push for a new Len Lye Centre. It is now being built in New Plymouth. She follows a number of Australians who have led the Auckland Art Gallery including its last director Chris Saines who has gone on to direct the Queensland Art Gallery.

Eyes now on the Govett-Brewster to see who will take over New Plymouth’s contemporary space and the challenge to make Len Lye its centre of attention.

More here from the Taranaki Daily News

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rat king

Left the Union scab rat brought out to protest non-union labour being used at the Frieze Art Fair and right a 3.5 meter bronze 'art' version created by the Bruce High Quality Foundation ("a learning experiment where artists work together to manifest creative, productive, resistant, useless, and demanding interactions between art and the world") that sits without any visible irony in the foyer of Lever House.

Big Ears

An ear to the ground at the Frieze Art Fair:

“You talk to them, they’ll talk to George and George, can get back to us via Gina. Then maybe we can do something.”

“All I can say is whatever you think of his collection it certainly works in dollar terms.”

Collector: “I’ve got one of those but I think it is a different size.”
Dealer: “Yes they do come in different sizes.”
Collector: “I don’t like that.”

A: “There aren’t any labels, so how do you know who did what?”
B: “If you don’t know who they’re by you can’t afford them.”

A: “Love your trousers.”
B: “Thank you, they’re green.”
A: “I noticed.”

A: “That guy is totally of the moment.”
B: “Who is he?”
A: “Can’t remember.”

A: “Is it just me or are things getting smaller and smaller and costing more and more?”
B: “Mostly you I think.”

A: “Well at least we’re not screwing anyone over and that’s a good thing. Right?”
B: (uncomfortable silence)

Collector: “I do so love Struth.”
Dealer: “Actually this one is by Wolfgang Tillmans.”
Collector: “Oh, I’m not so sure about Tillmans.”

Collector on the phone: “Where are you? Oh. Have you seen anything… me? …no… it’s all either too big or too blue.”

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Saturday chart

Friday, May 10, 2013

Deep Frieze

The Frieze Art Fair opened this morning and OTN walked the halls on your behalf. You can also count on our special operative Big Ears having them both to the ground over the next few days, but in the meantime a quick sum up of what was everywhere you looked and what was nowhere to be seen.
Everywhere: cut glass, silver, cast objects, drawing and painting over photographs, birds and Paul McCarthy
Nowhere: neon, video, curtains, chandeliers and skulls
Image: Paul McCarthy's giant Balloon dog based on Jeff Koons's very large Balloon dog based on a regular party clown balloon dog

Crowd sourcing II

All public art museums crave to attract more people through their doors. Attendances often determine how much sun will shine on them from their funders who in NZ's case are mostly local and regional authorities. Take Auckland Art Gallery for instance. Its council ‘owner’ Robert Domm, the chief executive of Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA), is focussed on the Gallery “enhancing its commercial performance” and that aspiration is a very powerful shaping idea. But, be careful what you wish for. We found our visit to the Museum of Modern Art dispiriting. Commercially successful? No doubt but by pulling in the crowds MoMA has sacrificed what you'd have thought were two of its most important roles; the protection of works of art and the protection of the experience of those works of art.

Hundreds of people rushed through the galleries brushing against paintings, jostling for position in front of famous works and suddenly stopping dead or lurching away as the audio guide spun them round. The guards had all but given up in the face of such crowds only occasionally calling “no flash” if only to prove they even existed. Wow. Meanwhile down the road the sexy fashion brand Abercrombie & Fitch kept eager punters waiting in a line outside its Manhattan flagship store until there was space for them to properly enjoy the store. The priority of A&F (like the Barnes collection in Philadelphia) is the experience once you get inside and that's what they protect. MoMA's priority seems to be to take the money and run. Their approach to what the crowds get as an experience (or rather non-experience) at thirty bucks a head? Not our problem.

Images: top left, crowds form at the ticket office and right, they’re off, the rush to the ‘best’ galleries. Middle, six deep at audio tour stops and bottom, shadow play delivers Douglas Gordon’s poignant video Play dead; real time straight back to the circus.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

