Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Just pleased to see you

This unfortunate addition to our ‘artists pose’ series is from the magazine Artful living and features artist Tom Everhart who should have checked the proofs.

More OTN artists pose posts:
Hirst first
Many, many men
Show pony
Jeff Koons

Book learning

One person who intruded on just about every conversation you had with the artist Toss Woollaston was another artist, Paul Cezanne. To the day he made his last painting, Woollaston continued with the experiments Cezanne started back at the end of the nineteenth century. You could see as you drove with him in the landscape around Riwaka that Woollaston was seeing it through the eyes of the French artist in much the same way as some of us find it almost impossible not to see the hills of Otago ordered up by Colin McCahon. It’s still a surprise though when you are in front of one of Cezanne’s landscapes to see how capably Woollaston followed Cezanne’s structural reshaping of the landscape form (along with a good slap of South Seas rough and tough rawness) and to recall that for a good part of his painting career all this was done through photographs in books and magazines. It was quite a feat.

Images: top, Paul  Cezanne’s The Bay of Marseilles, seen from L’Estaque 1885 in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and bottom, M T Woollaston’s 1986 painting, Tasman Bay

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sign of the times II

The new art history. A bunch of students looking for art.

Two is better than one

Building extensions are to art museums what bulking-up is to body builders. It's usually easier to get cash for bricks and mortar that donors can carve their names into than to entice them to pony up for collections or for exhibition programmes. So expansion is the name of the game.

The most common target is the public servicing areas, those functions that used to be housed in a cupboard or two in the foyer: coats, snacks, pamphlets, a map if you were lucky. They now get areas that need food drops to get from one side to the other and usually end up giving confusing signals about the core business of the institution.

But in Milwaukee, Wisconsin of all places they've devised a brilliant expansion strategy. Leaving the elegant 1957 Eero Saarinen-designed gallery spaces untouched they commissioned Santiago Calatrava to design a spectacular entry pavilion. This dramatic winged building on the waterfront is not to show art (although there is space for temporary exhibitions) but to take on all the new service essentials of an art museum. In Milwaukee the two buildings are connected by a couple of long graceful portals with the large temporary exhibition space between them.

When you’re in the Calatrava bit you’re in Experience Land with extraordinary height and spectacular lake views. The dominance of the architecture in all its whiteness is pure pleasure. You also have access to cafes, the shop and a place to hold a spectacular function. In Saarinen's Museum Land it’s a thoughtful showing of the collections in elegant galleries with lots of dedicated spaces for education. It’s such a perfect solution (and it’s been around since 2001) it's amazing that the idea hasn’t become a go-to formula for all new art museum buildings.

Images: Top and first row down the Calatrava pavilion, middle the portal to the original museum building and bottom a gallery in the Saarinen designed one.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sign of the times I

A guard at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis doubles up as signage

Look at MEme

Something the Len Lye Centre can count on when its stainless steel façade is installed is that it will become selfie heaven. Seeing the large super-shiny sculpture Cloud gate by Anish Kapoor in Chicago’s Millennium Park is to know why highly reflective surfaces are so loved by artists and architects at the moment. The spectacularly mercurial form Kapoor has landed in the park looks great in photos but is even more convincing in real life. A huge biomorphic blob with a charisma of its own. Sadly another look-at-me sculpture that used to draw the crowds nearby has had the juice sucked out of it by the Kapoor. A few people were listlessly taking shots of each other against the glass bricks of Jaume Piensa’s  Crown fountain (two towers that feature movies of giant faces) but their hearts weren’t in it. On reflection, mirrors 10 - movies 1
Images: art at work, Cloud gate by Anish Kapoor

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

Oh, by the way you’re psychotic

Further to our Taliesin post. Nobody ever said working with a genius was going to be easy but as clients go Hilla Rebay was something else. She was influential in selecting Frank Lloyd Wright to design the Guggenheim Museum but she had to deal with some serious correspondence from FLW in the process.

