Friday, January 29, 2016


At the Gluten Free Museum the mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye, is removed from works of art. More here.

Images: top to bottom, Vincent Van Gogh La méridienne dit aussi La sieste (d'après Millet), Wayne Thiebaud Cake slice and Colin McCahon A grain of wheat (thanks L, very droll)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Blame Canada

The Canadian artist Lawren Harris was being given some serious attention in LA when we passed through recently. He was a member of the Group of Seven who in the 1920s set the tone for modern Canadian painting in the same way that Colin McCahon and Rita Angus did here later. Looking at Harris’s paintings McCahon certainly came to mind and there may well be a direct connection too because in 1938 The Exhibition of Contemporary Canadian Paintings toured New Zealand proving very influential. We know, for instance, that the 30-year old Rita Angus was very taken with the painter Emily Carr. And you have to wonder whether the 19-year old McCahon saw the works by Lawren Harris in the exhibition. Leo Bensemann certainly became a fan boy, but perhaps McCahon found Lawren's striking landscapes an inspiration. In 1939, a year after the Canadian exhibition toured, McCahon turned up with his stripped down painting Harbour Cone from Peggy's Hill. Surely the spirit of Harris is walking on those Dunedin beaches. Onto the research agenda with it.

Images: Top, left Lawren Harris Lake Superior 1928 and right detail. Bottom Colin McCahon Harbour Cone from Peggy's Hill

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Art in the movies: The art of more

Change out the raucous music business  for art and white folk and dah dah - the TV series Empire becomes The art of more. Centered on the battles between two auction houses not a million miles away from Sotheby’s (Parke-Mason) and Christie’s (DeGraaf's), The art of more presents an eclectic range of collectables (cars, space junk and sports memorabilia). Fortunately for OTN art is certainly the lead husky when it comes to cash accumulation. The series producers Chuck Rose and Gardner Stern didn't see the need for an art consultant on the team as they knew themselves what was going on and good for them as it certainly makes the series more fun. A (spoiler alert) faked van Gogh (an odd mix of The starry night, an olive tree painting and some general landscape stuff) easily fools the experts at both Parke-Mason and DeGraaf's as well along with all the other ‘experts’ who inspect it before auction. Well-known paintings from the Met go under that hammer and there's also a contemporary art auction where it gets a little wild. Jeff Koons’s Rabbit is recast as a painting and a stuffed deer in a bath (death-of-Marat-style) takes centre stage. The deer inspires the best art insight of the show when a core cast member explains, 'The artist is saying that it’s a privilege for the deer to die on its own terms and not on the terms of the humans that turned its habitat into concrete and acid rain. That it’s suicide is power.' Dead on.

Images: top to bottom, the fake van Gogh, the Met helps out with auction fodder and conversation with a dead deer

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What a concept

In April the next big show at Tate Britain focuses on conceptual art of the sixties and seventies. It should be the highlight of Billy Apple’s career as he was making conceptual art at the Royal Collage as early as 1960 (Body cleaning : extraction/subtraction) and changed his name to Billy Apple as an artwork in 1962. Although we don't yet have a complete list of the artists to be included in Conceptual art in Britain: 1964-1979, from the promotional material released so far, Apple is unlikely to be even included far less showcased. What does an artist have to do? Tate owns two conceptual pieces by Apple from the earliest days of conceptual art in Britain, both dated 1962. It might not happen often but maybe this is an artist who picked up on an idea too early! A frequent writer on Apple’s work once talked about, 'a general forgetfulness that dogs Apple’s career' but this time it feels like fate itself is against him. There is a small ray of hope, the exhibition’s research brief asked for, ‘analysis of the course of conceptual art in Britain from its genesis in the early and mid-1960s until the late 1970s’ so maybe the 'early' word will allow Apple to slip in. The possibility that Apple heading for New York (the center of contemporary art) in August 1964 might mean he forfeits his chance for the recognition he deserves as a pioneer conceptualist would be well beyond ironic. We’ll keep you posted

Images: conceptual art by Billy Apple in the Tate collection. Left Relation of Aesthetic Choice to Life Activity (Function) 1961–2  and right Self Portraits (Apple Sees Red on Green) 1962

