Friday, January 30, 2015


Follow the letters    Is the way museums are managed a matter of degree? The qualifications of the four who have so far taken on Te Papa certainly gave an intriguing guide as to what to expect.
Cheryll Sotheran: MA English and Art History
Seddon Bennington : PhD zoology
Michael Houlihan: BA History
Rick Ellis: BCom Econometrics

Teaching aids    The artist Tim Wright is the guy who sent two years teaching actor Timothy Spall to paint like JMW Turner. The results as you can see here were not encouraging. Wright’s teaching technique was to “include a study of the 'basics', before moving on to Turner's style”. Makes sense. You can see examples of Wright’s work here including his portrait of Spall.

Fruit and Flowers    This time next year Artsdiary will be five years old but why wait until then to heap on some anniversary praise? Aucklanders living more than 20K from K Road probably see only as many of the dealer gallery exhibitions as we do coming up now and then from Wellington. But thanks to Artsdiary (and EyeContact) the what-the-hell’s-going-on problem has all but vanished. And what’s not to like about the Been There section? The hats, the shoes, the weird way other people look at art.

Eagle shoot    How's this for feedback on an art work. “If one was given to a class of small children to copy they would in ten minutes produce a much more vital version of your feeble wishy washy colourless and formless mess.”
CherylBerstein tweets a letter sent to Allie Eagle in 1978.


Art in the age of etc. etc.    Hard to believe that Auckland’s Jar Space on New North Road has served as a drive-by art installation for eight years. Now on view is a painting machine and its product by Simon Ingram called Radio Painting Station. Check out this recent article on three art machines from the Globe and Mail. Oh, and the Three Laws of Robotics, in case things get out of hand.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Auckland Museum and the vanishing of Michael Parekowhai

You'd think, wouldn’t you, that a museum by its nature would be kind of committed to the keeping of history thing. So what’s going on with the Auckland Museum and Michael Parekowhai? And why is the Museum trying to remove all traces of the exhibition Pare Kawakawa by Parekowhai from its website?

Let’s back up a bit. Early December last year the Auckland Museum announced 'a new exhibition from renowned New Zealand artist Michael Parekowhai.' It was to open this year on 17 April in the Sainsbury Horrocks Gallery as part of the much touted First World War Centenary Programme. According to the media release Parekowhai had already been working with the museum for about a year so the project was well advanced. Auckland University was behind it and Creative NZ had put in $174,000 into the project via the WW100 co-commissioning fund [link 3 December]. Pare Kawakawa by Parekowhai was also lined up for an international tour.

So why has the Auckland Museum suddenly decided to make this exhibition disappear? A quick search for it on the Museum's site brings up a series of ‘Page not found’. Page not found is like telling someone you can’t find the cat when you’ve just drowned it in a sack. What they really mean is ‘Page removed' which is quite a different thing. More disturbingly the media release circulated on 11 December 2014 has been removed from the Auckland Museum media archive (aka the historical record). But welcome to the internet - you can read it here or here.

For a century New Zealanders have struggled to deal with the trauma of our involvement in WWI. It has been distorted, idealized and manipulated. Ironic then that the same history-bending games are now being played out via the commemoration of that very event. In one final twist, the Auckland Museum theme for the year’s programme that included the proposed Parekowhai exhibition is ‘Death of Innocence’.

Images: top, now you see him. Bottom, now you don’t

Friday, January 23, 2015


In passing.    Francis Upritchard is currently showing at the Hammer Museum in LA while her frequent co-exhibitor Martino Gamper has just completed some very superior window dressing for Prada in Milan. And in the better-late-than-never section good news for Sarah Farrar who has finally been officially acknowledged on the Te Papa website as Senior Curator Art (strangely she is at the bottom of the art section staff list, but that's what happens when you order things alphabetically by first name #weird). 