March 7, 1950


Evidently you intend to make mischief in a mean way. Go ahead. When you alienate me Solomon R. Guggenheim’s architect (and your own choice) by your quarrelsome and false assumptions you have burned the last bridge between yourself and retreat from disaster.

Your allegations are beneath contempt. The psychopathic ward is where such conduct invariably ends and no warning ever saved the patient.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Image: Frank Lloyd Wright, Hilla Rebay and Solomon Guggenheim with Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim model in l 1952

Makes sense

Recently we saw Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet for the fifth time. The first was at the City Gallery in Wellington and since then we've come across it in Japan, Europe and the US twice. It’s a beautiful work and a guaranteed crowd pleaser with a depth that allows it to expand into many curatorial combinations. It set us to thinking that perhaps a standard repertoire is begining to develop in contemporary art institutions when it comes to their international programmes. These are the works that are brought out again and again building name recognition and familiarity. They may be presented in slightly different ways but they could easily become a big chunk of what we get to see.  It's like what La Traviata does for opera and Swan Lake for ballet and Mid Summer night's dream for the theatre. There are already signs. The Monet exhibitions that circle the globe are certainly in the repertoire school. Warhol too.

In the most recent airing we saw of The Forty Part Motet it was standing in for sound as one of the five senses in a simple but hugely effective exhibition of the same name. Five installations for five senses although most of them seeped into one another. Cardiff of course carried sound. Touch was covered by a bank of computer-controlled household fans installed by Spencer Fincher in his work 2 Hours, 2 Minutes, 2 Seconds (Wind at Walden Pond, March 12, 2007) that replicated the wind on a specific site for a specific time. Sight was a rainbow emerging from a water mist created by Olafur Eliasson, Smell came from both Ernesto Neto's hanging pods of spices and Roelof Louw’s pyramid of 6,000 ripe oranges. Strictly speaking the oranges were primarily there for for taste as visitors could select and eat some fruit if they wished. Louw's pyramid was first installed in 1967 over 20 years before Felix González-Torres made this sort of interaction with the audience his own in the early nineties. The five senses, simple idea, big impact.

Images: top, Roelof Louw’s 1967 work Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges), second row left Ernesto Neto's Cai Cai Marrom and right Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet. Next to bottom Olafur Eliasson's Beauty and bottom Spencer Fincher 2 Hours, 2 Minutes, 2 Seconds (Wind at Walden Pond, March 12, 2007)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Less is Moore

Here's a lookalike we missed on its way through, actor Julianne Moore vamping John Currin’s 1997 painting The Cripple. The photograph was taken by Peter Lindbergh for Harper’s Bazaar back in May 2008.

Hello cheap art and good buy

Recently dealers in the US and Europe seem to be following a strong trend to look back to find talent.  As the art market grows and the competition for work heats up, they're starting to work with and promote older artists whose reputations may have faded or who never quite hit the commercial jackpot.  Who might fill that spot in NZ?

There are some signs that this trend is already rolling here. For example, Hamish McKay with Don Driver, Michael Lett reaching back into the career of Jim Allen, and FHE giving Marti Friedlander new opportunities to shine. In fact if you’re interested in high quality work at very reasonable prices there's an amazingly rich list to select from.

Don Peebles, possibly hobbled by only ever working in Wellington and Christchurch, is a bargain, particularly for his more experimental works of the mid to late seventies. Gretchen Albrecht is of a later generation but her body of work, the seventies stained canvases (very sought after in the late seventies and early eighties), are now undervalued. Contemporary criticism that they were too close to the work of Helen Frankenthaler was a sideshow (it would hard if not impossible to make as an argument actually standing in front of a work by Frankenthaler). And while there's interest in Don Driver's formal abstractions (still at a very undervalued level) his large scale collaged banners, some of his most important work, are almost given away. Other artists who sell well under what you would expect from the depth and significance of their achievement: Tosswill Woollaston (maybe simply because his work doesn't reproduce well), Giovanni Intra, Richard Killeen and Robert Ellis.

