Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Len, again

UK based Graphic Designer and Illustrator Kate Moross reaches out to Len Lye for All We Are’s video I Wear You (Just noticed this version is cutting off the side of the video. You can see it in its full glory here on YouTube)

Simply the best

On Sunday 21 September we tested our now-you-hear-it-now-you-don’t audio system at Simon Denny’s Walters Prize discussion with Robert Leonard. The results were spectacular. Four days later the same microphone with its peerless intermittent broadcasting capabilities was the star at Walters Prize judge Charles Esche’s talk.

So when we needed the very best in broadcast quality for winner Luke Willis Thompson's presentation our revolutionary start/stop system was the obvious choice. Auckland Art Gallery. Technology when you need it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

On the way down the island

Thinking about Rohan Wealleans

Water world

What would it take to make someone who has been Commissioner, lead patron and key sponsor for New Zealand’s presence at the Venice Biennale spit the dummy? In the case of Jenny Gibbs it sounds like it was a return airfare to Venice. Oh, did we mention it was for Nicky Hager who is also an advisor for the Simon Denny project. Gibbs along with the Friedlanders has left the patrons group only months before the Denny project launches in Venice. Ironically this odd gesture comes at the same time as Charles Esche has been lecturing the Auckland art scene on the perils of mixing patronage and the public purse in art’s name. All this is hardly likely to worry Simon Denny who has just had a survey exhibition confirmed with MoMA PS1 for next year. Creative NZ seems to be taking things in its stride and the rest of the other patrons seem to be staunch. The fact is over the years the Venice boat has been rocked too many times for it to be swamped by a couple of the crew jumping overboard.
COMMENT 02:10:14 CNZ has emailed to let us know "Dame Jenny Gibbs is supporting the Assistant Curator role (Alex Davidson) for the NZ at Venice 2015 project."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Art was the winner on the night

Last night Charles Esche gave the Walters Prize to Luke Willis Thompson. As previewed in his talk the night before, Esche took a particular liking to the works that were in his words “tentative, quizzical and modest” and that existed outside the traditional gallery context (Leach, Thompson, ‘Uhila). He found Thompson’s winning taxi ride and the interaction with his family to be overwhelming in its “uncertainty, unease, anticipation and privilege.” Unfortunately Simon Denny, the only artist to exhibit physical works in the gallery, was misunderstood by Esche who mistook Denny’s work as a megaphone rather than the mirror it is. Still, a great result and exciting for Hopkinson Mossman who are now celebrating the second artist in their line-up to win in a row.
Image: top, Luke Willis Thompson and bottom the ride to the family home

Friday, September 26, 2014


Michael Parekowhai's art continues to fascinate the cartoonists, this time Bromhead  with his Munch lookalike in the Herald today.

The artist is present

Tonight Charles Esche will announce the Walters Prize winner. As you can imagine, at his talk last night at the Auckland Art Gallery there was a lot of second guessing around just about every example he gave and every opinion he put out. Esche claimed he still had to make up his mind, but if you believe that you’ll believe anything. Still OTN will be sending out all the news that’s fit to tweet from around 6pm and will record the winner on OTN Saturday morning for all of you who sleep through these things. Our Twitter feed is: https://twitter.com/over_the_net

Image: four sightings of Kalisolaite Uhila’s presence at the Auckland Art Gallery today.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

When art collectors pose on furniture

Private collector Valeria Napoleone

Trick or treat

We don’t often get to see the works we photograph being made in artists’ studios in their completed state, but this week we did. The work we had seen creeping towards completion in Fiona Connor’s temporary studio in Auckland has been installed at Hopkinson Mossman in the exhibition Can Do Academy. In the studio the wall elements she had been making stood out in the semi industrial space but once they were in the gallery large parts of the exhibition were all but invisible as they were seamlessly integrated into the walls. 

