Thursday, June 30, 2016

Judgment day

The judge for the Walters Prize 2016 has been announced. He is Doryun Chong, chief curator of M+ in Hong Kong since 2013. A collections-focused curator with a career of working in North American institutions, including the Walker Art Centre and MoMA, he’s certainly in the hot seat at M+.  This ambitious institution of visual culture has been ‘troubled by delays and the departures of high-level staff members’. Of special interest to NZ is that its curator of Visual Arts was for some time Tobias Berger, ex -director of Auckland’s Artspace. He left to run the also troubled Central Police Station (CPS) in Hong Kong.  M+ is slated to open in four years but already there is growing nervousness that the contemporary nature of the museum will provoke China.

While Doryun Chong is no stranger to making politically complex decisions he’s understandably careful with his words, making it difficult to get much of a fix on his curatorial position. Still, we’ve dug up some statements from interviews and links to a lengthy interview in Ocular part I and part II that might be helpful to Walters Prize entrails searching.

‘I am interested in cultural anthropology of our own times.’

‘I transitioned from academia to the museum world and I became more of a generalist–this identity has always been very important to me as curator’

‘Some people groan about how contemporary art has become too ubiquitous. But art was a rather elitist discipline that belonged to high culture, and it has broken itself down in a positive way to interface with, and be inspired by, other disciplines.’

A contemporary museum ‘… should look back on the history but should also be reflective of the time we live in, while also anticipating the future and being open to what is going to happen.’

‘ a museum curator I have been very context responsive’

“sometimes life tells better stories than art can’

Who will he pick? 

Kind of obvious isn’t it?  (just kidding)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Strata title

It’s not been a great year for public sculptor Chris Booth. Taurapa, a site specific work installed in Christchurch in 1997, might have to be relocated and in Melbourne, a major work that has been a feature of the city for 15 years is threatened with destruction. Who’d be in the public sculpture game? 

Of course the problem is that the sculptors and sometimes the commissioners all believe that these works are forever, but forever is a long, long time in today’s world. Richard Serra was an early victim of changing tastes. In 1989 his steel sculpture Tilted Arc was removed despite all the artist’s best efforts and ended up in storage. As far as Serra was concerned it had been destroyed. Now it looks as though Booth’s work Strata (with its striking physical similarity to the Serra piece) is also facing the wrecking ball, or more likely the wrecking jack hammer. At first there was some hope that Strata might be given to the University of Melbourne, but as the university would have had to stump up with around $100,000 for removal, freight and reinstallation, the ‘gift’ was ultimately rejected. 

Last word then to Richard Serra,‘the experience of a work is inseparable from the place in which the work resides. Apart from that condition, any experience of it is a deception.’

PS: News that the work may have been purchased by MONA. (Thanks M)

Images: top, threatened Chris Booth's Strata and bottom, gone Serra's Tilted arc

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

In the studio: Prague edition

The apartment where we’re staying in Prague is owned by the daughter of the Czech artist and designer Zdeněk Šputa. She rents it out as a studio apartment but, in this rare case, high up on the sixth floor with angled windows to catch the light, the studio bit is real. Canvases, paints, brushes, oddly customised tools and easels used by Šputa are still in his studio along with stacks of 1950s art mags and newspaper clippings. There are also some photographs of Zdeněk Šputa who we discovered was highly regarded as a leading Czech painter in the 1940s. From the 1950s to the 1970s though he refused to follow the state style imposed by the government and gave up painting to pursue design for architecture, stained glass and tapestries. It wasn’t until 1980 that he started exhibiting as a painter again. As this is a studio post, we can also tell you that the photos from our visit to Nicolas Jasmin’s studio in Vienna are now up on OTNSTUDIO.

