Tuesday, November 29, 2016

One day in OTN’s PR/Marketing Department

Marketing CEO: You have to say it, OTN is incredible.

PR Manager: OTN is incredible and soooooo interesting.

MCEO: Yes, our 15,327 readers do get the very best of the best.

PRM: Funny. Engaging. Topical. Fearless. Intuitive. Cute… too cute sometimes.

MCEO: And to think that today is exactly OTN’s 10th birthday.

PRM: Yes, 10 years of funny, engaging, topical, fearless, intuitive and cute stuff from OTN direct to its readers.

MCEO: We need to do something to celebrate.

PRM: Something big.

OTN Director 1: Wow, 10 years old eh.

OTN Director 2: Time to shut it down.

And that is what they did.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Men at work

‘Oh what a night’ crows the header for the latest Arts Foundation newsletter. Apparently it was not only ‘rich with art’, but also ‘full of insight’ and ‘sharing’, ‘hilarious’ and generally ‘wonderful’ (five times). The cash went to Taika, Peter, Lyell, Dylan and Eleanor. That’s right, for the seventh time in its 17-year history only one woman got a look in. Still that’s better than 2006 where it was guys all the way.  Just twice in its history has the Foundation ever given a majority (three of five) of its Laureate Awards to women and that was back in 2007 and 2011 so it wasn’t a trend. All up, male Laureates make up 70 percent of the total. As for the rather pompously named art ‘icons’, under a third of the 33 so far named are women.  And it’s not just that these proud self-congratulators believe women aren’t up to Laureate and Icon standards. In an art world administration dominated by women the Arts Foundation has men occupying 80 percent of their Trustee positions and 63 percent of their Governors.

Sure it’s great they spread some money around the arts, and sure it’s nice they have swish evening events to spread it, but as they haven’t learnt in 17 years that women play a decisive role in the arts in this country, they need to have a good look at their foundations.

COMMENT 28/11/16 I’ve just done a quick tot up of the marketing managers at art institutions. Of 31 institutions, four have male marketing managers – about 12%. I count museums like Te Manawa and Auckland Museum as they regularly have art exhibitions. I didn’t count the partially CNZ funded art spaces like Enjoy, Blue Oyster, Artspace...all of which have women in marketing roles. (Thanks C)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Trump’s hand-me-down

One artist who’ll be expecting big things from the Trump Presidency is Ralph Wolfe Cowan, the über US celebrity painter.  Cowan’s work is a mash of 1950s kid’s book illustration and the heroic poses of classic Soviet portraiture. Nowhere is this style more evident than in his 2011 portrait of Steve Wynn, the Picasso-prodding casino mogul, with his then-wife Elaine. Cowan is also court painter to the Trumps. His 1987 painting of the President elect won some notoriety when Donald Trump discovered that the left hand had not been completed and had to fork up another $2,000 on top of the $24,000 commission price to get it done. Cowan has also done a painting of the Trump kids but, so far, no Trump wives. His Trump portrait is currently hanging at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. You can see Cowan talking here about Trump commissioning the painting. The only art Trump has mentioned so far as President Elect is his intention to put a Jacob Epstein bust of Churchill into the Oval Office.

Images: Top, Wolfe Cowan’s portrait of Steve Wynn and his wife Elaine. Middle left, Wolfe’s Trump and right, Donny Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and Tiffany. Bottom, Jacob Epstein bust of Churchill with an unidentified admirer

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A is for animal…and art

When we first entered the world of animals making art it was via Ronnie van Hout. He not only had a healthy respect for animal artists but went so far as to put himself in their place. So for the last ten or so years , OTN has relentlessly reported on new trends in this amazing and distinctive world. No pun was too terrible and no animal was excluded. We covered flies, maggots, chimps, horses and cats. If it made art and it was an animal, it was in.

Our readers responded by sending in ideas for new animal art stories but because many of them did seem to be rather confused about the very idea of animal creativity, six years ago we set some rules around what we would cover. 

1.    Sock puppets cannot be animal artists or, in the case of elephants, part of an animal artist. Animal artists cannot be stuffed or mechanical.

2.    Animal artists cannot be ridden or physically controlled by a human being. The result of riding an inked-up horse over a canvas is about as animal art as a bicycle tire print. The same goes for something like a couple of guys holding up a seal with paint on its nose and using it like a pencil.

3.    Human beings holding up canvases for animal artists to work on is marginal and if the canvas is moved by the human it is not animal art it is human assisted animal art, a category we try not to cover.

4.    Human beings wearing animal costumes, no matter how convincing, are not animal artists.

5.    The jury is still out on zoo animals as artists.

6.    Children, no matter how talented, are not animal artists while ironically, flies are.

Looking at recent submissions it has to be said no one even glanced through those rules. If you are a regular reader you will know that we have threatened (and then feebly reneged when another great animal art story came our way) on never doing another post about animals making art. No more Woma the painting snake and Zeppy the creative cockatoo. Sad, but this time, true.

The best of OTN animals making art 

Paw relations 
Chimp can chimp do 
Horsing around 
Monkey photography 
Bacon…the pig 
Brent the painting chimp 
Chooks paint 
Chimp champ 
Camera cat 
Squirrel goes nuts on art 
Pony painting 
Maggots make art (seriously)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


The American artist Chuck Close once said, ‘Inspiration is for amateurs –the rest of us just show up and get to work’. For most artists that work is still done in a studio. A couple of weeks ago we got to visit three of them and also watch Kate Newby set up her latest exhibition in Auckland.  So here you go. et al.’s Henderson studio during preparation for an installation at the Govett-Brewster, Dan Arps in his studio in West Auckland and John Parker’s first firing after his survey exhibition at Te Uru.

Last word on studios to Philip Guston, ‘I go to the studio everyday because one day I may go and the Angel will be there. What if I don't go and the Angel comes?’