Even more surprisingly, the bits that were easy to see were so painterly and the floor was so clean revealing how much of a conceit all that painting was. We should have guessed it from how many cans of paint there were in the studio but we hadn't. For anyone who had been to art school it was all instant deja vu. And Fiona had another trick up her sleeve. If you buy one of these works (and it would be a task to figure out where the work ended and Hopkinson Mossman began) you get to choose whether you want to have it flush to the wall as in the exhibition as sculpture or hang it like a painting. Sculptors have always felt like second class citizens in the gallery trade. Barnett Newman set the tone when he said ‘sculpture is what you bump into as you back up to look at a painting.’ Nice to see Fiona get one back on them.
Images: top, in the studio and bottom installed at Hopkinson Mossman

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It'll all come out in the white wash

“Sponsors want exhibits that are popular. I am not saying that popular artists are bad artists but the choice is not as independent as it is when the money is there already. Most sponsors think very carefully about what they want to connect their names and logos to.”
Julia Friedrich, a curator at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne

Bit of a flutter

The PM has promised a new flag by the end of next year .... at least he's promised us a process to get there anyway. Front runner looks to be the silver fern but a range of Gordon Walters' rip-offs have also been thrown in the ring. The chief Walters-like product has been served up by Michael Smythe who promotes what he calls my "Walters’ Koru flag". This is probably not the approach you'd take if Gordon Walters were still alive but you can check out Smythe's ‘Walters’ flag in various colour palettes here. The Taucetione blog is rather more restrained with its Walters’ kinship claims suggesting that its koru flag is “inspired” by the paintings. Pattern Recognition on the other hand goes head-on design-wise by reducing the famous Walters koru to “highlights”. Still, the Walters Prize goes to S Grundwell who has converted the Walters koru design into something that looks like a bunch of glove puppets shaking hands. Maybe the fern is not so bad after all.

Images: top to bottom, Smythe, Taucetione, Pattern Recognition and S Grundwell. More than you need to know about the New Zealand flag and possible changes to it here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Enough already

Tate Modern has just hosted its best-attended exhibition ever. The break-out winner is Henri Matisse's The cut-outs. The final numbers are in and this exhibition attracted an audience of 562,600. In gross terms based on the population of London, around 1 in 14 Londoners attended. Everyone is ecstatic.

So how would that level of success translate into audience numbers based on NZ urban populations? One in 14 people attending in Auckland would get you an audience of 98,350. In Wellington you're looking at 14,357. In reality though, if the City Gallery got an audience of around 14,000 for a major show the director would throw herself off the roof. A big City Gallery success would have to look something more like the Yayoi Kusama exhibition of 2009 with 175,000 people coming in the door. Now that's not far short of the entire population of the city. Of course how the exhibition numbers are in fact made up includes tourists and out-of-towners as well as the locals but it's useful to take a step back and think about expectations. The population comparison between London and Wellington at the very least shows we have unrealistic expectations of the size of the audience most special temporary art exhibitions can attract.

We've now got an arms race as our art museums search for increasingly popular shows to up the numbers beyond even patently unrealistic levels (and sometimes crash and burn - we're looking at you Te Papa). Then as soon as one attendance record is broken it becomes the benchmark to be beaten in turn.  Clearly we need more useful ways of deciding the success of exhibitions. On the ‘Tate/Matisse scale’ if more than 10,000 people see the Ralph Hotere mural at the City Gallery you'd have to say it was a sensational result and on the same T/M scale, if Auckland Art Gallery gets anywhere near 98,000 for its upcoming Light show (around half of what Wellington did on Kusama) it could fairly claim to be up there with the famous London institution.

The comparative number of people needed to match the Tate's super audience for Matisse:
Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui 3,107
Govett-Brewster, New Plymouth 5,299
Dunedin Public Art Gallery 9,000
Christchurch Art Gallery 26,264

Monday, September 22, 2014

Outside the Wellington Film School...