Images: top, Zdeněk Šputa’s studio as it is today and below, Zdeněk Šputa at work in the studio photographed by Mike Meyer (you can see more pics on Mike Meyer's site here)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Crawl space

In the nearly ten years since OTN started, we’ve posted a lot of weird/creepy public sculpture (in fact a post in our first month was about that bronze dog stuck onto the guy’s leg in Wellington) but in the eye-popping stakes, the Prague Television Tower is a clear winner. Nothing (apart from people like us posting about it) can prepare you for the astonishment of seeing ten bronze babies trying to crawl up this gigantic concrete structure. The babies were supposed to be temporary when they were installed by Czech artist David Černý in 2001 but although residents loathed the TV Tower, they knew a great thing when they saw it. The following year the crawlers were attached permanently by popular demand. Černý is known for his humorous and provocative work including the London bus doing press-ups that became one of those internet sensations a few years back. And presciently, OTN wrapped him up in one of our regular baby-sculptures-you-gotta-see surveys three years ago. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

One day in a meeting of two very old curators

Curator 1: I’m incredibly depressed

Curator 2: You mustn’t let HUO’s publishing programme get you down

C1: No it’s not that…

C2: Is it wanting to jump off a bridge now that all the exhibitions are being curated by artists?

C1: What do you mean curated?

C2: Just kidding, I meant assembled

C1: No, I miss the Golden Section

C2: You mean the VIP lounge at the Basel Art Fair?
C1: No, that Fibonacci thing that showed how some things are simply perfect

C2: Like Larry Gagosian’s hair?

C1: I’m not so sure about that, but I do remember a time when all art was kind-of-perfect-in-a-golden-section-sort-of-way

C2: If we could only buy some sort of tool that would show how to find the golden whatever we might even get to do more exhibitions

C1: You mean a hand-held sort of thing?

C2: Is that even possible?

It was, so that is what they did

Image: Golden Section Finder, a pocket sized view finder used to observe the golden ratio. You can buy one for $US10.00 here at Areaware.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Chocolate, cuckoo clocks and curated art

For most of the sixties and seventies (and, let’s face it, the eighties too) if people in NZ involved with art wanted to go overseas to try things out they headed for the UK. More recently this Brexit has diversified reaching out to Australia, the US and Europe with a small contingent getting to Asia. Throughout Europe these days you can pretty much find an NZ artist or writer or curator in every port. 

Over the years we've mentioned some of our connections in Europe - people like Ruth Buchanan, Simon Denny, Alicia Frankovich, Richard Frater, Daniel Malone, Michael Stevenson - but hundreds more have now established themselves for the long-term - on the Continent, as we used to call it. 

So in Zurich we caught the number 31 bus out of the city centre and went off to visit Matt Hanson. He’s one of a new wave whose transplantation has been made possible by educational opportunities. With fellow curator Ludovica Parenti he has made an exhibition space by converting an apartment (as in mattress-stored-in-the-kitchen during the day converted) with a pink front door, pristine white walls and a very pale mint (or is it washed-out avocado?) floor. Their exhibition The buttocks of a steel mill includes Robert Ashley’s opera for TV Perfect lives and a poem of complex rhythm and wordplay by Australian Astrid Lorange. The internet claims Perfect lives as a comic opera about reincarnation and it’s inspiring to imagine the meeting at BBC4 back in 1984 when director John Sanborn got the go-ahead to produce it. 

One window of the Hanson apartment gallery space overlooks an idyllic park-like courtyard while the other confronts a motorway on-ramp. We got through our whole encounter without once saying ‘nature/culture’ #sophisticated.

Images: Top, curator Matt Hanson. Bottom left, Astrid Lorange and right (on the screen) Perfect lives. You can read Lorange’s poem here and view Perfect lives here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How Franz was marked

How could you go to Vienna and not visit the grave of the great artist Franz West? And when you get to the grave...well that was a bit of a surprise.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A re-repeat performance

One of our favourite videos of all time has the strange title "*O...+/" (Patrick) and was made by the French artist Nicolas Jasmin (working at the time under the name of N.I.C.J.O.B.). The work features actor Patrick Dewaere repeatedly beating his head against a car in a sequence from the Alain Corneau movie Serie noire. The N.I.C.J.O.B. extract is unforgetable thanks to Nicolas’s re-editing skills and a fantastic soundtrack. Despite the weird humour of Patrick’s endless frustration, this particular work has always stood as a metaphor for a tough twentieth century.