Image: Dan Arps, studio chair

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Art at work

TV was finally broadcasting seven nights a week, Ray Columbus & The Invaders' Till we Kissed won the Loxene Golden Disc Award, New Zealand joined the Americans in Vietnam and TEAL changed its name to Air New Zealand. In Wellington, 1965 was also the year that the ICI building, designed four years previously, was constructed as the first glass curtain wall building in the city. Modern plus. Perhaps as a sweetener for allowing the building to exceed the height limit of 25.6m by nearly 40 percent, Jim Allen was commissioned to create a mural for the foyer. The installed work is three abutting concrete panels, each around 7 x 3 meters. It’s acknowledged as the first of Allen’s publicly commissioned works, although his well-known Christ figure in John Scott’s Futuna Chapel was completed four years earlier. Thanks to the recent shake in Wellington, ICI House (now known as Deloitte) is to be demolished as soon as possible. Wellington City Council has offered its best efforts to save the mural although a recent statement noted that, 'the dangerous condition of the site means no one will be allowed to enter the building before demolition starts'.

Sources: Arch Centre and Scoop

Monday, November 21, 2016

Vote damn you

Unless it’s a statue of a sporting hero or retired politician, putting large sculptures into a public space has always been a high-risk. Usually the fuss is geared up by the media prodding readers to make an extreme response so they can report it back as news. Perfect storm. Even better new tech tools enable editors to come up with ‘surveys’ to check the racing pulse of the public sculpture loving public. Loosely worded and structured these often set out to net naysaying.

So nice to see that New Plymouth rallied to the idea of yet more Len Lyes in their backyard. When the first Wind wand was erected many New Plymouthites responded by sticking up their own versions in a gesture that was part cheek, part my-kid-could-do it. This time a cluster of half a dozen mini-me Wind wands was put to the test in a poll of just over 1,000 people by the local newspaper. Forty percent were positive about this specific project, another 18 percent were positive about public sculpture in general and neutral about the project, and another 10 percent neutral to positive. Just 32 percent were strongly opposed. Given that two out of the four voting categories (‘ I like it’ and ‘It’s ok’) were tilted with negative overtones (‘but I’d like to see something different’ and ‘or I don’t really care too much’) that would have to be a pass. Please feel free to move around the cabin.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

Spaced out

OK, the ‘news’ is that Te Papa is developing a new space down on level 4. Given that this is Te Papa’s third run at defining space for its art division it feels as though it is still struggling to tell what it calls ‘the story of art’. This round is not exactly a ‘bold’ move but it does seem that at last Te Papa has recognised that art is a relatively cheap way to fill new exhibition spaces and generate new content. The words ‘experiences’ and ‘immersive’ were used too often for comfort, but let’s hope that that was an effort to be on trend rather than a realistic aspiration.

The downstairs space will have eight meter walls (about the same as the current fifth floor gallery) and about 35 percent more space will be added.  The new space will be 860 square meters – a comparison for those who know it - the old Michael Lett space on Great North Road was around 650 square meters). There’ll also be a new staircase to the galleries on floor five. The budget for all of this is $6 million and it will be launched in December 2017.

So what is the ‘new direction’? There isn’t one really, but art has been given priority in the overdue ‘renewal’ of Te Papa. Maori and Pacific art will get increased attention and more collecting resources. Given the $million plus paid for Michael Parekowhai’s piano and the inevitable investment in Lisa Reihana post-Venice, you’d think that this idea was already well in play.  There was some talk of NZ art being given a global focus but we’re not quite sure yet what that means. Talk of collection exhibitions and even curated exhibitions Oh, and women. Te Papa will fill gaps etc and foreground women’s art. Ironically the mock-up of the new gallery features three giant guy works with Gretchen Albrecht and maybe behind the piano an small Ani O’Neill standing in for women.

So a PR exercise really demanding the usual Te Papa wait-and-see. Still at least there is an acknowledgement that art has the potential to attract audiences in its own right. But we kind of knew that already. 

Image: Warren and Mahoney sketch plan for the new gallery space

Way to go

This morning we’ll be at Te Papa bright and early to hear how it proposes to achieve ‘A bold new direction’ for art. We’ve already posted that it probably involves shifting the art down from the fifth floor but let’s hope it also includes news of a long overdue exhibition programme. To be anywhere close to ‘bold’ Te Papa will have to offer more than its current output of collection theme shows, housekeeping for most art museums. The last large scale curated Te Papa exhibition we can recall was Rita Angus and that was eight years ago (ok they did a Brian Brake show seven years ago but you know what we mean). We’ll live tweet the event and post more fully on what went on later in the morning.

You can see the list of Te Papa’s past exhibitions here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Free stuff

Here at the OTN Educational Foundation we are always on the search for innovative ways to advance the science of art. Over the years the OTNEF has achieved remarkable results through its research programmes. We are now delighted to announce the latest topic in our PhD4U® scheme.  The lucky MA student who chooses to take it up will find the award to be absolutely free, with any financial profits subject to the usual commissions.

The 2016 PhD4U® Award topic: Have you ever noticed how cartoonists portray art? It’s kind of cool. For paintings they often just used squiggly lines but sculptures nearly always have holes in them. Looking at our database of 15 examples (many of them illustrated above) it appears the key artist drivers are Picasso, Kandinsky and Hepworth. As with most brilliant observations, however, there is probably more to it. This PhD-ready-idea is now on offer to the first lucky student to apply. Go get 'em.

