Saturday, November 29, 2014

Living the dream

The mega game Minecraft allows you to create worlds using simple (well not so simple these days) building blocks, sort of like LEGO online (#sorrytoeveryonewhoplaysforthatgrossgeneralisation). Tate has used the Minecraft platform to deliver the holy grail of every art educator: a 3D walk through paintings. You can get the links here at Tate and mine away this Saturday.

Images: top left, The Pool of London painted by AndrĂ© Derain in 1906 and right, in its Minecraft version. Bottom, Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson’s 1920 painting The Soul of the Soulless City (New York - an Abstraction) and right in Minecraft

Friday, November 28, 2014


"I consider most definitions of contemporary art to be magic-less, meaningless, crap and almost all the "now" kinda artists you could name to be nothing but desperately over-schooled, funding-seekers with their faces pressed up against the window of the art worlds revolting middle class dinner party."

Wellington based musician Campbell James Kneale on being asked by UTR why he didn’t call his work art

Lye's sculpture dead in the water

It’s spring and the minds of local authorities throughout the country turn to maintenance. Here in Wellington public sculpture got a bit of a beating over winter. The spinning cubes of Leon van den Eijkel's Urban forest all but ground to a halt, Phil Dadson’s Akau Tangi was rarely all systems go, Phil Price’s Zephyrometer was literally blown out of the sky by lightning and the other pointy stick sculpture Len Lye’s Water Whirler doesn’t any more.

While Price is rebuilding Zephyrometer it’s probably time to call it quits on Water whirler and admit that Wellington's Lye is a no-go. The City Council has already repaired just about every component at some stage largely because of the effects of numbers 11 and 17 on the periodic table. Anyone who lives near the water in Wellington knows about salt corrosion, it’s probably what is slowing down the van den Eijkel and Dadson as well.

Anyway just do the math. WW was intended to run for 12 minutes nine times a day adding up to whirl action for around 655 hours a year. It has now been operating (theoretically) for nine years. Most marine engineers will tell you that a marine engine is best for the first 500 hours, so-so for the next 1,000 and after that….  And it's not a complete loss. The Ian Athfield base could come into its own as a diving board or somewhere to do a selfie with Wellington's harbour.

Images: top, figuring that Water Whirler is no longer functioning the base has become a popular picnic spot. Middle, Oriental Bay's Carter fountain being repaired and bottom, Kon Dimopoulos’s Pacific grass is given a spring steam clean.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


A couple of weeks ago Thames and Hudson launched their latest artists-to-watch book 100 painters of tomorrow. It features Christchurch painter AndrĂ© Hemer on its cover and of course as one of the hot 100. There is a strange hybrid website for the book that includes an opportunity to buy the works of the artists and has Hemer’s New smart object #61 up for grabs should you want it.

By the numbers: close to home edition

1             the approximate number in millions of dollars it costs to represent New Zealand at the Venice Biennale (MC&H)

2.9         the number in millions of dollars that Creative NZ has allocated for distribution in Christchurch through its Earthquake Recovery Grants fund (CNZ)

16           the number of times Te Papa’s announcement of their new Chief Executive was retweeted (Twitter)

19           the percentage of the total Creative NZ budget that goes to project-based support for arts organisations and individual artists and arts practitioners (MC&H)

27           the percentage of works in the Auckland Art Gallery’s collection that are not owned by the AAG (NZH)

40.5      the number in millions of dollars that the Government has allocated to Te Papa for the 2014-15 year (MC&H)

48          the number of years T J McNamara, has been writing about the arts for the New Zealand Herald (NZH)

240.8   the annual number in thousands of dollars that Webb's will pay for renting their new rooms in Parnell (NZH)

261        the value in millions of dollars of Auckland Art Gallery's collection (NZH)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Art chart

CNZ income and expenditure trends.

