Thursday, July 31, 2014

Art chart

Thanks K

Crate news

The Australian artist Hany Armanious has had a long association with New Zealand. Formidable exhibitions at Hamish McKay and Michael Lett and an outstanding presentation at the City Gallery in 2007 and later this year in September his installation Selflok. When we were in Sydney last year we had a look at what Hany was up to in the studio. We're accustomed to his producing substantial objects but tucked in a corner was what looked like a maquette for something that was, judging by the size of the tiny model people around it, bloody enormous. Hany confirmed it was a maquette for a site somewhere in Sydney. Artists can dream like anyone else, we thought. As brilliant as it was the idea of a 13.7 meter upended milk crate getting the green light anywhere seemed pretty remote.

So this week we've been eating mental humble pie since we saw that Pavilion (a riff on a giant up-turned milk crate) by Hany Armanious along with work by Tracy Emin and Junya Ishigami had been given the go-ahead for installation in central Sydney. There has been a predicable grumbling, some funny memes and another artist who has problems with the work. You can see what else was in Hany’s studio at the time we visited here on OTNSTUDIO

Images: top, an early maquette for Pavilion in Hany Armanious's studio in October last year and bottom a visualisation of the finished work

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ground zero

“I don’t want to take credit for bringing him into the art world, but before me he didn’t really have any art.”
Art consultant Maria Brito about her client American rapper Diddy

Just the fax

Who'd have ever thought you could sit down to watch a 72-minute documentary at the Film Festival on the artist Sol LeWitt without him making a single personal appearance. LeWitt was not interested in talking about his work publicly or attending his own openings. “I don’t even want my picture to be used because it has nothing to do with my art” was the LeWitt line. Back in the sixties and seventies this was an accepted position for an artist to take and because he was a terrific artist everyone played ball. In NZ this was also the approach taken by Ralph Hotere and more recently and more controversially by et al. But in 2005 et al's resistance to talking the talk led Creative New Zealand to insert a you-will-talk-to-the-media clause into the Venice Biennale artist contract.

The LeWitt film demonstrated that for all his taciturn approach in public, he was an exceptionally generous man. One of his assistants John Hogan said, “if you had a fax machine and a wall you could have a work by Sol LeWitt”. As we’ve posted before, Sue Crockford had a fax machine and a wall and she also had a Sol LeWitt exhibition. LeWitt showed his famed generosity and sent all the assistants who installed the work a small drawing for their trouble. Remarkably, given the ease with which LeWitt's wall works could be presented internationally and its impact, no NZ public art museum ever took advantage of the Sol LeWitt’s fax and install process. As a footnote, one of Lewitt’s more sculptural works Pyramid is part of the Gibbs collection and is installed on The Farm

Image: Assistants installing a Sol LeWitt work in the eponymous film

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ce n'est pas un crapaud

More on the continuing problems with giant inflatable sculpture in China. Now there's a mega-toad inflatable floating in a Beijing park. The trouble is it looks a bit too much like Jiang Zemin past President of the People's Republic so posting pics of it to the internet in China has been banned. (Thanks again N it's important we all keep ahead on this stuff)

Why is the Fletcher Trust Collection off-loading?

The Fletcher Trust is about to put 77 works from its corporate collection up on the block. It's ironic that, although the collection was started in 1962 via some pressure by Peter Webb of the eponymous auction house, it will be sold through the International Art Centre. With around 600 items this is the largest corporate collection of New Zealand paintings. While only 12 percent is being dumped in this first tranche it's still a surprise and is sure to disappoint a number of artists when it happens on 10 September.

And there's something else. Given that Fletchers aren’t exactly broke and that they're citizens of Auckland it’s hard to understand why these works haven’t simply been gifted to the Auckland Art Gallery. After all, the framing of the collection has always been in terms of its value to New Zealanders and the public interest. “The Fletcher Trust’s intention is that these paintings that constitute a unique record of the whole history of New Zealand art should be seen by as many New Zealanders as possible.”

So who's being culled? It’s hard to say at the level of specific paintings but a few names have been mentioned. Gretchen Albrecht is one. She has eight works in the FT collection including a classic 1985 Hemisphere and the beautiful Snake Charmer from 1976 but there's also a work on paper in the same territory as a large painting so selling it might be understandable in a tough curatorial purge. Ralph Hotere is also mentioned but deciding what to bump is not so easy. He has just six works in the collection and each has been carefully selected from an important period including a very interesting early Sangro painting. Then there's Michael Smither. OK one of the five paintings included (Red Chair from 1979) might get the nod if selling were critical but the other four are outstanding. As for Milan Mrkusich, picking even one of the nine in the collection as not worth keeping would be very hard to justify. The challenge with sales of course is that usually it's the best works that get the best prices.  It would be counter-intuitive to venture into the sales arena with works that that won't get great prices unless you are simply housekeeping. And that would be insulting for the artists.

