Friday, October 31, 2014


Here's something for everyone who believes that skulls have a little more to squeeze out of the art world. Get the plans for this great, easy to make (so they say) mask from artist designer Steve Wintercroft and go scare the hell out of the neighbourhood tonight.

The road goes ever on

They say Lookalikes are where you find them. Well, we just did. Could this campaign pasted all over Wellington be from the same agency that did the Spielberg face for the Auckland Art Gallery's Light Show? You kind of hope not, but there it is again, the slack jaw and the glazed stare, but this time for Sky movies. So we've got a Lookalike of a Lookalike, what more could you ask for? You can catch up with the Spielberg face here and our original AAG/Spielberg post here.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hidden in plain sight

We’ve always had a soft spot for camouflage and OTN has made the camo art link many, many times (you can check out all the camo posts below). But when we entered the Demilitarized Zone between North Korea and South Korea we saw the camo art combo in its full glory and more as art than disguise. It turned out that despite the real tension on the border, most of the military paraphernalia and architecture was in fact a series of elaborate art and architectural metaphors for we-are-more-successful-more-peace-loving-and-all-round-better-human-beings-and-citizens-of-the-world-than-you. A large snazzy railway station in the South zone is poised to send travellers via the Trans-Siberian rail to Europe if only it could. Unfortunately this is not possible without access through the North. A modern cluster of tall apartment buildings you can see in the North was built with no glazing and no residents but as a sign of progress and prosperity. The camouflage too is mostly pure decoration (indeed kind of gaudy) to brighten up playgrounds, entrances to buildings and any spare wall. When you do see a real lookout post painted so that it blends into its environment the effect is very different.

Images: top three show camouflage as decoration and bottom, the real thing at work on the border of North Korea and South Korea

OTN on the camo trail:

All the camo fit to ship
Art camo
Contemporary art camo
Koons and camo
Camo heads up
The book that started the whole thing (thanks e)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When art collectors pose on furniture

Art collector and dealer, Michael Lett (Thanks for the memory H)

Prepare for glory: 100

The Art Review 'Power 100' is out again with its list of 75 powerful men headed by Nicholas, David and Iwan. This year a woman did sneak up into  the top ten. It was Marina Abramovic of course up from possie number 11 last year and judged to be more powerful than Jeff Koons. In the top 25 there were seven women with three of them in the top 10. They included two artists with Cindy Sherman taking slot 10, up from 13 last year. The criteria may be dubious but who can resist a list? There are even some NZ connections to be made. Two Walters Prize judges made the top 100 - Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev at 19 and this year’s judge Charles Esche on the list for the first time as number 87.  A number of the 'powerful' artists have shown in NZ but the City Gallery scored two big ones Rosemarie Trockel (slot 63) and Yayoi Kusama (slot 52) who both had solo shows. And that's not to forget the National Art Gallery's solo exhibition of Cindy Sherman way back in 1989. Then, with the rise and rise of the dealers, lets give a nod to Simon Denny’s German dealer Daniel Buchholz who came in at number 67. You can study the full list here.

Image: OTN breakdown chart of the Art Review 'Power 100' occupations

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Good to know

“Art prices are not pulled out of thin air”

New Te Papa boss to be announced soon

Te Papa has six of its 14 senior positions vacant at the moment (and that’s not even counting the Senior Curator Art where Sarah Farrar is no longer credited as Acting in the role on the staff list) but one position is about to be filled. Yes, hold onto your seats, the announcement of the next Chief Executive is expected “very soon”. 

It’s not been an easy ride for the people who run Te Papa. The first director Cheryll Sotheran left unexpectedly apparently made ill by the job, the second, Seddon Bennington, died in a mountain accident and the third, Mike Houlihan, jumped ship ostensibly to help with World War I celebrations but in reality to head back home to the UK three months after leaving the building.

Now the word on the street is that a selection has been made from the final two candidates to take up this unenviable job. Putting the odd hints together it sounds like we’re in for a New Zealander who is not a museum person. It also seems as though the appointment may be shorter term (say three years or so) with the specific mission of getting the current shambles sorted out. Maybe we’re talking a younger version of those professional public service fixer-uppers like George Hickton or Ray Smith, or even a spare ex Vice Chancellor, given Te Papa’s insecurity over its research outputs.