Here by way of examples is what you would have expected to pay for a work based on the average paid at auction over the last five years.

Albrecht seventies colour field paintings $17,300
Driver banner works $9,700
Harris seventies paintings $10,000
Don Peebles small constructions $2100
Woollaston paintings $22,000

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Art at work…

…in the Mineapolis Sculpture Garden.

Images: photographing people ‘holding’ the cherry balanced on top of Claes Oldenberg and Coosje Van Bruggen’s sculpture Spoon bridge and cherry. Middle sitting on the Scott Burdon's Chair's Bottom, left riding Mark di Suvero’s Arkides and right getting a twosome in front of the Elsworth Kelly’s
Double curve

Face to face

One of the largest lookalikes ever made was the one created by Robert Boyle for the Hitchcock movie North by Northwest around November 1958 (the same month McCahon was painting the Northland panels). Biggest public sculpture? Movies? Lookalikes? Spurious connections by date? OTN was there.

Looking at the movie it's obvious that while the lookalike model was very large, it was definitely not at one-to-one scale. The Rushmore Presidential eyes alone are 5.5 meters wide. Plus when you're at the Mount Rushmore National Monument in South Dakota it turns out that Hitchcock’s set was not so much a lookalike as a look-the-other-way. The orientation of the heads (particularly Lincoln) appears to have been tweaked to get the shots Hitchcock wanted for his chase sequence. Of course clambering around the 18 metre high faces without specialist equipment is impossible so for his set Boyle added flat surfaces, hand holds and, down the side of one face, all but a set of stairs.

In fact Hitchcock nearly didn’t get to build his Mount Rushmore at all. It was only by making a few promises about not having any violent scenes associated with the monument (whoops that didn’t happen) and not showing the faces above the mouths (that didn’t either) that he got started and then he followed the old rule - don't ask for permission, beg for forgiveness.

You can see the Mount Rushmore sequence from North by Northwest here

Images: Mount Rushmore last week and ‘Mount Rushmore’ 1958

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Drawn to it

Here’s one from the world of unintended effects. At the Walker Art Centre attached to an exhibition of the figurative artist Edward Hopper (Nighthawks) they had set up an old-school life-drawing studio. When we were there the subject was a classic arrangement of cones, cubes and cylinders.  Two people were sitting at their boards hard at it. Then we noticed that the guy was drawing a nude based on a picture he had on his phone. #impressed

The best worst kept secret in the world

In a city where the daily newspaper selects three dead people to represent NZ's coolest artists, a story about one of the Auckland Art Gallery’s most prized possessions traveling off overseas Te Maori style is probably not going to be either above or below the fold. Still it's harder to understand why the AAG hasn’t trumpeted the news on its website specifically dedicated to the artist, or anywhere else for that matter. Most art interested people will only have only discovered via The Art Newspaper that after ten years of negotiation Udo Kittelmann, curator (he did the recent Martin Kippenberger survey in Berlin last year) and director of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, has secured the loans from the AAG for a big exhibition of Gottfried Lindauer. The plan is for it to kick off its tour at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin in November.

The Czech city of Plzen where Lindauer was born also claims its West Bohemian Gallery is putting a Lindauer survey together. This one is co-curated by Roman Musil with  45 works approved for loan by the AAG. We figure this is the same exhibition as it opens in Plzen in Spring 2015.

According to The Prague Monitor (we’re looking at you NZH) “A team from the Plzen gallery met Lindauer's grand-daughter, 86, in New Zealand. She gave them some valuable documents as well as memories. The preparation of the Lindauer exhibition was on the agenda of the talks between then foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg and his New Zealand counterpart in the spring of 2013.” The story also mentions that Auckland University’s Leonard Bell is attached to the project.

