Monday, March 30, 2015


Most people from New Zealand and Australia will see that one of the key sources of Michael Parekowhai’s giant statue of James Cook, The English Channel, is a famous portrait by Nathaniel Dance. Joseph Banks commissioned the painting and Dance was given a couple of hours at Banks’s house to make some drawings of the man. The painting was made in May 1776, a few months before Cook sailed off to the Pacific for the last time. Parekowhai being Parekowhai, there are some personal layers to the work, including the revelation at the exhibition that Cook’s face is closely based on that of Parekowhai’s studio manager Ian Radford. Radford, like Cook, is an Englishman from the North, in his case from Manchester.

Many statues have been based on the Dance painting. It was regarded at the time as a good likeness of the famous Captain and most representations show him as a man of action. Parekowhai’s Cook, though, is more pensive and less certain of the path he has taken. This is not the first major sculpture Parekowhai has based on an existing painting. The indefinite article was inspired by Colin McCahon’s I Am (1954). Then, Parekowhai’s challenge was to New Zealand’s most important painter, but The English Channel seems more a meditation on what it might mean to dematerialize the man who kickstarted New Zealand’s British occupation.

One thing the English channel and its house totally demonstrates is that the lighthouse work proposed for Auckland's Queens wharf will not only be successful as an installation but also, looking at the first days visitors to The Promised Land, incredibly popular.

Images: top, Ian Radford with with Michael Parekowhai's The English Channel and bottom Cooks around the world

Saturday, March 28, 2015

By the numbers

Turns out in the US there are more museums (35,000) than Starbucks and McDonalds combined. More here

Friday, March 27, 2015

Landed as promised

You can see photographs of Michael Parekowhai's incredible exhibition at GOMA in Brisbane here on OTNFacebook

Show and tell

The survey exhibition that curator Maud Page and Michael Parekowhai have put together in Brisbane is extraordinary. And that’s just from a quick look during the last minute rush to get finished for the opening tonight. The space GOMA has dedicated to the show is immense. Parekowhai has got to be one of the few New Zealand (or Australian) artists who could manage both the scale and the volume of these cavernous spaces. He’s done it by carving out three large areas. The opening space is dominated by a full-scale, two-storey house (the original can be seen in Sandringham, Auckland) that shows off the most recent work in the exhibition - an oversized, stainless steel sculpture of Captain James Cook. Loosely based on the famous Nathaniel Dance painting, it traces a full circle for Parekowhai back to one of his first works, The Indefinite Article, which was a 3D version of Colin McCahon’s 1954 painting I am. The middle section of GOMA is marked off by a massive version of the Cuisenaire wall that featured in The far side exhibition at Michael Lett in 2011. Behind the wall is an idiosyncratic survey of Parekowhai’s work mixing up work from different periods in a series of domestically-sized rooms. And then it’s into a huge, almost empty space with the carved red piano He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: Story of a New Zealand river and an elaborate neon sign. We’ll be at the opening tonight and will post photos on Twitter and Facebook as soon as we can.

Image: catalogue for the exhibition Michael Parekowhai: The Promised Land at the Gallery of Modern Art at the Queensland Art Gallery and The English Channel a stainless steel sculpture of Captain Cook.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Art chart

From I love charts. Thanks:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Out with the old, in with the old

Has Rick Ellis got a vision for Te Papa? Not really. Listening to Radio NZ it’s sounds pretty much like less-business-than-usual plus digital. The big idea is to ‘refresh the fixed exhibitions’ so they'll last another 15 years which (as anyone who works at there knows) has been a big idea at Te Papa for about five years now. Has Ellis any idea about what those displays will be? No, there’s to be a 'consultation process' with ‘community groups’ who might well wonder why the highly-paid experts at Te Papa can’t work out what’s needed by themselves. To do all this he is going to ‘establish a senior leadership team’ oh, oh.

One fatality will be temporary exhibitions. They'll be 'suspended for three years', so goodbye to ‘we’re showing more art more of the time’ and Sarah Farrar’s on-again-off-again Art at the Boundaries exhibition. Talking about Te Papa’s interest in art, what’s the story about having a separate art gallery? Ellis's response: ‘Not something I’m focused on to take further.’ Even the chances for the 18-month old Te Papa North project sound blurry in Ellis-speak, 'We have a bid in for a new facility. That bid is going through the budget process.' 