Whoever it is it will be a tough slog. Te Papa was created in good times. It has always had an over-developed sense of its own national importance not helped by its spot on the Wellington waterfront and a mega scale and high quality building. To match its self-image this institution locked down with a culture of over-the-top presentation, wastefulness and bureaucracy that has now almost brought it to its knees. The permanent exhibits conceived in the early 1990s (natural history, history) and planned to be on display for 12 years have now been out there for 16 and so far there's no sign from the government that there's any cash to pimp the place up far less make a fresh start. The Maori displays in particular need a huge amount of effort to present them as the museum’s key treasures that they are. It's hard to believe that Te Hau ki Turanga itself would have ever looked so neglected. As for the art, well, the best you can say is that changes every six months or so.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Art to go

This Saturday forget joining the gate lice at international airports and the long wait for Biennale / Art Fair / Special exhibitions to open. Just sit back in your chair and create your own installations in galleries, public spaces or Turbine halls. All this now possible in the comfort of your own home thanks to Artomat (...and also thanks  to P)

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Keane eye for art

It's a truism that there are many art worlds but Tim Burton has just made a movie about one that is about as far away as you can get from the version presented by the public museums. It's based on the life of an artist Burton collects himself, in fact he even commissioned her do a portrait of his ex wife Lisa-Marie holding a pet dog. Yes, we're talking bug-eye painter Margaret Keane. She turns out to have had a movie script life with a husband who stole her identity and claimed that he was the one who'd painted the popular pneumatically pupiled ones. Keane has since won her rights back through the courts and of course has a website where you can see the full range of her output. In Burton’s movie Big eyes she is played by Amy Adams with Christoph Waltz as the mine-all-mine husband.  With the film about to open Keane’s sales have picked up and other celebs are at her door like Japanese models willing to pay big bucks for the eye-widening experience.

Images: top left, Amy Adams as Margaret Keane and right, Christoph Waltz as her husband Walter. Middle, the other art world does a cameo with David Smith-like sculptures. Bottom left, the real Mrs Keane with her portrait of Joan Collins and right, the Keane portrait of Lisa-Marie commissioned by Big eyes director Tim Burton

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Male call

You may think that holding the world record for women art directors per number of art institutions doesn’t make much difference to the chance of women getting solo shows (a random look at five institutions today shows that at the moment you could see solo exhibitions by 13 men and 3 women) but at least here in NZ there is at least some motivation to make this change.

In Australia the top job record is not so positive. In fact only two Australian State art museums have ever had a woman in the top job - once for the Australian National Gallery in Canberra and once for the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth. Did we mention it was the same woman, Betty Churcher? Well it was. Ex-Auckland director Chris Saines helped maintain the status quo when he replaced the female acting director of the Queensland Art Gallery and a guy has just been announced as the next director of the Australian National Gallery. In the 40 regional galleries under 20 percent are run by women. Australians in the know tend to blame the male-heavy boards of trustees that select all these guys but there is some sign that change is in the air. But still… message to Australian women, don’t hold your breath.

Image: the key to the Executive urinal. 
Source: ArtsHub and RPGNSW (and thanks lol for pointing the way)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Last year in his Los Angeles MoCA show we saw Urs Fischer’s life-size, photographic rendition of artist Josh Smith’s studio. That experience has been now eclipsed by the installation Fischer presented at the Gwangju Biennale. Although it was a real mission to get there, planes and boats and trains (ok no boats really) this one work alone would have made it all worthwhile. 

The first thing to be said for it is the sheer ambition of the installation - a huge 3D set representing Fischer’s 600 plus square meter New York apartment. It's got around 11 rooms, a super-sized hallway and so much storage it's scary. As with the Josh Smith studio the walls of the set are covered with 1:1 scaled photographic wallpaper of each room as it exists with all the furniture and fittings rendered in detail and in colour. You want to know what DVDs Urs Fischer watches, what spices he uses or the brand of his toothpaste, it's all here in this work 38 E. 1st St. 