Images: top. Paintings. Bottom, sculptures

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A horse in striped pajamas

When Picasso famously said, 'It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child’, he obviously didn’t mean doing things that looked like kids had made them but rather retaining the uncluttered freshness of childhood’s vision. But what if you could do both? That’s obviously what Dom’s father thought when he decided to Photoshop 3D versions of his son’s drawings. Go here to see more of these brilliant reversals.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Marti Friedlander 1928-2016

It was a shock to hear that Marti Friedlander has died aged 88. It was a shock not just because such an important contributor to our visual culture has gone, but to see her age on the screen. Anyone who knew her automatically had her age wiped clean by the force of energy that was Marti. So curious, so hospitable, so engaged with the now. Our first meeting was at publisher Alister Taylor’s house in Martinborough. Alister had suggested to Marti that he should publish the photographs she had been taking of artists in their studios. We’re not sure how we lucked into it as a project, but we became the writers and for two years we followed in Marti’s tracks and interviewed the artists she had recorded. On a couple of occasions we even got to see her at work: all waving arms, insistent charm and that gravelly laughter that put people at ease as she snuck in her shots.  If there was one word you could pin to Marti it was irrepressible and when you put a camera in the hands of irrepressible you get the shots others miss as they pack up their gear. Turning the pages of Contemporary New Zealand painters, the book we worked on together, you can see in every image Marti’s utter conviction about the place of artists. She thought they were cultural heroes. Takes one to know one.

Image: Marti's portrait of Allen Maddox in Contemporary New Zealand painters. Allen refused to let us publish our piece on him so Marti's photos were his only record in the book.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The truth is out there

We were in Auckland – the place desired by a surprising number of people given where it is – last week. The city may be the worst in the country when it comes to picking a new slogan, but it sure knows how to present contemporary art. Two of the best shows we saw both featured artists who live off shore and who have both chosen the United States as their new location. Strangely, both of them have also chosen to show all or part of their exhibitions off-site from their dealer gallery spaces (Hopmoss and Letts). It gets spookier. Both Fiona Connor and Kate Newby (yes, they’re both women too) are also featuring the commercial brick making industry as a central theme.

Images: top and bottom left ,Fiona Connor at her Hopkinson Mossman exhibition and top and bottom right Kate Newby's at Michael Lett

Friday, November 11, 2016

Window shopping

One thing the couple having  sex pressed up against the window of a cheap London hotel probably didn’t think of at the time was how much they looked like a Francis Bacon painting. As he American artist Ad Reinhardt said, ‘Art is art, everything else is everything else.’
Images: left window undressing in London and right Francis Bacon's Study from the human body in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria 

Thursday, November 10, 2016


The arts won’t be big on the horizon of the newly elected President of the United States. Trump hasn’t had much to say on the arts throughout his campaign for the White House and no policies by Donald Trump on Arts & Culture have been documented. As a committed low brow, one of Trump’s most famous engagements with the arts concerned his own image when he purchased a portrait of himself, possibly with money from his own charitable foundation.

One of Trump’s few public statements on the visual arts was made during the fuss over the exhibition Sensation: young British artists from the Saatchi collection when it was shown in 1999 at the Brooklyn Museum. The then mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani objected to The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili and attempted to close the exhibition down. Trump came out in support claiming, ‘It's not art. It's absolutely gross, degenerate stuff. It shouldn't be funded by government.’ While he conceded there were First Amendment difficulties with such an approach he felt they could be solved by having work of this sort exhibited in private museums. If he were President, Trump told reporters, he would cut federal funds for ‘offensive or obscene art and … ensure that the National Endowment of the Arts stops funding of this sort.’

The final art connection belongs to Trump, ‘I do what I do out of pure enjoyment. Hopefully, nobody does it better. There’s a beauty to making a great deal. It’s my canvas. And I like painting it.’

Image: Havi Schanz’s painting of Donald Trump

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Some words on mountains

One indication that distance still looks our way is the brazen theft of ideas from international artists. The latest in a long line of nz exploiters is Dulux taking Ed Ruscha for a walk around the city. Here are a few other OTN posts featuring global artists being ‘homaged’ by ad agencies and designers:

Ruscha (again)

…and in the New Zealand division:

Parekowhai (not really, but a big OTN favourite copycat)

Images: left Dulux advertisement and right Ed Ruscha Wall rockets

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Move, move, move

Te Papa has always been bad for art. From the early days of Ian Wedde’s curation when art was used as back-fill to illustrate ‘our stories’ to now when it’s just the permanent collection sliced and diced into endless theme shows, art has always been filed under T for tiresome obligation.  Up on the fifth floor, out of the way (retailers talk of a 30 percent drop in customers with each floor up), it’s been a sorry fall from grace since Te Papa took control of the National Art Gallery.

So when word gets out that art is to be moved down a couple floors, it’s got to be a good thing, right? Maybe. It will certainly be good to get it out of the low-slung area that was originally designed as a library and the long promenade that was initially pegged for functions, but let’s not get too excited. It will still be a move to another repurposed space and Te Papa’s art problems are more about differentiating the audiences it wants and figuring out how to engage them over the long-term. 

Still, as they said when Te Papa was being built, ‘you have to give it a chance’.  (#yeahthatworked). So in the spirit of here's-hoping, let’s see if a recent invitation to ‘arts stakeholders’ to hear about a ‘bold new direction for the arts at Te Papa’ on 18 November is going to be about more than just the art going down. We'll let you know.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Why can’t Wellington City Council get it up?

What’s going on in Wellington?  A year ago Neil Dawson’s suspended sculpture Ferns was taken down for repair after almost 20 years hanging above Civic Square. It now needs to be replaced at a cost of $210,000. Not a surprising outcome given Wellington’s infamously challenging environment for outdoor sculpture. Ferns was basically a gift to the city via the Wellington Sculpture Trust and a wide range of other sponsors.  The Council’s job was to to keep it in the air. 