As to upping the level of digital output Ellis made no mention of where significant extra costs for storage and staffing were going to come from, and hard to see how it can be achieved on current budgets and staff levels.

Don’t watch this space.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cutting is the new black

Following on the Govett-Brewster dumping its collection funding Christchurch Art Gallery is getting its collection fund cut to hell.

Art Chart

Monday, March 23, 2015


News the other day that Te Papa is thinking of joining in on the scramble by NZ's museums and art galleries to cobble together foundations and friends groups. They're all hoping, of course, to get fresh meat to cough up for exhibition costs, public programmes, and acquisitions. This sudden interest in rich-people-who-like-art is driven by the current government’s insistence on philanthropy as the new driver for cultural funding. Te Papa sees itself as something of an expert in this field publishing guidelines for others, but this expertise is resolutely focused on Government funds via the public sector. Corporate and private sponsorship get exactly 40 words in the 3200 word document. It feels like an absurd end game all these public servants making applications to each other for public funding but, moving on, Te Papa's longstanding indifference to expertise and collectors, could make finding passion partners with open wallets a stretch. Add in the growing disinterest of the corporate sector (just check out the scale of some of the enterprises trumpeted as major funders today) and the task feels even more epic.

Of course there have been some successes. Since it was set up in 1987, The Patrons of the Auckland Art Gallery has been responsible for some stunning acquisitions (it has given more than a million dollars according to the Gallery). Amongst others the Chartwell Trust and the Walters Prize have also both been spectacular partnering achievements, as was the gift of the New Gallery to the AAG in 1995 by Jenny and Alan Gibbs. When you observe how well connected the AAG is to these partners, it makes sense. Philanthropy is built on close association and respect between the institution and the givers as much as it is on a call to civic responsibility. There are always ups and downs in such relationships, but for most philanthropists it's not just about passively dishing out the dosh. They see it as a form of activism, of being engaged, having input, making a difference etc. And dealing with that sort of approach is going to demand a very different mindset for institutions.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Jono Rotman's photographs of Mongrel Mob members have just opened as an exhibition at Wellington's City Gallery. Key images from exhibition were originally shown at the Gow Langsford Gallery in Auckland April/May last year. That exhibition was instantly controversial when it was revealed that one of the portraits was of Shane Harrison who at the time was charged with the murder of  25 year old Sio Matalasi.

In the 29 April NZ Herald story Art or insult” Accused killer in show Anna Leask reported that Matalasi’s family were “disgusted his alleged killer will be "immortalised" in a photo exhibition at an upmarket Auckland art gallery.” Gow Langsford Gallery director Gary Langsford told Leask that it was gallery policy ‘not to censor an artist's work’ “

The same day the Sensible Sentencing Trust's Ruth Money waded into the argument over mob photos being shown publicly in TVNZ’s Mongrel mob’s faces used in art.

TVNZ’s Te Karere programme also broadcast a short item on the Gow Langsford opening that has so far attracted 39465 hits on Youtube

Dr Paul Moon, Professor of History at Auckland University of Technology wrote a considered piece the same day Portraits fall back on shock value questioning Rotman’s use of Mongrel Mob members as subject matter. “His emphasis on the lurid 'Other' no doubt has an appeal for some viewers, but at the same time, the echoes with 19th century propaganda art which aimed at denigrating Maori are deafeningly loud.”

Blogger Arthur Meek is in awe of Rotman approaching the Mongrel Mob and on his blog takes Dr Paul Moon to task for dissing Goldie in his Rotman commentary in his 30 April post I’ll have my art like I have my porridge.

6 May TVNZ’s Seven Sharp reports in Mongrel Mob photographer refuses to give in to grieving father’s plea that photographer Jono Rotman refused a personal request by Matalasi’s father to remove the photograph of Shane Pierre Harrison, during a weekend meeting between the two men.