You can read the full CNZ briefing to their new Minister Maggie Barry here


Staying with our friend theatre designer John Parker we came across a file box full of tiny furniture. Dozens of small chairs, tables, lamps, beds, benches and couches all made to inhabit the set models John designs. In the spirit of art-is-where-you-find-it we've put a selection of the best (ok, cutest) ones up here on their own tinyfurniture Weebly website. And because we stole the title from Lena Dunham's movie, here's a link to that too, well the trailer anyway.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When art collectors pose on furniture

Art collector Carmen Busquet in her Paris apartment

'No' means ... whatever

The photography/no photography thing has jumped the shark with the Auckland Art Gallery banning it from their Light Show. If ever an exhibition could do with some buzz via photography this is the one. What is it about the connection between light and the camera the AAG doesn't understand? Maybe it's because Light Show is such a Po-Lite show that they don’t want too many images out there to alert the punters. Most of the works fall into one of three camps; reflected colour on the walls, reflected lights via mirrors or sparkling things. There’s certainly nothing that’s going to flare out, give you a sunburn or surprise you or the kids. "Extrasensory"? not so much. Some imaginative pics from out of the hive mind could do nothing but good.  They could make the show look more lively and give an entertaining reason to visit. 

It's a weird omission. When it suits them our museums are all too keen to invite us to post images of their exhibitions onto Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest. When it doesn’t the shutters come down. Now there’s a third even more irritating variant of the photography rules, the you-can-photograph-this-one-but-not-that-one sign. It's time to get over this. Anyone who photographs the work and tries to make commercial gain out of it, go after them by all means (if in fact this ever happens) otherwise, chillax.

Images: Pics of Light Show. In the spirit of things we only photographed the walls.

Monday, November 24, 2014


"We'll be moving away from the passive physical engagement of the past and looking to technology innovation here out of New Zealand, as well as what others are doing and learn from that and hopefully bring something quite magic alive."

Te Papa CE Rick Ellis interviewed by TV1 on 10 November 2014

OK…well, good luck

The new CE of Te Papa Rick Ellis starts work today.

"The board and chairman, Evan Williams, have reassured me that the issues that have been widely publicised over the past 18 months or so have been addressed and the organisation is actually in great shape for a new leader like me to come in and take it forward," Mr Ellis said.
Te Papa CE Rick Ellis interviewed by TV1 on 10 November 2014

“The Te Papa Board is faced with considerable challenges over the near term, as it reconciles a necessary period of fiscal consolidation with the need for significant capital investment in the museum infrastructure, and a desire to share more of the national heritage and scientific collections with the nation. These challenges are accentuated in the short term, as the museum goes through a period of capability rebuilding following its recent organisational realignment.” 
Briefing to the incoming Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage October 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

One day in the OTN editorial offices

Editor: Is that piece on the changing role of curators in the digital world ready for Saturday?

Features editor: No

Editor: Not to worry we’ll put up this Homer Simpson nail art tutorial video.

And they did

Friday, November 21, 2014

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Pic of the week

Is Jim Allen the oldest performance artist still standing? He’s definitely the oldest standing operating a chainsaw and with Marina Abramovic at 66, Vito Acconti 74, Gina Paine and Carolee Schneemann just a year older and even Yayoi Kusama a youthful 85, we reckon the honours most definitely go to Allen at 92. On Wednesday night about 50 people watched him recreate the performance On planting a native from 1976 that involved cutting down a small tree and representing it on the gallery wall. In the audience was art writer and critic Wystan Curnow who has been a strong supporter of Allen and the other performance artists of the seventies. It was quite something to see Curnow transfixed by the performance as though it were the first time he had seen Jim Allen at work. He even edged closer mid-performance to take more pictures. Turns out that Curnow is also that other essential glue to the art world, a fan.

Image: Wystan Curnow photographs Jim Allen at Michael Lett

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wonder woman

"The art world is an old boys’ club. People tend to promote people who are like themselves. The barriers to financial success persist for women artists as well. Even for the women who have broken records at auction, their prices are still only one-third the value of the top male artists at auction—on a good day."

Barbara Lee, a Boston based philanthropist who only collects art by female artists

Model behaviour

There has probably never been a wackier representation of art in the movies than the 1955 vehicle for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Artists and their models. It was the last Lewis Martin team-up and revolves around the struggles of painter  Rick Todd who has to do billboard work to keep afloat. In a parallel universe the real James Rosenquist was also a billboard painter learning the techniques that he would put into his famous Pop paintings of the early sixties. For Martin and Lewis the billboard paint job inevitably ends in spilling big tubs of the stuff on the client and a passing cop. Still, this rather sorry mess of a movie ends with a big production number on a giant palette, so not all bad. In fact the movie was presented as a satire on the paranoid delusions of the McCarthy hearings via the censorship and control of comics (Lewis is a comic nut in the movie). You can see the billboard sequence here.