Finally there's the Alfred Sharpe question. With only four in the FT collection it’s hard to see why any of them would have to go and the idea of gifting back to the nation comes up again. For instance, the national collection held by Te Papa has just four examples of Alfred Sharpe’s work in its entire collection. That's a huge historical gap that could be brilliantly filled by Fletchers.

And so it goes. You can name search the Fletcher collection here and have a go at picking the limping impalas in the herd.

Image: Billy Apple’s painting From the Fletcher Challenge Art Collection in the Fletcher Trust Collection the Fletcher

Monday, July 28, 2014

From the stream

The Internet Party forgot the power of the internet for a critical moment and naively put up this pic of Picasso’s Guernica as a visual of how they partied in Christchurch. No big surprise they got savaged for their troubles. Still, good to know art can still still pull a political punch 77 years after its making. Dotcom and Co have since taken the pic and their tweet off their Twitter stream (why bother?) and replaced it with a clip from Michael Schama’s tv show The Power of Art. You can see the responses to Guernica as a party piece here.

Hire pool

One thing that always works well is getting someone who knows nothing about your business to be Chief Executive. Look how well it turned out for Apple back in the 1980s when the Board turfed out computer nerd Steve Jobs and moved in soft drinks guy John Scully. Why the hell should the CE know about computers? It's a management job? Yes, that was a big success for everyone involved – well it was once Apple got back Steve Jobs. All this leads to the question why Te Papa's Board had decided that Michael Houlihan's replacement as CE “ be drawn from the museum world or other sources (i.e. universities, corporates, and government)”. That word ‘could’ doesn’t sound too encouraging.

So you’ve done your 10,000 hours as a senior manager in finance or run a department in the public sector or headed up one of the polytech-universities, and it's time to step up. Fortunately applying for the Te Papa CE job is very straight forward. Go to the Te Papa site and you are told to contact John Peebles Associates, head hunters based in Remuera. Now that would be fine but the Peebles website isn’t working. In fact it expired a week ago and you've got to assume that either no one has even noticed or the cheque got lost in the mail. What’s an ambitious management guy to do? Give up while you’re ahead might be a good idea.

Experience shows that Te Papa has never been much good at the job thing. Three and a half years after Heather Galbraith left the building Te Papa still hasn't managed to hire a senior art curator. Who knows whether this is because of a lack of priority, an attempt to save money or no one wants the job. Probably it's a mix of the three. So the news that the CE ‘could be drawn from the museum world or other sources’  will just further demoralise staff (the ones who haven’t already run out the door) and depress serious supporters.

Still thanks to its glacial speed and the help it's getting from John Peebles Associates, we're not going to have to worry about the new CE of Te Papa any time soon.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Big blow

So what’s happened to that giant inflatable duck sculpture? you all ask, well a few of you did … ok it was N (thanks N). Since our last report of it puddling out in Hong Kong Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s much loved sculpture has been all over the place and was last sighted floating on a river in China's Guizhou province. But last week an intense storm with heavy rain ripped the yellow one from its moorings and swept it away. To date no one knows where it has gone beyond 'somewhere down river'. A duck double is on the way.
Images: top, the rubber duck is welcomed in China and bottom deflation in Hong Kong

Friday, July 25, 2014

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Post studio post

For a New Zealander to make a big impression on the global art scene is not easy. So far it’s required an artist to leave the country and live in one of the major art center. And so Frances Hodgkins went to England as did Boyd Webbb in the late 1960s. Webb went on to become probably our most successful global artist so far. More recently Michael Stevenson and Simon Denny have both based themselves in Berlin and the work of both has attracted attention in the global art discussion. 

Stevenson has just been exhibiting in the Berlin Biennale and the Liverpool Biennial and Denny currently has a show at Portikus in Frankfurt. This is one of Europe’s key contemporary art spaces and indeed Michael Stevenson has also shown there recently. Both artists are loosely described as post studio but as a visit to OTNSTUDIO to check out Stevenson, June 2014 and Denny, June 2014 will demonstrate, studios are still alive and well.
Images: left, Michael Stevenson and right Simon Denny in their Berlin studios, June 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014