Why the AAG is keeping this good news story secret when the rest of the world already knows about it is anyone’s guess.

Images: top, the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin and bottom, the West Bohemian Gallery in Plzen both of which have secured Lindauer loans from the AAG

Monday, April 21, 2014

The rest

Today being a public holiday there's no OTN. That's Easter for you.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


At the end of our first month of posting back in December 2006 we featured the man-with-a-dog-stuck-to-his-leg sculpture in Wellington. Imagine our surprise to see a virtual replica (1) in downtown Pierre - it's the capital of South Dakota although in appearance looks more like a giant Hamilton. Anyway Pierre's bronze sculpture is of the twenty-fourth Governor of the state in a rush to pass some kind of legislation but obviously encumbered in the same way as Wellington's Plimmer steps guy by a random dog being stuck to his leg.

(1) DISCLAIMER: the staff and all subsidiary bodies of OTN (Overthenet) are not responsible for any readers who looked at the right hand image and accepted as genuine what is obviously an amateurish use of Photoshop to paste the picture of a
living dog (most likely taken off the internet) onto a photo of bronze statue seen in the streets of Pierre, Dakota.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Over egged

OTN will post on Saturday but today being a public holiday you only get this barely relevant picture of Jeff Koons's Baroque Egg with Bow (Orange/Magenta) and Monday, being another public holiday, there's nothing. Nothing at all. That's Easter for you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Art is where you find it

Painted barn, outside Dinosaur, Colorado

Counter measures

Valerie Solanas wouldn’t have been impressed. In front of her SCUM manifesto displayed as part of the exhibition Take it or leave it at the Hammer Museum, a guard (it gets worse, it was a male – they’re the one’s “who’ll swim a river of snot and wade nostril deep through a mile of vomit” to get a woman) had set up shop. A small stool and, just to remind Val she was history, the perfect spot for his people counter: the frame around the man-hating proclamation. He wouldn’t have been so casual if V Solanas had turned up in person like she did at Andy Warhol’s factory in 1968. That time she was carrying a gun and seriously wounded the great Pop artist.

Images: Valerie Solanas’s SCUM manifesto with chair and counter

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

“I was flattered, I can only be flattered. I don’t know that I can say it’s art, but I think it’s weirder that Pace would show them than that he would make them.”

Cindy Sherman responds to James Franco showing versions of her Movie stills in New York

Buy the book

When we wrote the text for the book Contemporary New Zealand Painters back in the early eighties it was a new idea for NZ but a familiar one in the rest of the world. Of course Marti Friedlander herself had been there well before CNZP photographing artists from as early as the sixties. The lineage is even longer though. There are many, many photographs of artists in their studios since the invention of photography but the first book gathering them together we can find was probably Alexander Liberman’s bluntly titled The artist in his studio. This legendary book showing the modern masters of European art was certainly a big influence on Marti. And then there were the photographs of Lord Snowdon (aka Antony Armstrong-Jones) collected together in the 1965 book Private View. It too played a part in the style of CNZP and there’s a fascinating account with lots of images of Snowdon’s work on this book here.

We were thinking about this long history in preparation for a talk a few weeks ago but were astounded to discover recently just how current the idea still is. In just one US bookshop we found no less than six books on artists and their environments. Images of the artist in the studio still fascinate. Stalkers, voyeurs, peeping Toms, call us what you will but just leave that door open a crack so we can have a quick look inside those studios.

Which all leads us to tell you that there are another five new studio photo sessions up on OTN Studio.

Lillian Budd, December 1992
Shane Cotton, April 2003
Don Driver, May 2003
Ross Ritchie, November 2010
Peter Robinson, September 2003

Image: Snowdon working on the proofs of Private View in his home, 1965.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stand in

The tie up with art and fashion has always interested OTN. In NZ you can trace it back at least to the late eighties. We still have a John Reynolds Amour windbreakers designed for Workshop around that time and more recently Max Gimblett and Martin Popperwell have also come on board. Now Michael Parekowhai has also jumped in to the fashion world. His work has been seen at Karen Walker’s North Shore store but this time he was collaborating with designer Tanya Carlson for her exhibition Not all white at the DPAG for ID Fashion week. Carlson was showing off 15 years of her work staged on Parekowhai Cuisenaire rod stands.