Images: top to bottom left to right, Dean Martin ‘paints’ lips high above the street and James Rosenquist in action above Times Square c.1957, whoops, the palette as art signifier, again, and the small poster for the movie with obligatory palette.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When art collectors pose on furniture

Erin Wasson model and art collector

By the numbers

To anyone (that’s anyone living below the Bombay Hills) who doesn’t believe that Auckland is now the Cultural Capital of NZ, here’s some numbers based on the Walters Prize and the Venice Biennale. And they are kind of compelling. Compelling that is if you believe that representation by a dealer gallery is one possible measure of an artist's standing. Anyway, of the 25 artists who have been finalists in the seven Walters Prizes, all are represented in Auckland and just seven in Wellington. Then in the last two Prizes non of the eight finalists are represented in Wellington at all. Of the nine artists who have carried the NZ flag at the Venice Biennale, only three are represented in Wellington. Over both of our major art events then less than 30 percent of the exhibitors are represented by a Wellington dealer. As to the South Island, someone down there can do that sorry sum..

And for the record, the lists:

NZ’s representation at the Venice Biennale:
2001 Jacqueline Fraser and Peter Robinson
2003 Michael Stevenson
2005 et al.
2009 Francis Upritchard and Judy Millar
2011 Michael Parekowhai
2013 Bill Culbert
2015 Simon Denny

Walters Prize:
Yvonne Todd
Gavin Hipkins
John Reynolds
Mike Stevenson

et al.
Jacqueline Fraser
Ronnie van Hout
Daniel von Sturmer

Francis Upritchard
Stella Brennan
Phil Dadson
Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson
Edith Amituanai
Lisa Reihana
John Reynolds

Dan Arps
Fiona Connor
Saskia Leek
Alex Monteith

Kate Newby
Simon Denny
Alicia Frankovich
Sriwhana Spong

Luke Willis Thompson
Simon Denny
Maddie Leach
Kalisolaite Uhila

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Parts of it are excellent

Nice illustration by Robert Neubecker for Ellen Gamerman’s piece on everyone being a curator in the Wall Street Journal. You’ve probably heard some of it before but you can read it here.

One day in the New Plymouth Art in Public Places Trust boardroom

Trustee 1: …and then it whistled through the air almost decapitating the… (looks up) … sorry, are we all here?

Trustee 2: (looks around and counts) Yes, we seem to be.

T1: Excellent. Well it’s that time again. Two years have passed and again we are required by our Deed to invent ... I mean reconstruct, another of Len’s works. Yes, another public sculpture.

(There’s a shuffling of feet and several averted eyes).

T2: Come on everyone. We had a huge success with the big noisy one that went up and down hitting that ball ...

T1: Yes, and the very long one that writhes across the floor is well on the way.

T2: Not to mention Water whirler in Wellington. (looks down at briefing notes) Oh sorry. I see it says not to mention -Water whirler.

T1: This time what we need is something more visually commanding. Something that's more than just one unique single thing on its own moving this way and that by itself in isolation.

T2: How about a whole lot of unique things? You know, more than one.

T1: Brilliant.

T2: Like how about we make a Quadrilogy version of Trilogy, or even a Septilogy…that’s seven of them.

T3: I’ve got it. A Wind wand farm.

(several heads turn)

T4: Do you think Len Lye would have ever done something like that?

T1: Definitely.

T3: It could be a whole cluster of Wind wands bobbing their heads in sprightly dance.

T1: Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. What are we talking. 50? A 100?

T3: I reckon we could easily do six, as long as they’re kind of small.

And that is what they did

LATER: Initially we thought it was the Len Lye Trust proposing this wacky idea. But reading the article again, who exactly is going to do this thing is a bit of a mystery. We are assuming the Len Lye Trust is in there somewhere, the City Council probably, maybe the Govett-Brewster - all jumping the shark together?

Monday, November 17, 2014

To go

We posted on this great house designed by Austrian architect Fritz Eisenhofer last year when it was up for rent. Last week when we drove past it was playing second fiddle to the art garage-sale from hell.

