Wednesday, July 31, 2013


“With her long, flowing hair and commanding presence, Rhana Devenport could almost be mistaken for a painting hanging in the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.”
The Taranaki Daily News grows lyrical describing Auckland Art Gallery’s new director who started work at the gallery yesterday

One day in the Disney studios

Animator 1: I am so sick of working for Disney.

Animator 2: Me too. If I have to animate another cute squirrel nibbling a nut I’ll go crazy.

A1: What? But we already have tons of squirrel stuff in stock.

A 2: Thanks. Another 123 days wasted.

A1: And that’s why I say we have to get out of here.

A2: But what would we do?

A1: It's tricky. I thought of going into animated porn but I think the Disney work has desensitised us.

A2: How about buying hats and becoming baristas?

A1: You need to know how to work a coffee machine…and wear a hat without looking stupid.

A2: (takes off hat) Oh.

A1: No, I was thinking of making an art film.

A2: (sits up) OK. An art film? Wow. That sounds totally cool.

A1: Yeah, something that delves into the mind and challenges assumptions.

A2: I’m there. Who’ll we get to star in it?

A1: I was thinking Van Gogh, Seurat, Magritte, Lichtenstein....

A2: Never heard of them.

A1: They’re artists.

A2: Oh…. You mean a film about art….an animated film.

A1: Absolutely. We’ll have this kick-ass kid discuss cosmetic surgery with van Gogh, do things like creep up behind the American Gothic couple and be chased all over the place by a mentally unstable art curator. All we have to do is set up a business and fund it.

A2: We could use Kickstarter.

And that was what they did.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Auckland's St Kevins Arcade

We were thinking about Peter Robinson

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

Creative NZ has announced that its Venice Biennale committee is set to pick who's to go to Venice in 2015 but who's on that committee? So far we only know the names of the CNZ operative and the Commissioner who's head of school at Massey Heather Galbraith (as an aside one assumes this probably rules out any Massey staff getting the nod). The word is that the artist will be chosen before the current Venice Biennale ends on 24 November.

There's certainly some interesting scene-setting for their choice. Across a couple of dimensions past selections have added up to a perfect balance: an equal number of women and men selected over the years and an equal number born in the North Island and in the South Island. The selections even stack up quite well in bicultural terms with three of the eight having Maori affiliations. Beyond that though the choices have been considerably narrower. 

Our Venice representative studied at Elam (5 to 3), lived overseas or in Auckland (5 to 3), was a sculptor (7 of 8 - even the one painter Judy Millar was most likely to have had her Venice installation read as sculpture). Interestingly 5 of them have also gone on to be a finalist or win the Auckland Art Gallery’s Walters Prize (5 to 3). In fact looking at it the other way round, the only Walters Prize winners not to have done Venice are, Yvonne Todd and Kate Newby. Whoops we left out Dan Arps (thanks for the reminder R) and sorry Dan.

So how do the leading contenders shape up?

The elephant in the room remains painter Shane Cotton. A NZ artist who has received major recognition (exhibitions, publications, overseas representation) but can’t tick even one of the majority boxes including (unbelievably) winning or even being nominated for the Walters Prize. That's especially weird when you think that 24 artists have been selected for the Prize to date. 

As a photographer Fiona Pardington doesn’t do much better box-wise although she picks up one for studying at Elam. 

Simon Denny on the other hand ticks the lot and coupled with his recent rave review by Roberta Smith in the New York Times must be a front-runner. If he got the nod he'd be the youngest ever by a couple of years and 47 years younger than this year’s Bill Culbert (ironically 47 is also the average age of all the past Venice representatives). So it looks like a slam dunk for Denny. 

But then it did last time too.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Free to a good home

Over the years we have taken many, many photographs of artists in and out of their studios. The picture of Tony Fomison here and the one we posted last Tuesday are examples, so too is this one of Gordon Walters and this one of Toss Wollaston. Our intention is to put up some sort of site that will make these available once we have worked out agreements with some of the artists. They will then be freely available to anyone who wants to use them. If they are credited to us that will be nice too.
Image: Tony Fomison in his Gunson Street studio 1978

Son shine

If you’re a parent or happen to be someone’s child and don’t need to hear about how amazing someone else’s is, you might want to skip this post and come back tomorrow.

