Monday, March 31, 2014

Apres copycat

"Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself."
Fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto

Another brick in the wall

Ok, in the end we did see a compelling work in the Sydney Biennale. It was such a simple set-up: a couple of screens set at right angles showing text with some heart pounding sound. It turned out that the words were transcribed from a police interview so one side showed the words of the police interviewer and the other those of the suspected murderer. The slow revelation of desperation, uncertainty and collapse was astonishing in this dance of manipulation.  The artist was Ignas Krunglevicius from Lithuania who was in fact trained as a composer. This perhaps helps explain the work's chilling sensitivity to sub-text.

And there was more. After peering across a long brick wall to locate a set of minute Matt Hinkley works, another brick wall came as no surprise until with a big smack in the side of the head we saw it was ripped. Now that was one of the big visual surprises of the Biennale. It turned out we were looking at a ‘brick’ wall that had been constructed and painted as part of the set for X-Men Origins: Wolverine that was filmed on Cockatoo Island in 2008.

Images: top, Interrogation by Ignas Krunglevicius. Second row
searching for Matt Hinkley and bottom, the Wolverine wall.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Not Bacon

How long since we ran a painting animal story on OTN? Too long has been the overwhelming response to our recent survey. One of the problems has been that we've already  trawled much of the creative animal kingdom from chimps to snails (well, in fairness, the snail turned out to be a hoax) but it turns out there’s always another mammal ready to step up to the easel.

Here are photos of a couple of painting pigs sent to us by a reader (thanks D) who claims they come out of ‘intensive research’ but are more likely culled from Google Images via the code words ‘painting pig’. We also had a painting parrot on offer but it was obvious even on a cursory glance that a hand puppet was involved. There are rules around human intervention. You can find OTN’s creative animal protocols here. And as you probably guessed, the pigs (both of them coincidentally) are known as Pigasso. Clever.

Friday, March 28, 2014

This global 'top sculpture gardens' list heads with The Farm where Alan Gibbs keeps his incredible Serra.

The black box Biennale

How much longer must video serve as the go-to guy for padding out the over scaled spaces Biennales have devoted to them? It certainly does the heavy lifting in the current Sydney Biennale. Too often experiencing the various venues demands a trudge from bench to bench in one vast dark room after another. Even wall texts are sacrificed to the Lords of Darkness. At one of the venues people were resorting to the torch function on their phones to light up the labels and commentary.

And in mega exhibitions like the Sydney Biennale, the curatorial framing through labels matters hugely. Faced with artists most of us have never heard of, the labels are essential to help figure out what we’re looking at and why. In this case we were poorly served by grand claims and abstractions. 

Poor old Douglas Gordon’s 2011 piece Phantom (a grand piano and slow-mo film of an eye) was touted as “a room brought to the brink of emotion” It wasn’t. When we were there four of the seven people with us were doing things on their phones. NZ’s sole representative Shannon Te Ao also suffered from label blight. He was well placed in the Art Gallery of NSW but the video of him reading poetry to animals was undercut rather than elucidated by the claim that it showed “the potential of the poetic to reignite our social and interspecies imagination”. Try telling that to the mellow donkey who drifted in and out of shot or, better still, the large white bird who slept through the whole thing.

One big plus for the event had to be the triumph of phones - or cameras as we call them now - especially in the Biennale’s audience-pleasing set pieces. The Jim Lambie room was a huge win for Instagram and Facebook with lots of people having a lot of fun posing and taking photos of each other. This was probably enough in itself but but no, the label was a big downer of “inward portals to the psychic world of dreams and the unconscious: an internal desire made manifest.” 

Come on curator people are we talking cool fun or deep messages? If the Biennale of Sydney is anything to go by you can’t have it both ways.

Images: top, Jim Lambie gets the FaceBook treatment and bottom Shannon Te Au talks to the animals.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bob's your uncle

A reader has submitted Taj Bourgeois’s work Monogram in two OTN categories lookalike/copycat and animal art (thanks anyway T). At least one of these seems wildly inappropriate but OTY.