Monday, January 25, 2016

J & J

It's Wellington Anniversary Day today so OTN is taking a quick break. But because the rest of you aren't here's a couple of works by two artists that look like they might have things in common. Not copycats, not even total lookalikes, but definitely on the same page. Back tomorrow.
Images: left Jeffrey Harris's 1990 painting 3 children and right Justin Craun’s Psycho Private 2004

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Barry Brickell 1935-2016

The great potter and sculptor Barry Brickell has died.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Pattern language

The Gordon-Walters-koru-is-fair-game industry probably started in earnest around 2010 (about 15 years after his death) and it's still going strong. The bizarre NZ flag competition we've just endured demonstrates that to perfection but there's still more. Last week a reader sent us an image of a painting by well-known American urban art guy Aaron Rose that incorporates the ‘Walters’ koru in the background. Rose did make a brief appearance in New Zealand back in 2012 when he curated a one-day exhibition of prints in Auckland. Maybe that’s when he spied the opportunity. And in another recent sighting, Wayne Youle’s design for a special kiwi collection for the Nespresso’s Grands Crus range. Nespresso explains, ‘ The image makes reference to an early Youle work, Simple Mathematics (2005), where the koru is in its most simple incarnation has the colour palette of Cuisenaire rods…” Gordon Walters was not available for comment.

Images: left,
Nespresso Kiwi Collection and right, Aaron Rose Totem II (whisperer)
(Thanks R and thanks to you too S)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The road goes ever on

If the Walters Prize has done one thing over the years it has been great at upsetting expectations. No one picked Yvonne Todd for the first win and Dan Arps (2010) and Luke Willis Thompson (2014) were both surprises, albeit excellent ones. So what are the chances of Lisa Reihana landing the quinella? If she does that would make her the second artist after et al. to achieve the Venice/ Walters combo. Then there is the opportunity (from our reading of the rules) for someone to be the first to win it twice. As always the selection of the judge will be critical. For instance Simon Denny never had a chance at the last Walters with Charles Esche. One OTN reader reckons that a quick look at the judge's previous two exhibitions predict of who will get the Prize for the year. Maybe.

Some possibilities:
Fiona Connor did a knock out show at Monash that should be a contender again, and definitely Seung Yul Oh’s chance for a nomination on the back of his exhibition at Te Uru.

Hard to go past Michael Parekowhai’s survey exhibition The Promised Land at the Queensland Art Gallery but let's not forget Mike Stevenson’s survey at the MCA in Sydney in 2011 didn’t even manage a nomination, so don't hold your breath.

Fiona Pardington's A beautiful hesitation at the City Gallery has to be up there.

Simon Denny for Dotcom at the Adam, his survey at PS1, Venice and the recent Serpentine show although who would be surprised if he said ‘No thanks’.

There's probably enough recent work by Len Lye to at least put him in the frame.
Ruth Buchanan for her exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin.

And what would Billy Apple have to do …..

Image: an OTN artist impression (based on information supplied by readers) of the Walters secret-shopper selection panel. You can find a copy of the Walters Prize rules here on OTNSTUFF. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Melvin (Pat) Day 1923-2016

This weekend Melvin Day died at the age of 92. Pat (as he was known to everyone) was a well-known artist and art historian, of course, but we remember him best as the director of the National Art Gallery (now Te Papa) from 1968 to 1978. It was over this decade that he helped drag the institution into the twentieth century. Although most of us quite rightly see Luit Bieringa as the true hero of contemporary art and the National collection, it was Pat who made the initial and perhaps the most difficult break with the past by committing the institutions to purchases of work made by his contemporaries - Rita Angus, Colin McCahon, Ralph Hotere, Gordon Walters, Pat Hanly.  Day also brought a younger generations of aritsts into the collection including Gretchen Albrecht, Chris Booth, Tony Fomison, Vivian Lynn, Ian Scott and Philip Trusttum. It's hard to remember how conservative the National Art Gallery was at that time. The NZ Academy of Fine Arts still held sway well into the 1970s. As a result Day rarely got the credit he deserved, caught between an impatient new art world that never felt he was doing enough, and the holders of the status quo that were convinced he was doing entirely too much. Looking through the acquisitions of Pat's decade it's revealing to see how a flurry of purchases would be followed by a quiet year or two as the forces of reaction pushed back until he regained momentum and got back into it again.

