Saturday, August 30, 2014

Catching a wave

You can’t keep a good image down especially if it's as intense as The Great Wave off Kanagawa, the ukiyo-e woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai from his set Thirty six views of Mount Fuji. If you want to see a copy of the original you only need to go as far as the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. While it's thought around 5,000 copies were printed time is bound to have slashed that number back a fair bit. One was certainly lost in 2012 with the grounding and partial sinking of the ocean liner Costa Concordia. A set of the Thirty six views was hanging in the CC's wellness spa.

But don't give up. It's still possible to have your own copy. An original print of The Great Wave off Kanagawa was auctioned for $36,000 in 2003 while a full set of the thirty six views (for some reason there are 42 prints in the series) went for $2mil the year before at Sotheby’s.

Images: top, The wave as used by the advertising industry, the design world, the ink fiends and bottom, a mural in Dresden of all places by C.Muench

Friday, August 29, 2014

Good form

When art collectors pose on furniture looks back. This week Dr Barnes of Philadelphia benches a leg before Cezanne's Card players

Watching paint dry

Anyone who was at art school in the sixties will remember the miracle of acrylic paint. Rather than waiting hours or even weeks for the layers of your masterpiece in oil to dry, you could barge on and get the thing done in a day. There were a few ways of doing this - by mixing raw pigment with ‘medium’ (a sort of watered down PVA glue) or, if you had cash, by buying very pricey tubes of a paint (obviously named in a rush of sixties marketing genius) called Liquitex. You also had the option of the enamel based house paints like Solpah, which were cheap and still dried a lot faster than artist’s oil paint. House paint as an art material has a noble lineage. One such product known as Ripolin was used by Picasso back in 1931 for The red armchair and in the next decade Sidney Nolan painted his Ned Kelly series in this material.

OK, kinda specialist but if you want to follow up on how NZ painters came to these new materials you need to get to the Auckland Art Gallery. In another of the small focused exhibitions that seem to be becoming a specialty, Sarah Hillary presents a fascinating perspective on post war painting through a conservator’s eye. Included are great art production icons like Ralph Hotere’s spray gun as well as paint cans, tubes and charts, but also more personal artifacts including a small paint brush used by Don Peebles with an equally discreet cloth for wiping off mistakes or brush cleaning. There is also a pocket notebook of Colin McCahon with notes and diagrams to decipher. We love this sort of stuff although it's has been out of fashion in art museums for quite a while now. Nice to see you back on board, ephemera. Missed you.

Images: left, Don Peebles brush and a tin of Solpah paint. Right a 1949 Australian advert for one of McCahon's favourite house paints Solpah

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Don't mention the war

"He wasn't fired, he has made his own decisions. Yes, we did have a big problem, and we've completed the turnaround."
Te Papa chairman Evan Williams in the Dominion Post confirming that Te Papa chief executive Michael Houlihan has left New Zealand


Here's a rule of thumb for assessing a work of art. Does it appeal to cartoonists? Guy Body’s drawing published in the NZ Herald the other day picks out some of the layers of meaning in Michael Parekowhai's Lighthouse for the Auckland waterfront and pulls it right into political commentary. Works that have featured in cartoons make a line-up of populist stars that don't even need the artist's name - Mona Lisa, The scream, Nude descending a staircase, American gothic, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (ok that one probably needs the word 'shark' and Damien Hirst's name attached). Cartoonists are often the first to grab on to powerful images that they can connect with current ideas. 

So here's a prediction. For all the fuss about, Parekowhai’s lighthouse it will become the background of countless selfies, a feature on all Auckland city tourist material and (like Neil Dawson’s Ferns in Wellington) quickly assimilated into the city landscape as a much loved icon of Auckland.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Coat tailing

One of the most famous artist studios of the last century has got to be the cluttered room used by Francis Bacon. The artist told Melvyn Bragg that the chaos surrounding him helped in his process of painting. You can watch the terrific Bragg documentary on Bacon here and see the studio when Bragg and Bacon discussed the work around 12 or so minutes in.

As you might have guessed we only dropped this in as a lead so we can tell you that we've put up four new sets of artist studio images on OTNSTUDIO. The 1980 images of Michael Smither show him working on his harmonic chords, a series of works investigating the connections between music, colour and shape. In September 1985 we photographed Neil Dawson in the garage at the back of his home that he used as a studio before moving to the hall he's worked in for the last 20 or so years. Moving north to New Plymouth you can see that the 74-year old Don Driver was still producing his large banner works and rapidly filling the garage he had converted into a studio. And finally Peter Robinson. When we took these photographs in September 2004 he was working in the tiny front room of an apartment on the Great North Road in Auckland. If you look at this other set shot earlier in the year and already up on OTNSTUDIO you can see the same space as it was around six months earlier and get a sense of how quickly the inventive Robinson moves through ideas.