Images: Left Taj Bourgeois's Monogram 2014 and right the original Monogram by Robert Rauschenberg. You can see more of Taj Bourgeois‘s work here

By the numbers: Peter McLeavey edition

1.175    the number  in thousands of small canvases hung on one wall of the Peter McLeavey gallery for John Reynolds’s Looking West, late afternoon, low water

3          the price in thousands of dollars Peter McLeavey put on Colin McCahon’s Northland Panels the first time it was shown in the Gallery in 1968

4          the number of women on the current artist roster of the Peter McLeavey Gallery

10        the original weekly rental for the space on Cuba Street in pounds

10        the number of architectural features in the gallery censured by Billy Apple in 1979

21        the number of artists on the current Peter McLeavey Gallery roster

25        the number in thousands of dollars paid for the Northland panels by the National Art Gallery in 1978

45        the number of years of exhibitions held at 147 Cuba Street

68        the number of artists who have had solo exhibitions at the Peter McLeavey Gallery

74        the age of Lois White when she had her first ever solo exhibition at the McLeavey Gallery in 1977

78        Peter McLeavey's age in years

94        the number of pounds received for Peter's McLeavey’s first sale (a work by Tosswill Woollaston)

100      the number of dollars in thousands the BNZ allocated to Peter McLeavey each year to build its collection in the 1980s

147      the Cuba Street address of the Peter McLeavey Gallery

544      the number of exhibitions shown at the Peter McLeavey Gallery to date

1900   the year the building at 147 Cuba Street was constructed

All but a couple of these numbers were taken from Jill Trevelyan's excellent book Peter McLeavey: the life and times of a New Zealand art dealer. You can purchase a copy here

Image: Peter McLeavey with a painting from Julian Dashper's exhibition in September 1989

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This is not a catwalk

Opening Ceremony the New York fashion house have taken to channeling Magritte as their latest collaboration. You can see more of their Magritte fashion statements here on psfk.

Show biz

Is this the best photo setup of artists posing you have ever seen or what? Unlike those Vanity Fair shots that gather the celebrities together for photoshopped encounters, this group was obviously assembled for real. Maybe the poses also straight from the artists not via a request from the photographer.

What we are looking at are in fact teachers from the Famous Artists School. It was started in the late forties to run correspondence courses. They were advertised on the backs of comics and still have an online presence today with the irresistible question: “so you want to be an artist?”  Included in this photograph is Norman Rockwell who was on the faculty. He's the one with a bow tie standing fourth from the left.

So what prompted these eleven male artists to pose in this fashion? To publicise the 1949 movie Samson and Delilah directed by Cecil B DeMille at Paramount. Each of the artists had been commissioned to paint their vision of the story. The actress Candice Bergen recalled the Rockwell painting hanging in the Paramount commissary. It can now be found in the National Museum of American Illustration in Louisville, Kentucky.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thinking about...

... Martin Creed at Michael Lett

Being picky

Has the latest list of Walters Prize finalists finally removed the awkward claim that each artist has made an ‘outstanding contribution to contemporary art in New Zealand' over the past two years? Most of the current lot (and in fact many of those who have preceded them) are of course simply too young to be attached to the 'contribution' pronouncement. It's probably about time the Auckland Art Gallery dropped it from the promotion and, if it’s still there, the rules of engagement as well. 

One thing that's certain is this jury’s desire to show it's in the curatorial moment. Check out their joint statement pointing out “art’s traction as a means to engage the social, economic, cultural, technological, and environmental realities”. You’re not going to find homages to older artists (think Bill Culbert at the Venice Biennale) in the Walters Prize selections and certainly no interest in traditional media like painting.

But you do have to wonder about the role of the overseas judge. At the start it was pretty clear; the jury sorted out who had made the major contributions based on local knowledge and the judge picked the one that was in his or her opinion the most interesting as an art work in the international context. Over the last two or three prize selections, however, the jury has muscled into what was previously the judge's territory. In a weird way, the overseas judge has ended up judging the panel's taste as much as the artists' abilities.

Suddenly which juror advocated for which artist becomes significantly more interesting.

Images: the Walters Prize Jury, from the left Anna-Marie White, Caterina Riva, Christina Barton and Peter Robinson

Monday, March 24, 2014

High, higher, highest

With the auction season nearly on us and Te Papa fretting about paying over the odds it's probably time for some Joseph Duveen wisdom.
"No matter how high you pay for the priceless, you're always getting it cheap."

Move, move, move

Without our link to Len Lye it's hard to imagine that Wellington would have commissioned a bunch of kinetic sculptures. Auckland was a step ahead with Michio Ihara’s Wind Tree produced for the Auckland International Sculpture Symposium in 1971 and now installed in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter. Ten years later they also purchased George Rickey’s Double-L Excentric Gyratory to coincide with Andrew Bogle’s exhibition Chance and Change. Today it's installed alongside the Gallery.