So having relentlessly used Ferns as a City Icon and PR tool since day one why is the City Council sitting back as a $55,000 begging bowl approach via Boosted is deployed to help with the replacement? The public, the corps and the philanthropists did the fund raising the first time. This time it’s the Council’s turn. They are the ones who have converted this artwork into a symbol for the city and blatantly used it as a city logo. Had they asked an ad agency to come up with a campaign to do a similar job $210,000 would be getting off cheap (Te Papa’s thumbprint cost around that 20 years ago). Budget line? Marketing.

Friday, November 04, 2016

One day in the Rugby Seven’s board room

Chair: We need to do something if we are going to keep this show in Wellington.

Secretary: Last year’s attendance numbers are a bit grim

C: that’s like saying losing Ritchie is annoying

M: We need to work out the primary drivers. What would make a guy come to the Sevens?

S: That’s easy, it’s the primo opportunity to dress up as a woman.

C: Or a police officer, we had lots of police officers

S: I think most of them are women

M: So we’re talking gender bending, the old switcheroo

C: Don’t remember any Roos…couldn’t have been though (he drifts off)

M: Ok then let’s turn the publicity on its head. What’s the most opposite thing ever to rugby?

S: Minuets? MENSA? Chess? Art?

M: ART! That’s it, that’s perfect. Let’s go with art

S: What sort of art?

M: Something that no rugby enthusiast would have ever thought of, something really obscure

S: Like late period de Kooning for instance?

M: What’s that.

S: Paintings the American artist did when he was in the throws of dementia

M: Would rugby people know about them

S: Doubt it.

M: Then let’s go with D. Crooming then

And that is what they did.

Images: bottom, de Kooning

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Art in the movies: Doctor Strange

As we’ve seen over the years there’s a lot of art mixed into the movie business. Copycat Rothkos, Picassos, endless Davids and art collections as backdrop but here’s a twist. The latest Marvel Comics universe pic Doctor Strange has reached into a by-way of contemporary video performance. Art enthusiast Tilda Swinton is surely aware of (if not indeed best friends with) Ed Atkins and her performance in Dr. S as ‘The Ancient One’ is straight out of Atkins’s playbook. Eyes darting, teeth flashing, forehead rippling, bald-headed Swinton brings performance art to the big screen. Nice job.

Images: top to bottom left to right, Swinton, Atkins, Atkins, Swinton, Swinton, Atkins

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Head count

When it comes to public sculpture decapitation tends to go with the territory. For instance here in NZ we’ve had a few examples including Sir George Grey beheaded in ransom for Treaty grievances in 1987. And it’s not just a secular phenomenon, evidenced by a recent smash and grab in Canada that took away the head of the baby Jesus. Although this wasn’t the first time the kid had got it in the neck, it did inspire one of the parishioners to take action. Like Spain’s Cecilia Giménez who famously tuned up a fading fresco of Christ with her own improvements (aka Beast Jesus), Heather Wise got a lump of clay and knocked up her version of BJ and stuck it where a head needs to go. OK it was a terracotta rather than marble but the thought was there. As Father Lajeunesse said in an attempt to calm upset church-goers, ‘It’s a first try’.

Images: left, sculpture by Heather Wise and right, painting by Cecilia Giménez

OTN Beast Jesus stories
Halloween Beast
Digital Beast

Tuesday, November 01, 2016


For New Zealand’s size there have been some pretty substantial philanthropic contributions made to contemporary art. Some obvious starters: Charles Brasch, Jenny Gibbs, Alan Gibbs, Robin and Erika Congreve, Denis and Verna Adam, James Wallace and, top of mind today, Fiona Campbell. Later today A+O will auction most of the works Campbell and her team toured to schools over the last ten years. 

Who’d have thought that Trade Me would have ended up sending contemporary art to school kids around the country. Thanks to a windfall from the sale of the online market place, and after asking herself ‘what the hell am I going to do with all this wealth?',  Fiona Campbell decided to deck out two trucks, fill them with contemporary NZ art and drive them round the country.

It wasn’t cheap. The total enterprise cost around $7.2 million. That represents an investment of $33 a head for each of the 216,611 students who got to look inside the trucks on the 708 school journey. The art was a mixed bag. Campbell has had two constant advisors - artist Rob McLeod, ‘who pretty much hates everything’, and curator Gerald Barnett, ‘who pretty much loves everything’. Presumably Fiona Campbell herself worked with these two extremes to assemble the collection.

Apparently the work the kids loved most was Andrew McLeod’s A Cautious Paralysis and this is one that has been held back from auction. Perhaps it was a favourite of Fiona Campbell's too along with a few other works not for sale including Fiona Pardington’s Solitary Female Huia and Michael Illingworth’s Girl In The Blue Hat (After Matisse).

Sources: A+O catalogue, rnz interview (Kim Hill and Fiona Campbell) 2011

Monday, October 31, 2016

Please be aware that this art work is being taped

Museum conservators are not big on change. The moment an artwork hits a public collection the goal is to keep it in suspended animation from then on. If that painting by Gordon Walters gets a scuff on it, action must be taken. Just as in Peter Pan’s Neverland, in the world of art museum collections nothing must ever grow old. Ok, that was all very well with your basic oil painting and bronze sculpture but with contemporary art and installations, it gets more complicated.

We saw a classic example of how far the museum profession will go to try and stop time (#tellittokingcanute) at Te Papa last week. The l budd installation Modern arrangements had been installed as part of Nga toi. It consists of three painted stools, a magazine rack and a large Xeroxed sheet of paper gaffer taped to the wall. Or that was how the artist always installed it but in this version it looked as though the tape on the Xerox was sitting rather oddly and getting closer we could see why. Clearly Te Papa’s conservation team had had a struggle with simply taping the Xerox so they’d come up with their own version. They’d carefully attached the Xeroxed sheet of paper to the wall with archival tape and then covered it over with a fake gaffer-tape hinge.  The effect, while comically laborious, is hardly truth-to-materials, or to the artist’s intention for that matter. Why would a team of professionals consider such artifice ok when it compromises the material directness of the work?

