Friday, January 31, 2014

In Wellington

Thinking about Colin McCahon

One day in the Dominion Post offices

Editor: This digital thing is getting out of hand. We need a big new marketing push

Marketing Director: You betcha.  But I do think our ‘First past the Post’ campaign was willfully misinterpreted

E: Time to move on. We need to promote things we're good at, things we excel in, things we believe to be true (he jots the phrase down for the next day’s editorial)

MD: You mean crime? Right?

E: No, no, I'm talking something fresh. We can't lead with crime all the time

MD: OK, sport. That's the way to go. We do pages and pages of sport

E: That's true but it’s not very classy, is it? I want classy

MD: I suppose news is out of the question? (pause) … how about  business! … (another pause)… no I guess not.

E: I've got it! The world. Now that’s a big topic that we do big things with. I’m thinking THE WORLD.

MD: Hmmm, but is it big enough? We really only give it a page, maybe two if there’s a crisisy…world war sort of thingy ....

E: (tightly) I’m getting slightly tired of this negativity. We need to think different. (a light bulb flashes above his head) Now there's a big idea. ART. We’ll feature ART. I’m told art is totally hot at the moment. We’ll feature ART…. we do have an art section .... don’t we?

MD: Um, I think so. We probably have an art critic…or did we get rid of him? No, I'm thinking we got him back

E: Then art it is. Lead with it. Put it above the crease. Make it the first thing they read and go with it.

And that is what they did.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Art at work

This photo of a kid bunking on a work by Donald Judd at Tate Modern in London did the rounds earlier this week. The photographer tweeted "I told the woman the kids were using a $10mm art work as a toy, she told me I knew nothing abt kids.” The parent’s bite-you response and the hat with ears aside, it’s not the first time such a thing has happened. Many years ago at the Whitney our own three year old son spotting what looked for all the world like a museum couch with its squab missing, attempted to sit on a copper Donald Judd floor sculpture. The ticking off he got from the guard certainly put him off sitting down in galleries although there was also an unintended effect. He switched into Duchamp mode and anything in a gallery (fire hydrants, furniture, humidity readers etc) was instantly converted into art and left the hell alone.

The many me

We’re still going through files looking for studio photographs to put up on OTN IN (and out of) THE STUDIO. In the Julian Dashper section we found photos from 1989 of him mimicking the poses famous artists had taken in their portraits. Someone said recently that it's hard to get Dashper without knowing some art history and these pics tend to put brackets around that remark. Julian loved being part of art's big story and reveled in the idea that there was a link between what he was doing and what artists like Jackson Pollock did. Here he is doing image karaoke of (from top to bottom, left to right) Mark Rothko, Julian Schnabel, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and bottom right, Julian Dashper. If you saw the play Red about Mark Rothko that played around New Zealand you'll recognise at least one of these classic poses.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Public private partnership

Not all public art is city funded, there is private public art too. We saw this Neil Dawson feather walking up Wellington’s Moeller  Street, privately owned art made available to the public. If you take a quick look through the glass front door as you walk past you can spot one of Michael Parekowhai’s Ten little Indians too. One down nine to go.

The fallen

Last week a giant model of an eagle by Weta joined a long history of sculptures toppled by earthquakes. It was probably kicked off around 226 BC when a quake did for one of the Seven Wonders of the World - the 30 meter tall mega bronze statue known as the Colossus of Rhodes.. We've already covered some of the Christchurch tumblings but the Weta effort did prompt us to look at other quakes that have brought art down off its pedestal.

Images: Top, the Weta Eagle grounded by last week’s Wellington quake. Following left to right the Colossus of Rhodes post 226 BC (reconstruction), the statue of Louis Agassiz at Stanford University following the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, LACMA’s Vishnu sculpture after the 1994  Northridge earthquake, fallen statue following the 2010 Chile Earthquake, a Buddha post the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake, a statue damaged in the Washington National Cathedral after an earthquake in August 2011, John Robert Godley after Christchurch’s February 2011 quake and Peter Robinson suffers a minor slump during the 2013 quake in Wellington

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The best art is business art

Business people pose with art. 
Image: Meridian Energy's CEO Mark Binns with a painting by Stephen Bram

(OTN product can be yours for good or great examples)

The life curatorial

Over the years a few New Zealanders have been invited to show in the Personal Structures exhibitions held in the Palazzo Bembo during the Venice Biennale but who knew that the curators who run these projects were leading such rich and varied lives. Karlyn De Jongh, Sarah Gold and Valeria Romagnini via their website give a rare insight into the life of a modern day contemporary art curator: wining, dining, getting naked, zooming round the world and generally looking stylish often under very difficult curatorial circumstances. 