Image: Michael Smither working on his Harmonic chords in his New Plymouth studio in 1980

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


... Bill Hammond in Wellington

Simple as one, two, three, four

You may remember during the run-up to the last Walters Prize that an OTN reader claimed you could predict the judge’s choice by looking at what this selector had done and said over the past few months. With this year’s judge there's tons to choose from. Charles Esche is not your typical arts bureaucrat. He is a curator and museum leader with strong opinions and a highly developed sense of political injustice. To get a taste of Esche’s views you can:

Visit him on Facebook. Recently Esche named hard left wing British politician Tony Benn as a formative influence on him and reproduced on Facebook Benn’s famous five questions to ask the powerful (Q5: How can we get rid of you?). He's also a generous linker, always with an opinion like "good article here...there really is no 'Dutch consensus' between racism and anti-racism...either you want to continue celebrating white domination over other people, albeit unconsciously, or you don't. I vote for not doing it anymore.."

Follow him on Twitter:

Read his many interviews and discussions: Some are online with Esche constantly questioning his position on art and the role of the museum world. His view? “Art should be about doubts, relationships, questions - about opening up spaces, people and knowledge.”

So it’s kind of easy. Charles Esche will be looking for a work that is socially aware, takes a strong point of view and is posing important questions about contemporary life. Oh, oh…. That’s all four of them.

Image: word cloud constructed from a Charles Esche's interview on contemporary art

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday quizz

Our mystery object this week is from the art world. Prizes for the first two correct answers. NOTE: Members of the Dowse Art Museum staff who already know they are templates for hanging the Peter Peryer exhibition are not eligible.


The Act Party don't have a culture policy as such. Of the 19 policy areas outlined on their website none include culture or heritage. A search for the word ‘culture’ brings up zip unless you count the “nation’s commercial culture” or “business culture”. And ‘art’? Just a 2012 comment by Rodney Hide that he was pleased the new Wellington Mayor had a “special interest in Wellington's arts and culture scene.” Good to know but not much help. As for the Act budget, not a cent art-wise, unless you're in the film industry where you're promised just under $52 million as part of economic development.

On the other hand, when it comes to throwing a few metaphors around about the good life and Act’s ideal New Zealand, art is dragged on over and put to work. This is thanks to deep-pocketed Act supporter and super collector Alan Gibbs. Act leader Jamie Whyte kicks off the party’s advertising campaign with a brisk walk across the Gibbs' farm. The talk is all “This is a good country” but the walk is more about expensive art via Zhan Wang, Leon van den Eijkel, Bernar Vernet and Anish Kapoor with a couple of giraffes thrown in for emphasis. You can watch the complete ad here.

Image: Jamie Whyte and his wife promote art in Act's TV advert (Thanks S)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The horror

“It will likely include reproduction tanks, planes, famous battlegrounds and even a "smelly" trench, allowing people to experience the muddy and decaying stench soldiers were forced to endure on the frontline.”
Stuff’s Ben Heather reporting Peter Jackson proposed Government funded World War I museum in Wellington. (Thanks for the clip and diagram T…we think)

Friday, August 22, 2014

At a farm workers museum display.... Scotland, thinking about Ronnie van Hout. (Thanks D)

Better than collecting dust

News that the Christchurch Art Gallery has just raised ‘more than $80,000 toward a Bill Culbert sculpture installation' (if $80K is just ‘towards’ it’s surely a record price for the artist) is an indication of director Jenny Harper's unswerving belief in the importance of collections. This resolve is not as common as you might assume. Many of NZ's art museums have let acquisitions budgets shrink as staff numbers and marketing costs have soared. There was a time when the collection was at the very heart of public art museums but this heart has long been replaced with the temporary exhibition and its ability (or let’s face it failure) to haul in big crowds. The usual complaint that art-is-sooooo-expensive-these-days-we-can’t-afford-it’ is kind of blown out of the water when you hear that one of Michael Stevenson’s meticulous and mysterious drawings went for just $5,875.00 at Webb’s last auction or at Art + Object where you could pick up a sensational Don Driver for around $15,000 and work by l budd for considerably less. Christchurch Art Gallery has understood that waiting around for the City Council to provide more funds for purchases is a thing of the past. It's drawn on crowd sourcing channels like Pledgeme and Boosted and made smart use of gifted money to leverage even more works into its collection. The Christchurch Art Gallery also encourages gifts. You might ask 'who wouldn’t?' but many of our art museums are oddly reluctant to ask for gifts. To find out why they'll probably have to go deep into therapy.