Commissioning kinetic sculpture is one thing though, and looking after them is something else entirely as Wellington is discovering. Leon Van Den Eijkel Urban forest has only rarely spun on all cylinders, Phil Dadson’s Akau Tangi is often a few spinners down and even though it's up and running again after a long break, Len Lye’s Water Whirler only gives out the ghost of its intended performance. 

Now one of the most successful (kinetically speaking) of Wellington's sculptures, Phil Price's Zephyrometer, has been dismantled for maintenance. Peering at the housing laid out on the ground though it looks as if the strain on the base has ripped at the sculpture’s skin. Who knows how long it will be down but the problem appears a little more serious than a quick clean and oil job.

Soon New Plymouth will have a whole museum devoted to kinetic sculpture with its Len Lye Centre. Kinetic sculpture in NZ has become a movement.

Images: top, Zephyrometer laid out for repair. Middle, damage to the housing and bottom, in case you have never seen the point of Zephyrometer, here it is.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Totally outstanding

As it’s Saturday here’s an unbelievably astonishing OTN Saturday quiz. This one is incredibly clever  asking you to match the description with the artist. All quotes from the latest superbly lavish Webb’s catalogue.

Who creates “Masterly executed work”?
Which artist is a “Chromatic master”?
Who was a “powerful influence on a generation of painters”?
Who had an “unbridled passion for the female form”?
Which artist created “A monumental masterpiece”
Who painted a “key work” in a “Ground-breaking exhibition”?
Which artist was described as our “Most daring and cerebral”?
Who had a “Seminal 2005 exhibition”?
Who’s painting was “A gem”?
Which artist painted with “Majestic poise”?
Who created “Unforgettable paintings”?

The artists: Judy, Millar, C F Goldie, Tony Fomison, Robin White, Lillian Budd, W D Hammond, Francis Upritchard and Garth Tapper


Friday, March 21, 2014


From Hyperallergic (right on brand given the chemicals) a strange set of ‘portraits’ of photographers via their developing trays. The one above belonged to Ansel Adams but Aaron Siskind and Sylvia Plachy are there too. It’s all from a new book smartly named Developer trays by John Cyr.

Give a little, give a lot

How’s Boosted going we hear you ask again. In its first nine months in action Boosted raised “over $250,000.” Not too bad but it does cover all the art forms and it's nowhere near the amount raised by say the Venice Patrons, for instance. Still Boosted has pulled together $69,000 for the visual arts (but again $25,000 of that was almost certainly set-up in advance with the Christchurch Art Gallery to give everyone a cliff-hanger last minute win).

For all the talk by the government about philanthropy (“a priority to encourage increased private sector giving in addition to, not instead of, existing levels of public support for the arts and cultural organisations”) it doesn't exactly lead from the front. For a start, there's no real incentives out there. Ok the IRD returns a third of cash donations to registered charities based on income and there was a specific one-off $95,000 dollar-for-dollar pilot scheme for the arts, but there's no sign of anything serious like US incentives in the form of deductions on works gifted to collections for example.

And then there's the reality of where the money raised actually comes from. Look at a big money project like the Len Lye Centre. $1 million came from the private sector via the TSB although that was five years ago - before the Government's philanthropy flurry. Then more private sector cash with Todd Energy coming up with $3 million no doubt delighted how much its Len Lye efforts have  helped allay concerns around fracking at the Mangahewa gas and condensate field near Waitara. But philanthropy at the individual level failed to catch only bringing in $200,000. The rest of the Len Lye Centre fund-raising came directly or indirectly from the state via $4 million from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and $3.2 million from the Lotteries Commission. And let's not forget the local body contribution to refit and running costs.

In the end filling out forms and doing meetings with Government Departments and keeping in good with the local Council still gets you a better return than a charm offensive on the private sector.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Looks like art

A local coffee bar does an accidental Don Driver

One day in the Directors office

Director: I’m getting a lot of pressure from up the line to increase attendances.

Curator:  More kids

Marketing: Kids

Education: Same

D: No, no we can’t go through the 80/20 barrier we need something else to get adults in.

C: A history show?

D: (ignores her) Any ideas?

E: Free beer on tap?

D: Budget

M: Food hall?

D: Not bad but a bit too nineties RA

C: How about drawing the crowds with an extreme artwork?