...thinking about William Kentridge at the City Gallery

Four on the floor

It was full on Walters Prize at the Auckland Art Gallery in the weekend. If you want to talk strange demographics, most of the 60 strong audience for Simon Denny were male and under 40 while upstairs at Maddie Leach’s talk it was almost wall to wall women over 50. Go figure.

Denny made a nice point that we’d previously missed: it was his fascination with the timeline format that drew him to the controlled maze-like walk in his installation at the AAG. When you get to the end and look back, all you see is the blank back of the canvases.  “That’s timelines for you,” said Denny. “They only see into the future. Turn around and look back and time is erased.” There were also some pretty interesting questions, one from fellow Walters Prize nominee Luke Willis Thompson and another from a tech industry guy about the uncertain impact of robots on the future. Reminded us of that great joke from organizational guru Warren Bennis: “the factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

Then it was upstairs to where Maddie Leach was in conversation with Jonathan Bywater. Looking out onto Albert Park we could see Kalisolaite ‘Uhila hunched over a pile of clothing out on the terrace as Leach detailed the development of her project. This included how she discovered that the whale oil (as someone remarked, a phrase with added resonance today) she had secured wasn’t. As she said, a lot of her work was about determination and “not being deterred by what seems to be a full stop.” For those of us there we got to see a film clip of the whale oil infused concrete block being tipped into the ocean, and all four Walters Prize finalists in one day.

Images: Top Denny and Leonard. Bottom Leach and Bywater

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Art and the movies

Here’s a site after our own hearts. Film and Fine Art 101 has saved us a heap of Google time putting together art images adapted for film posters. You can see more here. (Thanks L)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Collectors on furniture

Art Collector Indoo Di Monteluce at home, London

Drawing the line

Who was it said that drawing is dead? Not the people of Bristol who are busy this month creating the biggest drawing in the world in a meaningful mash up of art and politics. OK the drawing is basically a long line but a line that has great moment for Bristol: it is the predicted high water mark in the expected flooding of the city in the future. The line is being drawn by volunteers pushing sports field markers over what will eventually be a super long drawing wending its way through the city. Latest news has a drone hired to fly over High Water line and capture the full 52 kilometers. You can see other High Water Line drawings from around the world here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

All fired up

Continuing today's animal theme bad news for lovers of giant animal sculpture installations in the public domain as Florentijn Hofman's over-sized rabbit on show in Taiwan catches on fire. The rabbit was being shifted from its site to be recycled when a truck set fire to the grass nearby.
Image: the Hofman rabbit ablaze (OTN reconstruction)

The a in art is for animal

“From a philosophical perspective, the general issue is whether a non-human animal has moral ownership rights over its artistic works.” So says philosopher Mike LaBossiere on the Philosophers magazine blog. That got OTN’s animal art antennae twitching. According to LaBossiere, “Higher animals like dogs and primates seem to grasp the basics of ownership: they distinguish between what is their property and what is not.” LaBossiere went on to be more specific about the monkey who made a selfie and then was legally denied copyright. “In the case of the monkey the key question is whether or not the monkey understood what it was doing and acted with intent.”

Stay with us animal artist lovers.

He concluded that even if the monkey was in control of the art tools it may not know it was in the process of making art (tell that to all the OTN animal stars). The result? “There could be art but no artist.”  On behalf of animal artist all over the world, stick it where the sun don’t shine LaBossiere.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Space man

“Metaphysics and megalomania mixed on a daunting scale…”

The Guardian’s Michael Prodger describing the German artist Anselm Kiefer’s 36,000 square meter studio on his 81 hectare property in Barjac, France

Uplifting or in your face

Eight years ago Auckland artist Campbell Patterson stood in his parents' living room and picked his mother up in his arms. He then stood holding her like some sort of Bizarro World Pieta for as long as he could. That first attempt (one minute 47 seconds) features trembling legs and a few near drops as the artist’s strength ran out but he got stronger. Every year at around the same time Patterson and his mother perform the same feat and each time it is videoed becoming part of a series known as Lifting my mother for as long as I can.