The ghost of the Wellington art space On the table will be raised again this Saturday. OK, On the table may have had only five or six exhibitions but one of them was The estate of l budd and featured a table tennis tournament with l budd prizes. In the current spirit of re-presenting important exhibitions the tournament will be restaged at Michael Lett’s new gallery in Auckland. For the record the trophy winners of the first event were overall winner Chris Bleakley and runner ups Michael Baker and Karl Fritsch.
Images: Clockwise from the left Chris, Michael and Karl
with their trophies

Court out

Can’t get enough of this series on art collectors posing on furniture. This time it’s Australian collector Louise McBride who is currently involved in a case against the auction house Christie’s. The trouble started when McBride purchased the Albert Tucker painting Faun and parrot on the advice of her friend (maybe ex friend now) art consultant Vivienne Sharpe and then goes to re-sell it. Oh, oh, not so easy. It now looks as though the painting might be a fake. Usually this situation plays out with oh-how-embarrasing-let’s-settle-out-of-court but McBride happens to be a barrister and she’s not backing off. This of course means the rest of us get to hear of all the machinations that go on backstage when the rich and art meet. Brilliant.

Top in the embarrassment stakes is the revelation that Christie’s catalogued the Tucker painting's provenance as having been purchased by a Mr Ivan O'Sullivan from the Tolarno Gallery in Melbourne in 1969. Whoops! Tolarno wasn’t even up and running until 1978. Next is the appearance of one Peter Grant. He owned the Irascible Gallery and it turns out that the Tucker passed through his hands at some stage. Unfortunately this is the same Peter Grant who we posted on some years ago in a story about Brett Whiteley, Charles Blackman and Robert Dickerson fakes. None of this did a lot for the integrity of the provenance of Faun and parrot

But Christie’s defence team has also had the opportunity to put the boot in. Now we’re hearing all about how McBride transferred works from her private collection into her pension fund which you are really not supposed to do. We’ll keep you posted but in the meantime you can read the most entertaining version of the story here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Good to know

"New Zealand has been blazing a trail with Creative New Zealand’s Optimise online marketing capability building programme and the Optimiser online benchmarking project, led by The Audience Connection."

Presentation at the CNZ conference The Big Conversation (download report here)

Starkwhite comes to Wellington

The relationship between dealer galleries and public art museums has changed a lot. There was a time when the museums stood on their ethics and kept the dealers at arm's length in case their curatorial independence was compromised. That stand feels rather quaint now with big international dealers like Gagosian and Hauser & Wirth having a huge impact on what goes into (or possibly more importantly what’s not made available for) public museum shows, biennales and commissions. These galleries fund exhibitions and publications on a lavish scale and of course present substantial exhibitions of their own. The boundaries are well and truly blurred and the results not always to the benefit of museum independence. When visiting public museums shows today studying the labels to see who claims who and who's credited for what and who gets thanked is simply another part of the filtering process.

If you visited the current suite of exhibitions at the City Gallery in Wellington you'd think you'd hit the nexus of the public museum/dealer relationship. The City Gallery's spaces are all but filled on both floors with three solo exhibitions by artists (and yes in the City Gallery tradition they're all male) who show at a single Auckland dealer gallery - Starkwhite. Then stir in some personal history. The City Gallery’s Senior curator Robert Leonard was Starkwhite director John McCormack's curator at the Govett-Brewster and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. And what about the transparency issue? The Starkwhite connection is credited on two of the exhibitions (Martin Basher and Grant Stevens) at the City Gallery but is nowhere to be seen in the biggest exhibition where the three ground floor galleries are filled with Seung Yul Oh’s work. And this in an institution that raised eyebrows in the past over the multiple appearances and support of artists from the Sydney-based dealer Roslyn Oxley.

But as it happens it turns out the Starkwhiteathon is actually a mixture of loose programming and poor timing: the Seung Yul Oh show was developed in conjunction with the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and had no association with Starkwhite, Leonard has been a long-term supporter of Grant Stevens (he introduced the artist to Starkwhite way back) and the Martin Basher exhibition was already on the books.

So not exhibition programming's finest hour but a King-hit for Starkwhite

Image: Seung Yul Oh (detail)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Big bird

Like the animal artist line up there seems to be no end to the out pouring of giant sculptures in general of animals specifically or in this case bird life. This 15 meter long parrot (a Norwegian blue) was made by Dave Crosswell, Iain Prendergast and Toby Crowther as a commission work to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Dead parrot sketch by Monty Python.
Images: The Norwegian blue being installed