In his 9 May review A sharp emotional response NZH art critic T J McNamara compares Rotman’s work with Gottfried Lindauer, “Rotman's photographs are certainly not picturesque. They emphasis conscious brutality yet in the same way as Lindauer they bear witness. They are a record, done brilliantly and are totally memorable images.”

On 12 May in its item Rotman exhibition Auckland University student paper Craccum posed a few questions with John Mutambu and Emma Jameson concluding, "Rotman’s images represent a real facet of New Zealand society whether we, as viewers, choose to voyeurise or vilify it.”

24 September Shane Pierre Harrison and Dillin Pakai were found guilty of murdering Sio Matalasi. The story was reported on the Stuff website in Double guilty verdit in Mongrel Mob murder trial. "Two gang members have been found guilty of murder after a confrontation between rival factions turned deadly."

The Rotman exhibition opened at Wellington’s City Gallery on 13 March. The Dominion Post in its story Killer’s portrait to hang in victim’s hometown indicated confusion between the gallery and the Matalasi family as to whether Shane Harrison's portrait should be shown. “Gallery director Elizabeth Caldwell said Matalasi's family understood the project and were supportive of it. But his father, Iafeta, said this week that many family members were unhappy Harrison's portrait would hang in the gallery. It would be "ideal" if Harrison's portrait were removed from the exhibition, though he accepted that would not happen. “

In Photographer brings Mob portraits exhibition to Wellington Stuff’s Diana Decker talked to photographer Jono Rotman who defends his use of mob members as subject matter. "I understood the potential for difficulties to come about because of the history and public perception of these guys. That was always understood. The work is not about specifics, not about who did what or what happened. "

In its online introduction to the exhibition the City Gallery claims it is presenting Rotman’s Mongrel Mob Portraits to raise “questions why we consider certain types of people suitable to hang on a gallery wall in a formal portrait.”

Meanwhile a stream on NZ’s reddit are engaing in a long discussion (153 comments at this time) around the Rotman photographs including contributions from commentators claiming to be gang members.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


The Ministry for Culture & Heritage and Creative New Zealand have just published An economic profile of the arts in New Zealand. They say it's a working paper. That could mean they're looking for feedback (although we didn't find a specific request) but there's not a lot to go on. The question is, does it work as a stimulus to ideas and discussion? There are so many disclaimers and excuses, it’s hard to see how.

Apart from a don't-blame-us-for-any-mistakes clause from MC&H and CNZ, how about these four game-breakers that kick the project off:

“Government support for the arts (both central and local government) is difficult to quantify, as there are multiple funding streams and it’s not always possible to identify funding for specific arts-related activities within the broader ranges of activities supported.” i.e. it's hard to identify arts funding.
“Because the research is limited to secondary data analysis (that is, the data wasn’t collected specifically for the purpose of this analysis), the data and the way in which it was collected were not the most ideal for this analysis.”

“Creative design activities such as graphic design and fashion design were excluded from the research, as most of the output of this type of activity involves mass commercial production.”

“Most of the data used in this research is drawn from Statistics New Zealand datasets and is reported according to their coding classifications for occupations and industries. 
Under that classification system a significant proportion of arts activities are not captured with sufficient detail to allow them to be readily identified and analysed.”

So, at the very least, buyer beware and probably best to wait for V 2.0

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The orange and the blue

Big Orange and Big Blue are back in the Australian courts. You may remember that art conservator, Mohamed Aman Siddique and art dealer Peter Stanley Gant have been charged with creating and selling fake Brett Whiteley paintings. Now the ‘facts’ are being presented to a Magistrate to see if the case has legs for a jury trial. Reporting on the suspect painting Orange Lavender Bay dated 1988 an expert found that ‘the paint does not behave like paint from 1988.’ But the accused are sticking with their they-may-be-fakes-but-they're-not-our-fakes story and that nothing puts them at the canvas face or prove they were involved in the production of the works. Updates as they come to hand.
Images: top Orange Lavender Bay and bottom Big Blue Lavender Bay being exhibited in court

18 March: magistrate has deferred a decision to 'a later date'.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Male call

Using some sort of statistical magic NZ On Screen Content Director Irene Gardiner has managed to select five 'great' documentaries that feature male New Zealand artists. #howdotheydoit? 