Different cultures, different responses. In Greenland the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson has also been making a long term series of videos. Since 2000 Kjartansson and his mother have repeated their performance once every five years. Titled Me and My Mother, in these works Kjartansson’s mother repeatedly spits in his face.

Smiling or spitting, mothers, you’ve got to love them.

Images: top, Ragnar Kjartansson Me and My Mother and bottom, Campbell Patterson Lifting my mother for as long as I can

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Branded: Andrew Beck

The moment when artists become brands

Going, going. Gone.

The resignation of Sophie Coupland from Webb’s has been in the air for a couple of weeks but she has now resigned her position as head of Webb’s Fine Art Department.  As of Monday the Webb’s staff list had no head of department for art which is surprising given their recent moves to make art their major focus. 

Coupland’s departure certainly marks the end of an era for Webb’s. She has knocked down a sack full of record prices for artists and from her position behind the rostrum seen the rise and rise of the contemporary art market since the wobbles of the last recession. It also sees the severing of Peter Webb’s final connection with the business that still bears his name.  Starting out with an auction company named Cordy’s (after Hamish Keith’s middle name) he later started Peter Webb Galleries that morphed into the auction house Webb’s. In 1990 when Peter Webb married Annie Coupland he gained a daughter who worked her way up through what was now the family business to take her place running the art department.

So with the departure of Coupland and Neil Campbell who was Managing Director, watch out for further big changes for Webb’s. Never shy to use statistics based on past auctions make its claim as the number one house in the country there's a big reputation to hold onto. It's going to take some inspired hires or a major step-up by the relatively inexperienced people left behind to do the job.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Here comes d'smudge

Any conservator will tell you that one way to check on damage or over-painting is to look at a canvas under a raking (angled) light. And that’s what someone should have told Arnold Schwarzenegger when he unveiled his official Governor’s portrait. That big smudge is a clumsy patch-up blotting out an image of the Governor’s ex wife who’s portrait appeared on a small lapel pin when the painting was originally commissioned. You would have thought that of all people Schwarzenegger would have known that lighting is all.

Going for broke

How dinged is busted? Not a question you're going to hear in the conservation lab of an art museum but if you’re on the look out for a cheap Hotere you might want to consider it. An insurance claim has taken a damaged work by Hotere onto the market via Turners the outfit you probably associate with second hand cars. As you can see it’s one of those painted-on-glass works and in this case the glass on the right hand panel is cracked. Still the Venus de Milo only has one arm and Duchamp certainly made hay out of broken glass. So will a crack leak all the value out of a 1992 Hotere work? Someone didn't think so as it sold yesterday for $6400 even if that is around $50,000 shy of its value in pristine condition. Turners were totally up front about the condition and suggest that it was beyond repair. “The glass surface is an integral part of the work. Repairing it would remove a large part of the original and you're probably better off just living with the crack.” In fact some of our museums might look at Turners Q&A as a great example of the art (we’ve copied it onto OTNSTUFF so you can read it here incase Turners take it down after the sale.)

If you want a transcendent Hotere experience on the other hand you need to get to Wellington where Robert Leonard has devoted the entire upstairs gallery to one painting the Godwit / Kuaka mural. There are not many artworks in this country that can hold that sort of space and this is certainly one of them. As we've mentioned in a previous post, the Kentridge playing at the City Gallery is very good but to see a great work by Ralph Hotere displayed like this is worth a return trip from anywhere in the country.