In the Gwangju installation there's the terrific addition of actual works by other artists selected by Fischer and either hung over the ‘wallpaper’ or free-standing in the space. The two gold George Condo works are a knockout.  This is starting to sound complicated we know, so we've put a short movie we took here on OTNSTUFF to make more sense of it. Ambiguous, thought provoking and disturbingly fascinating, this installation insinuates each of us into the role of voyeur.
Images: Top one of the room's hanging a painting by Greek artist Vlassis Caniaris. Middle only the chairs table and fire hydrant are not photogrphic and bottom outside the set construction.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Counter proposal

While we're on the subject of art museum attendance numbers maybe all our institutions should just purchase Roman Ondák’s installation Clockwork. This could replace surveys done at conveniently busy times or automatic door counters that can't discriminate among people who come in for the café/toilet/convention/dinner and the ones who actually have a museum experience or the itchy-fingered manual counters. In the very efficient Ondák work an attendant stands in an empty room and asks everyone who comes in two questions. “What time is it?” and “What’s your name?” The answers are recorded on the walls. Simple, huh? By that count the Gwangju Biennale can confidently say it had at the very least 23,450 active real-time visitors in its first 46 days or an average of 510 a day.

Image: top, a gallery assistant ready with her pen to add visitor number 23,451. Bottom part of the tally so far.

Be nice

It’s open season on art museums in Wellington at present. The Dominion Post having headlined “Te Papa losing its gloss” in early September announced last week that “The gloss is coming off Lower Hutt's Dowse Art Museum.” So a bad gloss day for those two. The problem in both cases was falling attendance numbers although, in fairness, the Dowse’s weren’t falling, just staying put and you'd have to say that with a local population of 103,000 and an annual attendance of 198,000 it must be getting close to saturation even accounting for out-of-towners. The cost per visitor is also not too bad at $10.10 compared to the City Gallery at $13.32 and Te Papa’s $16.79. 

After a whack or two from the media you might have thought there'd be some collegial support from other local institutions but, not so much. Director of Porirua’s Pataka Helen Kedgley was tight-lipped and “reluctant to speculate on other galleries’ shortcomings.” She then explained that in Pataka's case high attendances were due to “quality exhibitions, its community hub design and engagement with residents.” There was a similar lack of support when Douglas Lloyd Jenkins resigned from the Hawke's Bay Museum not long after a public beat-up from his Council. No one from the profession bothered to publicly support him on Facebook or as far as we can see support him in public in any way. And when Chris Saines was fighting for his life with the big Auckland changes the professional silence was awe inspiring. 

To be competitors rather than collaborators is a risky strategy for most art galleries and museums. As their buildings have increased in size along with budgets, salaries and staff numbers they've become bigger targets for local politicians and Council admin. So you'd think it would make sense for them to be nice to each other. Someone should get them all in a room and tell them the ‘together we stand divided we fall’ thing.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Having a beer in Seoul...

...and thinking about Rita Angus


How interesting is it to get a look inside the homes of art collectors? #rhetoricalquestion For a start it's a chance to see art, possibly for the first time, outside the context of the good old neutral white space that's still endorsed almost unanimously by both art dealers and art museums. We're talking Space Odyssey rather than home-sweet-home. Occasionally public art museums have a swing at re-creating the domestic art experience but it's always awkward. The Auckland Art Gallery made an effort once with a patrons' exhibition (Present Company: Works Presented by the Patrons) but the result was an uneasy hybrid.

At this year’s Frieze art fair in London one gallerist (the HellyNahmad Gallery) has jumped the shark and created a set of rooms (living room and study) supposedly owned by a fictitious collector of the pack-rat archivist variety and set in Paris, 1968. According to Art Market Monitor it's “a statement against art as an asset” so who knows which planet they're living on. Still, it's a nice idea and one that has been done before by at least one artist (Elmgreen & Dragset, Death of a Collector, 2009). So now that we have dealers who clearly feel they can also make art. Oh well, there's another old and respected division of labour all shot to hell.

Images: the  HellyNahmad Gallery's installation at Freize

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Animal rights

OTN is delighted to have so many good readers out there, fine people who totally get the painting animal thing, people who have read the fine print and understand that it is the animals who paint or take photographs. But then there are the fringe dwellers out there on the edge of OTN’s readership (in this case a staggering 15) who each independently sent in these images of animals that have been painted on. The good readers (see above) will be relieved to know that despite OTN's wide ranging interest in animals that paint, this blog will not be diverted into promoting animals that have been painted on. Enough.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Speaking volumes

Not long after the Second World War somewhere in Japan there was a discussion about where to build a new art school. The site, it was agreed, needed to stimulate creativity and relax the fevered mind and so they chose a beautiful wooded hill about an hour out of Tokyo. In the seventies they started to build a small city’s worth of serious concrete buildings and that killed the stimulation-slash-calm mind dream dead in the water. Then in the new millennium, perhaps as some sort of apology or maybe even in error, at the very edge of the campus the university authorities asked Toyo Ito to build them a library and what they got is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world.