Regular readers will already know that Pippin Barr #son made a game based on performance artist Marina Abramovic’s famous work at MoMA. His game like her work was called The artist is present and released on the internet. Abramovic played it (never got to sit with herself for those who've been there) and got in touch with Pippin. They spent some time together in Toronto during the opening of the opera The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic and talked about a collaboration. 

Now Pippin is making games as part of the rewards on a just launched Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for the Marina Abramovic Institute. For a $5 donation you will be able to enter a virtual Institute and play three games inspired by her performances. The games based on the titles of Abramovic performances still manage to have a definite Pippin Barr ring to their titles: a rice counting exercise, stepping on grass, and complaining to a tree. The digital version of the Institute will open soon, but in the meantime you can visit it on Kickstarter and read more about the Institute here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hold onto those cleaning rags everyone, don’t throw out that gas axe and polish up the Rolleiflex. It turns out there’s gold in used artist equipment. Well some artists, Francis Bacon to be exact. A butter bean can bristling with eight of Bacon’s brushes is going up for auction at Christie's. 

The Bacon brushes will be fighting it out with other oddities including a bear skeleton, a large bell used in the Titanic movie A night to remember, a stuffed ostrich and a couple of chairs carved with buffalo heads. Christie's are estimating a hammer price of $47,000 for the brush-can combo although that’s peanuts compared to what it might achieve if it were an artwork. 

Jasper Johns himself owns his 1960 sculpture Painted bronze depicting 14 brushes in a Savarin coffee can so its market value probably won't be tested anytime soon. However, if it ever is, you can forget about tens of thousands, we'll be talking millions. Hmmm… maybe those cleaning rags are best left for cleaning after all.
Images: left, the Bacon bushes on the block and right Jasper Johns Painted bronze

Friday, July 26, 2013


Channeling Ronnie van Hout in Ironbank on K Road

When art goes to the movies: TV edition

Before Jack Nicholson turned up in his purple suit and beret in 1989 to mangle a Degas with red paint in Batman there was the TV Joker in pink tails. That was back in March 1967, the very month The Velvet Underground & Nico (recorded in 1966 during Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable tour) was released. 

We slip this in because one of the characters in the TV version of the Joker vs art - Pop goes the Joker - is Baby Jane Towser, a cute reference to Baby Jane Holtzer one of Warhol’s super stars. In the 1989 movie the Joker gets a laugh by not defacing a Francis Bacon, “I kinda like this one, leave it”. In the TV version, along with paintballing some well-known images, the Joker lets loose and makes his own art. His blank canvas Death of a bat wins an art competition and this, in the logic of TV shows, entitles him to open his own art Academy as a front to skim (ok, steal) money off rich people. “We artists should not be judged by ordinary standards. We’re a very special breed.” 

You can see the Batman movie clip here and our previous post on it here. Sadly Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp pulled the TV version off YouTube while we were writing this post.

Images: Top, the Joker acts tough on art. Middle left, the big competition and right, the Joker with Mary Jane Towser. Bottom, the Joker with his winning work.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

From the stream

Art critic Anthony Byrt gets a hard time from an impatient Auckland Art Fair

Dear diary

You may already know about this site but if you care and can’t be there Artsdiary is the place for you. Even Aucklanders given the number of venues and exhibitions available to them have to get choosy and anyone out of Auckland can sometimes feel they live in a bit of an art vacuum. Thanks to artsdiary (and of course eyeContact) you can now keep a pretty good eye on the Auckland art scene. It also fills a gap if you like to look at people looking at art because artsdiary attends openings as a way of covering its bases. There seem to be a few hold-out galleries (they have to pay a fee to be included in the Artsdiary rounds) but most of the main ones get covered regularly and the archive is building week by week, month by month. You can support Artsdiary here.