Elvis has entered the building

When the first director of the Australian National Gallery James Mollison purchased Jackson Pollock’s Blue poles all hell broke loose. One of the newspapers headlined with 'Barefoot drunks painted our $1 million masterpiece'.  One reason for the uproar was the painting’s price of $A1.3 million. Once a work was over the million mark it required Government approval and in this case the PM Gough Whitlam (a staunch Mollison supporter) told the ANG director, "Buy it and disclose the price."

Another of Mollison's spectacular purchases was Elvis a 1963 silkscreen by Andy Warhol. This cost the Gallery just $25,000, didn’t need ticking off, and slipped into the collection virtually unheralded the same year as the Pollock uproar. Many of Mollison's purchases have been vindicated by the market many times but he must have laughed last week when an Elvis painting from the same series as the ANG’s one sold for $A93.6 million at Christie's. This was a world record for Warhol. OK there were three Elvises in this one but it’s still $31.2 mill an Elvis however you look at it.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

House paint

As you’re no doubt set to paint the house this weekend (or someone else’s house) why not double up and make art at the same time. That’s what they did in the Hungarian People’s Republic during the years of what was tactfully known as “Goulash Communism”. By combining traditional patterns with a touch of Russian constructivism painters also raised a painted finger to the regime. In our DIY-mad culture painting your house this way would be sure to get the neighbors and possibly the local Council going. Many of the Hungarian houses have been photographed by Katharina Roters, and you can see more here on Picturesdotnews where we saw them first.

Friday, November 14, 2014

One day in the tattoo studio

Customer: Have you got time for me today?

Tattooist: Sure, take a seat. Whaddaya got in mind?

C: I was thinking Sistine Chapel Ceiling.

T: The whole thing?

C: Yeah, the touching hands, the Last Judgment.

T: I think you’re on the back wall now.

C: I don’t want walls.

T: So maybe you should think about something that’ll take a little less time, like less than ten years.

C: Fair enough. How about that one where eyes follow you round the room?

T: The Scream?

C: No, no. the older one. Lisa something.

T: You want the Mona Lisa?

C: Yeah. That one.

T: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa?

C: Yeah.

T:: The painting by the Renaissance genius who was the greatest artist who has ever lived?

C: Yeah.

T: OK.

And he did.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Top, Beverly Hills Cop 2 and bottom LACMA table setting by Marina Abramovic

And counting…

One thing about adding stuff into OTNSTUDIO is how quickly it grows. As of today we have 37 artists on the site and 81 studio visits. This is a mixed blessing really as now things are a little harder to find. Hmmm…we might have a go at doing a visual index. Today though we've added to the problem by putting up four more records of studio visits. The earliest are a few images of Julian Dashper taken in 1989. Julian was clowning around doing impressions of artist poses (we’ve already posted these on OTN) and finished up by posing as himself. About the same time the following year we were with Michael Smither who was painting a detailed self-portrait that you can see in its early stages. The Lillian Budd pics are from January 2000 and as per the wishes of the Estate Lillian Budd's image has been redacted. The most recent photos are from Glen Hayward’s studio in Wanganui. He is the current Tylee Cottage resident in Wanganui and that’s where these pics were taken.

Image: Glen Hayward in his Tylee Cottage Residence studio, October 2014


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When we were in Seoul...

...we were thinking about Kate Newby

Hit parade

These days you can’t visit a city in the world and not come across artist painted cows, giraffes, horses or (put your own animal name here).  In fact attach a charity and you can pretty much get artists to paint anything, Damien Hirst’s painted AK47 being a perfect example. At OTN though it takes more than a decorated assault rifle or a patterned cow to turn our heads. Ping Pong paddles on the other hand and we’re like Linda Blair in bed. With the help of a regular reader (thanks G) we can direct you to the site that offers enough painted ping pong paddles to last a lifetime. No, seriously, it’s a pleasure.