It's possible the only reason Modern arrangements is showing at all is because the previous l budd work that occupied the same space is being ‘rested’. That work featured incandescent bulbs, already banned in many countries, and the bane of conservators’ lives as they try to source replacements and work out how many hours are left in the originals. 

But one day the lights will go out and then what’s a conservator to do?

Image: l budd  Modern arrangements and right detail

Friday, October 28, 2016


…what’s not to like about a good knitted face mask?

Other OTN mask posts:
Face saving
Pierre Huyghe
Bird flue

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Up against the wall

Donald Trump has dredged up a lot of dumb ideas in his efforts to lose the US Presidential election. One of the more worst has got to be his great wall of Mexico. Still, every cloud. The Mexican architecture/design firm Estudio 3.14 took the wall and ran with it Barragan style. You can see our photos of  Luis Barragan’s Home/studio in  Mexico City here and his Cuadra San Cristobal stables here on OTNARCHITECTURE. While you’re at it, check out Alec Baldwin taking Trump apart and Clinton and Trump performing the Dirty Dancing duet. Well, kinda.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

8 July ’47

Imagine, New Zealand has not one but at least two artists devoted to UFOs. Ronnie van Hout, of course, has been a longtime believer in the Alien presence and has made many works around the theme but Peter Stichbury is also on the case. His exhibition currently at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno continues his exploration of the abducted and the craft that come all that way to do the deed.

Van Hout and Stichbury are of course joined by a long list of other artists with the same fascination with what is out there. A quick search found Austrian artist Valie Export’s 1970s film Invisible Adversaries. Succinctly described by Amy Taubin ‘as if Godard were reincarnated as a woman and decided to make a feminist version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ it’s become that most sought-after thing: a cult classic (you can watch it here on ubu.com). Then there’s Keith Haring’s long-time obsession with UFOs, an Australian collective called Greatest Hits (Gavin Bell, Jarrah de Kuijer & Simon McGlinn) who exhibited an alien ice sculpture, Mariko Mori’s Wave UFO environment and Subodh Gupta’s pots and pans delivery.

And just in case you think the current Presidential election is spacey and getting spacier, this declaration from Jimmy Carter during his (successful) Presidential campaign puts it all in perspective, ‘If I become President, I'll make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public and  the scientists. I am convinced that UFOs exist because I have seen one.’

Images: top to bottom left to right, Peter Stichbury, Ronnie van Hout, Keith Haring, Greatest Hits, Subodh Gupta, Mariko Mori and a still from Valie Export’s film

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

….and statistics

The Frances Hodgkins Fellowship is fifty years old. The fiftieth Fellow was recently announced as Campbell Patterson from Auckland. Looking back, the list of artists over those fifty years is a mix of well-known names peppered with a fair number of who-the-hell-was-that? Still it stands as a good example of how representation has changed, well for women anyway. For the first twenty years there were only five women Frances Hodgkins Fellows (so many ironies in just three words) but over the next twenty years this changed dramatically with 45 percent of the ‘Fellows’ being women and over the last ten years, 50 percent. 

For people identifying as Maori the situation has been a little less encouraging: six out of the fifty spots. This certainly makes the media release announcing Campbell Patterson’s success somewhat ingenuous. It gives examples of past celebrated winners as ‘Ralph Hotere, Grahame Sydney, Marilynn Webb, Fiona Pardington, Shane Cotton and Heather Straka’. Ok, this selection represents the 50 percent women thing (although over the full 50 years it has only been 38 percent) but to have 67 percent of the list as Maori stars is a plain misrepresentation of who have been awarded the Fellowship. And once you note that Shane Cotton was the last Maori to be awarded the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship and that was back 18 years ago, you have to wonder what’s going on. And then, boom! it comes to you. Marketing, got to love it.

Image: Campbell Patterson, 2017 Frances Hodgkins Fellow

Monday, October 24, 2016

Labour of love

This being Labour Day there’s no post on OTN but, it being Labour Day, we thought a bit of labour might be in order. So we collected this group of labour related public sculptures for you. Only we did the labour on the day before Labour Day (#getalife).

Images: top to bottom left to right, Chennai Labour Statue, Worker and Kolkhoz Woman in Moscow, workers memorial Teamwork in Wisconsin, Monument to the unknown woman worker in Belfast, Day of mourning monument in Saint John, Migrant worker at the Zhonghuan Art Museum in Hefei East China, homage to New York’s garment industry workers, Miller Park memorial in Milwaukee, Virginia's Memorial for fallen highway workers.

Friday, October 21, 2016


Blue Poles by Jackson Pollock is on exhibition in London and there’s no sign of Giambattista Tiepolo at the Australian National Gallery, but Colin McCahon was there. Victory over death 2, controversially gifted to Australia in 1978, was in display accompanied by two Constantin Brancusi Bird in space sculptures, a black one and a white one. They are later versions of similar works made by Brancusi in 1923 and refused entry by US Customs in 1928 because they were not considered to be art and were therefore subject to duty. A court case sorted that out. As the ANG is more like a turbine hall than a regular museum, McCahon’s work (and everything else from three painting by Agnes Martin to a terrific Anselm Kiefer) is diminished when hung low on the immensely high walls. That aside, the Australians have never doubted its importance. The ANG’s first director James Molllison considered McCahon to be Australasia’s most important artist and the NGA’s current catalogue entry refers to Victory over death 2 as ‘one of the treasures of the collection’.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Parr: part 2

Mike Parr has described his art as a response to intense anxiety. Maybe it’s not so surprising then that the phrase ‘I must’ appears two or three times on nearly every displayed page of the 30 or so diaries on display in his survey show at the Australian National Gallery. Here’s a selection of Parr’s 'I-musts' that also double as an intriguing portrait of the Australian contemporary art scene between 1971 and 2014