NOTE: news in that the final price for the Hotere was $19,950. (Thanks N)

Images: top, the Godwit / Kuaka mural exhibited at the City Gallery in Wellington and bottom, damaged Hotere for sale (thanks R and thanks yet again to you P without whom etc.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ruby Saturday

Nowadays artists working with designers and the fashion industry has become a commonplace like was it back early in the last century when the Ballet Russes took in many artists and Elsa Schiaparelli played with the Surrealists. Such collaborations are back in earnest but there's a clear frontrunner. Let's hear it fors American all purpose hotshot Ruby Sterling . He has teamed up with Belgian designer Raf Simons for around six years now and between them they've produced some very convincing challenges to men’s fashion. Simons also works with Roger Hiorns the English Turner Prize nominee who back in 2008 covered the entire interior of a London council flat with a layer of deep blue copper-sulphate crystals. And it works both ways: Simons is a major collector of both artists' work. Here’s Simons and Sterling’s latest runway show. It starts slow and you need to push through an ad at the start but as they say, it rewards effort.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pillow talk

In a series double artist/collector Jeff Koons does 'artists pose' and 'collectors on furniture' in one go.

Added value

Advertising has always loved to use art as a sign of wealth and taste. No matter how much our art museums push to open their doors to a wider range of audiences, advertising always manages to pull it back to the gold frame. Take this Lexus ad as an example. Interestingly it has also latched onto the idea of photography finally being in the art mainstream (#alertpeterperyerimmediately) but still manages to frame the labels and wall texts in a weird mash-up of ideas about how art can be displayed.

Apparently (well according to academics Vanessa M. Patrick of the University of Houston and Henrik Hagtvedt of Boston College in their text Advertising visuals), the use of art in advertisements can be reduced to four main types:

  1. Mere Presence versus Integrated Presence
  2. Telling a Story with the Artwork versus Creating an Artwork for the Story
  3. Mimicking the Original Artwork: Reminding versus Parodying
  4. Symbolic Connection versus Substantive Connection
But we all knew that already, right?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The price is right

“One should only discuss the price of a work to be acquired up to the point of its acquisition.”

Art Museum director  and writer Horst Keller speaking against a Hans Haacke installation that revealed the owners and prices paid over the years for Manet’s 1880 painting Bunch of asparagus.

Connor, Beck and Enberg in the studio

Tonight a Fiona Connor exhibition will open at Hopkinson Mossman in Auckland.
Fiona is one of a number of artists in their thirties who no longer live in New Zealand but who have kept close relationships with the country and still have regular dealer gallery shows. In this case Fiona has been in Auckland for a few weeks and made the work there continuing her recasting of architecture into new contexts and delivering visual jolts to that inattentive part of  the brain that deals in spatial memory.  We were able to visit Fiona while she was making this show and have put up some images of her in a temporary studio on OTNSTUDIO. The studio in this case was carved out of a warehouse that once stored goods before they were shipped out to the Pacific Islands. The evocative location signs are still nailed to the walls, Vanuatu, Raro, Suva. The other two artists now on the site are also working in warehouse spaces. Oscar Enberg, like Fiona, works in a space cut out of a store (his filled with boxes of ukuleles) among other goods. Across town in Henderson Andrew Beck shares his warehouse space with two other artists and has also converted a small unit into a darkroom for developing prints and making his photograms.

Image: old sign from earlier times in Fiona Connor's temporary Auckland studio

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Art chart

By the numbers: International edition

1      the number of works by Claude Monet found in the suitcase  Nazi-era art dealer Cornelius Gurlitt took with him to hospital

2      the number of bedrooms in über art collector Jon Shirley’s 2,500 square meter house in Seattle

3.9   the difference in billions of dollars between the appraisals of the collection of the Detroit Institute of Art by its two official valuers

18    the number in thousands of dollars a day lost by the National Gallery in London when it limited visitors to its Leonardo da Vinci exhibition

19     the number of cities in 11 countries that have had Florentijn Hofman's giant rubber ducky float on one of their waterways

38    the number of labels throughout the Louvre in thousands

92    the number in millions of visitors to the Metropolitan Museum's Facebook page each year

119   the number of works that will remain in New York artist Andres Serrano’s exhibition in Corsica if the Catholic organisation Cristiani Corsi have their way and his 1987 work Piss Christ is removed

178    the number of countries that placed pre-orders for Finnish stamps featuring images by artist Touko Laaksonen better known as Tom of Finland.