And the kind of artists the personnel of Personal Structures pursue? Well of the 48 represented on their website 31 are men over the age of 60. Typical is Hermann Nitsch whose 130th Aktion featured Gold and De Jongh as participants. One review describes how “Lying naked amidst a pool of blood, with hundreds of people watching, … Gold and De Jongh gradually found themselves having sex,” something that can so easily happen in intense curatorial situations. Are our own curators too inhibited? At the very least you’ve got to ask the question.

Images: the structured life from the top, left to right with François Morellet, Hermann Nitsch, Arnulf Rainer and Heinz Mack. Third row, photo ops in the gallery and outdoors in Venice. Next row, chillaxing after a hard day’s curation and bottom row, laid-back work with  Hermann Nitsch (and thanks B for pointing the way)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Art in the workplace

Art hard at it in the foyers of the world

Crowded house

Len Lye's Water whirler is working again but it seems to be struggling. The shaft seems to be out of alignment and the water patterns it forms now would have Len Lye shaking his head in sorrow.  Still, this is only one of the Wellington's public art works that could do with some love and attention. Two others are housed in Te Raukura, the wharewaka function centre on the Wellington waterfront between Te Papa and the City to Sea bridge. The waka Te Rerenga Kotare and Te Hononga.

Originally the two craft were to have their own house by the bridge but after a scrap with the boat club the whare was combined with a function centre and cafe. Although the space to display the waka was kind of cramped (it was too small to fit Te Aniwaniwa one of the original waka intended for it) and hard up against a wet bar, it was at least a discrete area. No longer.

Since the facility was opened in 2011, the cafe has developed an outside area complete with chairs, banners, signs and brewery branded beanbags. It makes a pleasant venue by the water but inevitably the next step has been to store all this paraphernalia right in there with the waka whenever the café is closed.

Amidst controversy the people of Waiwhetu refused to allow the waka Te Raukura (for which the building is named) to be housed in the wharewaka. Looking at how the waka display area has turned into a general storeroom, they were probably right.

Images: Te Raukura’s waka display now and then

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Whoa omg wow htb

Saturday morning and time to check out how the unstoppable meme Double rainbow gets a re-run in the most unlikely place. (and late abject thanks to P who pointed the way)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Not so simple Simon

A bumpy road ahead for the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Anyone following the New Plymouth District Council’s debate before it agreed to help fund the Len Lye Centre building project would have seen that the margin of support was not great even then. The last local body elections resulted in a Council that is likely to be even less supportive of the GB’s expansionist plans. 

An indication that the new Council situation might have immediate effects on the Gallery comes with the news that the appointment of the German curator hired to take over from Mercedes Vincent has been called off. Vincent left over a year ago so it seems no curator will now be appointed until the new building is well underway. 

New director Simon Rees will have to call on all his well known diplomatic skills to get the Council back on side and ramp up fund raising for the project’s projected cash shortage.

Hitting the wall

The loss of John and Lynda Matthews's home and art collection is a sad marker for the art world as well as a personal tragedy. The plan was for the collection to be eventually gifted to the Govett-Brewster although knowing John Mathews the Gallery will probably still get to benefit as it's hard to imagine him not starting over.

There have been a number of art collections lost to fire in New Zealand with the most prominent to our knowledge the loss of John Weeks’s work in the Elam fire of 1949, the terrible fire that consumed Greer Twiss’s home early in 1985 and a courier truck fire in 2007.

In the case of the Mathews fire we want to speak to one great painting that has been lost, Tony Fomison’s 1972 work An institutional wall painting called “Three’s a crowd”. We purchased it from the Bett Duncan Studio Gallery in Cuba Street when it was first exhibited and owned it for many years before putting it up for auction where John purchased it.

It was a hard-won image as Fomison’s photographic record of its progress relates. The wall was a late addition and at least three versions of the faces were trialed before Fomison settled on those based on photographs by Eugene Smith, David Bailey and David Lester. Like many of Tony Fomison’s works of the time it was painted on rough woven jute, probably an old sack, with a simple studio frame of sun-bleached secondhand timber. There was so much of Tony’s iconography piled into that one work, the eccentric canvas shape, extreme compositional perspective, modeled faces looming out of darkness, images lifted from other artists and, of course, his spindly signature and dating along the bottom of the image.

