Tuesday, July 30, 2013

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.