We first saw Nicolas’s work at Hamish McKay’s and later met Nicolas himself when he visited New Zealand for a show at Starkwhite in 2007. This week in Vienna we caught up with him again. Thework we saw in the studio was very different. Nicolas is making paintings, experimenting with innovations made possible through laser technology. And yet, if you look closely, you can still see the same insistent rhythm of repetition that so marked Patrick’s bad hair day. Some things don’t change.

Images: top, Nicolas Jasmin in his Vienna studio and bottom a still from N.I.J.O.B.s "*O...+/" (Patrick)

Monday, June 20, 2016

It’s either a fake or a damn clever original

Looks like the practical joke of the year will be courtesy of the University of Auckland’s Gus Fisher Gallery. For one week in November the Gallery will present an exhibition of hand-painted replica masterpieces. This Barbarians-at-the-gate moment comes via Masters student Nate Dunn whose style is long on omg gauche. You can read his outpourings on the ups and downs of getting Replicating Genius off the ground on the exhibition’s blog. As in up, ‘What I love about all these new experiences is that not only do I meet interesting people, but each time I do, a little more of the art world becomes less scary to me’ and down, ‘Emailing venues and applying for spaces ensued, and of all the venues I emailed, I didn’t hear back from a single one’.  

Dunn sees the Gus Fisher exhibition as an opportunity to prove the viability of  ‘a proper museum’ of replicas. The whole project is apparently driven by Dunn’s Masters thesis that is ‘an argument for the creation of a museum of replica paintings’. He’s raising funds for the exhibition on Pledgeme offering rewards like an invitation to ‘a pompous opening night event…’ and a chance to ‘…rub shoulders with other fancy Auckland art supporters.’

The University of Auckland is really being a good sport about all this. You may recall it recently threw its weight behind another fake show featuring ‘life-like’ photographic copies of Rembrandt. This time round there’s some academic rhetoric thrown in as its gallery, the Gus Fisher, claims to ‘foster creative and academic research, encourage curatorial practice…’. And of course who can afford to miss out on the publicity a stunt like this is bound to bring.

Postscript: There is the slightest chance that the whole enterprise is for real and so is itself a fake, as in a fake parody. Oh, oh, if the Replicating genius project is for real, 3D printed copies of various heads will have to roll.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

In Budapest...

...we were thinking about Colin McCahon's cloud paintings.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Statue of limitations

We’ve posted before on the rise (but mostly the fall) of socialist sculpture inspired by Weta’s commitment to this style of exaggerated realism (the rugby sculpture in Wellington, the Gallipoli giants at Te Papa) in New Zealand.  So what would stop us heading out into the countryside to check out Memento Park, Budapest’s museum of monumental statues from Hungary’s Communist past? Oh yes, that’s right, nothing. Was it worth the ride? Check out the pictures here on OTNSTUFF. 
Image: Stalin’s boots

Other OTN stories on falling sculptures
Fall guy
After the fall

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Zoo story

In the ongoing battle by art institutions to increase audience numbers, no one is targeted harder than school kids. All museum folk love the pitter-patter, pitter-patter of tiny feet that they can divide by two to build the body count for Councils, Governments and Boards. Besides, what could be more important than educating the young? To that end, the museum world has sprung into interactivity and become rather more doubtful about the attractions of content.  Yesterday in Budapest of all places, we saw an extreme example of the trend that seemed to indicate that all the expense and effort to be entertaining to kids might be a waste of time. At the Budapest Zoo's museum, in a huge hall full of vitrines and panoramic display cases (well rooms really), we found hundreds of children excitedly running from one window to the next, pushing and shoving to get the first look. Total engagement and animation with just one unusual aspect: all the displays were completely empty. No animals, no birds, not even a snail. Someone had forgotten to put up the ‘exhibition closed for repair’ sign. Kids didn’t care.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