Many people who saw this painting in our home found it disturbing but we thought it was great, and so did John Matthews.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The more things change

“Works of art, by being publicly exhibited and offered for sale are becoming articles of trade and following the unreasoning laws of markets and fashion.”
Prince Albert In a speech to Britain’s Royal Academy in 1851

Art stars

In the era before Jeff Koons, Marina Abramovic, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, celebrity artists were just that; celebrities who also made art. Back then such artists tended to find themselves tucked into the Samuel Johnson category “like a dog walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all”.

Of course some of them had done time at art school and (like actors who can also sing) were perfectly capable of turning out something convincing. So here’s a little match-the-celebs-to-their-artwork competition to keep you busy for a couple of minutes. The artist-celebs are:
Marilyn Manson
Sly Stallone
Bob Dylan
Tony Bennett
Anthony Quinn
Peter Falk
David Bowie.

You can find names and works matched here on OTN Stuff.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

But wait, there’s more

Just to let you know we've added some more studio pics to Included are some classic images from 1988 of Derek Cowie in his Haining Street studio, an old Chinese Mission Hall. Cowie’s paintings featured in some National Art Gallery shows and for a time he worked in the Peter McLeavey Gallery where he also exhibited. You can see an example of his work here. Also new to the site are some photographs taken in July 1988 in Neil Dawson’s England Street studio and some taken in May 1994 of Shane Cotton in his classic front-room-of-the-house studio in Palmerston North.

Image: Derek Cowie, 1988

We’ve seen the future and it ends in mid June

Given the extended lead-times exhibitions need these days (permissions, condition reporting, crating, lending institutional requirements etc etc) you'd think most art museums could let us know what they'll be showing up to at least 2020, but no. Trying to find out what’s coming up for even this year is something of a challenge. OK, Christchurch and the Govett-Brewster have troubles of their own so let them be, but the only way we could find out what the Auckland Art Gallery is planning for the year (or the beginning of it anyway) was to check their events calendar off month by month. Most museums internationally now have extended Future Exhibitions sections to encourage out of town visitor planning which kind of makes sense. Anyway back home the winner in the what’s-going-on competition is the Adam Art Gallery. Its exhibitions are listed up to February next year.

So to save you website humiliation and frustrations here is what we found stacked up on offer for 2014.

Auckland Art Gallery up to end July (Go to ‘Event search’ and work through month by month)
Five Maori Painters
My country: Contemporary art from black Australia
(Guess we could add the biennial Walters Prize)

Dowse Art Museum up to mid June
Shapeshifter 2014
Everyday fiction
See like your hero which “includes work by Gordon Walters, Colin McCahon, Ralph Hotere, Don Driver and Saskia Leek. “ #gosaskia

City Gallery up to mid May 

Simon Starling: In speculum

Adam Art Gallery up to February 2015
Cinema & painting
Kim Pieters
Simon Denny: the personal effects of Kim Dotcom

Te Papa up to end of June

Throne of Emperors and Shi Lu: a revolution in paint (both from the National Museum of China)

Dunedin Public Art Gallery to the end of March 2014
Speed and colour: British lino cuts from the 1930s

It’s shaping up to be quite a year.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Matthews collection destroyed

News just in of a devastating fire that has completely destroyed John Matthews’s home in Omata near New Plymouth. John who is known best in the art world for his work with Len Lye and the Len Lye Foundation was also a passionate collector of contemporary New Zealand art. The loss of such a large collection is obviously tragic. Early reports are of a massive fire that extended beyond the house taking with it some of the large scale sculptures in the collection.

10.42pm: News update here

When art goes to the movies: The Expendables

You're a despotic-slash-murderous General looking for a hobby, what will you go for? Golf? Big game hunting? Live-ammo-paint ball? All of the above? For General Garza of the tiny country of 'Vilena' the obvious choice was easel painting. The brush wielding General is one of a number of unpleasant characters thrown together by Sly Stallone in his writer-director action pic The Expendables. And we're not talking run-of-the-mill despot here, the General is so unpleasant that his daughter teams up with Sly, Jet, Jason and  Steve to topple him. 

And so it is, with his kingdom falling down around him, (spoiler: this and the previous comma have been included to annoy the Minister of Culture and Heritage) the General takes comfort in dabbing away on his latest canvas until an even bigger villain (Munroe) spits out, “Your daughter paints too. This is how it starts.”