On the outside the large arched windows reflect the calm of a sloping garden of trees, grass, a gravel path and solid wooden benches. Inside is a generous unencumbered space that feels like a luxury in Japan. The arches continue rhythmically but not symmetrically throughout the building in a complex system that feels like an underground cavern that is at the same time full of light. The books of this library are protected in a wonderfully simple way through sweeping white curtains that add a sense of mystery on a bright day. In one large sun-drenched corner a series of large bed-like lounging platforms were dotted with students who were doing what any self-respecting art student would do when caught by the warm sun in a library - sleeping.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

From the stream

Hamish Keith doesn't quite get it

Knock knock... who's there?

Who knows what you’re going to find when you visit an artist’s studio, especially an artist like Rohan Wealleans. A life-size figure of Marilyn Monroe upside down in the kitchen? Why the hell not. Today on OTNSTUDIO we’ve put up some recent pics taken at Rohan’s home studio in Auckland, and some recent shots we made when we visited Campbell Patterson last month. There are also images of Wellington artist Gordon Crook, these ones taken in his Aro Street studio in 2009, a couple of years before he died, and photos of Michael Smither at work in his New Plymouth studio in 1983. All these photographs (36 artists, 77 visits) are free for use without permissions being required under a Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When art collectors pose on furniture

We reluctantly add this photograph of one of OTN’s editorial staff to our series When art collectors pose on furniture. As serious readers (not you M) will know, this series was started to throw light on the ridiculous poses photographers can get collectors to adopt preying on their love of individuality, furniture and a chance to get their pic in the paper. Why any OTN reader (you again M) would think the subtle reference to English photographer Lewis Morley's iconic picture of model Christine Keeler (and based on the eighth frame of Morley’s 1963 contact sheet rather than the more famous published version) is suitable for this series is anyone’s guess. Still at OTN the readers are always right until they are wrong (looking hard at you M).

Image: collector Jim Barr with Gordon Walters painting Waiata 1977

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Taking liberties

Having featured her links with advertising last month we were pretty surprised to find Liberty alive and well on billboards in Japan.

The cat’s meow

Of all the strange things we saw at the Yokohama Triennale Marcel Broodthaers' interview with a cat was the winner on the day. A table and a couple of chairs to set the scene and a recording of the artist interviewing some sort of cat. They work through issues around art, its meaning and future. “Is this one a good painting?” That sort of question followed by meows in answer. It’s on YouTube of course (you can listen to it here, spoiler alert it’s in French) which given that it’s cat-related isn’t so surprising but it does in turn give us the opportunity for a quick run down on the importance of cats as a cultural phenomenon. Although everyone in the art world owns a dog, cats rule the internet. Their rise and rise really began with mainstream blogging in the early 2000s which offered visuals and then YouTube in 2005.  “So what are some of the important internet cat moments?" you ask. One moment please:
2000: Bonzai kitten. Growing small cats in glassware. Essential. 

2004: Catbread. Just that. A loaf of bread that looks like a cat, oh it talks too. Edible. 
2006: Cats that look like Hitler. Don't blame the cat.
2006: Long cat. Stretch a cat. Surprisingly long.
2008: Simon’s cat. Cat cuteness gone mad. Cute (seriously) and a personal favourite
2009: Boozecats. What if your cat were a glass of spirits, or your glass of spirits was a cat? Both work
2010: Nyan. Annoying music, cute cat.

2012: The internet cat film festival. 5-4-3-2-1 cats.
2014: Skateboarding cat. Cat on a skateboard what's not to like?

Image: Marcel Broodthaers' interview with a cat originally performed in 1970 at the Museé d' Arte Modern in Dusseldorf at the Yokohama Triennale

Monday, October 13, 2014

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki 1943-2014

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki started out in the arts as a painter studying at Ilam art school in Christchurch with Rudi Gopas. While Gopas wasn’t one to lavish compliments he did consider Jonathan to be one of his top two or three students along with Jenny Anderson and Warren Clode. As far as we know all three gave up painting (maybe not) but Jonathan never left the side of the visual arts for an instant. After training as an art historian he put his name to thoughtful texts that are essential to anyone who wants to work their way through the complex story of contemporary Maori art. 