Later: 12 films about women artists in New Zealand (thanks A)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Somewhere over the rainbow

What’s going on with the Auckland Art Gallery and Michael Parekowhai? It's not about the collections. The AAG has 10 works in the collection and another 13 on loan from Chartwell and it usually includes his work in its permanent collection display (you would, wouldn’t you #popularwiththepublic) but for some reason the Gallery seems to struggle in its relationship with this significant, Auckland-based artist. Some examples:

Thanks but no thanks
   On 27 March the largest exhibition so far of Michael Parekowhai’s work will open to the public. It's a major survey with both new and earlier works putting the artist into perspective.  The weird thing? The Promised Land will open in Brisbane at the Queensland Art Gallery. Will it come to New Zealand or more specifically to the Auckland Art Gallery? No plans at this point. How is this even possible?

Full on Fiona Foley fury   In April last year the Auckland Art Gallery invited Australian indigenous artist Fiona Foley to speak at a symposium. The topic? The changing thinking around Māori art today. Known here for her very public (and well publicised) opposition to a large public commission Michael Parekowhai was given in Queensland, you might expect Parekowhai would have been invited. He wasn’t. And Foley, the only non-Maori of the five participants on her panel, predictably used the event to accuse Parekowhai of cultural theft.

No play  In 2011 Michael Parekowhai was NZ's representative at the Venice Biennale. It was there he exhibited the red carved piano He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river. It was purchased by Te Papa immediately and since then it has been on loan to NZ galleries and museums around the country. At the Christchurch Art Gallery, for example, large crowds came to a temporary venue in the city to hear it played. Its first showing in an Auckland public art institution was at Te Uru in Titirangi. It has never made it through the doors of the AAG.

The sorry State of things   August last year the NZ Herald gleefully went into art bashing mode when it got hold of leaked sketches for a proposed Parekowhai sculpture on Queen’s wharf in Auckland. It did tend to hide behind 'our' correspondents with headlines like Readers up in arms over "offensive, stupid" state house sculpture, etc but it kept the brouhaha going for a week or two. It was left to art patron Jenny Gibbs and Metro’s Anthony Byrt to wade in publicly (Why Michael Parekowhai’s State House Sculpture is Worth Celebrating) in defence of the work. The Auckland Art Gallery? Not a peep.

Rhana Devenport will be at Parekowhai's Brisbane opening later this month, presumably with some of her senior Auckland Art Gallery staff. Let's hope that at the top of her agenda is sorting out with Chris Saines, Director of the Queensland Art Gallery, what's required for a bringing The Promised Land home.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Match play

The indefatigable John Hurrell has written over 40 reviews on his site EyeContact over the last six months each around 600 words. Never short of a metaphor Hurrell has probably described thousands of works since EC began. Here’s a few of them and here are the artists whose work they refer to: Jim Allen, Stephen Bambury, Joyce Campbell, James Cousins, Andrew Drummond, Selina Foote, Richard Killeen, Patrick Lundberg, John Nixon, Daniel Malone, Judy Millar, Seung Yul Oh, Jeena Shin. Match them up. Answers here.

 “a rainbowlike hippie sweetness”

 “serious and urgent themes”

 “muscularly textured but nuanced sheen”

 “pleasurable little columns”

 “a tortured ambivalence”

 “ubiquitous rawness“

 “an airy celebration of natural light”

 “cavernous space and descending fluttering leaves or birds”

 “an unnerving quality about their more optically ‘stable’ peek-a-boo laminations”

 “viewing and thinking benefits”

 “repeated configurations, total gestalt, contrasting alignments, and patterns in linear or spatial configurations”

 “unpredictable topographical clusters of linked up lines”

 “barely restrained anger and vibrant immediacy”

 “sumptuous richness” and “velvety colour”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

If you build it they might not come

“As early as 1996, Nicholas Serota framed ‘the dilemma of museums of modern art’ as a stark option, ‘experience or interpretation’, which might be rephrased as entertainment on the one side and aesthetic contemplation and/or historical understanding on the other. Nearly twenty years later, however, we needn’t be stymied by this either/or. Spectacle is here to stay, at least as long as capitalism is, and museums are part of it; that’s a given, but for that very reason it shouldn’t be a goal.”