287   the number of full page ads in the September edition of Artforum

720   the amount in millions of dollars the auction house Sotheby’s has put aside to guarantee items in their sales

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Asking for it

No surprise but it’s pretty clear that there is zero interest in culture by all the parties this election. A bit of ‘cultural communities’ talk and a lot of jumping on the ‘feature film’ band wagon and that’s just about it.

If you do want some answers you could have a go at putting a question up on Askaway (when we last looked there weren't any on culture or the arts). The level of responses as of a week ago was: National 9, Labour 18, Internet/Mana 23, United Future 36, NZ First 56 and Greens 136.

Reading the Walters Prize

While the selection of this year’s Walter' Prize finalists has certainly encouraged a great deal more discussion than in the past, the traditional news media remains pretty apathetic.  An upcoming profile of Simon Denny in Metro may have a halo effect on the Prize, so a potential flicker of interest there possibly, but fortunately online there have been wide ranging and thoughtful responses. Cheaper than buying a newspaper and non of that irritating rustling noise. Checking them out is more than worth the effort.

EyeContact has delivered not one but four reviews (Terrence Handscomb, John Hurrell, Emma Jameson and Natasha Matila-Smith) all taking a serious look at the finalists, the politics of the WP and the work. The Pantograph punch leads with a quiz and follows up with Janet McAllister reckoning art is the winner on the day. Te Papa pitches in with a piece by Nina Tonga on finalist Kalisolaite ‘Uhila  and a long interview by Abby Cunnane with finalist Maddie Leach. The sane companion blog of Masters student Katherine Stewart promises to follow the award with regular commentary.  There’s probably more and if you let us know we’ll we’ll add them in.

Maybe the traditional mainstream media have had their day when it comes to the visual arts. At the same time as specialist print publications like Art News are taking the Prize very seriously interviewing all the finalists, Mark Amery’s fortnightly review has been dumped from Wellington's Dominion Post as of last month. But you can still catch his fortnightly reviews online at The Big Idea.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Northern exposure

Happy anniversary. Today a year has gone by since the announcement that a mini Te Papa cunningly named Te Papa North would be built in South Auckland. You might remember the Minister Chris Finlayson expressed his determination to get on with the job. “We will develop a plan to consult with stakeholders over the coming months” and (as if that weren't enough to keep everyone busy) “a fully detailed and specified business case“ would be presented to cabinet in November 2013. Well that fell over. 

But help is at hand. The Dominion Post crowbarred some info out of Te Papa via the Official Information Act. Weirdly of the 183 pages, 100 were blacked out to withhold info from the public gaze. Oh, very CIA. And how do you line up such a mind-your-own-business response with an organization that calls itself a “cultural and intellectual leader” and claims to “signpost pathways to the future by initiating, hosting and engaging in debates that explore a wide range of contemporary issues”?

Still the DomPost did get something out of the exercise.  The budget for Te Papa North as at July this year is still set at $30 million with annual running costs estimated at $3 million. So no change there after a year but now have projected annual attendance figures. These have been put at 650,000. This is 30,000 more than the Auckland Art Gallery got the year it opened its new building and 200,000 more than it got last year. The Auckland Museum, a mega enterprise with 10 times the proposed budget of Te Papa North, attracts 847,000 a year.
If that figure of 650,000 reported by the DomPost from the Te Papa papers is part of the business plan, given the Napier experience, you do have to ask who is running the business. So here we go again with a small idea saddled with hugely unrealistic expectations, that is if it even gets off the ground.

And what are the chances of that?

Well, when you look at the agreement written up between the Government and the rest (Te Papa, Auckland Regional Council, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Museum and Otara rep) it was only ever to “explore the development of a proposal” or as former Te Papa CE Mike Houlihan put it “exploring the feasibility of a proposal ...” The latest Te Papa Statement of performance objectives describes it as a 'key priority.' So lots of wriggle room there.