Image: Mike Boulden - "Agnosia", modified CRT showing looped video. 25/06/2013, ILAM/ELAM EXCHANGE - "Delegate: Self-reflexive, with the emphasis on the self" at Elam Projectspace. (via Artsdiary)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

For the record

Following up on our record post this brief interview with British artist Richard Hamilton on the creation of the White album cover. (via bunkernotes)

Paper plus

Wallpaper has become a favoured tool of many artists. There are examples of Andy Warhol’s early foray into it as a medium at Te Papa right now and artists like Thomas Demand, Urs Fischer and Takashi Murakami use it as a way to get major coverage fast. But who’d have guessed Ralph Hotere would get into the act, albeit posthumously? In fact we’re being perhaps ingenuous here calling it wallpaper (it’s not actually stuck on the wall) but it’s a strange lookalike story, and besides we wanted to attract your attention.

Back when The Hocken Library in Dunedin was housed in the Richardson building, Hotere’s three part banner work Rain (the words were by poet Hone Tuwhare) hung in the foyer. Not the best place for it as it turned out as the wind and sun did their bit to damage the paint. It was then removed and restored and now hangs in the new Hocken library foyer. “But hey, (suspend your disbelief, this is the Richardson building calling out in dismay) what about me? You can’t just leave a bloody empty wall!” And they didn’t. Enter a full-size colour photograph of Rain installed as a replacement. Well not a replacement exactly as it’s a photograph and on paper. A lookalike. Strange, but true.

Image: Top: a ‘wallpaper’ version of Rain hangs where no painting dares, followed by wallpaper works by Andy Warhol, Takashi Maurakami, Thomas  Demand and Urs Fischer.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Yesterday we walked round the Auckland Museum spotting Peter Robinson's work scattered throughout the building.

Spider man

You always knew when it was a letter from Tony Fomison. That spindly handwriting crawling across the envelope like a chemically enhanced spider had unmistakable obsession steeped in a self consciously fashioned retro style. Fomison’s writing was as much a part of him as the hand that crafted the words and it appeared everywhere; on his letterbox (warning visitors to either make an appointment or leave him alone), on the bottom of his paintings carefully detailing the dates of various stages and iterations and of course in the many notebooks he kept over the years.

In a terrific small exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery (down the back of the ground floor contemporary galleries) you can get a first-hand taste of Fomison’s personality. This is because it includes a vitrine displaying some of the archival material that is now in the Gallery’s collection along with the careful selection of paintings. It really is great to see the artworks alongside this source material including a couple of journals and items that were crucial to Fomison process and thinking. 

All up it’s like taking a sidewards peep into the studio, a work space that was always cluttered with magazines, books, torn out illustrations and notes and more notes. And how about those notebooks and those lists …  and all that crazy spindly writing.

Image: top, Tony Fomison in his Gunson Street studio in 1978. Bottom a detail from one of Fomison’s note books on view at the Auckland Art Gallery

Other OTN posts on Tony Fomison:
The missing Senator
Fomison lookalike
Looking like Fomison

Monday, July 22, 2013

Art houses

Two sides of the same house block in a Wellington side street advertise Auckland art show, the AAG's Californian design show and the Auckland Art Fair.


unvarnished facts, reckless guesswork, insinuations and possible inventions that have arrived at at the govett-brewster they appear to have hired an offshore curator (thanks n) before a new director, well it worked well last time #deepsarcasm • also in np (thanks various letters of the alphabet) the battle between the gb foundation and the len lye trust has required formal mediation #whycantwealljustgetalong • meanwhile (n again) simon rees has been flagged as frontrunner for the director job #pokerface • in wellington another welshman has joined the exec of te papa • hamish keith has been decurmudgeoned from the listener • the new director for the aag has purchased an apartment within walking distance of the gallery #workaholic • oh, and apparently no one is meant to know that two aag patrons were key members of the selection panel for the new director of the aag #notawordtoanyone • any missed details, indignant denials or additions gratefully received, and for anything that makes us laugh out loud insane rewards.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hollywood or bust

For your Saturday pleasure: ten ways the visual arts are following the movies

1. Stacking up a star system:
Thanks Larry, thanks Jay, love Jeff and Damien

2. Revealing behind the scenes
Insider info was the juice of the best Extras on DVDs. Now stop motion rules the day as art museums show us how they do their thing. Here the Dowse reveals back-of-house-moments with Kerrie Poliness.