Image: Christchurch Art Gallery's work Bebop by Bill Culbert as shown in Venice

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Art/life, life/art

Top  Christo and Jeanne-Claude Surrounded Islands, Miami and bottom Lake Hillier, Australia

Hammer heads

Since the appearance of Art +Object in 2007 the Auckland auction world has been nothing if not exciting. A+O shook Webb’s initially with a super-energetic jump out of the starting gate that included smart catalogues, a front foot approach to collectors and the shock of the new. It didn’t take Webb’s long to catch up and now both houses produce catalogues that can match anything in the world for panache. Then a couple of years ago A+O scored the Les and Milly Paris collection from under Webb’s noses. Lots of talk followed about how A+O managed such a coup, most of it around massive reductions in commissions when the two houses struggled to secure what turned out to be a $4.5 million dollar sale.

Now the word on the street is that yesterday Webb’s has made another mega move with the trimming of staff, reduction in its range of sale catagories and its intention to put art front and centre. At least part of this strategy probably lies at the door of 51 percent shareholder John Mowbray. His stamp business Mowbray Collectables has struggled on the stock market since listing and he’d be looking for a leg up from the art biz.

Another player behind this tighter focus on art (and lets face it we’re talking modern and contemporary art) would have to be investment guru and art collector Christopher Swasbrook who was made chairman of the Webb’s part of the Mowbray collectables empire last year. You can see what he thinks is the sort of art that has pull by visiting his collection web site here. A+O has never been backward in coming forward when a challenge is issued so watch out for some action over the next six months.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Et tu?

McCahon lookalike, lamp post on Aro Street in Wellington

The information sage

Somewhere along the way someone asked what it meant when Simon Denny was called a ‘post -internet’ artist. Now we know. The difference between artists who grew up before the internet and those who didn't is starting to become a little more apparent. It is only possible for Simon Denny, living in Berlin, to keep right up to date with NZ politics and culture post internet. Pre (say) the early nineties, when you went overseas (as we called it) NZ faded away into a few letters from the folks and out of date newspapers. Now someone like Denny can get as much information as those of us on home ground and, as we have seen, information is his stock in trade. The result of his intense curiosity and his current focus on NZ has led him into the spectacular media trifecta of Dotcom, Five Eyes and Nicky Hager. All three are intimately intertwined in ways that only digital media could deliver. The recent pic of Dotcom snapping a selfie at the Waihopai listening station only needed Hager in shot to be picture perfect. Now stir in Hager’s relationship with the hacker drip feeding #dirtypolitics emails off Dotcom’s Megaupload cloud and it's all too good to be true for any self-respecting post-internet artist. The only person not playing the game is John Key. By bringing the election forward a month, he's possibly deprived Denny’s next exhibition The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom of some valuable publicity.

Image: Nicky Hager and Dotcom at Waihopai (thanks Photoshop)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Being there

Meanwhile outside the Serpentine Gallery in London where Marina Abramović is doing her 512 hour performance .... at last something for art world pug lovers (you know who you are), more here. (Thanks for that important art news heads up M)

Rinse and repeat

Over the last year or so there's been a run of exhibitions internationally that recreate …um…other exhibitions. The most spectacular so far was the replay of Harald Szeemann's 1969 exhibition When attitudes become form. Squeezed into the Venetian palazzo of the Prada Foundation during the Biennale last year it took the art world by storm. In its wake has been the here-it-is-again version of MoMA's The photographic object 1970 at Hauser & Wirth as well as Other primary structures revisited at the Jewish Museum.

So here's a question - are there any exhibitions in NZ's own history that could do with another outing? You bet there are, and here’s a few to get started with:

Colin McCahon’s Wellington exhibition in 1948. Mounted by Lower Hutt’s head librarian Ron O’Reilly, it nailed McCahon’s efforts to turn the NZ landscape into Bible Land. Many of the works are now in public collections so this would be very doable. We're looking at you City Gallery seeing as how you're in the Library building that hosted the original.

Fifteen New Zealand painters
1952. This was the first exhibition of contemporary art to show outside New Zealand. The dealer Helen Hitchings secured the Irving Gallery in London to show artists like Rita Angus, Louise Henderson, Doris Lusk, Colin McCahon and Toss Woollaston.