Is there any real political will behind Te Papa North? There's no mention of it in the National Party arts and culture policy but then that’s because three weeks out from the election it hasn't published one yet (last election it came out 15 July). There was certainly no mention of Te Papa North when the Minister announced the latest round of museum building grants in June this year. Labour’s culture policy is supportive of the project and in a one upping gesture they have promised "a major presence in both South Auckland and Christchurch.”

Now that earthquake fever has subsided somewhat in Wellington and a new Chief Executive for Te Papa actually in the building is at least six months away, Te Papa North can probably be laid to rest for another year. Last words then to Douglas Adams, “'I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

LATER: In July 2014 Te Papa advertised the position of Project Director, National Centre for Collections, Exhibitions and Learning in Manukau, Auckland. (Thanks R)

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Cut it out

Here's just the thing for a Saturday morning project - sort of funny plywood cutout folk art.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Parts of the job are excellent

“…to curate is to network. A curator is one single point in a complex network encompassing artists, artworks, ideas, audience and community. An important aspect of my new role is to bring cultural threads together; to engage ideas and people, to link different times and places, to strike the spark which in turn ignites conversations.”

Lara Strongman senior curator Christchurch Art Gallery in B.177 the gallery’s latest issue of Bulletin

Skin in the game

OTN, as you probably have guessed, is never as happy as when it can cobble together two ideas. This time it’s artist tattoos and a quiz. The tattoo is on the arm of Julian Dashper’s son Leo and from the photo looks like it's copied from one of Dashper’s paintings rather than a drumhead work. And that takes us seamlessly to the quiz that was prompted by a reader sending in roundels used by air forces throughout the world as Dashper lookalikes. You can pop out for a tattoo, link each insignia with its country and then check your answers here. Done.
Images: top the Dashper tattoo and bottom quiz targets

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Petty as a picture

This is the five column illustration to a we’re-just-presenting-the-facts story about a 1.7 percent overall decline in annual visitors to Te Papa over the last financial year. Anyone who has been to Te Papa knows that whatever else you might say, the foyer is always bustling. This story though was about the specific 20 percent decline in local visitors so the photographer just had to stand around and wait for the money shot. If the reporter had written, ‘I went to Te Papa but it was all but empty” no one would believe it, but the camera? The camera never lies. Right.

One day at the Branjolina mansion

Potential Bride: Have you ever noticed how incredibly talented our children are?

Potential Groom: Do we have to do this marriage thing?

PB: (ignores him) I mean, the way they are so creative. Way beyond their years really…

PG: They’re only three, or four, or is the oldest one six? He certainly seems to be taller than the others.

PB (ignores him) Like, did you seen the drawings Maddox, Zahara, Knox and the others did today?

PG: Mind you the smallest one doesn’t seem to be growing at all. Or is it just the taller ones making him look small in comparison?

PB: (ignores him) It’s obvious they’re all going to be extremely important artists. Maddox is so sensitive, Knox is a born sculptor and god only knows what the others are capable of.

PG: Still, small, large, they’re all much of a muchness visually.

PB: (ignores him) And draw. They all draw like angels.

PG: Two eyes, a nose… that sort of thing.

PB: (ignores him) If only other parents were as lucky as we are to have that sort of creativity to tap into.

PG: And they all move pretty much the same way, one foot after the other.

PB: (ignores him) If only there was some way we could show their talent to the world.

PG: Arms swinging, that sort of thing.

PB: (ignores him) I know! I could get their drawings, their sweet little flowers, and animals and drums, embroidered on my wedding gown.

And that is what she did.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


Although many saw it as biting the hand that feeds you the artist protest at the last Biennale of Sydney that saw main sponsors Transfield retire was in line with a growing reluctance of artists to be associated with bad brands. Now at this year's São Paulo Biennial 61 artists and the curators of the event have asked to be 'disassociated' from funding that came to the Biennial from Israel. The result was what will no doubt become an emblematic picture of two security guys being employed to block out the Israeli branding at the Biennial's opening.