Big eyes

After a scan of some dealer galleries, a best-of show in LA and too much time on Google, here’s some of what to expect from art in the next 12 months.
  • Plants in pots, in arrangements and in fragments
  • Large mirrors and reflective surfaces
  • Installations in stand-alone rooms
  • Tiles and more tiles, on the floor, on the wall and on the ceiling
  • Performances (many of them based on work by Yvonne Rainer)
  • Collectives and groups
  • Ceramics, ceramics and more ceramics
  • Rumbling bass sound tracks
  • Small abstract paintings that remind you of other paintings you've seen
  • Artist statements printed onto the gallery wall
  • Things made of bronze that look like they are made of something else
  • Artists writing printed in handouts
  • Artists curating other artists as their own work of art

Monday, July 21, 2014


We're on a roll. This from a reader (Thanks M), über art collector Eli Broad and his wife Edythe sitting on furniture, in this case designed by Frank Gehry

Prize list

Once again the NZ Herald has dusted off Adam Gifford to harrumph about the Walters Prize. Last time Gifford was appalled by the four finalists who he decided “are in fact deeply conservative – a new academy." In a turn around this year Gifford is shocked by the radical nature of the final four. As the Auckland Art Gallery hasn't bothered to answer the obvious mistakes and misunderstandings in Gifford’s piece either on FaceBook or Twitter, here's our take on it:

 “The Walters Prize is the way Auckland City Gallery Toi o Tamaki deals with contemporary art. It outsources the selection of the finalists to four people from elsewhere in the New Zealand art world.”

Two of the four on the selection panel live in Auckland while a third, Tina Barton, graduated from Auckland University and was for some time a curator at the Auckland Art Gallery. Three of the four finalists went to art school in Auckland.

"There's no cover charge for the Walters Prize this year."
Admission to the Walters Prize was also free in 2012.

“The Walters selections so far have shown a bias against older artists and object makers.”
Five of the six winners of the Walters Prize (et al., Francis Upritchard, Peter Robinson, Dan Arps, Kate Newby) are object makers and Yvonne Todd is a photographer. Seventeen of the 28 finalists to date have been object makers. The average age of Walters Prize winners is 36 and 12 of the 28 finalists were over 40.

“As to the question of what contemporary art is, the answer seems to be, "It's what contemporary artists do."

This idea was first proposed by Marcel Duchamp 100 years ago in 1914.

“Worth noting is that the Walters Prize was opened by Mayor Len Brown, whose council passed a bylaw that includes a ban on "nuisance" begging. 'Uhila would have breached the bylaw when he pitched a tent alongside the gallery to shelter from the winter chill.” 
As far as we know direct begging is not part of Kalisolaite 'Uhila’s work.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday chart

This week Hyperallergic took apart the latest Top 200 Collectors list . You can see more of their results via the link.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Centre of attention

Four years ago LACMA had Franz West and Hamish McKay Gallery artist Andreas Reiter Raabe design a set of galleries for a Pacific collection that they had purchased. Now a new addition to the collection Shigeyuki Kihara’s video work Siva in Motion has been given a prime position.

Image: LACMA’s Pacific collection with Shigeyuki Kihara’s Siva in Motion centre

Signature style

The I’ll-never-wash-my-hand-again syndrome is common enough in the world of popular music and entertainment. Once touched by greatness (ok celebrity) you’ve got an association you want to remember. That’s why people collect signatures (preferably not on their arms with black felt tip pen) although you do have to wonder what these associations are worth. Someone on Trade Me is testing the water at the moment with a ‘Philip Clairmont, Signed, Nostalgic Object, Icon’.

The icon offering is a copy of the album Soon Over Babaluma recorded by the German band Can in 1974. We know it was owned by Clairmont because he hand printed his name on the sleeve presumably to make sure it came back if borrowed. It ended up with Clairmont’s friend the artist Allen Maddox and was in turn passed on to the Trade Me seller. 

So, there you go, two associations for the price of one.

And what do you pay for a record that was once owned by Philip Clairmont and presumably touched by Allen Maddox? Bidding starts at $500. OTY.

Image: top, the associated Can album and bottom, the crucial Clairmont name on the reverse of the sleeve. (thanks for the heads up P)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Skin condition

As you wander round the Getty Museum in LA you start to feel there is a theme to the contemporary sculpture collection. What could it be? Got it. Naked women.


It’s auction season and that means auction catalogues. So here’s our annual quiz, this time based on the catalogue entries for Webb’s Important paintings and contemporary art sale on 31 July. Answers here on OTN STUFF.