As for Jonathan the man, he could hardly have been more affable. This turned out to be a serious advantage to him when you disagreed with his approach to collections and exhibitions at Te Papa as we did from time to time. Jonathan was a born storyteller and, as we discovered as we stood side by side at Julian Dashper’s funeral, a man with a powerful and rich singing voice. We cannot be there when Jonathan Mane-Wheoki is given his proper due at the memorial service as his colleagues and family say goodbye to him and offer their support and condolences to his partner Paul, so we do it now.

Image: Jonathan Mane-Wheoki in full flight before McCahon's 1972 painting Parihaka triptych

Saturday, October 11, 2014

After the fall

If you’ve followed OTN over the years you’ve also followed many stories about when good art turns bad. In Ukraine at the moment there is a spectacular example of this as statues of Lenin are toppled one after the other. Last week it was the turn for the largest of them all at a massive eight meters on top of a tall plinth. It took the tumble after protesters gass axed through one of its legs and the crowd pulled hard on a rope tied round Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov’s neck. So far this year around 160 have been toppled and between Feburary 20 and 24 alone over 90 statues of Lenin came down. You can read a full account here at the Washington Post and watch the giant Lenin fall here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wall paper

The immersive photo mural has been a popular exhibition effect for a while now. The King of this kind of installation is the Swiss artist Urs Fischer whose murals dress gallery spaces with an unsettling mixture of 2D and 3D imagery. Yesterday in Tokyo we saw life follow art in the way that it does. A large plaza outside a major department store in Shinjuku combines a photographic wall mural of leaves and bricks with a line of real trees. The effect is an almost imperceptible melding of nature and culture. That is until you notice the repetitious patterning and a slight disturbance between the edges of two of the photographic sheets. What can you say? Nature abhors a straight line.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Leading the charge

By their surveys shall you know them. The New Plymouth City Council is currently on a fishing expedition to see if it can get away with charging an entry fee for the new combined Len Lye/Govett-Brewster hybrid.

Acting General Manager Community Services Kelvin Day says the Gallery is gathering valuable feedback on key topics, including the combined institution's new cinema, free or paid entry, and public programmes. The questions start with how much you'd be prepared to pay for entry and whether or not an entry fee would change your visiting patterns. And then inevitably, focus on the real question, “Would you be happy for your out-of-town guests to pay an entry fee if you were able to enter for free?” This one's well down the list so no doubt the survey team is hoping that even the most ardent supporter of a free institution will have no-fees fatigue and let this one go with a 'Yes'.

But hang on. The people of New Plymouth spent a lot of energy making sure that ‘not a single cent of rates money' was spent on constructing the new building. That funding came from the government, gambling and petrochemical whitewashing. Surely that major contribution deserves some kind of benefit.

And New Plymouth needs more than wishful thinking on this one. The city is not a tourist hot spot like Rotorua (where all out-of-towners are charged $20) so how much the Govett-Brewster would in fact earn from entry fees is a big question. You can look to the MTG Hawkes Bay debacle for how easy it is to get the sums wrong and the Len Lye Center is hoping to get 90,000 visitors a year (bet that wasn't based on a fee paying audience). All entry charges usually do is alienate your national audience, only pick up a few paying international tourists and lose the energy that attracts the local audience. Lose lose.

How about going back to the petrochemical guys and asking them to sponsor free entry for everyone, the gift that keeps on giving.

Anyone who wants to help keep the Govett-Brewster free can do the survey here. You know what to do.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Wystan's world

The critic's part Wystan Curnow art writings 1971-2013 is an elegant book containing a selection of Curnow’s writings edited by Christina Barton and Robert Leonard. As Leonard says in his introduction, the great thing Curnow did was to leave New Zealand, and then come back. While Curnow could have gone on to have a successful academic career in the US, in 1970 he bought a ticket home.

The first thing to say is that this is a very good read. That's probably because Curnow has always had a firm grip on his position in regard to culture and is happy to put it in plain albeit stylish and sometimes playful language. You may not agree with everything Curnow says (why would you) but you could never accuse him of obscurity. The second point is that Curnow has a particular talent for sussing out where the interesting stuff is happening and going with it. His writing probably made some of it interesting in the first place. And it's good to have so much material so readily available. Curnow is also a diligent observer of our culture and very generous with giving over important dates, times and events.