3. Expanding the box office:
Get used to it. You might be able to get into the permanent collection for free but special exhibitions, you pay every time. Watch out for late night specials and packaging deals. Terrific Tuesdays

4. Setting the scene:
Paul McCarthy in New York with his White snow set and Urs Fischer in LA with his work Josh Smith a reproduction in movie set style of another artist’s studio.

5. Producing trailers:
The new way to promote art exhibitions online. Like the Art of Pop and Ian strange's exhibition Suburban at the National Gallery of Australia.

6. Playing sound tracks:
The iPod put to work giving sounds to the pictures. Z-Trip for Shepard Fairey's exhibition Sound & vision, Unfolding by Janek Schaefer for Future beauty, and at MoMA Tracks allows visitors to select tracks from their own music library to listen to while exploring the Museum or the MoMA App.

7. Establishing franchises:
The Guggenheim led the way but now the Louvre and many others are hard at it leveraging their cultural capital.

8. Play it again
When attitudes become form, this time re-jigged for 2013.

9. Credit lines
To everyone. Publications now include everyone from Trustees and preparators to the curator's wife and kids and as for the speeches at openings and there's room for everyone - lets not forget the end credits for Superman when it was released in 1978 took almost eight minutes to run and the credits for Lord of the Rings are probably still running.

10. The book of the show
And no, it's doesn't have top be an art history thesis. The V&A are about to mount an exhibition based on the specially commissioned story Memory palace by Hari Kunzru

And sometimes you don't even have to see the exhibition. Just see the movie of the exhibition. Grab a seat, it's Great Art exhibitions on Screen. Munch, Manet, Vermeer ...

Image: Philippe Parreno puts a movie theatre marquee on the Guggenheim

Friday, July 19, 2013

Giving an arm and a leg...

...about Duchamp.

Look at this Instagram

The City Gallery in Wellington may be a hold-out on allowing photography (not that it was working when we were there a few days ago) but the Auckland Art Gallery has embraced its inner show-off. Via Instagram one of the many (and most popular) photo sharing services the AAG has visitors snapping at the art, collaging, mugging and adoring it all in the public domain. Just what do people get up to inside Luc Piere's box of mirrors Environment III?

Interestingly City Gallery have their own Instagram event. They get round their no-photographing-inside-the-gallery policy by asking for pics to be taken outside the gallery inspired by works inside. #CGWCrewdsonComp.

This is only the start of art museums being swept up in a social whirl but already there is a very funny parody that cuts very, very close to the bone complete with a slight cringe for us (“Every time I take a photo of an old door / Every sign out in front of an abandoned store”).
Images: Samples from the AAG Instagram site

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Just so you don’t lose the faith and think there is no point in going on here is Marina Abramovic and Andy Warhol sculpted in Wonder Bread by Milena Korolczuk.
Via artsy

Coat tales

How prescient was et al. when they donned a lab coat to be photographed for Art NZ back in 2001 and to accept the Walters prize in 2004? Now you can't move in the art world without coming across a lab-coated artist or artist’s operative. Our most recent sighting was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art when we spotted a group of lab-coated assistants off to help people into James Turrell’s light chamber. The owner of the art lab-coat is of course Marina Abramovic with her bevy of LC’d assistants.

Images: top left, et al at work, top right, the closing moments of Marina Abramovic's The Artist Is Present at MoMA. Second row, Brazilian artist Luciana Brito. Third row left, Yiorgos Zafiriou at Sydney’s Artspace and right, performance artists Near Future. Bottom, off to the Turrell at LACMA.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Art and money/money and art

While we are on the money trail here’s a heads up for your art/money obsession this time at the other end of the country (Dunedin). If you’re interested in "the worlds of art dealers and auctioneers, the financing of art galleries and museums, the acquisition of collections, the storage of art in vaults as capital" this is the website (and the symposium) for you. Also, weirdly for such things, it’s free.
LATER: And not just in the South but also across the Tasman. Mark Feary from Artspace  sends this heads up to their own art/money show

Follow the money

When Andy Warhol said, “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art,” he might have been thinking of Webb’s recent broadsheet publication outlining where the contemporary art money flows through auction.