Who made an art work that is -
“Monumental and extremely important”
“Highly revered”
“Irritating, strange yet very familiar”
“Profoundly important”
“A subtle political statement that urges its audience to look past the smooth veneers of the modern world”
“Approachable yet cryptic”
“An intense cocktail of vivid colours”
“About the communicative potential of the creative act”

Whose painting has -
“An idyllic eloquent tranquility”
“A strong sense of the transcendent”
“A fresh and improvisational feeling”
“A newfound understanding of the gravity and implications of the human gesture”
“An eerie yet beguiling quality”

Who created -
“A career defining masterpiece”
“A deeply enigmatic work”

Who has -
“A profound but highly personal perspective”
“Inherent spirituality”

Who is -
 “One of New Zealand’s most voracious appropriators”
“Inviting the viewer to gaze upon he façade of a world driven by industrial production”
“Creating imagery in which slight of hand is incorporated into the artistic process”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In Los Angeles...

...thinking about Bill Culbert and Ralph Hotere

In the cut

Although the Lucio Fontana retrospective show in Paris gave new emphasis to his ceramic work, it did include a number of the classic slashed paintings for which he is famous. Fontana saw these works as the end of a spiritual quest to create the perfect painting but for all his high mindedness it's hard not to see the canvases as injured when you stand in front of them. That impression was reinforced looking at a short film that showed Fontana making one of his slashed paintings with a disarmingly prosaic box cutter. Hard not to make the thought provoking jump (one that has almost certainly been made many times before) to the terrible actions of Dutchman Gerard Jan van Bladeren who slashed the Barnett Newman painting Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III in 1986 and then, 11 years later, returned to the same museum to put five meter gashes into another Newman work, Cathedra.

Images: top, Lucio Fontana Concetto spaziale, Attese. Bottom left Barnet Newman  Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III and right Cathedra

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Desk bound

The second in our ongoing series of art collectors and furniture. This time it's Los Angeles collector Mary (Moo) Anderson perched on a desk alongside her husband Harry, known as 'Hulk'.

But seriously

We'd seen the dog with the purple front leg before as part of Pierre Huyghe’s contribution to Documenta 13 in 2012 but then it was often lurking behind a large spill of gravel. This time the dog was roaming around the museum where a large Huyghe’s survey exhibition was underway and was sometimes, but not always, accompanied by a guy with a strange mask. The dog was enough really.

The strange thing was how much more real the dog seemed in these large white galleries than it had outside in nature, albeit a nature somewhat distorted by Huyghe. In part we all felt comfortable about the dog because of the relaxed attitude of the guards at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne. They had obviously been specifically briefed for this exhibition - you could sit anywhere, lean on anything, touch most things, take photos, lie down, and so on.

Was this attitude why most of the visitors were under 30? The exhibition was staged as a series of inter-related but distinct encounters and this chunking really worked. Each event (whether it was a large scale video, a set of drawings, a statue with a beehive growing on its head, an aquarium, smoke and mirrors) was an opportunity for people to lie on the floor, talk among themselves and absorb the exhibition in a way that is quite different from the long hard stare we're used to. It may have become a cliché but the phrase that best summed up the Huyghe exhibition was serious fun. Not just populist or spectacular or interactive (although it turned out to be all three) but the fun made by an intensely curious artist treated seriously. And there were no labels, just a sheet with a map, list of works and brief commentary. #justsaying

Monday, July 14, 2014

Memory line

Back in 2008 we posted about German artist Gunter Demnig and his project to mark the forced removal of Jewish people from their homes in Germany during the Second World War. Over the years this project has grown and the small bronze cobblestones are much more in evidence. We saw this chilling line of them in Demnig’s home town Cologne.

Where’s Walters

On the day of the Walters Prize opening in Auckland we managed to see not one but two of the finalists in Frankfurt. In fact Simon Denny’s opening at Portikus coincided with the Walters one in everything but the dateline. Further up the Main River another Walters' finalist Luke Willis Thompson has a major installation as part of Foreign Exchange at the Weltkulturen Museum. He has taken on a rather breast-beating exhibition by the anthropological museum by focusing on repatriation from an individual and personal perspective. His presentation certainly stands out from the abstract good intentions of the rest of the exhibition. Denny has filled Portikus with an array of dense information systems, sly art references, ambiguous explanations and churning air conditioning units In a city at the centre of our financial systems and a country still picking over its history Denny has proposed something fresh about global manufacturing and the power of positive thinking. And there's also the odd thought that at least six other Walters Prize finalists have also shown in this city of finance and data flow.
Images: top, Luke Willis Thompson at the Weltkulturen Museum and lower Simon Denny at Portikus

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Saturday Art Chart

Thanks L

Friday, July 11, 2014

Business opportunity

Space cadets

The Walters Prize opens tonight for its three-month run. That may seem a long time but the whole event is staged as a kind of marketing platform. The artists recreate their exhibitions, this show is opened at the Auckland Art Gallery, the public look at it before the various projects are assessed by an international judge and a winner is announced. The entire Walters event is promoted with the who-will-win question building anticipation. That’s the theory anyway.