Some of the pieces will be familiar to some readers but there are a lot of fresh connections to make now that it's all together. A nicely edited selection of photographs tells its own story - men in suits and with pipes look out at the world, people scramble across the moonscape of the Mount Eden Crater, the now vanished tiled floors of the Auckland Art Gallery take a formalist turn, and Colin McCahon holds the centre. The selection of writing feels pretty representative and the editors are relaxed about letting Curnow show his obdurate side when it works for him. He has always had a very personal take on what’s what so you get some odd artists corralled together and many, many important people and events missed out or skated over. Most notably this version of Curnow hasn't engaged with many women artists. Only three of the 22 chapters focused on single artists are devoted to them so let's note them: et al., Julia Morison, Linda Buis in partnership with Peter Roche and Jacqueline Fraser coupled with Gordon Walters. Obviously there are women included in some of the other chapters, but still.

What Wystan Curnow nails is a style of art reporting we don't see much. Even though he peers at things through a global lens Curnow is always fully engaged with the work in front of him. It's the local he cares for and like a concerned parent he urges it on to greater heights. An essay like High culture in a small province is still provocative reading and its updating at the end of this book demonstrates that Curnow hasn't let his guard down.

Now what’s needed is an annotated edition of Wystan Curnow’s travel diaries from his years in the United States. No pressure.

Image: The critic’s part: Wystan Curnow art writings 1971-2013, published by Adam Art Gallery | IMA | VUP with funding via Creative NZ. Edited by Christina Barton and Robert Leonard.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Walters Prize rules ok

With the 2014 Walters Prize behind us here's something to think about. What happens to the exhibitions that slip into the crack between the considerations of one judging panel and the selection of the next? Currently at least one of the judges is meant to see each of the exhibitions the panel selects, but what happens when we're between panels? If your show's overseas maybe it's like the Academy Awards: you've got to get the timing of your release right or you're out of contention.

You've do have to wonder for instance which of the next lot of Walters Prize potential panelists will have been to Monash University to see Fiona Connor's 2014 exhibition Wallworks. And who, if anyone, will be taking a look at Oscar Enberg’s Malmo show or made it over to the Liverpool Biennale to catch Mike Stevenson’s installation Strategic-Level ?Spiritual Warfare. There's no budget for this eyes-on rule which has stretched itself way beyond any usefulness as increasingly NZ artists exhibit everywhere.

Originally the idea was to give the prize to the artist who had made the outstanding contribution over the previous two years. You can do that without seeing everything. That is until you base the choice on a specific exhibition.

Maybe now after a dozen years of the Walters Prize it's time to dump the rules. The panel simply chooses the four artists it feels have done the best work over the last two years and the artists can either recast one of their exhibitions or present something new depending on what best suits them.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Reading fashion ads in the DomPost

Thinking about McCahon

Face off

Auckland Art Gallery’s marketing for its Light show is kind of strange. For some reason the Gallery has abandoned the brand image it set out with when the new building was opened and now comes up with a new graphic style for each show. The current Light show campaign pulls out what's become known as The Spielberg Face to draw the crowds. 

The Face is the signature of Stephen Spielberg as a movie director - a human face suffused with wonder as it confronts an amazing sight. Pop culture commentator Matt Patches describes it best: “When a character looks up and catches something unexpected, that's the face. When a character watches something otherworldly take place in front of their eyes, that's the face. When a character stares outward, mouth slightly agape and has a revelation that will change them forever, that's the face.” You can see the Spielberg face in action here in a video essay by Kevin B Lee. 

The Auckland Art Gallery are hoping that The Spielberg Face (rather than a pic of one of the light sculptures and rave reviews from the UK media) will be what attract a rush of visitors to the show, their lips parted and their bright eyes shining wide in anticipation.

Images: top, the Auckland Art Gallery poster for Light Show and bottom, the Spielberg Face

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Metro news

It’s nearly midnight on Friday and all we have for you today is a painting horse sent in by reader G (thanks). Not to be rude (well a little rude) but this horse doesn’t even paint that well and that paintbrush could easily be a cigarette. The thing is Metro Meteor was a talent in the field, fastest turf sprinters at Belmont and Saratoga and won eight races and $380,000 in purse money. So who was it that took time out to get a horse with a name like that up to speed with a brush in its mouth? If you have time on your hands you can find the answer to that here. But given that there are a lot of serious animal artist fans out there (we get all your emails and letters – thanks for that) and it is Saturday (now) so here you go.