Object and image
1954. While this legendary exhibition by the New Zealand Fellowship of Artists might not look so flash today, it's been talked up so much over the intervening years that it would be great to be able to make up our own minds. Colin McCahon had recently taken up a job at the Auckland City Art Gallery and made the famous poster painting (now owned by the Waikato Museum) that hung in the show.

Gordon Walters's first Koru exhibition
at New Vision Gallery in 1966. Only 12 paintings, four drawings and two gouaches to pull together for this one. Mind you the values have increased somewhat since then when Painting number one went for £40.40 (with inflation about $3,000 today).

NZ Maori culture
1966. Fifty paintings and ten sculptures chosen by Buck Nin to represent contemporary Maori art and exhibited in the Canterbury Museum. The exhibition went on to tour overseas and throughout New Zealand. If not the first, it was certainly one of the very early attempts to present contemporary Maori artists.

The active eye 1975. Luit Bieringa introduced New Zealand to photography as an art form in this pivotal 104 image exhibition. The show toured 12 venues in NZ famously losing two controversial Fiona Clark photographs along the way. Word is that the entire show is still packed away in the original crates.

Mothers 1981 toured by The Women’s Gallery in Wellington. Political and opinionated, this exhibition was an extraordinary effort organized by women working on a government work scheme and came complete with a 42 page full colour catalogue.

Choice! 1990 was put together by the very independent curator George Hubbard. The exhibition served up Maori artists as …you’ve got it… artists. It was Michael Parekowhai’s first outing and although it only ran for 18 days and was seen by 555 people according to the attendance book it has become something of a legend.

Headlands 1992 curated by Robert Leonard split the art world and spread Chicken Little syndrome in the institutions (only the National Art Gallery didn’t cancel on the proposed tour to the Auckland Art Gallery, Christchurch Art Gallery and Dunedin Public Art Gallery). OK it’s probably too big to do the whole thing again but how about a sampling or just the Primitive section that caused all the fuss. When Headlands finally showed for a meagre eight weeks (after six weeks of installation) at the Museum of New Zealand it declined to show the film component so maybe that could be resuscitated too.

Parade 1998 was Te Papa’s opening exhibition of contemporary New Zealand art. Now that could be fun to see again just to remember how radical it was and why we all hated it so much. Don’t forget the thumbs up and thumbs down signs next to works so that the audience could have its say.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sympathetic agony

"Poor thing! Poor thing! Poor thing!"
Taxi driver as he past the Phil Price sculpture that was struck by lightning (thanks R)

By the numbers

5         the number of contemporary bronze sculptures reported stolen in New Zealand since 2005

6         the ranking of Auckland Art Gallery patron Julian Roberts in a list of the most generous American philanthropists in finance

8          the number of years MTG former director Douglas Lloyd Jenkins will have devoted to the people of Hawkes Bay and Napier when he leaves town in December

12        the number of days left to put in an application to be the new chief executive of Te Papa

     the amount in millions of dollars estimated as the value of the Christchurch Art Gallery’s site

30.65   the price in dollars per square centimetre paid for Colin McCahon’s North Otago painting at the last Webb’s auction

33        the height in metres of the Phil Price sculpture Zephyrometer that was struck by lightning in Wellington

34        the number in thousands of dollars that the Napier City Council spent to get a report on the first six months operation of its revamped museum MTG

360      the amount in thousands of dollars currently allocated as the salary of the CE of Te Papa

510      the number of stainless steel panels that will make up the façade of the Govett-Brewster’s Len Lye Center in New Plymouth

768     the number of people following the new senior curator of the Christchurch Art Gallery (aka Cheryl Bernstein) on Twitter

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stupid town

Who knew that Saturday is also award's day? And today our award for most idiotic prediction of nominations for the Walters Prize goes to (open the envelope) oooh, it's OTN. Thank you. Thank you.

Friday, August 15, 2014

In touch

It's Awards week on OTN and this month's winner of Best signage designed to stop people touching sculpture goes to the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles

Into the void

It would have been hard to live in Christchurch through the late eighties and nineties and not been caught up in at least one evening with Into the void. If you were in the art world the chances were even higher as the members included three artists who'd gone through Ilam - Jason Grieg , Ronnie van Hout and Mark Whyte. Van Hout was the singer apparently because when he turned up he didn’t have an instrument. What he did have was a voice with mega volume that could chant repetitive monologues one of which we recall involved turning the radio on and turning the radio off way more times than was reasonable.  He's now living in Melbourne of course but still turns up every now and then to perform with the gang.  Some members have changed over the 26 years of the band's life but the spirit lives on.

