Friday, November 20, 2015

King for a day

First, the fulsome praise bit. Potton and Burton has just published another of their high quality art books. This time round Peter Alsop and Warren Feeney have dealt to the Wellington commercial artist and painter Marcus King who was hard at work from the 1930s to the 1970s. As with the other books from P&B, it's a stylish presentation of the artist's work, the context in which it was produced and an extensive selection of photographs and well researched information. If you want to get a sense of how NZ's tourist industry was shaped or how the idea of New Zealandness was forwarded, this is the book for you. 

Moving on.

What's going on with Colin McCahon? It is an embarrassment to anyone seriously interested in New Zealand contemporary art that a formidable volume on Marcus King is available and the equivalent on Colin McCahon is…um…not. The McCahon record is dispersed over exhibition catalogues, Gordon Brown’s book Colin McCahon Artist (published 31 years ago with primitive reproductions), a scattering of slimmer volumes following individual interests, and an online catalogue database with deficiencies that we've written about before. The most substantial recent effort was Marja Bloem and Martin Browne's A question of faith produced over a decade ago and published by none other than Craig Potton (now Potton Burton) with the Stedelijk Museum. Producing the fundamental tool of a catalogue raisonnĂ© still seems to be beyond the ability or interests of NZ art institutions or academics, but even so, how about a serious publication delivering Colin McCahon on the same footing as Marcus King? Come on.