In The London Review of Books Hal Foster looks at the new art museums  and wonders what the hell are they trying to do? Image: Rome’s Maxxi by Zaha Hadid

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spare the rod

Most art copycats attempt to slip under the that’s-not-your-idea-stop-it-or-pay-for-it wall and hope that their copy will be mistaken for a ‘version’, or even better a clever twist, on the original. That’s not for Jan of Otago whose house is featured in the latest Resene magazine, Habitat. 'Colour loving' Jan woke up one day to the realization that her house was 'not her’. What to do? What Jan did was to let her daughter Fiona have a go at brightening up the bathroom. The result? A triumph of 'unexpected colours”. Well unexpected if you haven’t seen one of Michael Parekowhai’s Cuisenaire sculptures that is. Checking out the art on other walls of Jan's house that seems kind of unlikely.

Ok, as someone once said, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and would you believe it that someone was a famous eighteenth century art collector Charles Caleb Colton. But there’s copying and copying. Right? Interestingly enough, Cuisenaire rods themseves are part of a case that is often quoted in copyright case law when trying to decide what is and what isn’t able to be copyrighted as art. In 1963 an Australian case, Cuisenaire vs Reed, decided that the main object of production had to be creating something that even if it was utilitarian was basically designed to appeal to the aesthetic tastes of the people who look at it. We’re drifting here. Should Jan send a cheque to MP for artistic services rendered? Probably. Flowers, chocolate, and champagne? Definitely. 
Images: top Michael Parekowhai's work The Far Side at Michael Lett and bottom Jan and Fiona brighten up the bathroom

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rembrandt with Smylex

OK it’s click-bait, but worth1000’s competition Superhero ModRen brought up some pretty funny entries, if you have a relaxed view on mashing up great art and comic characters. Heath Ledger's Joker dislodging Rembrandt’s self portrait is certainly chilling enough to think that something is going on here beyond cheap shots.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Hit and Ron

What were Webb’s up to? Three o’clock last Thursday afternoon the Parnell-based auction house sent an email to all its clients. “The law has changed for buying and selling at auction,” Webb’s announced. “On 17th June 2014, changes to the Fair Trading Act and Consumer Guarantees Act relating to auctions came into effect.” Was this some kind of educational campaign? Not really. The law changed over six months ago and the email gave no clue to what the changes were although there was a link to the Commerce Commission. If you bothered to chase that up (and had some idea of what you were looking for) you could find the relevant section around 1,000 words into the summary.

Auctioneers are now required to clearly identify when a bid is on behalf of the vendor (as is common practice up to the reserve). They also have to declare any ownership or financial interest the auction house has in works for sale. You can read the official version here.

If Webb’s was really aiming at educating the masses you have to ask why it didn’t put the info into the email? Of course what they were really aiming at was Art + Object. The rival house was only three hours away from starting its highly publicised Ron Sang auction when the helpful email hit laptops and phones. As it happened Webb’s educational efforts were unnecessary. The bidding was so fierce vendor bids never got a look-in and all the lots were clearly owned by Ron Sang. And so it goes.

Image: around 300 people pack the Ron Sang auction at A+O

Saturday, March 07, 2015

A wetting

The NZ Herald wets itself with glee as discovers more bad news for the Parekowhai sculpture.
Image: the site for the Parekowhai work

Friday, March 06, 2015


First up: to hell with ‘Five things for Friday’  We did say we'd try it out and we did and we don’t like it and reading through the piles of mail that have come since starting it, one of you doesn't like it either. So here’s what we’re going to do. Once a week, probably Monday, we'll do a longer piece and for the rest of the week post stuff as it comes. If there’s nothing there’s nothing if there’s lots there's… you get the idea. If we see it and think it’s interesting we’ll put it up on OTN and let you know about it via FB and Twitter. So good luck with that.