OTN in and out of the studio

In Berlin we had a chance to visit Richard Frater in his studio. Like a number of NZ artists Richard has managed to make a life in Berlin and still keep a close relationship with New Zealand recently having shown at the Adam Art Gallery, in the Chartwell Collection show at the Auckland Art Gallery and of course with his dealer Robert Heald in Wellington. Richard showed us a recent work involving an elaborate aquarium cum fountain that was in service to a live oyster quietly working away purifying the water (really). You can see the pictures of Richard’s studio here on OTNSTUDIO along with some other shots taken at et al’s studio in 2006, Peter Robinson’s in 2011 and Australian artist Ricky Swallow who we visited in his Los Angeles studio in 2009.
Image: Richard Frater in his Berlin studio

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hidden truths

Existential game maker Pippin Barr has dipped back into the art world, this time visiting Marfa, the Texas HQ of Donald Judd’s enterprises. The game is VR2 (you can catch VR1 based on Gregor Schneider's Ur House here) explores Judd’s greatest installation 100 untitled works in mill aluminum and asks you to believe that each cube, in fact, contains an object ranging from a fountain of glowing particles to the model of a horse. How hard can it be to believe that these hidden tokens actually exist? It was a challenge for David Rudin so find out for yourself as you wander through the two halls of sculptures. As we’ve all come to believe that Judd didn’t have to actually make his work for it to be his art, surely…..

You can download VR2 or play it on your browser via Pippin's website

Monday, June 13, 2016

Big eyes: trend spotting

We’ve had a lot of people interested to know more about the Berlin Biennale (#necessary lie) so here, culled from the five venues, is a list of what’s hot in art world Ltd.

The apocalypse
Tears and ears
Kids under 7
Body transformation
Rules and regulations
CGI (rinse and repeat)
Desert landscapes
Swelling music
The English language (written and spoken)
Voiceovers (ref English language above)

As one VO whispered (in English) ‘every moment is a sculpture’. Hold that thought.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Boating news

If the Berlin Biennale is one thing, it’s a lot of fun. There’s a toy train to ride on, a canopy bed to sprawl across, entertainment on videos everywhere, VR headsets, twisted digitally inspired incarnations of the familiar, and a boat ride. With so much art now riding hand-in-hand with the experience business (a partygoer in one video claimed, ‘If it came to having a job or having an experience I’d always go for the experience.’ - OK robots OTY). 

And so onto the water in one of Berlin’s tourist boats decked out as a post-apocalyptic relic. In the company of a large mutant rat, mud and artificial orchids we cruised up the river Spree with Berlin sliding past in its contrast and glory. To seal the relational aestheticness of it all Rirkrit Tiravanija was onboard as well as the voluable artist. It was quite a ride topped off when Moby Dick, another tour boat elaborately decked out as a killer whale, sailed by. Everyone in the post-apocalyptic vessel waved and cheered in admiration. 

As it passed we heard the artist mutter, ‘That’s my boat, that’s the one I wanted.’ He could have been quoting Melville himself, ‘”What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?” “Sing out for him!” was the impulsive rejoinder.’

Images: top, Korakrit Arunanondchai / Alex-Gvojic boat instalation There's a world I'm trying to remember, for a feeling I'm about to have (a distractedpath towardextinction), Middle, Moby Dick and bottom, fellow traveler Rirkrit Tiravanija

Thursday, June 09, 2016

That’s a great collection. You’ve got a lot of heart, kid

You’re going to buy a car. Some advice. Ignore other people’s opinions about the best models, forget resale value in your decision-making process, and don’t get bogged down with research. Go on! Buy the mauve open-top, you know you want to. This is pretty much the advice dealt out to prospective art collectors in the latest issue of NZ Listener (you can read it here) in the unsurprisingly titled The fine art of buying art. Of course and that's fine art as in paintings - sit down sculpture you're making a spectacle of yourself. We’ve reviewed these how-to-make-a-great-art-collection articles before but this one deserves some attention. It’s had time put into it, a range of people in Auckland (and one in Dunedin) have been consulted and it’s in a magazine with a heritage of cultural clout.