M: A what? (aside “you’ve got to be kidding me”)

D: (resigned) ok, ok let’s hear what you’ve got.

C: A collective that fill the gallery with condoms inflated with laughing gas and gets the audience to burst them with pins

D: Health and safety issues 

C: OK then, a guy who sands himself with an electric sander on behalf of a favourite charity inside the gallery

D: Not with the cleaners' strike we've got on he won't

C: A sniper shooting high velocity bullets across the gallery at unsuspecting visitors

D: A real sniper?

C: Sure, certified Navy SEAL

D: And the gun?

C: I’m thinking high-powered 30-caliber rifle. Maybe a Tactical 308

D: Let’s do it

M: I’m not so sure about the marketing angle

D: Huh?

M: You know …  um … people getting in the way of bullets .... collateral damage .... bodies.

D: (exasperated) Ok ok then. Shoot something else then

So they did.

(Thanks for the head's up C)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Wellington musicians make off with Ralph Hotere

Four score

Three women and one guy (Tina Barton, Caterina Riva, Anna-Marie White and Peter Robinson) have selected three guys and one woman (Simon Denny, Luke Willis Thompson, Kalisolaite ‘Uhila and Maddie Leach) as finalists in the 2014 Walters Prize.

And this time the selection's not at all clubby. Only two of the four (Denny and Willis Thompson) have dealers as far as we can see and one (Maddie Leach) actually lives outside Auckland although two (Denny, Willis Thompson) in fact live in Germany. As to the other big question as to whether anyone actually saw the Denny shows in Munich and New York, well maybe, maybe not, but there won't be the fuss there was last time over one contestant. Of course Denny is up for his second nomination to go along with his outing at Venice next year. A second nomination has only happened twice before with John Reynolds and Peter Robinson. Robinson of course won it on the second go.

This time selection panel members were all from the state sector with two from the universities (Barton and Robinson) and two from public galleries (Riva and White).

Who could reasonably feel left out? Well Shane Cotton must wonder what he'd have to do to be included particularly after his IMA/City Gallery show. Fiona Pardington has probably figured out by now that photography isn’t going to do it and Rohan Wealleans is certainly having a long wait in the wings.

You can see the Auckland Art Gallery media release here with details of the selected exhibitions to give you some idea of what to expect from the Walters Prize exhibition.

COMMENTS Roger Boyce  (20:03:14): As to your "Who could reasonably feel left out?" I reckon you've pointedly answered your own relatively-rhetorical question with: Fiona Pardington, Shane Cotton & Rohan Wealleans. An interesting finalist-selection query to entertain would be why these three eminent names are (as per usual) notably absent. I would suggest that "state sector" types (creatures of academy and so-called non-commercial, white-box, spaces - P. Robinson excepted from this catchall characterization) are 'religiously' (so to speak) conditioned by catechistic 'training texts' which codify 'the market' as an exclusionary shibboleth. Given all three artists (Pardington, Cotton & Weallans) enjoy robust markets for their work may be the not-quite sub-textual cause of their exclusion.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Art chart

Thanks D (Badge on the way)

Modern times

It’s partly concealed now by trees and stuff but when it was completed in 1954 St Mary’s church in Taihape must have been a shock. We only learnt recently that Ernst Plischke and Cedric Firth had designed this Roman Catholic church, so when we were driving through we stopped to take a look. This substantial concrete building looms on the top of a hill at the entrance to the town from the North. It was gifted to Taihape by John and Mary Bartosh which perhaps explains how building such an uncompromising structure was possible in a small country settlement in 1950s New Zealand.

Looking around the town it's pretty clear that the chilly wind of modernism never really blew through the streets of Taihape, but it certainly clipped the top of one of its hills.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday quote

 "I do want museums to feel special - but I want them to feel like a special part of your everyday life, not a place where you stop being you when you visit."

Dowse Art Museum director Courtney Johnston on her blog Best of 3 today

Don’t follow the money

The relationships between institutions, funding bodies, artists and money are now so seamless and so comfortable it’s not often that the surface is ever cracked. But that’s certainly what happened when it was revealed that the main sponsor of the Biennale of Sydney is connected to the construction and management of off shore refugee camps. Nine artists withdrew which in turn lead to The Chairman of the Sydney Biennale and Transfield Holdings, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis resigning to allow it to distance itself from Transfield’s funding. The response from the Australian Minister of the Arts Queensland’s senator Brandis was predictably brutal pulling out "disgraceful" and "shabby" and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull dredged up ''vicious ingratitude.''