But wait, that painting style the General has adopted looks familiar. Yes, Sly has popped one of his own works onto the big screen. The general was faking it.

Other art-like projects in the movie include Mickey Rourke’s character ‘painting’ an acoustic guitar. You can read Lory Lockwood’s account of how it was in fact she who dollied up the instrument basing her imagery on Sly’s wife’s tats. Nice.

Images: Top, what’s that you’re painting General?. Middle, um if you could step aside. Bottom, kinda Stallone-like isn’t it?

Monday, January 20, 2014

I hate cheap imitations

In Wellington thinking about Michael Stevenson

Start spreading the news

It’s a dream come true and it’s been achieved virtually overnight. Te Papa has established a robust Regional Gallery Network. Yes, 33 (count ‘em) buildings branded with the Te P thumb strategically dotted throughout New Zealand. “The Te Papa: Art Regional Gallery network has a commitment to showing a wide variety of art media from a range of eras – from historical to contemporary – with an emphasis on works about and by artists from the region.”

For close watchers of Te Papa the speed of this national roll-out may come as rather a surprise but think about it. With the new network Te Papa will be able to respond quickly to the urgent requests that come in daily from the regions. “Can we get Michael Stevenson’s Trekka here pronto” “the far North wants to see more of et al. and they want to see it now”.

But don’t just sit there. Check here for details and venues near you. 

NOTE: Since posting this  story Te Papa (possibly concerned that people might believe that the idea of their having a regional presence was all true) has evidently asked the site to put up the disclaimer "This website is an artwork intended to question a leading New Zealand art institution by suggestion. The idea is fictional yet we, the artists, believe it is in fact plausible, and even essential, to ensure that our National Collection is given safer storage and made more accessible to all New Zealanders."

Images: Top left Te Papa in Fiordland and right Bay of Islands with prospective sculpture park out front. Bottom Te Papa Southland and drawings for Te Papa Wairoa as part of a new culture precinct development

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Well memeing

While you're enjoying this meme consider how much of the 2014 art action in NZ is involved with curators. Robert Leonard lands at the City Gallery, Emma Ng moves from the Dowse to take up Enjoy at the same time as the Dowse looks for a temp while Emma Bugden takes time off to enjoy herself. Then there’s the new curator from Germany who is starting this year at the Govett-Brewster (no mention of him on the G-B staff list, so sorry, no name). Meanwhile Auckland is on the lookout for a temp replacement for Natasha Conland (is there anyone left?) and Christchurch has to fill the hole Justin Paton leaves behind... and not to forget ....

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fun and games

“If you said to someone 20 years ago that you were going to the National Gallery this weekend, they would have assumed you meant you were going to see the permanent collection,” he says. “Today, it will elicit the question, ‘What’s on?’"

Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery London

Advice to artists

The Dutch economist P H Franses has been fossicking around on the edge of the art market establishing the sweet spot when artists hit the high point in their careers. OK, it’s market driven, but Franses discovered via examining 221 high flying 19th and 20th century artists that on average they hit their market peak at 62 percent of their lives. The prime age is 41.92 years.

So Scott Eady, Nicola Farquhar, Tahi Moore, James Robinson, Heather Straka and Daniel Von Sturmer, your moment is at hand. Use it wisely.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Left, Chicago artist William J. O’Brien Untitled 2011 and right, Rohan Wealleans Beast head gem holder 2006

Snap happy

There's hardly any need to beat the why-no-photography drum in art museums anymore. Slowly but surely they're accepting the inevitable and releasing their collections to snap-happy visitors. In places like the Dowse there's still the familiar camera shape there in the dos and don’ts signage but now it’s as a do, as in, do feel free to take a photo.

A bit late to the game is this…er…game. It’s a two-player (you can be either a photographer or a security guard) that let’s you outwit guards as you snap stuff you're not supposed to. And yes ,you can use your flash to blind the guard for a quick getaway. It’s not quite on the market but if you like reading lots of instructions, you can see how it works here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


City Gallery signage channels Ronnie van Hout.
Images: Top Ronnie van Hout’s 1996 work Help me I’m in the land of giants and bottom detail from the 3D signage for The City Gallery’s exhibition
South of no North: Aberhart Eggleston McKenna


Last year we promised to make some the photos we've taken over the years available. They reflect our own interests and friendships, of course, and the picture they show of NZ art is idiosyncratic to say the least, but the passing of time has given them added interest. Thanks to the agreement of the artists involved, these images are now freely available to anyone who finds them of use.