Not a good sign

In Grand Junction, Colorado an object lesson in caution for any public sculptor contemplating fountain action. Along with this visual litany of don’t icons on one of the five signs surrounding a fountain sculpture other warnings included instructions not to climb, wash diapers, sit, loiter, smoke, spit or bathe (with or without a dog). And the fountain? It was was turned off - water restrictions.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Just when you thought public sculpture couldn't surprise you any more.
Image: Bronze action in Grand Junction, Colorado

Art is where you find it

Who couldn't help thinking about Fiona Connor when you drive through some of America’s State and National parks? Her last show at Hopkinson Mossman replicated many of the signs, information kiosks and barriers you see scattered through campsites and viewing posts.

In Utah we also came across some handmade art but it was made by painters not looking for attention. Their job was to ‘vanish’ boxes of electrical equipment located by the road so it dint' disturb the view. Most of the boxes were painted with regular camouflage patterns, albeit in desert pink, but along one road we found an artist who'd taken up brushes and tried for something more expressionistic.  Nothing new about artists being involved with camo as we've noted in previous posts but camouflagers taking to art, that’s something else again.

Images: top, art and bottom, regular

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Run, run,run as fast as you can

Sarah Lucas who shows at Two Rooms in Auckland is now available in gingerbread for your Saturday baking pleasure. (thanks G). You can help Artfund and get more art to eat here.

To make a Lucas Self portrait with fried eggs to go you will need:

50g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of salt
115g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
175g light muscovado sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
1 egg
500g royal icing sugar
Black, blue and yellow food colouring gels or paste
Fried egg sweets
Gingerbread men cutters

To prepare for four copies:

Mix the flour, ginger, cinnamon and salt in a food processor (or by hand). Add the butter and whiz until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, syrup and egg, and whiz to make a smooth dough. You may need to add a splash of water. Transfer onto a clean work surface and knead lightly into a ball, wrap with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30-45 minutes or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin until 5mm thick. Cut out four gingerbread people and a rectangle approximately 20cm by 30cm. Transfer to the baking trays.

 Cook in the oven for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make up the royal icing sugar with a little water and whisk until you have a smooth paste. Remove half and colour it with the black colouring. Fill a piping bag with the black icing, and one with white icing. Pipe white and black squares onto the gingerbread rectangle in a chequerboard pattern. Leave to set, then fill in the centres to cover the board. Decorate the gingerbread women, using the icing and fried egg sweets.

If you're a fan of Lucas you can also check out her recent foray into furniture design here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A perfect storm in Tuba City, Arizona

It's a public sculpture, it's bronze, it's a guy and he's an artist.

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid

As regular readers will know we've chased up Frank Lloyd Wright buildings whenever we've been near them and the other day we were near Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona. While there's nothing much we can add to the story of this sprawling desert complex which the extraordinary Lloyd Wright conceived in his seventies, how about the cult thing? As we explored the place and met some of the staff, one of the young architects and an 80-plus year old one, it became clear that FLW was running something very close to a cult up there in the desert. They even call themselves The Fellowship to this day and FLW’s my-way-or-the-highway philosophy has bred a very respectful following indeed. Put together FLW's mission to elevate society with the small hutch-like DIY accommodation, communal hardships, shared meals, and the club-like atmosphere and it all felt just millimeters away from creepy.