This year the selection panel (Christina Barton, Anna-Marie White, Peter Robinson and Caterina Riva) has made an unusual selection when it comes to making an exhibition in a public art museum. You may remember that for the last Walters Prize the judges didn’t see most of the work; the current judges have found another wrinkle. This time round it’s us who won’t be able to see most of work they’ve selected in the gallery. What’s a bricks and mortar institution to do?

Given that Luke Willis Thompson’s work was founded on the idea of not showing work in his dealer gallery there’s a good chance that Maddie Leach and Kalisolaite ‘Uhila may also end up with empty gallery spaces. Ok, maybe some signage and a photo but that could be it, which would pretty much leave the AAG’s 3rd floor space with a Simon Denny exhibition.  Still it’s sure to be intense, jam packed with information and visual material.

So maybe the AAG was right after all in giving so little space to temporary contemporary art exhibitions after all. If the Walters Prize is anything to go by, artists don’t want it any more.

Image: proposal concept for a blog illustration that can’t be seen

Thursday, July 10, 2014

End game

“I look at artists like a commodity balance sheet. I like to know the age of the artist, how long he was been painting, how many he does a year, how many come up at auction and the frequency, are the prices coming within the estimate or above or below, what the thresholds are, how each year the price has moved.”

Art-as-commodity dealer Olyvia Kwok talks about making money off the top end of the art market in the London Evening Standard

Numbers: international edition

57     the number in billions of dollar a year that is the estimated size of the contemporary art market

69     the number in thousands of square feet that is the footprint of the three buildings occupied by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

74     the percentage of people making a living from the arts in New York who are white

75     the number of artists in New York thought to earn seven figure sums from their work

75     the number of plane and truck shipments needed to get all the work delivered to the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum in New York

80      the percentage of visitors who are attracted by temporary exhibitions when they visit the famously successful Tate in London

200    the figure in millions of dollars that represents the estimated value of the works in the Jeff Koons retrospective

246    the number in millions of dollars that British artist Damien Hirst was said to be worth in 2012

100    the number in thousands of square feet that will be the footprint of the dealer gallery Hauser Wirth & Schimmel when it opens in Los Angeles

1575  the estimated number of art museums in the United States

1964   the year American critic Arthur Danto coined the phrase ‘The art world’

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Ship shape

Back in 2008 we were on a camo jag and posted about the Navel boats given the dazzle treatment. This year the Liverpool Biennial, that includes NZ’s Michael Stevenson, has commissioned new treatments of some old ships to commemorate the practice. More here.

Images: Top an original, second row patterning by Carlos Cruz-Diez and bottom how about this from Tobias Rehberger

You say studio, I say studio

While in Berlin we got to visit Judy Millar and Ruth Buchanan’s studios. Even in this time of ‘post studio’ production, artists still need a place to put their computers, make phone calls, build models of gallery spaces, work up drawings and ideas and store stuff. This all takes up a lot of space ad in this context Ruth's studio was more like one from the seventies when expansive work spaces were virtually unknown for artists. Judy Millar, on the other hand, works in a large warehouse-like space even though she outsources many of her processes. Anyway, you can find them both on OTNSTUDIO along with some photos we took in Campbell Patterson’s Auckland studio (well in fairness the space he had commandeered in the living room he shared with flat mates) back in 2007. There are also more shots of Peter Robinson’s studio, this time from 2010.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Branded: Max Gimblett

The moment when artists become brands

When art walks the runway

As we've always been interested in art crossovers (with movies, fashion, animal artists etc) we were starters for the Dries van Noten exhibition in Paris. It was more than just impressive and the way it had been put together offers many valuable insights on concept development, curation, focus and display. Plus the attraction of fabulous clothes.

Unlike most single artist surveys van Noten has made a large exhibition (alongside the curator Pamela Golbin) focused on his influences. These are  something many artists like to keep in the cupboard for as long as they can but for van Noten, “Fashion is so rich…because we can draw on so many sources of inspiration.”

Van Noten's inspirations turn out to be very diverse but one surprising one to us turned out to be Jane Campion’s 1993 feature The piano. It got a large room to itself with clips from the movie and a range of black on black outfits that echoed its well-known aesthetic and period detail. We were also intrigued by the other 20th and 21 century artists van Noten rates as his inspirations and the value he places on them. And they are not just mentioned on a wall text but represented by significant or idiosyncratic works. Francis Bacon was included of course via four or five torn pages from magazine and paint splattered photographs taken off the famous studio floor, carefully conserved and now on permanent display in Dublin. Marcel Broodthaers was there with mussels and Christopher Wool with words and Elizabeth Peyton with a couple of dashing portraits. One painting spoke of another constellation of influences we are very familiar with. The 1966 painting Tauri by Victor Vasarely could be taken in technique and style for a complex Gordon Walters. Walters often mentioned Vasarely as important to him, but to see this one right in front of you, wow.