The big bucks all go to paintings of course and mostly painted by guys. And so (via the Australian Sales Digest) Webb’s tells us that the 50 most valuable works by Bill Hammond sold at auction raked in $3.7 million at an average of $74,000 each. Remember though that just three of the top 50 went for a combined total of $858,000 including Hammond’s top dollar sale of $293,000.

In the last 20 years Webb’s alone have sold 194 works by Colin McCahon bringing in $12 million. But Ralph Hotere, we hear you ask, what about Hotere? Well, his top 50 sales at auction have attracted $5.9 million with Webb’s best effort bringing in $315,000. The other heavy auction hitter of course is Shane Cotton with $2 million coming in from the top 50 sales and a highest price of $257,000.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

... is a rose

Rose: Is the Guggenheim the perfect place for you?
Turrell: It’s a difficult place.
Rose: Oh.
American sculptor James Turrell replies to interviewer Charlie Rose. You can hear the rest of the interview here

Artistic feet

How many times in the last five and a half years have we promised to never feature another animal artist?(3). And yet every time we threaten to abandon this rich category it just keeps pulling us back. And so it is with these painting chickens. Ink up the feet, step out on a few sheets of good quality paper and there you have it: high quality hen or possibly rooster art. As for the results, given that these are Chinese chickens, they are remarkably …. Chinese. The chickens' mentor, trainer and inker is the artist Xiao Hu as you know.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Model behaviour

Looking at architect Peter Zumthor’s model for a proposed rebuild of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art we came across this strange scene. A murder? No weapon. An accident? No blood. Then we worked it out. Art Gallery – the Stendhal Syndrome.

The voice of Domm

Wow that didn’t take long. Auckland Art Gallery’s first Deputy Director Viv Beck (and acting director since Chris Saines’s departure) has resigned after just seven months in the job. Not a good look for the Art Gallery boss and CE of Regional Facilities Auckland Robert Domm. You may recall that Domm’s first foray into the Art Gallery’s business was to try and push AAG director Chris Saines out of his job. That didn’t work and Saines was allowed to stay on during which time he sensibly got himself another posting.

Beck was brought in to zoom up the commercial aspects of the Gallery but clearly met with difficulties. Art galleries are seldom built to serve as commercial spaces and the new AAG building for all the fanfare is no exception. The foyer for all its fancy kauri kit-out, can only squeeze in 180 for dinner and that's not enough to bring in big bucks. Besides, anyone who was at the Walters Prize sit-down last year will know that the space really struggles even at that number.

Of course Domm's Facilities team is also counting on the actual gallery spaces to pull their weight. Their brochure promises that “works by some of the country’s most respected artists provide instant colour and pizzazz for dinners and cocktails.” This offer gives you some idea of how Regional Facilities approaches things cultural. 

So watch closely to see who replaces Beck. Word is, thanks to her art world experience and interest, Beck got on with AAG staff and was seen out and about at art events which always goes down well. It would certainly not be a good sign for the future of the gallery if Domm fills the Beck gap with someone who has no art background or connections.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saturday stock report

Everybody wanted to know what was really in the 90 cans of artist’s shit (Merda d’artista) that Piero Manzoni soldered shut back in 1961 but it took artist Bernard Bazille to find out for sure. Or attempt to anyway. In the same spirit that spurred Robert Rauschenberg to erase a Willem de Kooning drawing in 1953, Bazille ripped off the top of one of the Manzoni cans (number 005 as it happens) to look inside. What he found appears to be another tin swathed in cotton wool. At that point Bazille lost his nerve so we still have to take Manzoni’s word for the can contents. 

As an update on our previous shit post about Manzoni, who priced his work at the same value per gram as the cost of gold at the time, the current cost of gold is $NZ1,604 and the most recent sale price for Manzoni’s Merda d’artista (May this year) is $NZ180,000. Sell gold, buy Manzoni
Image: Manzoni’s Merda d’artista apres Bernard Bazille

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cashing up

“What’s the greater community benefit, keeping Cindy Sherman's photograph Orange Sweater and showing it once every five years, or having a few more million buy works of art?"
Director of Cleveland's Akron Art Museum. The museum realised $3,655,000 on the sale

Clay days

In addition to Simon Denny's inclusion in Massimiliano Gioni’s Biennale exhibition there was another NZ connection - The bird E7. While there’s been a big move into fired ceramics by artists mud has been having a moment too especially in a wonderful collection of around 90 vignettes made out of unfired clay Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Included is a portrait of ‘E7’ leaving for its 11,500 kilometer nonstop flight from Alaska to New Zealand. Yes, as you probably guessed, E7 is the Godwit. 