Now Margaret Gordon has made an eponymous feature length documentary of the band. It will premiere in Christchurch on 23 August at Hoyts Riccarton. You can read more about it here and buy yourself a ticket here. After Christchurch has bathed in Void magic the film is slated to go on to Wellington and Auckland.

Image: Into the void playing at Lyttelton's Wunderbar

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Direct hit

There was hail and then there was lightning. In Wellington's Evans Bay at around 2.30 pm Phil Price's 2003 sculpture Zephyrometer scored a direct hit and has been badly damaged only five month's after its extensive refurbishment.  More here on Stuff.

Art throbs

Here’s some good news for art dealers  (well the male ones anyway) you’ve just been elevated to the role of primo date bait on a posh NZ singles site.


One trick that is currently being over-used by art writers when ideas have dried up (we’re looking at you Jonathan Jones of the Guardian) is cobbling together groups of themed art works. Think of it as curation-lite. You know, ‘paintings with clocks’, ‘great sunsets’ that sort of thing. In New Zealand some enterprising writer could use Rita Angus’s well-known self portrait as the touch stone. Start with a fantastic quote (say Garbo's “I smoke all the time, one after another”) and pull together a bunch of other paintings of women with cigarettes. 

Pulling an idea like this together is actually quite simple - a quick crawl through Google with a couple of key words followed by a touch of Photo shopping and an ambiguous title - Smokin' for instance. Cheap and cheesy. Bound to happen.

Images: Top to bottom, left to right, Rita Angus's Self portrait and Pablo Picasso’s Woman with cigarette, After the thrill is gone by Jack Vettriano, The plum and Portrait of an Indian woman by Édouard Manet, The guitar player by David Rijckaert III, Australian painter Agnes Goodsir's Girl with cigarette and Smoker #3 (Mouth #17) by Tom Wesselmann. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The hunger games

There's no wrath like the fury of a newspaper and the NZ Herald is certainly on the tail of the Auckland waterfront sculpture commissioned from Michael Parekowhai. Buoyed by the response to its story revealing a leaked computer drawing of the work, the NZH has constructed another one. It's headlined "Readers up in arms over stupid state house sculpture" and yes, it's based on its own readers' reactions to a rough black and white schematic of the sculpture. This gives no idea of the work on its intended site or how it will look which is why (as the NZH of course knows) the Council kept the image confidential until a more developed version of the idea was presented. But the NZH feels it's got a runner and trumpeted that it had "received huge feedback about the article” and certainly enough to run another story in the spirit of we don't just report the news, we are the news.

OK, how huge is 'huge feedback'? (for some reason the NZH didn’t include this figure). Turns out as of 10.30 this morning 78 emails had been received by the Herald on the subject and yes, all but six were outraged (135 Against 15 For at 4pm).

So .0052 percent of the population of Auckland thinks a small black and white computer drawing of a sculpture the size of a house is stupid. The news as it happens.

Te Papa reveals art plans

News from Te Papa last week on what we can expect from it art-wise over the next five years. It comes from the Head of Arts and Visual Culture Jonathan Mane-Wheoki in his “overview of current planning” to the Te Papa Friends.

First up is Te Papa's intention to follow “the model of the hugely successful Rita Angus and Brian Brake projects”. That means solidly researched, large scale exhibitions about important NZ artists accompanied by major publications. But there's a wrinkle. As both Angus and Brake took at least a couple of years to develop and were launched at Te Papa five years ago, there's a timing issue. Te Papa seems to have settled on producing major exhibitions on important NZ artists about once every eight years or so. Measured.

For the rest of New Zealand Mane-Wheoki promises, “More modestly scaled art exhibitions” that will be “toured around the regional centres”. Exciting.

International art (aka Blockbusters)? Te Papa intends to continue with “the development of major international exhibitions in collaboration with partner museums overseas.” One of the examples given is Warhol: Immortal from the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. Did no one mention that it ... er ...wasn't very good? Awkward.

But as with all good presentations the best is kept for last. What are the curatorial staff going to be producing over the next five years? “Some really exciting exhibitions.” Outstanding.

So the very moment you’re thinking the whole thing is just going to be more business as usual, Mane-Wheoki pulls the rabbit out of the hat .... Business as usual.

POSTSCRIPT: Well maybe business a little ahead of what's on view from the visual arts at the moment. Here's a list of everything you can see at Te Papa over the next two weeks.

1 x Michael Parekowhai
3 x Robyn Kahukiwa
1 x Michel Tuffery
2 x Marcus King

.... and a couple of the works commissioned when Te papa opened.