On a more personal note, Pat was a staunch and valued support for a very young and woefully unprepared new director of the Dowse Art Gallery in 1976. For Jim at that time he was the very best company and a generous mentor who knew that the politicking around art institutions could be intense and surprisingly personal. There was nothing quite like getting a call from Pat on a Friday afternoon suggesting a drink to wash away that week's bruising from rogue city councillors and antagonistic visitors. And an invitation to Seatoun to share a meal with Pat and his wife Oroya was always treat. They were both smart, very funny, opinionated and full of not always repeatable stories about who was doing what, but always grounded in a passion for art and history.

Image: a 1948 Self portrait by Melvin Day

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


The current exhibition Julian Dashper and friends at the City Gallery approaches Dashper through the way he collaborated with other artists. It brought to mind a time when Julian worked with Michael Smither. They were both in Wellington and spent an afternoon or two making drawings on large sheets of Steinbach paper. Julian - who could never cram enough metaphors into anything - loved the reference to McCahon's famous seventies black and white works on Steinbach. From memory the two came up with complicated free-style pencil drawings with Michael Smither-rock shapes included in most of them. Who knows where they are now, although having said that Marie Shannon probably does. Julian had already shown his interest in Mike’s work back in 1987 when he made the painting Young Nick’s Head featuring Smither-like rocks as a central motif. We were reminded of this friendship when we found this photograph of Michael Smither drawing Julian on New Year’s Eve just an hour or so before 1992.

Image: Michael Smither (left) drawing Julian Dashper 1991

Monday, January 18, 2016

While we were dozing

like the rest of nz the art business shuts up shop before christmas and goes on holiday until at least early january. even so, a few things happened while we were snoozing: the govett-brewster got 75,000 plus people through the doors of its new len lye centre although no count on how many made it through to the original g-b galleries • simon denny’s serpentine exhibition was praised in the guardian and slagged off in the sunday times (waldemar januszczak started off noting “not only is simon denny not british…” so it was never going to be great) • emma bugden is off to whanganui leaving the dowse looking for a senior curator • michael stevenson flew in from berlin to discuss a project at the govett-brewster where fellow berliner ruth buchanan has also escaped the winter to take up the gb residency • the christchurch art gallery opened its doors after nearly five years of working the streets • assuming all went as planned, the australian auction firm mossgreen took over operational control of webb’s on 1 january • luke willis thompson has been slotted in for a large survey exhibition at brisbane’s ima in july • wellington’s pointy sculpture zephyromter back in action after a lightning strike last year has been temporarily reigned in after its lighter replacement swung down into traffic.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


You get the picture. OTN back on board Monday.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


Two days to go before OTN is up and running for 2016. To keep with the two theme here's a post put up on OTN exactly two years ago on 16 January 2014.

Snap happy

There's hardly any need to beat the why-no-photography drum in art museums anymore. Slowly but surely they're accepting the inevitable and releasing their collections to snap-happy visitors. In places like the Dowse there's still the familiar camera shape there in the dos and don’ts signage but now it’s as a do, as in, do feel free to take a photo.

A bit late to the game is this…er…game. It’s a two-player (you can be either a photographer or a security guard) that let’s you outwit guards as you snap stuff you're not supposed to. And yes ,you can use your flash to blind the guard for a quick getaway. It’s not quite on the market but if you like reading lots of instructions, you can see how it works here.

Friday, January 15, 2016


OTN will be back in three days on Monday 18 January. To keep you happy to then here is a reprint of the third ever post put up on OTN. It was first seen on 30 November 2006. For the first three posts putting up a picture was completely beyond us.

For the Nation

For everyone who has not received a copy of Te Papa's latest Annual Report here is a list of the paintings (New Zealand and international), drawings, sculptures, installations and photographs purchased in the 2005-2006 year.