As we've been doing this a long time what you see now is just a sample (Clairmont 71-78, Cotton 94, 03, Dashper 85-88, Dawson 91, Driver 08-11, Freeman 94, Harris 89-06, Peryer 85-12, Shannon 89, 93) so we'll be adding images throughout the year. When you visit you will see we have also included a number one-off photos of artists and art world people we've met under a 'portraits' section. If you have any thoughts on how this site could be improved let us know. Hope you enjoy it.

The pics can be found on or, if you hate typing, click this link to go direct

Images: Top left to right, Phil Clairmont hiding behind Jackson Pollock’s Tate Gallery catalogue in 1978 and Marie Shannon in her Richmond Road studio in 1989. Middle, Neil Dawson’s studio during the construction of Paua for the Auckland Civic Centre in 1991. Bottom left, Julian Dashper in his studio in Richmond Road, Auckland, 1988 and Jeffery Harris’s studio in Dunedin in 2006.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Show time

As is usual at this time of year anyone wanting a hit of contemporary art has to find it without the help of most of the dealers. The most popular time for their exhibition programmes to kick into action seems to be the start of February, well fours days into it anyway. Often dealers are up for appointment-only visits from around mid Jan so make that call.

Great art, pity about the room

As more art museums put their collections online we're starting to see a new style of curating (or maybe gathering is a better word) art into fresh and sometimes surprising combinations. Without the rules, conformity and second guessing that marks so much curation, artists and others outside the institutions can play with art works in ways not possible until now.

Great art in ugly rooms (coming at you with hefty humour) is a great example of dizzy decontextualizing - or is that recontextualising? It also serves to show how deadening the white cube has become.  From stylish and respectful to plain old boring. There's a rising interest in ugly. You can start with Robert Storr on the word - "Ugliness doesn't get its due. Ugliness is one of the main qualities of art. Key examples would be Goya and Picasso.”

Great art in ugly rooms. Check it out, somewhere in there has got to be a pony.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Batten down the hatches

A chill wind is blowing through tertiary art education as schools are repurposed and staff shed. To give you an idea of how the new tick-the-boxes model is being presented at Unitec in Auckland, here's part of the evaluation the prominent NZ photographer Edith Amituanai received when she was told why she (along with many others) no longer had a job.

"The panel felt that you had research credibility but lacked the professional networks and industry experience that we are looking for. We are also looking for more programme development experience. You have good relationships with students but did not communicate strongly in interview and you were not able to articulate your teaching philosophy. It was also felt that you didn’t understand peer learning. You did not demonstrate that you are a critical thinker. It was also felt that you didn’t have strong examples of implementing new ideas and following through."

Edith Amituanai put her evaluation up on her blog and you can read her remarkably sanguine response there too.

Future proofing

OTN isn’t so keen on (#didn'tgetroundtomakingone) annual that-was-the-year-that-was lists, but what-do-you-reckon-will-happen-this-year lists? Now that’s a different story.

Steady on
Around the end of April the Walters Prize selection committee will produce a more conventional list of older finalists

Drawing the line
More university art schools will come under severe pressure from the Government via the Tertiary Education Commission to reduce staff and student numbers

Dealers will swing their art fair energy from Europe to Asia

Still life
A lot of art will be made and a heap of museum time and money expended to glorify the completely senseless slaughter of World War I

Man alone
A lone New Zealander will slope over to Sydney to install his work in the 18th Biennale of Sydney

Boy oh boy
More men will get more solo shows in the public art museums

Time Lord
In Auckland T J McNamara will ease into his 47th year of reviewing art for the NZ Herald

Painting by numbers
More figurative paintings will create more auction records

Northern exposure
Te Papa will start wishing it had never come up with the idea of putting an outreach gallery into South Auckland

How great thou art
Everyone will be super excited by the awesome art stuff that will be tweeted throughout the year #whoa #thrilling #because

But who’s counting
Over the net will publish its 4,000th post

The Scottish play
The Auckland Art Gallery will announce the mother of all art works is to hang in its foyer

On reflection
The Govett-Brewster will find out whether or not that shiny mirror surface on the Len Lye Centre is feasible and, if it is, whether it’s actually a good idea

Slice and dice
Creative New Zealand’s budget will be spread even thinner across a wider range of art forms

Christchurch Art Gallery will straighten up

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Saturday, January 11, 2014


Friday, January 10, 2014


Thursday, January 09, 2014


Wednesday, January 08, 2014