COMMENT: (Peter Alsop13/8/14) I find it hard to believe that the entire level 5 needs to be closed for a chunk of time, incl over Easter. I have never encountered it elsewhere but have 3 or more times in recent memory at Te Papa. I dont just take the kids for carrot cake you know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Walters prized

While Auckland and Wellington were sleeping the Walter’s estate has deposited paintings, works on paper and personal archives with the Dunedin Public Art Gallery on long-term loan. So for art historians and anyone else interested in Gordon Walter’s work a chance to visit Dunedin. You can read the full story here in the Otago Daily Times
Image: Gordon Walters in his Christchurch studio 1978 via OTNSTUDIO

Fair game

The American artist Chuck Close once famously observed that artists attending art fairs was “like giving a cow a guided tour of an abattoir.” That might be so but art fairs are really for collectors and they have become the go-to entertainment of the art world. It’s estimated that there are over 400 of them worldwide. Close to home the Melbourne Art Fair is about to launch itself for the sixth time tomorrow.

Not surprisingly 86 percent of the 70 galleries included are from Australia and of the 10 visitors just four (Paulnache, Sanderson Contemporary Art, Starkwhite and Suite) are from New Zealand. This low turnout can be put down to the launch of Spring 1883. This rival art fair can claim 65 percent of its 20 exhibitors from Australia and five galleries from NZ (Gloria Knight, Hamish McKay, Hopkinson Mossman, Michael Lett and Robert Heald). It has also snagged big name Australian dealers Rosylyn Oxley9 Gallery (in fact Oxley appears to be showing at both fairs), Darren Knight, Sarah Cottier and Utopian Slumps and from the US, Foxy Productions. When galleries of this caliber all have the confidence to choose the upstart alternative, the Melbourne Art Fair probably should be doing some soul searching.

It could start with its attitude to collectors. For the first Melbourne Art Fair in 2004 a number of collectors were flown in (including Don and Mira Rubell from Miami), accommodated and generally fussed over. This is common practice for most of the big art fairs. At the very least they have long VIP lists that get serious collectors into the fair free and see them plied with enough gifts and drinks to loosen them up for some serious purchasing. But collectors who received the Melbourne Art Fair pack know it’s pay-as-you-go. Front up with $275 for a Collector Pass to let you in to buy art from the galleries you buy art from all the time. Still it also includes tickets for the opening night so at least you can get first dibs on the art from the galleries you buy art from all the time. That’s if you haven’t organized that already before the fair starts.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Art in the movies

Flavorwire have just put up a set of images and clips from movies shot in museums. You will have seen most of them if you’ve been with OTN for a while but, up to now, not this rather sickening clip from the movie Ferris Bueller's day off. You can see the others here.

Follow the money

The latest Quick Response grants have been announced by Creative NZ. These are essentially the non-institutional grants and the main way individual artists can get direct funding for their work. In this round $65,387 was given to visual artists which is about 13.25 percent of the total or 18.3 percent if you leave out  Maori and Pacific funding grants of $136.9 thousand which CNZ have included in the Quick Response Grant list this year. But don’t get your hopes up too much, the visual arts only at 10.9 percent of the total Creative NZ funding rounds so far this year.

The guys did well with grants going to seven men and only two women. The men also managed to swing $40,300 of the $54,800 allocated to individual artists. If you want to follow the money you need to leave the country with over half of the total visual arts grants (again minus the $136.9 thousand) going to off shore projects including education, exhibitions and research. Of the nine individual artists funded five are based in Auckland and one in the South Island.

You can see the full list here

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Face to face

Here’s a quick hit for Saturday morning, 500 Years of (painted) Female Portraits in Western Art. As you will see it’s all ticking along nicely when suddenly, Bam! Photography.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Labour and the visual arts

Labour has just published its Arts Culture and Heritage Policy. You can read it and get a copy here. And what do the have to say about the visual arts?

"Labour will: 

  • continue to focus on measures which will lift the incomes of artists and those who
    work in the cultural sector. 
  • bring back PACE (a special programme for artists on the benefit), and look at how we can link it into creative apprenticeships. 
  • commit to a long term New Zealand presence at the Venice Biennale."
  •  structure Creative New Zealand to ensure that it is practitioner led, that Maori and  Pacific Arts have independent top level representation, and that spending is focussed on supporting artists rather than bureaucrats.
  • require Creative New Zealand to review processes and funding criteria to ensure that processes are easily understandable, clearly and fairly applied, including on a regional basis, and the focus is on funding high quality work, not high quality funding applications. "
  • partner with Te Papa and the arts community to ensure that the visual arts have a permanent and prominent home in a national institution." (What ever that means)