The consensus of the advice the art cognoscenti in the article offer is that if you’re going to buy art the best thing to follow is not your own research, not the market, not public collections but your passions. Of the wide range of experts quoted, only two suggest you might want to read up a bit on art before jumping in.

The two key dangers for potential collectors, according to the Listener anyway, are having something on your walls that ‘may cause guests to question your taste’ or (perhaps worse) cause you ‘to lose a lot of money’.

Eleanor Ainge Roy does conclude her article with the usual advice (these lists are also freely available on the internet) although it’s somewhat at odds with the views of the bunch of professionals she interviewed.

Colin McCahon or Douglas Badcock? What the hell, follow your heart.

Other OTN posts on advice to collectors 

Business Day
Poor collector’s guide

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


Thirty-one years apart Jeff Koons with his bronze life preserver and Ai Weiwei with carved marble life savers come up with the same sink or sink concept.

Top: Jeff Koons Snorkel Vest, bronze (1985) and bottom, Ai Weiwei Tyre, marble (2016)

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Rules of the game

Over the last two days in Berlin we’ve been to see two private collections and they could hardly have been more different. The current trend for super rich collectors to open their own art museums has exploded in Berlin as it has in most of the rich tip of the first world iceberg. We’ve posted before about Berlin's Boros and Haubok collections but now two newcomers have joined the game and they are something else again. 

First, the good news. The Julia Stoschek collection is based in Dusseldorf but has popped-up in Berlin for six months. It’s housed in a large central city building that looks like it was once some sort of radio or television studio and for this round it’s appropriately only showing media based work. Fifty percent of what’s on show is by women artists, most of it English-language based, entry is free and the work is shown in separate rooms with often more than one work by an artist. It’s a great way to see a lot of art beautifully installed with people who are as interested as you in the experience.

The just-opened Feuerle collection is at the other end of the spectrum. If the Julia Stoschek collection is sophisticated, confident and open-ended, the Feuerle is controlling, pretentious and somewhat vulgar. Désiré Feuerle has some very fixed ideas about how you should look at his art holdings. First the descent to the basement draped in a blanket (it’s cold down there). Then the pause in a pitch-black room to ‘meditate’ while listening to a two and a half minute piece by John Cage to get you in the right frame of mind. Only then are you are allowed to shuffle into the cavernous gallery space. It’s an ex World War II bunker renovated with a creepy amount of care by John Pawson. A sprinkle of plinths and display cases feature ancient stone and metallic sculptures from Southeast Asia. Spot-lit in the darkness, reflected and mirrored, it’s a spooky sight. While ‘heart of darkness’ may have been the leading edge style in the 1970s (think Treasures of Tutankhamun at the Metropolitan Museum in 1976), such radical decontextualisation and aestheticisation is now seldom seen in public museums. This is very much a private enterprise with precise rules of engagement and no information about the works at all.  Presumably to leaven this austerity some Nobuyoshi Araki photographs of bound naked women are also hung around the walls. What could possibly go wrong.

Images: top, contemporary media art on view in the Julia Stoschek collection and bottom Asian art on show at the Feuerle collection

Monday, June 06, 2016

Sixty-four characters in search of an economy

In counterpoint to his installation in the Marciana Library in Venice, Simon Denny has scored another amazing venue, this time for the Berlin Biennale. Sited in an institution he could have invented the name for – ESMT School of Management and Technology – he’s in the heart of the old East German State Council building. Lavishly fitted out in the early 1960s it boasts sweeping staircases, imposingly high ceilings and enormous windows, elaborate metallic patterned doors as well as murals celebrating the socialist state in glass and aluminum. 