I must:

• continue with the work on my essay
• pack Marina/Ulay negs and send them directly
• ring TAA
• write to Nanda Vigo
• work on preparing my slide lecture
• drop by Colour Pro
• write to Helen Kontrova today
• put in a solid afternoon working
• drop by Oxford Art Supply
• get to my studio first thing in the morning and get started on small drawings
• ring Newtown Post Office
• complete cutting metal tab out of ceiling
• give John N a ring
• get to complete work on my small back room
• again try to get Bernice or the MCA
• give Anna Schwartz a ring
• ring Ashley Crawford
• write to John McPhee and thank him for his kindness of late
• return Janet Lawrence’s call
• go to Dong-Ah Gallery
• return Tony Bond’s call
• Ring Debbie
• Give Bill a ring
• give Garry a ring to make sure we’re organized for Friday
• go to my bank and deposit a cheque for $4528
• email Pip
• get a solid day drawing
• write a text on “sleep with Butler”
• go to Bunnings
• put in a solid final day looking at the Museé d’ Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What becomes a legend

Mike Parr cuts a huge figure in contemporary Australian art and he’s also gone for a few outings in NZ. The most recent would have been Inhabiting Space this year at Victoria University’s Adam Art Gallery. Parr even made it over to talk at the City Gallery as part of that show. All this meant that when we heard we could get to see the one-armed legend we did the hour on a train thing to Campbelltown on the outskirts of Sydney to watch him perform On Manus Island

It started off well enough with about 30 of us sitting round the entry hall of the Campbelltown Arts Centre looking at a small table and chair. The table was covered with large syringes. Parr turned up the requisite 20 minutes late striding in from the back of the room. He was closely attended by a videographer and a photographer and it was then it became apparent that we as an audience were peripheral to the proceedings: this was about sourcing documentation. He sat at the table and a woman began methodically taking blood and squirting each syringe when it was full into a stainless steel pan on the floor. It was hard to look away if you were squeamish as the whole process was projected on a large screen. At first there seemed to be the possibility that Parr would take the full on endurance route (this is the guy who wound cordite mining fuse around his leg and touched a match to it) and lose enough blood to put him on the floor. Didn’t happen. Instead a moderate amount of blood was taken from a number of syringe lines. Parr then got up, dipped his hand in the blood and imprinted it high on the wall. And then he was off with his camera team making bloody handprints as he went. Still at least we got to see Mike Parr.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Clown torture

As everyone knows clowns are hilarious, until they’re not. The current ‘killer clown’ craze that has swept the United States has now reached the UK and Europe and there are even a few sightings of a try-hard clowns here in NZ. Thanks to Stephen King and a few horror movies, clowns have effortlessly eased out of kids’ parties and circuses into the scare trade. While King’s terrifying storm water drain roaming clown from his 1986 book It was probably the model for recent clown outings, if you want to get real insight into the genre you’ll have the chance when Cindy Sherman’s exhibition opens at Wellington’s City Gallery in November. Sherman started making clown portraits around 2002 as a response to 9/11. ‘The more research I did the more levels I saw. There are a lot of creepy, sad, different emotions that I really like.’ You can see Sherman talking more about the clown thing here.

Image: Cindy Sherman Untitled photographs

Monday, October 17, 2016

One swallow a Summer makes

Hey, that looked familiar. In the seemingly endless corridor that is the MCA in Sydney were three bronze barnacle covered balloons on the floor. The last time we’d seen them was on the floor in Ricky Swallow’s studio about seven years ago in LA.  Swallow has lived in the United States for a long time now and it’s hard to recall what a major impact he had in New Zealand. Hamish McKay was a big supporter and had regular exhibitions for years while Justin Paton wrote the first major monograph on Swallow in 2004. But it’s been a while since his work has been seen in New Zealand, so it’s good to see he still has a spot in the Australian art story. You can see pictures of his studio in 2009 when the balloon sculptures were being made here on OTNSTUDIO

Image: top, Ricky Swallow work on exhibition at the MCA in Sydney and bottom Swallow in his studio, 2009 

Friday, October 14, 2016

The man who bought the world

As we saw in microcosm in NZ with the Paris, Sang and Francis auctions, nothing attracts art collectors more than the flickering glow of a single collector sale. In part it’s the solid line of ownership and stamp of good taste, but it’s also very much the allure of an appealing story to go along with the work. The creation of those stories has now become a central part of the auction business. 

If you want to see the phenomenon at its peak, check out Sotheby’s gearing up to flog the David Bowie collection in early November. Bowie was no slouch in the art collecting game but you’d have to describe what he assembled as extremely personal. There are some big names and they’ll no doubt fetch the big prices but many of the works are moody and introspective which is not the usual look for auction stars. But Bowie as a personality trailing his fame and associations and emotion - what a gift! 

To promote Bowie the Collector Sotheby’s have gone overboard: moody trailers, evocative quotes from the man, slideshows of his art collector life, reminiscences from his personal art curator Beth Greenacre, lots of ‘icons’ and ‘revereds’ and ‘passions’ thrown around, and so on and so on. You can access the full catalogue here

Images: top left, curator Beth Greenacre and right, Marcel Duchamp’s A Bruit Secret estimate to sell for $311,000–432,000. Bottom, Bowie’s collection ready for sale.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Putting the fun back into funding

You may recall that back in April Creative NZ went into a spiral of despair. Lotto, one of its major funders, had announced that ‘due to the lower level of jackpots on offer it is estimated there will be $25 million less to dole out to community groups such as Sport New Zealand, Creative New Zealand and the Film Commission.’ Even worse, ‘Peter Dunne, who chairs the Lottery Grants Board, told CNZ he would not confirm exactly how much less there will be until July’. Creative NZ did some sums and figured this would mean it would ‘receive $11 million less this financial year than it did two years ago.’