Ouch!     “A lot of New Zealand architecture is bland and oppressive, like Te Papa. Athfield's buildings were never like that. Think what could have happened if he and the genius Frank Gehry had been chosen to design the national museum instead of failing even to make the short list. We might have had a masterpiece; we would certainly have had a building that lived in controversy. Instead, we have a giant nonentity.” That was the Dom Post rather ungraciously using Ian Athfield’s death to stick one to Te Papa. At the other end of the spectrum the Dowse probably went an appreciation too far when it tweeted "The Dowse has grown in so many ways thanks to the genius of Ian Athfield & his team." Somewhat over the top given that Athfield's Dowse build was probably one of the most incoherent refits ever done on a NZ art museum. Wellington is holding a public memorial service for Athfield in Civic Square 3pm on Sunday 1 Feb and you can see a nice doco on the young experimental Athfield here.
Crowing.    Art writer and critic Thomas Crow famously declared, "A major contemporary of Rothko, Newman, Pollock, Twombly and Johns - an artist at their level of achievement - is in the midst of his first major touring exhibition. The artist is Colin McCahon, and, yes, he is that good." Word is that Crow is writing another book and, yes, it is on Colin McCahon.

China shop.    You can read how Giovanni Intra almost single-handedly invented cool in Chinatown. The second part of Joel Mesler’s drugs and drama account of the LA art scene and its general all round insanity is in the latest Art News. And soon a chance to see a great Intra Blue of moon at Michael Lett starting 28 Feb (OK, we confess, it's ours). 

Rick Ellis, note to self: “Check this guy out”.     Remember how long it took photography and video to be acknowledged as art? Make way - Virtual Reality coming through! Artist Ziv Schneider and his Museum of Stolen Art. More here.
Number graphics: Pippin Barr

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

His story

Te Papa Chief Executive Rick Ellis has been in the job for more than half of his first 100 days. But has there been anything in the mainstream media about how he's planning to fix (or in Te Papa Chair Evan Williams words 'transform') the troubled museum? Um ... no. Quick to have a go at the last CE when things went wrong, even the Dominion Post has been strangely silent. So if and when NZ's media does decide to put the new CE to the test, here’s 10 questions they might like to ask him. Not at all, it's our pleasure.

1. At each business you've led you've pushed through major organisational changes and you've done it fast. What more needs to change at Te Papa?

2. Your previous experience has been in growth sectors (TV, telecommunications, IT) with a lot of investment. What does that experience tell you about Te Papa's future with restricted growth and limited investment?

3. You've endorsed Te Papa's vision to change hearts, change minds and change lives. How do you think a museum can genuinely change lives?

4. The Chairman of Te Papa has also said said Te Papa needed 'a shift in the culture of the organisation.' Given that the organisation has just come out the other end of a radical restructure, what needs to change?

5.   The last CE was criticised for picking exhibitions people didn’t want to see. What kind of exhibitions do you have in mind that will be more successful?

6. You've talked about using digital to transform Te Papa. So far Te Papa's digital presence seems to be a standard museum website and traditional interactives. What are your priorities over 2015 to transform Te Papa with digital?

7.   You're known for insisting on expertise. Will the current curatorial staff be able to produce the sort of digital content you envisage or will you need to hire new specialist staff?

8.   When can we expect to see some effects of Te Papa's digital transformation?

9.   Can you name a couple of museums in the world that have adopted the kind of digital focus you are proposing for Te Papa?

10.   What percentage of Te Papa’s funding do you think should be raised by Te Papa? Currently it's 46 percent. Can you give some examples of projects that will increase Te Papa's non-government income?

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Ok, here’s what we’re going to do. From now on need-to-know news items will be on OTN’s Twitter feed (it also runs down the right column of OTN). We may add some more background on Facebook and if it needs it even more on OTN. Every Monday (starting on Tuesday 20 January) there will be an OTN post and on Friday an aggregated post of interesting stuff called ‘5 Things: for Friday.’ And then random things will happen depending on the weather but not on public holidays or Sundays unless….

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Back with you 20 January

Monday, January 12, 2015

Music to our ears

Game designer Pippin Barr has reached out to art again for his latest game Sound System I. You can play it here and if you find yourself wondering where the idea for this ready-made music came from read about it and see a vid clip of it at work here at Kill Screen

Friday, January 09, 2015

Art chart

Numbers of art works purchased by the Chartwell Trust and Te Papa over 12 months

Friday, January 02, 2015

In Wellington...

... thinking about OTN