And the unfired clay story continues in Los Angeles via another Swiss artist. For his survey exhibition Urs Fischer enlisted 1,500 volunteers to create literally thousands of unfired clay sculptures to fill the Geffen Contemporary at MoCA. You can see a good sampling of them here along with pics from the rest of the exhibition.  Added to this intense clay world were life size figurative candles in various states of meltdown, Fischer’s own contribution to the overall entropy. 

Fischli and Weiss’s small clay works were carefully displayed in vitrines to preserve their fragile composition from the atmosphere. The multitude of works commissioned by Fischer without the protection of the market were crumbling back to dust on the floor.

Images: top to bottom left to right, Peter Fischli and David Weiss's E7, E7 the Godwit, F&W's installation at the Venice Biennale, volunteer art with a large Urs Fischer candle in the background at the Geffen Contemporary, Urs Fisher melts and the clay crumbles at the Geffen

Thursday, July 11, 2013

An education

Yes that is a Donald Judd sculpture and yes that is pretty much how the kids drew it on circles of cardboard and made it out of brown paper. Fortunately Donald Judd wasn’t there to see it. Fortunately for the kids that is.

Te party

It’s been four years since Te Papa last had an Impressionist exhibition from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. That was Monet and the Impressionists an exhibition that stumped up 140,000 visits according to the 2009 annual report or around 1,500 a day for its three month run. 

The new show slated to open on Friday hasn’t got quite the same sting in its title. Colour & Light: Impressionism from France & America sounds a bit like one of those lectures you skipped in Art History (well we did anyway) but Te Papa will have high hopes for it. A crowd pleaser could give a significant kick start to the next financial year‘s attendance figures and this time they're playing the long game: 183 days (it’s more of a long-term loan) as opposed to 92 days for the last Boston effort. 

As we have mentioned before, the Boston Museum of Fine Art uses extensive loans from its collection as a major revenue stream. In an odd mirroring of Te Papa the Bellagio Gallery, located in the eponymous casino in Las Vegas, has just closed Claude Monet: Impressions of Light on loan from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and opened Warhol out West from the Andy Warhol Foundation.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

So you say

For any New Zealander interested in the visual arts the words I AM will always belong to Colin McCahon. Off-shore this ownership is not so certain. Pharrell Williams who owns the company I Am Other Entertainment has taken recording artist of the Black Eyed Peas to court to try and stop him using the I am phrase. The battle of the Williams (does McCahon’s son William know he his father's I AM lodged in his first name one wonders?) rests on the Peas William inserting periods to create the name If the Entertainment Williams wins this battle (I Am Other Entertainment, LLC v. William Adams, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 13-4547) a quick dive into Google will find him plenty of other I AMs to battle waiting in the wings.
Image: the first 16 I AM hits off Google images

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

What’s in that crate?

In this case nothing (or maybe something yet to be revealed) as they are art works spotted at the Richard Artschwager survey at the Hammer Museum in LA. Back in 1994 Artschwager made 14 of the ‘art’ crates for an exhibition at Portikus the Frankfurt gallery who have just finished exhibiting a project by Michael Stevenson.
Image: Two untitled 1994 works by Richard Artschwager

La merda succede

We all know that art museums are good for kids (experience) and that kids are good for art museums (numbers) and in Europe they farm them as though their lives depend on it. Now that ‘Changing Lives’ is a common (albeit haunted by the ghost of social engineering) mantra throughout the first world museum trade and what life is easier to grab hold of and mould than that of a child? 

We saw this in spectacular action at the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt where over a single day 1,000 kids were bused in to be part of the ‘change’ agenda. The guards were beside themselves as swarms of small, medium and middle-sized children stormed through the galleries. At stations throughout the large spaces other gallery staff were poised to settle the kids down and entice them to draw an art work or make a sculpture out of paper and foil. 