After a bit of stick for being so dependent on gambling money, everyone went to ground until June. It was then that the Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage, Maggie Barry, somewhat embarrassed Creative NZ by stating that it ‘had "jumped the gun" by predicting a funding fall, and the Government expected a small rise in Creative NZ funds.’

Since then things have been kind of quiet in the media, so what happened funding-wise?

From CNZ's website it turns out that at the end July at one of its two monthly meetings, Creative NZ’s Arts Council updated its we-are-doomed budget to reflect ‘a significantly better funding forecast from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board.’ This is the same Lottery Board that was predicting major cuts only three months previously so who knows what pressure was put on whom. This new generosity couldn’t have been caused by a huge upswing in NZers gambling, could it?

You might think that the volatility of Lotto and its dependence on hopeless dreams might still give Creative NZ pause (#oncebitten). But no, it has a secret weapon. Creative NZ’s Arts Council in its post meeting summary goes on to say that, ‘An important feature of the approved budget is the new “double buffer” approach that will allow reasonable shifts in NZLGB funding to be better managed.’ Double buffer eh. ‘Reasonable’ shifts. Yes, that should work.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Derek Cowie was lost and then he was found again and then he was lost and now he’s back in New Zealand. In the eighties Cowie was toWellington what the mountains were to The Sound of Music. Curator Robert Leonard loved his work and in 1989 famously placed it centrally in the Shed 11 exhibition Nobodies. A couple of months ago you could have picked up a three square meters plus painting from this time at the Tim and Sherrah Francis auction. They were fans too. And now a new wave of Cowie enthusiasm has been triggered by an exhibition that opened in Wellington last night. Yes, he's back showing in Wellington but not at Peter McLeavey this time round but at Page Blackie. It’s an eclectic mix of materials and styles with Cowie’s theatricality underpinning it all. With old school charm he was keen to assure everyone this was only a starter with the main show scheduled for May. This time it looks like Derek Cowie is not going away.

Image: Derek Cowie at his Page Blackie opening

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Getting the point

Drawing has always been a problem for artists. Some people have a natural ability, the rest have to work it out the hard way. Well no more, at least with the how-the-hell-do-you-do-that skill of perspective drawing. Thanks to Instagram’s architectdrw  and a piece of elasticised string, doing the perspective thing just became a possibility for everyone. You can watch it in action here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Len Lye down: when good sculpture turns bad

Nobody said owning a whole lot of sculptures powered by analogue motors, that bounce and bend and shake in ways that engineering probably doesn’t totally understand, would be easy. And guess what, it’s not. Trilogy - the dramatic Len Lye Centre headliner - was taken down just before the new building opened last year after it took a chunk out of the wall. Disappointing, but reasonably enough it was passed over as a blip.

But last week, when the three-part monster was put into place again in the new custom-made gallery for large Len Lye sculptures and revved up, there were more problems. Word is that it had to be stopped before it shook itself off the ceiling. Whoops (again). And wouldn’t you know it, this was in the first week of the school holidays (#kidslovenoisysculpture). So, no going up the ramp while the place is being re-strengthened enough for Trilogy to do its thing again after years in storage.

Still, there’s a moment for everyone who felt the Len Lye Centre had taken over the Govett-Brewster. Because of the mess-up all visitors now have to enter the new complex via the discreet Govett-Brewster Art Gallery entrance rather than the architect’s ramp. We could get used to that. And while your at it get rid of the new wall behind the reception desk. Then it's straight ahead to the G-B and LLC and, if you want to do the ramp thing, turn left. 

Later: Trilogy was reinstalled on 12 October and is now fully functional  

Image: Trilogy, back in the day

Friday, October 07, 2016

Fish on Friday

As it’s International Day of the Fish today (well, it could be) here are some giant public sculptures of fish from around the world. Brought to you by OTN: because it can.

Images: top to bottom, left to right. Speared fish Portland, Oregon, US; The Headington shark at 2 New High Street, Headington, Oxford, UK; Musée d'Histoire Naturelle de Lille, France; Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, Malaysia; Giant Murray Cod in Swan Hill Victoria, Australia; National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, Wisconsin, US; Husky the Muskie in Kenora, Ontario, Canada; ice sculpture made by Austin, Connor and Trevor Bartz, three brothers living in New Brighton, Minnesota, US; and the Regional office for the National Fisheries Development Board located near Hyderabad, India

Thursday, October 06, 2016


0   the number of artists living in the South Island who have won the Walters Prize

1   the number of current advertisements by Te Papa for a Head of Audience Insights #anditsgoodnighttoyoucurators

1   the number of shout outs The Minister of Arts, Culture & Heritage Maggie Barry gave to Simon Rees and the Govett-Brewster/LLC in her speech at the Walters Prize

2   the number of sculptures by British artist Antony Gormley now on permanent public display in Christchurch

2   the number of dealer galleries that got funding to attend art fairs in the last Creative NZ funding round

7   the average number in cents that the Govett-Brewster/LLC received from each of its 151,000 visitors in its previous financial year

11  the number of comments made on the last 20 EyeContact reviews

13  the number of themed permanent collection hangs currently on show as ‘exhibitions’ at Te Papa

50  the amount in thousands of dollars that Shannon Te Ao received for winning the Walters Prize

66  the average number in cents that the Govett-Brewster/LLC needs to get from each of its visitors this year (assuming that there are again 151,000 of them)

75  the percentage of Wellington’s City Gallery’s core staff that are women

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

One day in Te Papa’s 5th floor ‘Art Studio’

Curator 1: OMG! Have you seen the AMAZING drawings that visitors are doing on the fifth floor?

Curator 2: Aren’t they incredible…like it’s WAY BEYOND DRAWING ... it’s…it’s… art drawing.

C1: Totally.  I mean there’s nothing wrong with our Goyas, like he can draw and all, but have you seen Robert of Tawa’s Self Portrait??