Image: the section given over to the influence of Jane Campion's film The piano on Dries van Noten

Roll with it

Cloud from Richard Clarkson on Vimeo.
"You want rocks in the sky? Here's rocks in the sky" 
(Oh, ok... thanks M)

Monday, July 07, 2014

On the road

Another examples of the Ministry of Transport celebrating the lives of artists young and old, living and dead, throughout the land.


One of the advantages of having an artist like Colin McCahon embedded in your culture is the way he can give you a jolt that reminds you how connected he was to the spirit of European art and how you have some of those connections too. He might have come to them by actually seeing the works in question or from magazine illustrations or books or perhaps some mystic process that he boiled up in the back room but those connections can often stop you in your tracks. 

A friend described it as the way McCahon ‘collected and processed so greedily and brilliantly with the weird peripheral details that get you’. And so you turn from walls packed with staggering moments of art history and look up at the ceiling for some visual respite and there they are - rocks in the sky. Could McCahon have seen these works? We know he never went to Paris so no, he didn't twist his neck to look at them in the extraordinary house that's now the Jacquemart André museum . As to whether he could have seen them reproduced in an old art book, probably now well hidden in the stacks, that’s a job to be sent off to PhD land. But he sure saw them in his mind and then, more remarkably, knew what to do with them.

Images: panels by Girolamo da Santa Croce on the ceiling of the Jacquemart André museum in Paris

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Seven days

Monday: see picture of Urs Fischer’s Untitled (Lamp bear) in a magazine

Tuesday: scan pic

Wednesday: send scan to China

Thursday: receive jpg of prototype

Friday: make small adjustments

Saturday: place order

Sunday: rest

Images: left Urs Fischer Untitled (Lamp bear) right Chinese bear lamp as sold in the Centre Georges Pompidou's design store

Friday, July 04, 2014

Talking books

‘Give ‘em what they know, and when you’ve done it once do it again.’

Ex war artist Dick Heldar in Rudyard Kipling’s first novel The light that failed

See what?

Fake buildings are a thing in Europe. Mostly it's cosmetic with graphics of what the building is going to look like concealing the work site but sometimes it goes somewhere else. Now we know a collage when we see one but how about a 3D architectural collage? This cut and paste effort twists one of Paris’s Belle Époque buildings into a classical Roman facade for the exhibition Augustus Emperor of Rome. Mind bending to see in place but weirdly as a photograph you lose much of its giddy impossibility. Classically inclined museum buildings in NZ like the Auckland Museum or the Sarjeant or even the City Gallery could carry off this effect but saying that makes you realise how much of that style has been superceded. (and the opportunity for this sort of 3D marketing mash-up lost). The old National Art Gallery, the pre-revamp Auckland Art Gallery, the McDougall in Christchurch, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in the park have all moved to buildings with see-through glass facades. Still maybe one day someone will find it amusing to get out the scaffolding and see what happens when you play 3D-façade-cover-up on such obvious metaphors for transparency.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

In Paris...

...thinking about Steve Carr.

Under performing

The Auckland Council have just published an arts and culture draft action plan (you can read it here -pdf). The thing is it's dead set on Auckland becoming the world’s most liveable city. But there's hot competitiom fanned by lots of top ten lists. In the Monocle Magazine list Auckland comes in at twelfth, tenth on the EUI list, and on the Mercer list, third. So doing well but not number one, not the most liveable.

Apparently Auckland wants to put arts and culture “in its rightful place: within us, amidst us and about us.” To get things started they’ve come up with six objectives of the 'Auckland-can-be-a-totally-cultural-city and super-interesting-to-be-in' kind. You've got it, this is another marketing plan. The killer app turns out to be Auckland's Maori, Pacific and Asian communities. And the way to the top of the lists? More festivals, more activities, more performances, more events leading to more access and even more diversity. 

The existing visual arts infrastructure is spectacularly underplayed in all this more, more, more approach. OK, Auckland Art Gallery is mentioned a few times but it's mostly being lauded for its award winning building (although it has to be said not a building specifically designed to cater for Maori and Pacific cultures). Its first big Pacific Island show Home AKL held exactly two years ago this month gets a mention but there’s no suggestion of them doing it once a year or even doing it again.