More compelling was Brandis’ threat to withdraw Government funding to punish their ungrateful response and any other arts bodies that thought they could question commercial largess in the form of sponsorship.

In fact it looks like the Biennale has kept the Transfield money for this year anyway, so much for their public announcement to “end our partnership with Transfield effective immediately.” Given that the Transfield contribution only represents just over six percent of the Biennale budget (around $634,000 a year) it is pretty hard to see the Biennale falling over through a parting of company. 

But in the end there's no clean cash to be had (it is after all the main sponsors of the Biennale the Australian Government who are responsible for the camps). As one of those early Greek guys said, “There is nothing in the world so demoralizing as money.”

Images: Left Biennale sponsor Transfield's logo and right camp construction and services company Transfield Services logo

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The ping and the pong of it

You say painting machine. We say robot table tennis.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Facing the morning cup of coffee

When you’re hanging about waiting for the barista to draw a fern or a love heart in the crème just be thankful they aren’t film lovers. You find out who's who and look at more here.

Where in the world is Neil Dawson?

If you’re a lover of irony you’ll enjoy this. The Centre Pompidou is celebrating the anniversary of one of its most important exhibitions Magiciens de la Terre curated by Jean-Hubert Martin in 1989. One of the icons of that exhibition was Neil Dawson’s suspended work Globe. For this anniversary presentation of the exhibition the Pompidou made overtures to Dawson to develop a project. The idea fell through when the Pompidou couldn’t come up with funding. But an icon’s an icon, so what can a poor museum do? Feature it on the invitation.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

From the stream


Picking up the pieces

We’ve had a great response to OTN studio photos with well over 1000 hits and around 450 individual users so far. Given that an art museum talk is often lucky to pull in more than 50 people at a time and that art books are often published in runs of less than a 1000 copies we’ll keep adding to this site with archives and other stuff we've amassed. This will include some shots of artists setting up exhibitions, more studios recent and earlier, interviews and some longer form pieces giving the stories behind some well known works and incidents in the art world.

In the meantime here is a jigsaw cut from a 1980 shot of Don Driver. He had just pulled out his Yellow tentacle pram from the clutter of his studio garage to have a last look before it went on exhibition for the first time (it is now in the DPAG's collection). And thanks to Christchurch Art Gallery's Bunker notes for showing the way to the jigsaw site.

You can do the Driver jigsaw (and make your own) by clicking ‘restart’ here.

New on OTN Studio:

et al. (Lillian Budd studio 1991)
Tony Fomison 1978
Peter Robinson February 1993
Ruth Watson 1998

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The shining II

The Len Lye Centre will be pleased to see that it is to be joined by another mirror surfaced museum this one in Rotterdam. The architectural firm MVRDV has just won the design competition for its for the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen's collection building.


If you’ve followed OTN over the years you'll know that we have had a bit of an obsession over dealer gallery signs. The infamous axe attack on the Barry Lett sign, the holiday Dane Mitchell awarded the sign from Artspace and the various iterations of Peter McLeavey’s shingle. So if an exhibition were ever made to feature on this blog it has got to be Fuzzy Vibe's display of 13 dealer and artist run gallery signs. The roster includes a photo of the Teststrip sign (the original must have gone walkabout – it should really be in a public collection) plus signs from Auckland spaces Ferrari, Gambia Castle, s/f and Newcall. Top billing has to go to remnants of the Snakepit sign shown back on but a work of art in any direction. Not sure if the show’s still running but if so, it’s got to be a good sign.

OTN dealer gallery sign stories
New Vision I
New Vision II
Johnathan Smart

Peter McLeavey
Peter McLeavey II
Barry Lett

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Any of you watching the TV series True Detective will be interested in this piece. It shows how images by the American photographer Richard Misrach who had one of his early solo exhibitions at the National Art Gallery in the eighties influenced the look and feel of the series. (Thanks M)
Image: Richard Miseach from his book Petrochemical America (Aperture, 2012)


unvarnished facts, reckless guesswork, insinuations and possible inventions that have arrived at overthenet: before her resignation post the chaotic unitec restructuring, head of design and contemporary arts deanne koelmeyer was holidaying on her boat the graft spee named after a german naval vessel scuttled by its captain • bambury v jensen nz’s jarndyce v jarndyce is waiting in the pen for a high court hearing in auckland • the len lye centre in new plymouth has secured full funding via another substantial grant from the lotteries board making their support a total of  almost three million of the ten million required • university of auckland's gus fisher gallery is going it alone and will not replace its sole curator • ann shelton and phil dadson have left starkwhite • te papa has begun bench marking prices paid for acquisitions after a run of record-breaking purchases • sounds like auckland art consultant trish clark has sealed the deal on the ex-hairdressing salon near the university for her new dealer gallery • a temporary installation in the auckland art gallery foyer will hold the space as negotiations with scottish artist martin creed continue • any missed details, indignant denials or additions gratefully received, and any that makes us laugh out loud will be suitably rewarded