C3:  Humbling. Talk about mastery of the pencil.

C2: And how about Ruth of Island Bay’s awesome drawing of a hand. It was so lifelike a fly landed on it.

C1: Up yours Durer (they all laugh)

C2: Now we need to get them out there. The public are gagging for drawings they can get really excited about.

C1: And who’s the best to make that sort of magic happen? Curators. And what are we? 

C2 and C3: (as one voice) CURATORS!

C1: OK then, so let’s curate. Give the public a taste of some real creativity.

C3: We could theme them – I’ve always wanted to do that. Like, you know, portraits, landscapes, animals.... 

C2: That's inspired

C1: And let’s go all digital on it. Stick the best of the best at the top of the Te Papa Home page so everyone can see what great creative drawing is all about.

C2: Are we even allowed to do that?

They were. So that is what they did.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Stolen moments

In a couple of weeks the second art crime symposium kicks off at Wellington’s City Gallery. The art crimes under discussion don’t involve the production and presentation of bad art but rather the theft, forgery and trafficking of any art. No doubt there’ll also be room to talk over some of the serious (the armed theft of a Tissot painting from the Auckland Art Gallery), the opportunistic (the removal of a £1,000 painting in 1908 from the NZ Academy of Fine Arts and consequent payment to an ‘A G Ransom’ to get it back), the destructive (the slashing of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery’s painting Glasgerion by G Sheridan in 1944) and the ludicrous (Dr Jack Rucinski convincing Robert McDougall director John Coley that he had found Psyche, a painting that went missing in 1942 - when he certainly had not).

Hopefully there will also be time enough to explore the logistics of one of the most audacious art thefts in New Zealand’s history: the disappearing of a life-sized set of seven nativity figures nicked from a storage facility in Taihape.  Joseph, Mary and Jesus et al were the work of Martin Roestenburg, the sculptor who also made the too-big-to-be-stolen giant statue Our Mother of Lourdes in Paraparaumu.

The symposium starts on 15 October and you can book here.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Becoming Hans

‘I think this had to do with a game I loved to play with friends as a child where you would have these postcards and you’d cover them, and then, little by little, uncover a millimeter square, two millimeters square, then three millimeters, and your friend would have to guess the painting from what they could see'.

-Global curator Hans Ulrich Obrist

Friday, September 30, 2016

Walters Prize winner announced

The Chief Curator of Hong Kong’s M+ museum, Doryun Chong, has given the Walters Prize to Shannon Te Ao. This is the first time the prize has been awarded to an artist outside Auckland. Te Ao won the Prize with his video Two shoots that stretch far out. Born in 1978 he was the youngest of the four artists nominated.

Image: Shannon Te Ao as he appears in his Walters Prize winning video

Style section: splatter pics

In the now seamless mash up between fashion and the visual arts, no one does it with more flair than the American artist Sterling Ruby. His hand-bleached splattered jackets and hoodies have already walked the runway as part of a Raf Simons’s show and Simons (a close friend) wants to do more with Ruby’s one-off-mass lines. But for Ruby it’s more than pushing out a look into the public; he and his team make the clothes he and many of his studio assistants wear ever day, ‘I’ve almost reached a point where I only wear what I make,’ he said recently about this production of studio uniforms. You can see and read more about Sterling Ruby’s collaborations with Raf Simons here and his approach to what gets worn in the studio here.

Images: left, Ruby studio wear and right with Raf Simons

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pre post studio post

The French artist Daniel Buren, who visited NZ to oversee his remarkable installation at the National Art Gallery in 1990, is no lover of artist studios. ‘My studio is the place where I am working,’ he claimed in October magazine decrying the studio’s ‘simultaneously idealizing and ossifying functions.’ Of course Buren, like most artists, even those of the post studio generation, still has a place to settle down and think about his work. The Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco calls his space an ‘operating centre’ and even post studio's poster boy John Baldessari works in a space that to anyone not a member of the no-studio club might well think was a….studio. All this to announce that more studio shots are now up on OTNSTUDIO. Four sets were from visits over the last couple of months - Andrew Beck, Judy Millar, John Parker and Peter Peryer – and there’s an earlier set taken in et al.’s studio in 2009.

Image: Judy Millar in her Anawhata studio, September 2016

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Art chart

(Thanks S, that certainly nails it)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pay to play

In this age of free, can you even charge a fee? That’s the question the New Plymouth City Council is going to decide tonight. Should the addition of the Len Lye Centre push the combined LLC/Govett-Brewster into pay-to-play? Realistically it would be a dumb move. Globally museums have faltered as they move from free-for-all to paid entrance with attendances (the metric so loved by councils and trustees) plummeting. In the United States a review by the American Association of Museums found that charging at the door has not only reduced attendances but also helped ensure minorities and those on low incomes only make up 9 percent of visitors. So what’s a regional art gallery director to do?

Simon Rees, the director of the LLC/G-B, came up with an idea. What if, instead of charging an entry fee, they encouraged donations beyond just putting a perspex box with a slit in the top at the entrance?  An Active Donations Strategy (ADS) in fact, using Paywave. OK, it’s only one of five options - and some of those include charging too - but it’s hard to see how reasonably minded (#suckup) Councillors could not at least give it a go.

If you want to read everything the Councillors will have to wade through to make a decision like this (26 pages and five options including option 4 that would charge adult visitors $10, seniors, beneficiaries and Unwaged $7 and kids at school $5) you can download it here. Scroll down to page 62 and you’ll find the numbers that show that introducing an entrance fee would only raise revenue by 10 percent. Go figure why the Council has even  got to debating this in the first place. Anyway, tonight’s the night. Hold onto your hats. (the New Plymouth District Council has since voted to trial of an electronic donation system, which members hope could net $100,000 over 12 months)

Image: a hat.