Images: left Metro Meteor eating up the track and right either smoking or painting

Friday, October 03, 2014

The best art is business art

More in our continuing series

Image: Stuart Williams head of equities management at Nikko Asset Management

Follow the money

List lovers will be pleased to know that the latest Art Price roundup of the 50 top selling contemporary artists at auction has been published. The thing that sticks out is the number of Chinese artists listed in the top 25; there are 11 of them compared to eight from the US. When it comes to the dollars the balance is somewhat reversed with the US accounting for $423 million of sales and China just over half that at $214.5 million. The top ranking Chinese artist is Fanzhi Zeng in spot number 4 with annual sales of $59.6 million. Other countries are far behind. Third is the UK with Peter Doig, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin hauling in 54.5 million between them. Emin comes in at 47 on the top 50 and the only woman who made it to the top 25 is Cindy Sherman at position 24 with $9 million in auction sales over the last year. The average age of living artists in the top 25 is 55 and the youngest of them is Wade Guyton at 32. His highest price last year was $3.8 million.

Image: world map showing the concentration of population in Asia. “There are more people living inside this circle than outside of it”

Thursday, October 02, 2014

That was then

In september we: got unduly excited at te papa changing its photo policy • raved about the kentridge exhibition at the city gallery • wondered when the hell the te papa north thing would get off the ground • added some new faces to otn/studio • loved the hang of hotere’s airport mural • followed the shake-up at webb’s • went to see the walters prize • questioned numbers through the door as a measurement for art museums • showed flagging interest in the koru • visited Fiona conner’s studio • gave it up for luke willis thompson • reported jenny gibbs walking out the venice patrons after all those years • stuttered in indignation at the Auckland art gallery sound system

Uncool copycat

In the land of lookalike is there anything more creepy than John Malkovich and Sandro Miller’s efforts to recreate famous photographs? Photographer Miller wanted to honour the men and women whose photographs had helped shape his [Miller's] career so who to call but actor John Malkovich. Miller received the Saatchi & Saatchi Best New Director Award and was voted one of the top 200 advertising photographers in the world. His work certainly shows why Cindy Sherman and Sherrie Levine are so highly regarded. (Thanks for the tip P)
Images: top to bottom, John Malkovich and Sandro Miller do Diane Arbus, Dorothea Laing and Andy Warhol

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

MoMA makes significant purchase of Denny works

In the scheme of things a New Zealand artist getting something purchased by the Museum of Modern Art is a very rare thing indeed. Len Lye has work there and so too film maker Gregor Nicholas. Now it’s Simon Denny’s turn. Today MoMA confirmed that five significant works by the artist have been acquired by the Department of Painting and Sculpture for the permanent collection.  They are Berlin Startup Case Mod: Rocket Internet (2014), 16.20 Family Strings, 16.40 Conversation, 17.05 Break (3 works; all 2013) and All you Need is ... Data? (2013).

For Denny the MoMA confirmation represents the high point of a number of significant purchases into important collections including Channel document into the Rubell Family collection in Miami. Last month his exhibition New management at Portikus in Frankfurt was also purchased by a private collector.

Denny received news of the MoMA confirmation as he was setting up his exhibition The personal effects of Kim Dotcom at Wellington’s Adam Art Gallery. The scale of the confiscations of Dotcom’s possessions by the New Zealand police is revealing. Anyone looking at the ambition and complexity of this show will get a great insight into why Denny was the object of desire for the famed New York museum.

Image: Berlin Startup Case Mod: Rocket Internet, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York

The price is right, or wrong, or something

Webb’s latest publication continues with its argument that statistics are the way to the hearts of collectors. Again it's Bill Hammond who wears the stat hat with a timeline of his auction prices marching through the ages, well from 1996 to 2009 at least. In dollar terms we’re talking from $326,250.00 to $322,000.00 with a work that sold for $316,250.00 in the middle. But you know statistics. At a loose end? Try putting the numbers through an inflation calculator and a somewhat different story emerges. In today's dollars the 1996 painting is Fortified Gang Headquarters and adjusted would be worth $477,324 and the 2009 painting Farmer’s Market worth $355,957. So good news for Hammond buyers, though maybe for investors, not so much. In its next auction Webb’s have a classic 1996 painting Searching for Ashburton on the block with an estimate of $220,000 - $280,000. Sounds pretty impressive but go in reverse and put it into 1996 inflation adjusted figures (have these people nothing better to do with their time?) and you're looking at $150,000 to $190,000. You can play games with inflation here on the Reserve Bank site.