Fortunately for us the Piero Manzoni exhibition downstairs was empty and silent. No kids and, perhaps unfortunately for them, no education professionals waiting at tables with small empty cans to encourage attempts at recreating  Merda d'artista.

Monday, July 08, 2013


Images: left Robert Motherwell Patterson’s oatcakes 1967 and right Don Driver Assemblage 1978

Ian Scott 1945-2013

One engrossing development over the seventies was watching Ian Scott and Richard Killeen take on abstraction one-uppping each other exhibition by exhibition. There they were two well-known figurative painters going hard at the abstract as though it had just been discovered. It was always worth the visit to Peter McLeavey’s gallery to see what they had come up with. Then when they both turned up an exhibition of spray-canned abstracts - the paint often dribbling down to the bottom of the canvas - well what could you say? Scott went on to develop his lattice series and Killeen his cut outs but it was always a serious enterprise and Ian Scott was above all a very serious painter. 

Back then any talk of painting you had with Ian would always circle back to Gordon Walters. Scott (and Killeen too) was a huge admirer and many of his techniques, like the beautiful preparatory collages, the immaculate surfaces and even the regular studio hours were all straight out of the Walters’s handbook. But of course Scott was also very much his own man. Often out of step with the trends of the day he was always a courageous - if not sometimes a quixotic - figure. With many artists now feeding the market by looking over their shoulders it’s hard not to feel a twinge of nostalgic for Ian’s take-it-or-leave-it stance. It’s a sad business that he wasn’t given more time to take it.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Its own reward

One of the great things about art is, that no matter how tired your feet, no matter how many gentlemen's portraits you have seen, or how many miles of corridors you have tramped down there is always the chance that you will round a corner and see a picture of dancing rats.
Image: The dance of the rats by Ferdinand Van Kessell c.1690, Stadel Museum Frankfurt

Friday, July 05, 2013

A touching experience

Back in the 1970s a big problem was how to deal with the do-not-touch thing. Someone once said (it might have been Richard Killeen) that the New in New Zealand dogged us all making us very suspicious of patina and wear-and-tear, particularly in art. That’s why a Gordon Walters painting with even the slightest scuff can die in an auction whereas the finger prints and abrasions on the edges of a Mondrian can be regarded as a badge of honour, proof positive that this painting is part of the real world. It even went so far as exhibitions with titles like Touch in which all the works could be handled and even exhibitions for the blind (did we really do that?).

We saw a more pragmatic response to the do-not-touch problem in a Franz West exhibition at the MMK in Frankfurt. West was a passionate advocate of audience participation and in this exhibition (despite some collectors fearing the worst and not allowing their works to be handled) there was a significant opportunity to be part of the West experience. Sculptures to sit on, works to spin around, objects to slip over the arms (or if you were really up for it, the head) and wave about and a small sculpture that you could wrestle to the ground as one member of a school party did while we were there.

All this was made possible by the good will of some collectors and the use of exhibition copies of what Franz West called his adaptables. When you think about it, if you can make entirely new sculptures after artists die it's not too much of a stretch to create exhibition copies of works(with the artist's ok) for visitors to play around with.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Talking books

“There’s nothing finer, nothing better in the whole world than a well drawn muscle on a firmly painted limb.”
Artist Claude Lantier in Zola’s The masterpiece

Call for papers

In a cavern, somewhere deep beneath the art world, is the unseen stream of decisions and deal-making. Only a small group of people visit and even fewer know where to get tickets for the boat. For instance currently floating along on the stream is the 2014 Walters Prize panel, whoever they are, who will be looking (or if the last one is anything to go by, not looking) at exhibitions like mystery shoppers. There's also a bunch of people who will be deciding on the next commissioner for the Venice Biennale (surveying the field it's probably between Alastair Carruthers and Massey's Heather Galbraith with Carruthers as the current off course favourite) and of course another mystery group will be deciding who's to go to Venice in 2015.

So here's a question - why are all these decisions being made in the dark? The appointment of the artistic director of Documenta in 2017 will be announced this November but it's public knowledge as to who's on that very significant panel. Why can't we have the same level of information on NZ plans? There are no commercial issues involved and there would be some major benefit. The Walters selectors could surely do with some input on exhibitions in NZ and overseas that might be worth considering and the Venice juggernaut needs all the good will and interest it can get.