Then we went to see the Italian architect Paolo Soleri’s attempt to build a city of the future at Arcosanti further north into the Arizona dessert. Although now dusty and diverted by handcrafts it is still impressive that such soaring structures were essentially built by people who'd drifted in to join the adventure. Some of the large half domes had been made in the same way as the Teshima Museum we posted about last year and what they lacked in elegance they made up for in grandeur. There were still some bright-eyed followers but here it was a skeleton crew. The community has gone into a serious decline, Soleri himself died last year and the place is struggling to maintain its eccentric and spectacular digs far less entertain any further efforts at urban experimentation.

Why the difference? The FLW people were very, very fortunate in his choice of a third wife. Olgivanna Lloyd Wright was considerably younger than her husband and stepped up as CEO of a cleverly designed Foundation with educational and heritage goals and, of course, the FLW global brand. Arcosanti had none of this back-up so without its visionary the place feels like an experiment that is failing. When it comes to long-term survival Foundations beat Hippies right out of the park, or out of the desert as it is in this case.

Images: Top, Taliesin West and the rest Agrosanti

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Put it up the flag pole

Who is going to judge the Walters Prize? Looking at past years we can figure the Auckland Art Gallery and the Prize patrons will be trying to match their previous successes. Let’s face it, getting the inventor of modern curation Harald Szeemann to to judge the first Prize was remarkable enough but to top that by scoring Documenta curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev was truly impressive. There’s one obvious name that could carry that sort of clout and our guess is they’ll be on the phone to über curator  Hans Ulrich Obrist. What are the chances?

Give or take

The exhibition Take it or leave it at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles is our kind of show. Artists putting institutions - especially art institutions - up against the wall by provoking, mocking, testing and deconstructing them. The gallery spaces were packed with work (only the Cady Nolan boxing ring suffered seriously) but the show seemed small in ambition. It was American artists only so keystone political artists of the 1980s and 1990s like Hans Haacke were excluded.

The fascination of the exhibition was to be taken back to when the relationship between artists and institutions was anything but cozy. Today so many artists depend on funding from their universities and art institutions are so enmeshed with dealers for funding, exhibition support and facilitating loans, that anything uncomfortably critical is self-censured fast. Andrea Fraser demos how it was done stripping down to nothing when giving a thank-you speech at the opening of a survey of her work. Louise Lawler goes on the attack presenting copies of iconic photos as her own work. Fred Williams points an accusing finger at virtually every collecting institution in America. It was quite a time.

Image: Andrea Fraser in full flight

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


OTN’s relentless promotion of giant art objects has been joined by a book on the subject. Overs!ze: mega art & installations features many of the OTN finds including that giant rabbit, mighty Marilyn Monroe and the damn big duck. It also includes New Zealander Fletcher Vaughan’s giant house of cards. You can buy a copy here.

Images: top the book of the obsession and bottom Fletcher's house of cards

Lillian Budd sat here

At the City Gallery Robert Leonard has just put up the exhibition McLeavey sat here looking at artists looking at the dealer Peter McLeavey. One of the works features an amended photograph of Lillian Budd reclining on McLeavey’s chaise longue after it had been painted by the artist. As it happens one of us was with Budd when the painting was done and took the chaise pic. Robert’s show seems a good moment for a side-bar to the chaise story so we have written a brief account of what went on that day along with further pics and ephemera. You can read it in a new section we have added to OTN studio called Stories.  It’s on the far right of the menu bar or use this link to go there direct.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

As one door opens...

Elsewhere on the internet (ok Facebook) we have a series called hidden doors which is all about...doors that are hidden. This one collides with art so OTN readers, you can share it too. Barbara Kruger hides a door at the Hammer Museum.

Found: Greg Burke

An OTN reader sent in Greg Burke’s name for the 'Lost’ column. Seemed a bit harsh (thanks anyway L) but for those who don’t know Burke is now executive director and CEO of a rehoused art museum in Saskatoon, Canada. The project is huge. Over $75 million dollars of hard-earned Saskatoon cash is building a four-storey museum of 11,582 square metres. For comparison, the Auckland Art Gallery has 7,200 square meters of public space and is also four floors, so probably a similar sized building.