Paintings New Zealand:
5 x Tony de Latour (includes 3 donations)
Paintings International:
2 x portraits of John Greenwood and 1 of Admiral Sir Edward Hughes (both donated)
8 x pages from Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks
3 x Judy Darragh
1 x Francis Upritchard
1 x Derek Cherrie (maquettes of the Supraluxe Suite)
4 x by Jason Hall (3 x brooches and 1 x necklace)
1 x Sara Hughes
1 x Yuk King Tan
1 x Anne Noble
16 x Gary Blackman
12 x John Fields
9 x Gary Baigent
5 x Max Oettli
3 x Lisa Reihana

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Just four days to go before OTN starts up again. On the subject of four here's the fourth animal art post we put up back in 2008

A cry for help

Ok, we did start the animal art thing and, sure, we did stoop to turtles. But readers sending in random pictures of animals they think might be making art, or even worse, animals that are just considering making art, is taking things too far. Take this “painting snail” emailed to us in the weekend. That’s not even a brush in its mouth. It looks more like a twig or maybe a blade of grass. There is nothing about this picture that makes us think that this snail is at all creative beyond the usual snail skill set. It is hard enough as it is promoting animal art, without this kind of reckless contribution by people who should know better.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Tim Francis 1928-2016

Visiting exhibitions with Tim and Sherrah Francis could be a challenge. The first-stop-bookshop, quick look round the exhibition and then off for coffee routine was not for them. Infinitely curious and lovers of detail and history, they would stare down the works on show as if their lives depended on it. In Wellington there weren't many important openings or interesting talks (and some pretty uninteresting ones too) where Tim and Sherrah didn’t make an appearance. It is hard to believe we will never see them again as a couple coming up the stairs at 147 Cuba Street, standing around with the rest of us at openings or ushering us around their collection in Talavera Terrace. If that is a great sadness for us it must be almost unimaginable for Sherrah and a huge loss for his children and family.

Tim spent his professional life in the diplomatic service. He was one of a group of Foreign Affairs staff who from the 1960s understood the importance of culture in NZ's dealings with other nations and in particular the role the visual arts could play. The result was not only an important collection assembled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself, but a lifelong commitment to New Zealand art by many of its senior staff. The Corners, the Norrishes and the Francises all collected art as families and all had a close connection with the Wellington art dealer Peter McLeavey. His exhibitions year after year introduced this appreciative audience to works by Colin McCahon, Gordon Walters, Toss Woollaston, Rita Angus and more recently Julian Dashper, John Reynolds, Peter Robinson, Yvonne Todd and so many others. Wellington was certainly the richer for the support and sophistication of this generation of collectors.

Tim and Sherrah were always private in their obsession with art and their passionate support of New Zealand artists but their home was a revelation. Every evening with them ended for us with a leisurely circuit of paintings we came to know very well along with lengthy discussions of what was new, what was interesting, what had to be moved to make room for an addition. And always conversations about artists, about exhibitions in NZ and overseas, about books and history and what it meant to live in this place. Their travels were always focused on art whether it be to study collections they already knew well or to find new inspirations.

When Tim was Ambassador to the United States in the late 1980s, it was during the difficult period following NZ's declaration that it would be nuclear free. The United States was not at all happy and made sure that our ambassador knew this every single day. Tim quietly went about his profession and even spearheaded during this challenging period the presentation in the US of the exhibition Pacific Parallels. Thanks to his tenacity some of the greatest New Zealand paintings as selected by Charles Eldredge were secured for tour outside the country. In such a climate it was a remarkable achievement. Tim wrote in the preface of the publication of his hope that this exhibition would 'emphasize once again how many things our two peoples share, not only our language, a sense of justice, and belief in democracy but also an energetic and lively artistic tradition.' And that hat was pure Tim Francis, staunch, idealistic and a committed New Zealander.

Then there was his famous charm and self-effacing manner, always backed up with a resolve that was rarely thwarted. Put that together with Sherrah’s unbending determination and it was little wonder they so often managed to snag the very best works from some legendary exhibitions. To be part of the Wellington art scene and never again see Tim standing shoulder to shoulder with Sherrah is going to take some getting used to.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Tim Francis

Tim Francis who, along with his wife Sherrah, was one of this country's great contemporary art collectors has died at his home in Wellington on Saturday. There will be a service at St. Peter's Anglican church on Willis Street on Thursday at 2pm.
Image: Tim (right) and Sherrah Francis at Peter Peryer's recent exhibition at the Dowse

Friday, January 01, 2016


John Matthews has been awarded a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the arts and engineering, or as we know it, the Len Lye Centre, A Flip and two twisters, Fountain et al.
Image: Matthews with Len Lye back in the day