That was the year that was

Here’s an idea for an exhibition. Take a year and curate a tight selection of what was exhibited around town in that year. Well, not our idea but the New Museum in New York’s. What you got was a smart mix of art that was difficult at the time and has now come into focus, works that seemed important and now not so much, artists who were at their peak and others who were just about to break through. A fine curatorial sieve was set across time (1993) and place (NY) and yet as a viewer you had a lot of ideas to play with. The Museum is selling it as a time capsule but it's more an opportunity to step back and make a wider judgement than focus on quirky or outdated details as time capsules are notorious for doing. And to cap it off the Museum commissioned Rudolf Stingel to install an extraordinary floor covering that flowed from the elevators through the gallery spaces bringing the show together in a way bright orange carpet was never designed to do.
Images: top Rudolf Stingel’s carpet in a little side action as the lift opens onto the gallery space, second row left Felix Gonzalez Torres Untitled (couples) and right a detail from the billboard work untitled. Third row Derek Jarman’s Blue and bottom Charles Ray’s Family romance. All from 1993.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Be nice

"If you're critical you're already out of the game."
Jeff Koons quoted by one of his dealers David Zwirner in New York magazine

Woulda, coulda, shoulda

When Te Papa was built in the late 1980s the spectre of Frank Gehry hung over the result. At Ian Athfield's invitation Gehry had been part of a proposal for the building but it didn’t make the final cut. That Gehry went on to deliver the hugely acclaimed Guggeheim Museum at Bilbao has always encouraged NZ critics to wave the we-could-have-had-that stick. It was indeed a great period for him. We saw another wonderful building that would have been in Gehry’s mind when he was thinking about Te Papa. This one is the stunning University of Toledo Art Building attached to the neo classical Toledo Art Museum. Often such co-locations are riddled with corny ‘references’ to the original building in terms of form and decoration, but not this time. Gehry has chosen to see the art museum as what Billy Apple would call ‘a given’ and responded with a tumbling mid-Western fort that updates the columned treasure chest metaphor. More recently the Japanese team SANAA have added a brilliant glassed in courtyard. The addition is so seamless we assumed it was part of the Gehry original and only learned later of SANAA’s role. Perhaps SANAA could come over and work with Te Papa #daydreambeliever.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Te Papa...

...making a splash in New York.


Apart from photographing your friends posing in front of works in art museums (we've recently watched a ten minute set of mimic-poses in front of Andy Warhol’s painting Ethel Scull 36 times that would have done a professional model shoot proud) there’s a new kind of photography in town. Museum visitors are starting to use the zoom feature on their phone cameras to record those illusive details you miss. A whole new micro world of art is coming into focus - and with an iPad of course the experience is hugely magnified.

How will the museums respond? Well if people can have an intimate close-up view of works their experience will be very different and they'll have different kinds of questions. There's not much point blandly announcing on a label that a knife is richly illustrated with animal figures if the visitor via a few camera shots has already discovered that the animals all have human heads and they seem to have weapons drawn. As they say in Starshiptroopers, "Do you want to know more?" This is a different way of looking that will demand different ways of presentation and interpretation. Good luck with that.
Images: top left to right, James Ensor Masks confronting death,  Henri Matisse The goldfish bowl, Caesar captive before Shopur II, Seal ring in the name of Hajji Muhammad Mahmud, El Anatsui's Dusasa II and Alberto Giacometti's City square (Details follow in the same order).

Monday, May 06, 2013

Spaced out

One piece of weirdness currently on sale on TradeMe  and LinkBusiness is an Auckland gallery specialising in “original contemporary New Zealand art by renowned New Zealand artists”. Sounds ok, except the works shown to entice you are a painting and sculpture by Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell’s Black figuration on blue and Transcendent presence by Richard Pousette-Dart. Who's betting these works come with the gallery asking price of $110,00?

The gallery image has of course been liberated from the internet and this TradeMe seller is not alone. Start with the Serenity Bed and Breakfast in Canada. It's offering tours art tours round the local galleries and guess what? That damn de Kooning is on show in Brighton, Ontario. Meanwhile Aaron Blumenshine has taken down the masters and replaced them with his own work while the San DiegoUniversity art school has thrown caution to the wind and simply used the image as is to promote itself. Karro International Fine Art in Miami at least had the decency to hang its own paintings in the hijacked space although it did leave the de Kooning sculpture as part of the decor. Biggest surprise use of the space has got to be a model wearing a hijab in a virtual fashion shoot although Cherry Cole, bless her, is up there with her imitation of a statue right in front of the de Kooning.
Who knows why this particular image has attracted so many appropriators (we found over fifty examples). Maybe it was nothing more than that the gallery space and the de Kooning looked like modern art should. Once it was out there and digital though, it was fair game
For the record the real owner of this museum space and the art works is the Grand Rapids Art Museum in Michigan.
Images: From the top as seen in TradeMe, SanDiego University art school, Karro International Fine At, Aaron Blumshire's page, hajib fashions, Cherry Cole and as originally photographed in the galleries of the Grand Rapids Art Museum