Images: top to bottom, left to right. Camille Walala, Daniel Frost, Bold and Noble, Al Murphy and Rosie Nicholas

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Broadcast news

The announcement of the new Te Papa boss by Te Papa hasn’t exactly set the media on fire. Scoop, always first, posted the Te Papa release almost at the moment the staff were hearing the news for themselves. There’s an editorial here from the Dominion Post of the might-work-might-not-work variety. The NZ Herald has ignored the whole thing, online anyway. TVNZ (who does have history with the guy) was one of the few media outlets to get some words from him. “We'll be moving away from the passive physical engagement of the past and looking to technology innovation”. On Twitter there’s only been about 20 tweets so far (mostly alpha-male hilarity) you can see a fair sample above. As for the other institutions most have re-tweeted the nice-to-have-you-on-board-Rick tweet from Te Papa.

If I were King of Timbuktu ....

Imagine for a moment you're Rick Ellis and you've just been made CE of Te Papa. Whoops. Just kidding. Get up off the floor. After our pretty successful attempt at guessing the kind of person who would be picked as Te Papa’s next CE let's look at his track record and take a stab at what he's likely to do.

Ask questions. Ellis will quickly discover there's a big difference between what Te Papa claims to be doing and what’s actually going on. Basically it’s a kid's museum with scholarly pretentions, so an easy model to change so long as he doesn't get lost in the current echo chamber. Asking real questions and expecting real answers at Te Papa? Brutal.

Focus. The current mantra "Changing hearts, changing minds, changing lives" would suit a neighborhood bookstore just as well as Te Papa. Expect Ellis to take up the challenge and shift scale. The 200 (+ however many) staff of Te Papa makes it a giant in the cultural arena but in media and tech it's a minnow. As he’s done in the past look to Ellis to focus on attracting bigger audiences in the right demographics, and with no advertisers to satisfy. Brilliant.

Bring in some friends to help. It's what professional CEs always do. If he's only got three years to sort things out he's going to need help fast from people he knows can deliver. The current staff spend their time tip-toeing round in what's being called a 'toxic' culture. Rick Ellis is known to be impatient when he's slowed down by anything (especially the incumbent culture slowing things down). Watch for the rapid departure of top-level staff.

Play the game he knows
. This is someone experienced in media production, communication and digital services. He'll see Te Papa as an under-utilised brand property with commercial potential as a digital platform. And why wouldn't he.

Play the game he knows Part II
. Ellis is a money guy. He's going to expect return on the building and the assets. He believes in the logic of the market. Conventional museum shows don't bring in big profits (especially when you take into account the costs) so what's a new CE to do? Branch out, that's what.

Learn from the Giant Squid. No big secret that Te Papa’s most popular events have all been based on the cabinet of curiosities principle. More, bigger, stranger stuff. Bring on the society of the spectacle. 

Franchise, partner, whatever.
Developing new stuff from the ground up takes too long and it's too expensive. The proposed movie museum and WETA are obvious targets for Ellis's media experience and connections. Peter Jackson’s skills can bring people and cash to Te Papa and Te Papa can put the Jackson story round the world with classy packaged exhibitions in premium venues. Born for each other. And Ellis will have many other friends in the entertainment culture industries to play with. He will be furious though about the mega Gallipoli exhibition being held in the old National Museum and Art Gallery and not on the waterfront at Te Papa. But what are the chances of the government changing NZ's remembrance date for him. Not high.

Go national. The drumbeat to serve the whole nation is sounding loud and clear. Sticking the lesser collections and a few classrooms in Manukau City was never going to do it. Talking digital and interactive isn't either but guess he'll figure out the ROI and problems with content soon enough.

Pull a rabbit out of the hat. Work out how to pay for a serious digital presence and not leave the current building as a run down brand-embarrassment? (see staff cuts below).

Cut staffing levels (duh) and move to part-timers for basic operational services. He's done it before. He definitely knows the way.

 Interrogate the scholarly staff and peer review their outputs. Move them out of the building, give them targets and genuine accountability. Threaten them with absorption into the tertiary sector as Plan B. Sorted.