Monday, March 10, 2014

The shining

“There should be an international moratorium on art made with mirrors, Mylar, aerosol paint, and virtually any ‘found objects’ no matter how esoteric.”
New Jersey-based art adviser Clayton Press quoted in the WSJ


There’s a long tradition of artists putting works in retail store windows. Famously Andy Warhol did it for Bonwit Teller in New York and now in Auckland you can see a primo example by Michael Parekowhai. 

Greg Ryder’s hair salon was previously in a building close by the university (Trish Clark has her eyes on it for a new dealer gallery we’re told) and he used to show a few works by Parekowhai there from time to time. Now Ryder's downtown salon has been turned into a full-on showcase. From a life-size bull in the reception area to five orchestrated window displays (plus a few other items to surprise you) there’s a lot to see when you get yourself down there. Ryder is on the corner opposite the bottom of Anzac Ave.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Art is where you find it

Stepping out of Hopkinson Mossman and looking across the road it sure as hell looked like art. And it was. Commercial art.

Friday, March 07, 2014

The best art is business art

The OTN series where business people pose in front of art. This time it's Mark Adamson CE of Fletcher Building standing in front of a painting by Para Matchitt


Back in 1995 Michael Stevenson made an installation that included a selection of rental videos. The bogus movie titles illuminated Stevenson's perspective on the NZ art world and its idiosyncrasies. The trouble with Henry: Kissinger and the Museum of New Zealand was one and so was Curatorial protocols: who gets into exhibitions but the sharpest (at the time anyway) was Planes, trains NOT automobiles: the case of non-drivers in the art world. The work referred to the large number of art world people who didn’t drive but were driven including Robert Leonard, Hamish Keith, Wystan Curnow and Francis Pound. 

This oddity came up when we saw a Glengarry van parked inside Michael Lett's gallery unloading beer for Campbell Patterson's opening. We probably shouldn’t have been surprised as the gallery was once a drive in drive out repair shop. Then Michael told us a great story that when some Milan Mrkusich paintings were hung in the gallery Milan’s son drove the artist right through the gallery, past the paintings, and dropped him off at the office. #wishwe'dbeenthere.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Er...about those art museum attendance figures

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
Albert Einstein

Lookalike: Manet division

Seeing some people sitting under the trees by the Hutt River the other day sent us on a search for recreations of Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l'herbe lookalikes. There are thousands of them, here’s a sample.

Images: Top to bottom left to right, Hutt River, Bow Wow Wow cover, second row left H264 (check out their super-strange Lunch on the grass video here) and right the home of recreating art, the New York art group 2F1K, random people on Flickr and finally, Dior

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Thinking about...

...Eve Armstrong in Wellington.

What’s in that crate?

At the moment nothing is in the crate. The object that was in it (a wooden writing desk) is now sitting on top of it in the City Gallery so here is the tale of that desk (as best as we can remember) as told to us by Simon Starling.

Thinking of Australian connections for exhibitions in Melbourne and Brisbane, Starling noticed that an Australian museum had the desk of writer Patrick White in its collection. Turned out that when White was living in London he'd known Francis Bacon who was working as an interior designer.  "I got to know Francis when he designed some furniture for my Eccleston Street flat. I like to remember his beautiful pansy-shaped face, sometimes with too much lipstick on it." The furniture Bacon designed included a writing desk but White sold it and the other pieces when he returned to Australia after the war.

Almost immediately regretting the sale White tried to make amends. He gave a photograph of the Bacon-designed desk (probably the top photograph above) to an Australian cabinetmaker to make another one. Unfortunately he largely missed the spirit of the Bacon and produced a bit of a clunker.

Enter Simon Starling.