The tertiary education sector is probably one of the biggest investors in the visual arts in Auckland through countless art schools but it gets no mention at all. There’s a nod to Te Papa North and how its “multi-agency approach avoids duplication and maximises the regional and national benefits for storage, provision of education and hosting of exhibitions” which doesn’t sound very sexy. Te Tuhi and the Mangere Arts Centre are mentioned once in a list called “something already happening in Auckland” and the Fresh Gallery is not mentioned at all. A Regan Gentry project is used as a case study but there's no mention of Artspace and only a passing reference to the network of dealer galleries.

So how will the visual arts contribute to Auckland's most liveable future? Not very much by the look of it. The plan is undercooked when it comes to this sector. Their main role is described a filling 'our city with art and design that tell our stories [that] give us a greater sense of civic pride and belonging." There's not going to be a long queue to play that game.
Submissions close on 24 July.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Last Woltz

A regular OTN reader (it's R again, thanks R) asked how "if you claim to be giant sculpture central, you missed out on The Kelpies?" (two super-sized 30 meters high horse heads "by sculptor Andy Scott and erected on the meeting of the Forth and Clyde canals late last year.) Well the thing is up to now we've had a site-wide ban on large-scale sculptures of partial animals (heads, legs etc.), but that was up to now.

Space invaders

Palais de Tokyo in Paris must be up there as one of the biggest contemporary art spaces in the world. Who knows how many thousands of square meters it covers, possibly no one. Who could be surprised then when most of the work it shows is of the installation art kind. The pressure on artists to fill these jaw dropping spaces is extreme. What counts as a 'small' space comes in at around 150 square meters and the largest at around a thousand or more. As a visitor it's fascinating to see the strategies various artists adopt to cope with filling these sorts of areas. Here are some techniques we saw at work. Feel free to use them to fill your own large spaces.

1   Use cheap materials. Clay, paper, cardboard boxes, corrugated card and iron, tires and bricks.

2   Cover the floor with a cheap material. That clay comes in handy again and so does paint or, if you’re really low on funds, water (in sheets or puddles).

3   Install a very small work into a very large space.

4   Construct a set and decorate it with theater props

5   Use video projection on free-standing screens or the back wall of a large room

6   Project video onto floors (this seems the same as item 5 but add a balustrade – more bang for the bucks)

7   Use old school tv sets to show your video and fill up the remaining space with chairs and couches

8   Cover walls with decorative surfaces (wallpaper, newsprint, graffiti)

9   Make something large and hollow using light cheap materials (painted paper, paper mache etc)

10  Place small works on plinths widely separated from one another

11  Performance

You're welcome.

Images: some example left to right top to bottom. Light weight and hollow – Eduardo Basualdo, painted floors and walls - Michael Riedel, video on floor - Tony Ousler, small ojects large space – Julien Bismuth, cheap materials on floor - Dominique Ghesquiere, plinths – Agnieszka Kurant, large found objects and theatrical devices – Hiroshi Sugimoto

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Ready made

A reader (thanks A) has pointed out the unusually sophisticated use of Duchamp's 1925 work Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics) in today's NZ Herald cartoon.

Images: left Marcel Duchamp, right Rod Emmerson

The Count

With all the fuss over Napier’s MTG not getting enough people through the door to satisfy its City Council (who let it not be forgotten originally set the target at an absurd 690,000 in their Annual Plan), we did a quick check to see how everyone else was doing.

Top people magnet is the Auckland Art Gallery helped hugely by its new building. Next up, kind of surprisingly, is the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Its attendances must wipe everyone else off the map in visitors as a percentage of population. Then it’s Te Papa’s fifth floor. There are no audited figures available but over the years we've cobbled together an estimate based on its own reports.

Only one on the list Rotorua charges an entrance fee although some of the others do charge for temporary or touring exhibitions. Many institutions don’t publish their attendance figures or do so in a way that makes them difficult to extract. The Dowse's attendance numbers, for instance, are combined with the Petone Settlers Museum at 204,000 so aren't included (The Dowse have since told us their latest annual attendance figure is 205,563 not including the
Petone Settlers Museum). There's also the notorious kid factor - the percentage of non-voluntary children (aka school kids) bulking up these figures is of course a deeply hidden secret.

But here’s a rough and ready guide.

Auckland Art Gallery  720,000
Dunedin Public Art Gallery 255,000
Te Papa’s fifth floor 190,000
City Gallery Wellington 161,681
Waikato Art Museum  111,915
Rotorua Museum 97,642
Govett Brewster 67,000
Sarjeant Gallery  37,463

Image: sophisticated chart from OTN’s design department