There’s no business like show business

One of our most remarkable art experiences was being left alone in a room with a set of hand-coloured William Blake engravings. They were in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria and the curator Ursula Hoff had given us white gloves and shown us how to go through the solander boxes. Truly extraordinary. It’s easy to forget how much outstanding international art is held in the collections of Australian art museums. James Mollison’s remarkable collecting forays over the late seventies and eighties for the National Gallery means that Australian museums can mount a first class exhibition around a key figure like Marcel Duchamp as Monash University Museum of Art did last year with Reinventing the wheel: the readymade century.

It's also a great boon for NZ as our art museums can also benefit from the depth and breadth of Australian institutional collecting. A great example is about to kick off in Wellington when the City Gallery opens William Kentridge’s The refusal of time. Over the last week or so three technicians who work with William Kentridge have been overseeing the installation. This work was first shown at Documenta in 2012 and more recently at the Metropolitan Museum in New York where it attracted long queues. This is a great coup for the City Gallery and only possible because the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth has purchased The refusal of time and was prepared to lend it.

Watching this work is like being swept up into an immersive video game that's a heady and poetic mix of film and drawing enveloping the walls around a lumbering analogue construction holding the centre of the space. It's just the sort of work that art museums can rely on to bring significant numbers of new people into the world of contemporary art.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Judith Collins joins the endless stream of lookalikes generated by Eugene Delacriox’s Liberty leading the people

Photo opportunity

Last year 'selfie' was the Oxford Dictionaries international word of the year and it looks as though Te Papa has taken the hint and finally dropped its no photography of art works policy.  Speaking directly to the people on the street the change has been announced via a poster for a new rehang of the collection. Rita Angus in her Cleopatra self-portrait has been served up to illustrate the snappy taglines: ‘Get in the picture,’ ‘Strike a pose and take a selfie,’ and ‘Share your selfie’.

It’s the marketing department encouraging one and all to up their level of engagement, get into Te Papa, and start snapping. The Metropolitan Museum in NY ran the same campaign back in 2009 with the tag "It's time we met." But even given that pedigree you can bet no one from Te papa would have had the nerve to suggest the idea to Angus were she were still alive.

Of course in its purest form the selfie encourages people to not look at art - after all the works they photograph are behind them. To paraphrase Barnett Newman (thanks B), ‘art is what you bump into as you back up to take a photo.’ Even Angus might have got a laugh out of that and, if she were in a mood for payback, she could enjoy the fact that the old Te Papa photography policy “You are not allowed to directly photograph, film, video, or otherwise copy any works on display in the Museum”… including painting” is still firmly in place on their web site

HOLD ON A SECOND: An OTN reader was in Te Papa a couple of days ago and saw someone get their head bitten off by a guard for talking a selfie in the new hang exhib. Is it possible that the selfie opportunity is only with the poster? Now that would taking confusing the public with marketing to new levels.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Art on the hustings

Art is where you find it and we found it just South of Himatangi

What art has in store

A long time ago now we noted a very droll site (you can still find it here) that asked you to try and tell the difference between furniture created by the minimalist American artist Donald Judd and the sort of stuff you can buy in mega box-stores like Ikea . Seven years on, let us point you (thanks blouinartinfo) to a Tumblr that sources items in pre-sixteenth century paintings from IKEA. So, if you want that nifty red throw pillow you saw in Hans Memling’s painting of The Annunciation, go here. And boom here’s the GURLI Cushion cover for only $48 ready to fill and plump up on your window seat. Or if you are in a more reflective mode how about this framed mirror straight from Christ blessing, surrounded by a donor family by a German painter in the late 1500s.

All this decorating pleasure comes via Cecilia Azcarate whose Tumblr will bring your everyday tastes up to the late sixteenth century.  Azcarate is a killer when it comes to art spotting on the internet so you might also like to chase up her very funny (but definitely not safe for work) collection that features art from the background of sex tapes. That more specialist journey you can begin by going here.