And then there are the delays. Even when decisions are finally made why does it take so long to announce them? It can't be in hopes of a publicity blitz as the media releases are seldom picked up and the only people really interested could be drawn from the mailing lists of about ten dealer galleries. So why restrict knowledge of the final decisions to the committee, their immediate families, a few friends they bump into and people they meet at parties, some of who (hell maybe most) don’t give a damn?

That was really what got us to start publishing  OTN back in 2006, to jumpstart communications. So if you hear any of this stuff let us know and we’ll make sure the rest of you find out. And yes, wild guesses and overheard conversations in public toilets are more than welcome.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Centre stage

Wondering how things are progressing at the Govett-Brewster Len Lye Centre-wise? Here thanks to oneminutecaller you can watch an ongoing blow-by-blow account of the fall and rise.

The public private

In the late eighties we visited the Saatchi collection when it was housed in an old paint factory in London. One of the memorable things about going there was walking down Abbey Road and across the pedestrian crossing made famous by the Beatles. At that time the idea of a private collector having his own gallery and making it available to the public was decidedly radical. 

Leap forward 20 plus years and the public private collection has become commonplace. Last week we visited the collection of Axel and Barbara Haubrok in Berlin. The Haubrok collection is located in a disused garaging facility that once serviced the official cars of the GDR aka East Germany. The buildings are spread over a huge area and included a container café, workshops as well as what are to become performance spaces and studios. Upstairs it was distressed white cube with machines and equipment evoking its past functions. The selection of the collection on display was largely minimalist paintings and sculpture. A couple of the artists - Callum Innes and Imi Knoebel - will be familiar to Aucklanders. There was also an iconic screen by Franz West. A simple sheet of white painted board with his familiar builder’s steel bent into legs so it could free stand. Who’d have thought our interest in disused garages and art could collapse together so neatly on the outskirts of Berlin.

Images: top to bottom, the entrance to the old garage complex, one of the two galleries showing minimalist work, an Imi Knoebel painting alongside pumping equipment, a Franz West screen alongside works by Jacob Kassey and Lone Haugaard Madsen, the container cafe in the courtyard

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

In Berlin

Now that's what we call a serious piece of public sculpture

Jeff my bubbles

The way artists are associating themselves and their art with high-end brands (what the advertising industry calls ‘partner brands’) has totally insinuated itself into the artworld but artists then denying that they do it, now that is a little more rare. Here’s Jeff Koons commenting on his recent association with Dom Pérignon

“I don’t do very many product associations, but you know Dom Pérignon is a fantastic brand, a wonderful Champagne.”

Other product associations with the Jeff Koons’s brand:
Illy - coffee sets

Bernardaud – illustrated porcelaine plate
BMW – car
FIFA World Cup - print
Supreme decks - skateboard
Kiehl’s – body products
Lisa Perry – fashion
Ikepod - wristwatch

Image: A bottle of champagne (rosé) with its limited edition stand by Koons (the bottle rests on the sculpture between pours) on sale at US $20,000.

Monday, July 01, 2013

In Berlin...

...thinking about Kate Newby

Fund and games

Stuck on a plane with all the Dr Who episodes done and dusted, what better way to while away the time than shuffle through Creative NZ's application forms and criteria for who's eligible for funding.

There are pages and pages of them but weirdly one significant part of the art world is specifically highlighted as not eligible for funding: the "employees of tertiary or other educational institutions.”
Given that the university PBRF system has transformed all art making, exhibiting and promoting (via catalogues) by their staff into research, and given that research is the key job of all senior university teaching staff this all starts to feel a bit Alice in Wonderland. After all, how can activities that are crucial to an artist's academic success be at the same time not part of their job?

In a masterpiece of butt covering CNZ deal to this problem insisting that applications for funding by tertiary staff (the same staff that aren’t eligible for funding in the first place) “will need to include a written statement from your Head of Department, or the equivalent position, confirming that the activity is not part of your job"

The fact is CNZ should only fund people who struggle to get funding elsewhere, and this is what this particular regulation suggests. Looks as though, like the rest of us the staff of CNZ have also had trouble wading through the pages and pages of instructions and understanding what they mean.