Radio Ga Ga

Last year in Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s so-called 'brain' exhibition within her Documenta at Kassel in Germany, we saw the most remarkable object. Of course it had a compelling story. During the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s there was the usual crack down on communication in and out of the country. Radios were banned and with them the opportunity to hear something of what was going on in the rest of the world. Both to enrage the Russian military who policed the decree and to entertain and assert themselves during a bitter struggle, many Czechs made mock radios. They would crudely paint bricks with shapes to represent dials and knobs and maybe add a stick to stand in for an aerial. Reputably there were thousands of them. These brick radios would be placed in the middle of street café tables and people would gather round them deeply engrossed by what they were ‘hearing’ from the outside world. It worked as a provocation and a number of the bricks were confiscated. This year we saw some early work by the German artist Isa Genzken who had made her own concrete radio substitute. And now this weekend a stunning photograph of a clandestine radio made in a secret location for use somewhere in Northern Korea.

Images: left, radio from North Korea and right Isa Genzken, Galaway. Bottom Tamás St. Turba, Czechoslovak Radio, 1968

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Advice to collectors

"You can either buy clothes or buy pictures. It’s that simple. No one who is not very rich can do both. Pay no attention to your clothes and no attention at all to the mode, and buy your clothes for comfort and durability, and you will have the clothes money to buy pictures."
Gertrude Stein

Feed me

For some reason Webb’s didn’t go with a live internet feed for its last contemporary art auction and that was a shame.  Online purchasing is getting momentum internationally and an online stream feels like a smart way to spread a brand beyond Auckland. Fortunately Art + Object are still committed to streaming so wherever you are in the world tonight at 6.30pm you can watch or join in by going here.

The A+O auction is a rare chance to pick up a terrific work by Giovanni Intra. It’s one of a set shown in Wellington at Cubewell House in March 1993 when the Teststrip headed south to show their stuff.

A+O will have fingers crossed that there won’t be any drama to upset the rhythm of their sale like the kerfuffle that punctuated Webb’s last auction. Webb’s got the word that one of the Sunday papers was going to 'out' the Colin McCahon Elias painting that was a start turn of their offering as over-cooked conservation wise. It has been owned by Canterbury painter Doris Lusk and then by members of her family so it had an impeccable provenance. When we saw it at Webb’s exhibition in Wellington we (and everyone else we talked to) thought it looked just great. But what the hell would we all know? To the surprise of everyone in the auction rooms, it was removed from sale.

Images: top Giovanni Intra with his work from the Teststrip exhibition and bottom, the full suite of works including the one for sale at A+O second from the left

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Wool power

Have we had a picture of an art collector posing on a piece of furniture this week? No we haven't. This time it's Thea Westreich Wagner (that's Ethan Wagner behind her).


Creative New Zealand has just announced the venue for Simon Denny’s outing at the Venice Biennale. This time it’s a new location, the grand salon of the Marciana Library in San Marco Square. No big surprise that Denny’s work is going to be about information so expect to see a collision of the digital and analogue worlds. A clue to what Denny might be up to can be found in the name of a special consultant to the project: Nicky Hager. He’s written extensively about New Zealand’s role as one of the furtive five that controversially gather and analyse the digital communications of citizens around the world. In fact the Denny installation will take its name from Hager’s book Secret Power. So, great location, provocative idea and, knowing Simon Denny, more surprises to come.

Image: Simon Denny in his Berlin studio looking at an image of the grand salon of the Marciana Library

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Art chart

We really shouldn’t encourage them but it’s about art and it’s in the media. Stuff ask their readers to judge a piece of abstract art from a small blurry image. Oh, by the way we shifted the results around to save you from the predictable negative results.


The nearest Gregor Schneider work to New Zealand is probably the installation currently on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. John Kaldor gave to the work to the gallery also invited Schneider to Australia where he made an installation on Bondi beach. About seven years ago we missed an opportunity to participate in one of Schneider’s large scale installations but that wasn't going to happen twice.