The name of Burke’s new institution is the Remai Art Gallery of Saskatoon. The Remai bit is the name of the major donor Ellen Remai.  No doubt having come from the land of DAG (Dowse Art Gallery), NAG (National Art Gallery and G-BAG ( Govett-Brewster) Burke was wary of the RAGS acronym and has branded the new museum Remai Modern. 

A couple of years back Remai donated over 400 Picasso linocut prints instantly doubling the value of the collection and weighting its direction. So the 'new' museum will probably be more ‘Modern’ than ‘Contemporary’ or as Burke put it recently, “[Having the word 'Modern' in the gallery's title] doesn’t mean we’re going to be focusing on the most bleeding edge form of contemporary art. Not so.”

Burke is hoping to have a physical museum building to direct in June 2016.

Images: Top left the new building and right Greg Burke standing next to what has been built so far. Bottom a modern vision for the future

Monday, April 07, 2014

Black and white

At the Mike Kelley exhibition in LA thinking about lillian budd posing on Peter McLeavey's painted chaise.
Image: Mike Kelley, Odalisque 2010

Stand up mike

Just when you thought you'd seen your most extravagant claim by an art museum, there's the introductory text for Mike Kelley at the MoCA in LA. Yes, he's the “most influential artist of our time”. It seemed that marketing had got over excited again but after half an hour in the exhibition maybe some humble pie.

At least a couple of generations of art students have been shadowed by Kelly’s outpouring of foreboding and irony with his avid adoption of materials. This exhibition is like meeting a parent of people you know really well. There’s the likeness staring straight at you, even if the features have been shuffled about a bit when it comes to the kid. And this is an American family we're talking about. There’s a lot of stuff lost in translation. Kelley's work is so saturated in the neurotic soup he makes of American culture that it feels peculiarly local for such a globally influential artist. That any of this came as a revelation says something for the insipid contemporary diet served up by our public museums over the last thirty or so years. To think such a major force was surging through our art schools and there has never been an exhibition large or small of Kelley’s work in New Zealand for the rest of us.

Image: Mike Kelley at MoCA

Saturday, April 05, 2014

A word on fashion

Short of Anselm Kiefer breaking out a line of wedding dresses or catching an advert for the the Milan Mrkusich range of boxer shorts, it’s hard to imagine anything more surprising than Lawrence Weiner teaming up with UNIQLO to pump out a t-shirt collection in association with MoMA.

The signs were there of course. Weiner was the guy after all who said, “Art and fashion are the last two bastions where the product itself is what attracts attention; it really doesn’t much matter who made it.” He’s also been known to stand up for the workhorses of the fashion industry. "I have a great appreciation for runway models. Why would they do it? It’s exhausting, terrible, psychological work to do and you don’t have any control over yourself.” Maybe it was this empathy that prompted him to make a runway piece titled (1) FOR THE MONEY, (2) FOR THE SHOW, (3) TO GET READY and (4)

Friday, April 04, 2014

Animal crackers

Here’s a great example of the imagination at work. These illustrations are attempts to depict the elephant based on returning travelers' accounts. From the top they are:

An elephant from the Rochester Bestiary, c. 1225-1250
An elephant by Guillaume le Clerc, 13th century
An elephant from Italy, c. 1440
An elephant by Noè Bianco, 1568

You can see more hopeful renditions of animals here on ‘Welcome to the future’ in a piece rather literally titled How Europeans imagined exotic animals centuries ago based on hearsay.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

We need that bathwater. Dump the baby

There’s no doubt about it, art museums have got themselves into a fine old mess with their business model. They are spending so much on staff, facilities, compliance and admin processes that there is very little left for staging exhibitions and programmes or getting work into the collections. In fact let's flag the buying thing. Unless our art museums can persuade people to gift or sell to them at a discount, art collections of the kind Auckland Art Gallery built up in the twentieth century are a thing of the past. That leaves The Programme. Exhibitions are what bring the bums through the door (ok that was unfortunate but funny enough to leave).