Heirs   Most visitors to the McCahon House in Titirangi (you should go if you haven’t, it’s kind of amazing) come away with the same story, ‘Did you see that room where the McCahon kids had to sleep under the house?’ The three-walled bays with bunks for the kids to sleep in were constructed under the house in the mid-1950s although they also had their own separate bedroom from around 1958. The bunkroom with one wall open to the elements and bugs may feel harsh today but anyone who grew up in the fifties will know about parents obsessing over fresh air. ‘Go outside and play’ was the mantra (some personal bitterness creeping in here, perhaps?). From the forties government Health Camps were scattered around the county all designed to fill little lungs with life affirming oxygen. It was a thing of the times and as the McCahon bunkroom was probably only used over summer (and just for a couple of years) it was maybe not so harsh after all. After all, in places like Stockholm, parents leave their babies outside in their prams in -5C (23F) temperatures. Harden up NZ. 

The Doctor will paint you in a moment “The professionalization of art production – congruent with specialization in other postcapitalist industries – has meant that the only art that will ever reach the market now is art that’s produced by graduates of art schools.”  Chris Kraus in Akademie X: Lessons in Art + Life.

Dream job   Ambitious curators in New Zealand will be all aflutter with the news that Juliana Engberg has resigned as the Artistic Director at ACCA in Melbourne. She is off to Denmark after 13 years in the famous rust-coloured building.  Engberg has been a good friend to New Zealand artists over the years although, curiously, picked just one, Shannon Te Ao, for her 2014 Sydney Biennale. ACCA is a big prize for any curator with Engberg leaving behind a reputation for smart shows and attitude. While Melbourne’s not an easy ride for outsiders (as Rodney Wilson found out when he did his year as Director of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1988) it would definitely be worth a try and might look attractive to curators who have already worked in Australia.

Heads up    When we were in Brisbane last year we saw Michael Parekowhai’s sculpture As the world turns for the first time in its final location. The last time we'd seen it was as it was being craned up through the roof of the foundry in Auckland (it was too big to go through the door). The sculpture is of an elephant standing on its head so it was cute to see in one of the museum shops a shelf of toy animals which someone had playfully turned into a copy cat.

Thursday, March 05, 2015


The NZH property section sneak into the artist studio business with Reuben Paterson. Well, in fairness it is via NZ House & Garden who have been there before.
Image: Reuben Paterson's studio

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Proposed New Plymouth Plaza pulled

The NP City Council has thrown out John Matthews plan for a plaza to protect and enhance the Len Lye facade. Now the previous mayor Peter Tennent has jumped in to call for its reinstatement. One interesting quote from the Council meeting goes to the Len Lye Centre architect who when asked if the mirror surface would go dull replied rather unhelpfully that "the panels would dull down over a long period of time, especially if the council did not clean them." OK.
Image: The Matthews' Petterson Plaza proposal

Film fun

Two great (and hard to see up to now) short films by Alison Maclean now available on Vimo. The Professor and Intolerable.What a treat. McLean is of course ex Elam and the director of Jesus' Son the first outing for Jack Black.
Image: still from The Proffesor

Monday, March 02, 2015

Donkey work

The International Art Centre in Auckland is putting ‘Simpson’s donkey’ on the block later next month. The painting by ‘New Zealand’ artist Horace Moore-Jones (he was born in England, lived in NZ for a few years before training as an artist in Sydney and then going back to Britain, but did live his last five years in NZ) is not actually of Simpson (an English ‘Australian’) or of Simpson’s donkey (most likely Greek) for that matter.  The image is of New Zealand born and bred Richard Henderson who also used a donkey (possibly before Simpson) to rescue Gallipoli soldiers. Moore-Jones's most famous version of the subject was painted in Dunedin from a photograph that he believed to be of Simpson (there is a print in the Turnbull Library) and the IAC one would have been painted later again. In fact there are about six versions of the painting. 

The IAC version last came up for auction six years ago at Webb’s and was knocked down for $110,000. This time round the IAC are expecting to get  $200,000 no doubt helped by the Government’s WWI celebration frenzy. So will this same Government buy the work? Probably not. The last time they were offered work by Horace Moore-Jones was in the 1920s and it was all his Gallipoli watercolours for  £1,500. They said “no thanks” so you have see them at the Australian War Memorial Museum in Canberra.

Images: top, the Moore-Jones on sale at the International Art Centre. Bottom left, the photograph of Richard Henderson with his donkey and right, a print struck from the original watercolour.