Get all that pesky art stuff the hell out of the building.  There’s no money to be made on it and precious little thanks (Rick Ellis pauses, looks out his window at the old National Art Gallery building in the far distance .... hmmm … he thinks to himself .... maybe after that Gallipoli exhibition…..)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Careful what you wish for

"take dramatic steps forward"
“move its capabilities to a different level”
“require a shift in the culture of the organization”
“take Te Papa to a new level of performance and excellence”
“help strengthen a national treasure”
"extend beyond the walls of our buildings"
"make Te Papa available for everyone in New Zealand"

Media quotes from Te Papa in announcing its newly appointed CE Rick Ellis ex TVNZ and Telstra Media

The block

As the final major art auctions of the year approach there's been a rush to print by the two competing houses Webb’s and Art + Object.  Webb’s catalogue doubles up as a magazine with news from the art world and an aggressive PR piece on Milan Mrkusich. Surprisingly it's written by one of our academic art historians Professor Emeritus Michael Dunn. He's abandoned his usual tone of scholarly consideration to pump the “famous” Elements series and the “celebrated” Corner series and then claims that Mrkusich has “outlived most of his contemporaries and outpainted them as well.” Well, maybe.  The numbers show that Mrkusich’s work has not so far commanded the marketplace. Of the 53 of his works put up for auction in the last five years, over 50 percent failed to reach their lower estimates and were passed in on the night. Of course many of these were probably sold privately in the following days but we couldn't find a Mrkusich painting that had broken the $100,000 mark during those five years. Of the 53 only seven were bid above $50,000 and 10 went below $10,000.

Art + Object's catalogue is not out as we write this but the latest issue of the magazine Content has arrived and again it’s impressive. Mostly interview-based, it focuses on artists living overseas including the ubiquitous Simon Denny. And outlier Dunbar Sloane chose a minor Affordable Art auction to join the hipster art catalogue crowd. Using a close-up of a Dick Frizzell painting (do any of these artists get a case of wine for their promotional services?) the catalogue looks as snappy as the Auckland ones, until you open it anyway.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

One day in the old house on the hill

A: What’s that slithering sound?

B: I didn’t hear anything.

A: There it is again. It’s a kind of rustling

B: Oh, now I hear it. I think it’s getting closer.

A: Yes but what is it?

B: I’ll have a look (goes to the window)

A: Well?

B: It looks like a whole lot of women crawling up toward the house.

And that’s exactly what it was.

Images: American women do copycats of Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s world

Friday, November 07, 2014

The life artistic

“Wake up. Make love. Go for a walk along the beach. Pick up materials to make installations later. Have a yerba mate (tea) and a coffee and breakfast of feijoas. Put a record on. Work on the installation.”
Artist Samin Son tells the Dominion Post his perfect day

Killing you would be too easy, Mr. Bond

Who was the bright spark that added ‘Saving the planet’ to Te Papa’s key strategies? Headlining “Te Papa’s environmental impact” probably sounded good at the time but it’s a tough one to deliver on in the jump-on-a-plane world of today’s global museum culture. 

Take the James Bond exhibition Designing 007 that Te Papa has its eyes on. It opened at the Barbican in 2012 and since then has been whizzing round the globe (London-Toronto-Shanghai-Melbourne-Moscow) and recently (after 50,000 kilometres in the air) touched down in Rotterdam where it is currently on view. If Te Papa gives it the tick that means bringing the whole shebang back to the other side of the world again. Is the environmental impact even put on the table when programming decisions like this are made? Probably not or the Bond show would have been picked up after its stint in Melbourne.

At the moment Designing 007 is only being tested as an idea via an internet survey but why doesn't Te Papa take its saving the planet thing more public? The museum's carbon footprint is already measured to benchmark and understand its energy use but how about giving all touring shows an energy rating? That way when the public is consulted about whether an exhibition like Designing 007 appeals or not, we can factor in the real environmental cost for ourselves.

Image: Odd Job's hat, recently sold at auction for $99,000

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Do not disturb

There was a cartoon in the New Yorker many years ago with an artist and a collector looking at a large empty canvas. The collector was looking unimpressed and the artist was saying “It’s minimal at the moment but if you want maximal, no problem." Welcome to the world of the Art Hotel. The first question you might ask is how does anyone actually sleep in one of these super jazzed-up curated rooms? Art hotels have obviously decided that more is more and, if you can get even more in, that’s good too. There are at least six of them in Australia with some themed on one artist (be careful) and as we know one in Wellington run by ex Te Papa Board member Chris Parkin. Hotels have used art as a metaphor for cultivation and class forever but this new style? Definitely more Madonna Inn than The Ritz.