Starling sent the photograph White had probably used of the original Bacon desk to a cabinetmaker in Berlin asking him to make a replica. The new desk was then photographed and this image sent to a cabinetmaker in Australia. He repeated the process making another desk based on a photograph of the German replica and in turn sent a photograph of his own effort to a cabinetmaker in England with the same instructions.

The three desks are exhibited on top of the crates that initially shipped two of them to Australia and now all of them to New Zealand. Chinese whispers desk style, but as the City Gallery's Robert Leonard said in his talk last week, even all that’s not the whole story. 

Starling’s ingenious and engaging exhibition is on at the City Gallery in Wellington until 18 May.

Images: Top, the crate that is used to ship the German replica. Middle, the original desk designed by Francis Bacon in Patrick White’s flat in London’s Eccleston Street. Middle, Patrick White in 1973 sitting on the replica he had made in Australia (Photo: National Library of Australia) and bottom, White at his Australian desk as painted by Brett Whitely.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Making room

  • Give back some donated items back to their families
  • Be choosier about items accepted for the collection in future.
  • Upgrade the quality of the collection
Three genius ideas the Napier Museum has come up with to solve their storage problems as reported on TV1

Northern exposure

The business case for Te Papa of the North was due to go to Cabinet toward the end of last year so time to get ready for the promised consultations around this big culture-to-the- people idea. As Te Papa consistently gets 98 percent “good to excellent” in its audience surveys expect general support for a Te Papa to go in Manukau.  Hard to believe that questions will be test priorities. “Would you rather have a Te Papa storage facility cum display area or a swimming pool, a library or a sports stadium?” is unlikely to feature. #dontaskquestionsyoudontwantanswersto. Last year when the Stuff organization (Dominion Post etc.) went out with the bald, “Do you agree with the plans for a Manukau Te Papa?” just 750 votes were cast of which 56.7 said no.

The Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage has certainly been touting for the Te Papa of the North concept.  It was nice to have him actually comment on something cultural. Of course he couldn't help himself and retorted to critics of the far flungness of the Manukau site that, “As the crow flies, it is but a few hundred metres from the Royal Auckland Golf Club.” Rich in sarcasm of course but digs at the hoity-toity attitudes of NZ’s 1% is a bit rich coming from a man who names Bayreuth as a personal cultural hotspot.

For the record here’s what they all said when announcing Te Papa of the North so you can compare it to what they’ll all say later.

It will “improve the accessibility of our national treasures” – Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage

“It will enable South Auckland to have a place that has a Pacific focus, and be an invaluable resource for the area's schools”  - Mayor of Auckland

It will “create an innovative cultural hub at the heart of New Zealand’s most culturally diverse and fastest growing region” Mayor and Minister

“Manukau is not off the beaten track.” – Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage

“Different stakeholders will be consulted at different times, and on the aspects that are relevant to them.” – Chief Executive, Te Papa

Monday, March 03, 2014


New Zealand World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon channels Reuben Patterson.

Images: top, Reuben Patterson’s 2005 screen print Naturist and bottom Hayden Paddon’s WRC Hyundai. (Thanks S)

One day at the cake shop

Owner: Those Gerhard Richter cakes are slow out the door

Baker: Well don’t blame me…they started off as de Koonings. You were the one who insisted on the change

O: Well Richter is hot. A market leader

B: Sure, but smudgy cakes?

O: Yeah. Maybe we shoulda used one of those ones with all the little squares of colour

B: So where to from here? I'm liking Blinky Palermo

O: Enough with the Germans

B: German?....Blinky?

O: No. What we need is a smack-down combo, like an artist and an anniversary

B: Hey that's a great idea! How about the 39th anniversary of Joseph Beuys performing How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare?

O: Yes, like that but not a sculptor, not a German and without the hare


O: Michelangelo. He’s having an anniversary. Perfect

B: A David cake? You want me to do extreme nude cakery?

O: No, no, I’m talking Michelangelo the painter and I know just the work for our next cake: the Sistine chapel ceiling.

B: I can’t make a cake of a painting that’s on a ceiling

But she did.

Image: Michelle Wibowo used over 10,000 marshmallows and more sprinkles than you'd see in a lifetime creating her one on one scale version of Michelangelo's 450 year old painting. More here

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Fall guy

Saturday is Pull-down-a-statue-of-Lenin day. The Ukrainians have a new word for when bad sculptures turn badder Leninopad. It literally means 'Lenin fall' (combining the word for waterfall with Lenin) and fall is exactly what happens to multiple Lenin sculptures in this clip.