We turned up at Neuerburgstrasse 21 in the suburbs of Cologne about half an hour early and waited on the street outside a door into an enormous factory that is now a theatre complex. Two minutes before the due time the staff turned up. Only one person could enter the work and each entry was separated by five minutes.  There was a detailed briefing with lots of warnings about the dark and advice on what to do if you had a panic attack (unlikely) and then you were in. In the dark that is. Move forward a couple of steps, extend your arms wide and feel around, shuffle forward again. It was unnerving to start with until you realized you were in a long maze-like tunnel and could just touch either side by stretching your arms out. (move forward a couple of steps) After some winding and stopping to check if you were at a corner (move forward again) you felt (or more likely bumped into) a closed door. Oh, oh. (open the door) Abruptly you stepped into an immaculately tiled bathroom. It felt institutional with a closed shower box (try the sliding door. Locked), a mirror, a few pipes, a couple of light switches that didn't work and another door. No hand basin, no toilet, no window. (open the door) Back in the dark again and more shuffling until after a few turns another door (open the door). Same room. Well another copy of the same room. Identical down to the leaking showerhead. And so it went, corridor after corridor, door after door, bathroom after identical bathroom. We weren't counting but there must have been about 15 of them and then (open the door) and you were out in the sunlight at the back of the building. Thanks G.

Images: top, the factory converted into Schauspiel Koln where Gregor Schneider installed Neuerburgstrasse 21. Bottom, left entrance and right exit

Monday, August 04, 2014

It's not easy being green

“The Green Party will ensure contestable funding for arts and cultural heritage organisations with a proven commitment to arts education to enable the establishment of secretariats and premises.”
Green Party Arts, Culture and Heritage Policy

No show

A couple of months after arriving at the City Gallery the new Senior curator Robert Leonard put up a small exhibition looking at some artists who'd made Peter McLeavey the subject of their work. It was the result of long-time contacts, specialist knowledge and a few quick ring arounds. There are a few things you need to be so nimble in an art institution. One is good will from lenders and the other a director who'll put in resources and ride with the odd bumps shows like this can present in the making.

Briefly there was a sign that Te Papa too was setting its sights on developing and presenting curatorial ideas quickly. The Acting Senior curator Sarah Farrar had in mind an exhibition looking at borders and how they affected the making and moving of art. It would have been the first non-collection group show of contemporary art since Te Papa's opening exhibition in 1998. So a good sign.

Last time we heard of it the boundaries show had the go ahead but, as it turns out, not the will of the institution. We now hear the show has been abandoned because of a lack of resources - this in an institution with a staff of 250 plus and an annual budget of $60 million. It’s not a big buck investment in an international blockbuster we’re talking about here so for Te Papa to have to cancel indicates its financial situation is even worse than they've admitted so far. This is also indicated by Peter Jackson taking his design of a life-sized replica WWI trench display away from Te Papa and up to the Waiouru Army Museum. Bet they find the 'resourses' to replace that hole in the wall.

Anyway, the next time anyone from senior management says Te Papa is committed to contemporary art, hold up your LOL sign.

As a bizarre footnote and possibly to sweeten her disappointment at the cancellation of the show Sarah Farrar was sent on a trip to the UK to attend the Attingham Trust Summer School. It is an opportunity for Te Papa's Curator of Contemporary Art to spend “three weeks in concentrated study of the architecture and interiors of country houses.“ Maybe it’s WTF signs we should all be holding up.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Lawn dog

You look out the window at the small plot of grass and garden and think, ‘what could I put there that would brighten the place up?’ The answer lies in China - a Jeff Koons Balloon Dog either full size or (if you really want to annoy the neighbours) even bigger. Is such a thing even possible? Sure it is. You just need to get onto Vincentaa Landscape & Architect Sculpture Co’s website and order one up at a cost of between $500 (we assume for a smaller dog) to $5,000 (who knows how big). Vincentaa can knock you up 10 of these a week, not that you will probably need 10 but who knows, economies of scale etc. Once it’s made your dog goes to Tianjin Xingang Port in a ‘strong seaworthy iron frame’ and then to you. If you really want to add some grunt to your front you can also order up a 30 meter reflecting Anish Kapoor like the one in Chicago on the same site.

Friday, August 01, 2014

When art collectors pose on furniture

New York art collector  Donny Deutsch

House rules

The NZ Herald - always keen to support Auckland's visual culture where it can - has set up a DIY sculpture competition. This is so Aucklanders can submit their own designs for something to replace the proposed Michael Parekowhai sculpture at the end of Queens wharf. It’s a tactic that the Herald might extend into other areas. What about ways the city might be policed or how to make particularly difficult brain operations easier or even some creative input into designing sewage systems for new housing developments? The NZ Herald is helping readers understand that most expertise is over rated and that practically any item of art purchased with public money is bound to be suspect. You can submit ideas for how the editorial policy of the NZ Herald could be transformed to make it a great daily newspaper here.

COMMENT: John Johnston 01-08-14 They must have controversy envy, after seeing the current Fairfax-spurred controversy about the Sydney public sculptures.