Images: top to bottom left to right, Semiramis Hotel in Athens, Byblos Art Hotel in Verona, San Francisco’s Hotel Des Arts, Au Vieux Panier Hotel of Marseille, the Fox Hotel in Copenhagen and Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel in Cape Town.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Going into one of the video installations... the Yokohama Triennale we were thinking about Andrew Beck

All dressed up and nowhere to go

Masterton used to be a place you went to see contemporary art, then it wasn’t and then it was again and then it wasn’t. So who'd expect to walk into Aratoi, Wairarapa’s Museum of Art and History, and find a major installation of formalist abstract painting? Milan Mrkusich's pursuit of what he calls ‘specific surface’ has occupied him for over 40 years and these three series of paintings from the nineties are shown here for the first time. That these painfully perfect abstract paintings, the sort of paintings that are destroyed by a single scuff mark, have finally made it onto the wall with everyone happy is amazing in itself.  

Anyone who knows the presentation standards demanded by Mrkusich and now executed by his son Lewis can only stand back in awe at a small regional museum taking on such a massive challenge. The gallery spaces have been remodeled and painted to within an inch of their lives. You can still feel Lewis Mrkusich pacing up and down, pointing out imperfections and obsessively checking measurements. In this case there was the added complication of making a tightly specified architectural space so that Mrkusich's paintings could be placed in the arrangement he had imagined. 

Sometimes elaborate installations like this are created as permanent sites, those out-of-the-way destinations of art pilgrimage that the rich and the obsessed trek to throughout the world. But here in NZ, on 31 January 2015, these works will be taken down, packed up and probably never again be seen as an entity outside these few months in the Wairarapa.

Image: Milan Mrkusich installation inspiring a new interest in formal abstraction

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Heavy lifting

" can artists, thinkers, writers… through images, objects, words, movement, actions, lyrics, and sound bring together publics in acts of looking, listening [and] responding to make sense of the current upheaval?”
Okwui Enwezor curator for the 56th Venice Biennale next year


A while back we made a list of who owned what in New Zealand art. Killeen owns cutouts, Pick owns dreams, Mrkusich owns corners, et al. owns grey, Harrison owns cats, that sort of thing. Now we would add to that list Maddie Leach owns water. This weekend we went up to look at the MA candidates’ submissions at Massey where Leach teaches and of the 10 or so presentations four featured water (including one massive moving image taking up the full wall of a large lecture hall). Then yesterday we received an invitation to a talk at Massey by German artist Rainer Junghanns with an image that is so close to Leach’s Walters Prize newspaper spread as to be uncanny. Well forget it Rainer. Maddie Leach owns water.

Images: top, Leach and bottom, Junghanns

Monday, November 03, 2014

The best art is business art

Business people pose in front of art. This time BNZ chief executive Anthony Healy in front of Gordon Walters' painting Makora

Charles the first

Has any artist ever been as kind to the media as C F Goldie? Over the last five years Stuff (the Fairfax media brand) has run around 34 stories on Goldie mostly in pairs of this-one-will-sell-for-a-lot-of-money followed by wow-we-were-right/wrong-this-one-did/didn’t-sell-for-a-lot-of-money. The rest of the story is usually an accumulating tale of sales from earlier Goldie stories ending with the mini-fact that the artist died in Remuera. That must have been a tough break.

Most of these stories are lightly rejigged media releases from the International Art Centre which is an Auckland-based dealer and auction company. Their director Richard Thomson who borders on being a PR genius really should get commission for the number of column inches he fills in a good year. Stuff's latest story is headed ‘Goldie fetches season high’ following a story a few days ago ‘Goldie paintings expected to fetch $1 million’. And for the record, they almost did. Of course these prices get big leg up from the hammer price via the buyers and sellers commissions that aren’t really reflected in the auction estimates.

For the record, over the last five years 56 Goldie paintings sold at auction. Thirty percent did not sell on the night, 13 were hammered down under the low estimate, three sold for a hammer price over $500,000 and seven for below $50,000. The rest mostly sell between $200,000 and 250,000.

Image: Goldie's for sale. Source for auction details: Artinfo

Saturday, November 01, 2014

It's Sandro about the Biennale

The Saturday movie clip for everyone who thinks that Biennale's are a bit of a laugh (not you Simon).