Here's a textbook example of confused priorities. The Tauranga Art Gallery is currently in the news. It’s comparatively new and has made an impressive impact on its community but the City Council is calling for a cut in the budget as part of a general clamp down. It’s not a huge dollar amount - $17,000 - and although it may be the last straw of a round of cuts, it's less than two percent of the total amount given by the Council annually (we assume there are other funds coming in, sponsorships etc.)

So what was the Art Gallery's response? “We will work smarter and harder” (just kidding). No, it told the Council it would drop a regular bus service that brought kids to the Gallery and save $45,000. Ok, that was political grandstanding, but it also suggested cutting the number of annual exhibitions from 15 to 5. So just how much does the Tauranga Art Gallery spend on exhibitions? If it will save $17,000 or so by dumping ten shows we're talking around $2,000  each. That's out of a total operational budget in excess of $864,000. So there’s the problem. These numbers are estimates but show how out of whack institutional budgets can be with what the people who pay for them think they are about. Imagine being able to slash two-thirds of what you do as your core business and it only reduces your budget by about two percent. Now that wouldn’t work in the private sector and obviously isn’t working in the public one either.

LATER: Tauranga Director Penelope Jackson wrote to emphasise that the canned bus and reduced exhibitions were only examples to Council and not necessarily what would be done to rake in the savings.

RICHARD ALIDGE (Director 2002-20090) NOTED: The annual operating budget for the TAG is over $1m per annum. According to the annual report for 2011 the Tauranga The City Council operational grant was $847,400 in 2011. Donations, sponsorship and other grants made up an additional $200,000. There was interest and other income as well. (You can read the 2011-2012 Budget for the Tauranga Art Gallery here)

05 April 2014: News update

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

... and on the table

From the stream.(thanks to you all)

Striking oil

A real Australian art experience was had when we went with some friends to see some friends of theirs who ‘had some sort of art connection” Oh, oh.

But as we pull into the driveway we figure this is something more than a connection. The garage is crammed with paintings, and not just inside the garage, they're outside too, leaning against every perpendicular surface. We’re talking huge canvases, and oddly familiar. The artist is Keith Looby, a well-known Sydney painter, and a winner of the Archibald Prize back in the day. He is now in his seventies and a major family storage revamp was in full swing as we arrived. There were paintings everywhere and we were just in time to help stack some of them and carry a few down to the house.

Looby was an artist who used a lot of thick paint and some of the large works weighed a ton (ok maybe a little less than that) so progress was slow. The labels and names on the backs of the canvases showed Lobby had worked with a few dealer galleries in his time and had even parted company with Ray Hughes both men with fiercely held opinions.

The upshot of all this was that we got to see a survey exhibition of Keith Looby when we were expecting a few random prints and maybe an Aboriginal dot painting or two.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

On a roll

You do have to admire the nerve of whoever weilded the roller to create the cheezy lookalike abstract painting that features in this Velux ad.

Talking up the talk

It’s not often that OTN has the opportunity to shamelessly promote two events simultaneously but today we can. Tonight Jim will be giving a talk at the City Gallery about OTN’s In (and out of) the studio site. The other speaker will be Roger Blackley from Victoria University (who is clearly taking advantage of the fact that we don’t have any photographs of Charles Goldie at work) to talk about that artist in his studio. To coincide (here's the shameless part) with this talk we are putting up some more studio pics. This time it’s:
  • Neil Dawson from 1998 (getting ready for a show in Hong Kong)
  • et al.’s Henderson studio in 2011
  • Wellington jeweller Karl Fritsch’s studio taken earlier this year
  • A couple of shots taken of Ralph Hotere in his Port Chalmers studio in 1981
The talk starts at 6 pm and the studio pics are available now if you take yourself to

Image: Ralph Hotere 1981