Denny’s exhibition space features one of these murals soaring to the ceiling and looming over a constellation of Blockchain visionaries (the title of the show) whose mission is nothing less than to transform money and the global economy. Using the modular trades fair booth format Denny delivers three case studies presenting the key points of each strategy, a full-length portrait and even a set of stamps (in collaboration with Linda Kantchev). 

OK, the Trade show format can be a struggle for art audiences with its direct messaging, reductive graphics and slippery politics but chances are they’ll grow accustomed to it. After all, many visitors to the Biennale now admire the once ignored or even despised murals of Socialist ideals that contextualize the Denny work. And yes, they look pretty damn good. You can see a short video and pics of Denny’s installation here on OTN:STUFF

Image: visitors climbing the stairs of the ESMT School of Management and Technology to see Simon Denny's instalation

Friday, June 03, 2016

A fair account

The Art Newspaper has just published a long report on art fair biz over the ten years 2005-2015. And guess what? Yep, it’s a growth industry. Close to home, the number of Asia Pacific fairs have jumped 86 percent to a total of 21, admittedly from a smaller base but it is an indicator and it’s roaring compared to 47 percent growth over the same period in the US. But when it comes to collectors apparently the West still rules with American and European fairs being the favourites. When it came to picking the top 40, just on 80 percent were from the US (11) and Europe (21). That means collectors give just two art fairs below the equator the big tick. No, not you Australia or you Auckland. Meanwhile the fastest growing art cities are cited as Tokyo, Mexico City, Istanbul, Seoul, Singapore and Shanghai. Here’s hoping the spread of the 2026 report is going to be somewhat different.

And how much do these art fairs cost? The average price for a booth is just under $1,000 per m2 with the most expensive being just over $2,000. And how many art fairs are there? At the end of the report there’s a list of all the art fairs slated for 2016-2017. There are 320 of them. You can read the full report here

Cartoon: The brilliant Pablo Helguera

Thursday, June 02, 2016

It’s a small world after all

NZ’s having a moment in Berlin. There’s Simon Denny in the Berlin Biennale opening at the end of the week and a group show just launched at ifa galleries in the toney part of Mitte. Ifa fronts one of those amorphous government organisations that’s all about ‘peaceful and enriching coexistence between people and cultures worldwide.’ The NZ artists Leonie Hutchison, Natalie Robinson, Peter Robinson and Kalisolaite ‘Uhil occupy a couple of spacious brightly painted galleries along with Berlin-based Gabriel Rossell-Santillán, the peripatetic Daniel Maier-Reimer and an Indonesian collective. The exhibition is titled Politics of sharing – on collective wisdom. It's branded as promoting ‘important current questions', ‘new ways to share from the Maori’ and defining ‘the gallery space as a Marae’. That sort of thing. Pretty earnest, although Robinson peps it up by felt bombing the place and, as we saw last night, bits of Berlin.

Images Peter Robinson in the Ifa exhibition and, bottom right outside via an enthusiastic 'participating' visitor

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

By the numbers

0  the number of jobs currently being advertised by Te Papa to fill vacancies at Te Papa Press

0  the number of media releases by the Minister for Culture and Heritage on visual art-related topics so far in 2016

3.022 the difference in millions of dollars between what was applied for and what was granted in the latest Creative NZ Arts round

9 the number of media releases by the Minister for Culture and Heritage on war-related topics so far in 2016

12.9 the amount in cents per every rated dollar that goes toward arts and culture in Christchurch.

20 the number of art works purchased by The Chartwell Collection so far this year

26 the number of days before Jamie Hanton takes up his position as the new Director of The Physics Room

365 the number of days Te Papa is open ‘Te Papa is open 365 days a year (that’s every day!)’

366 the number of days in 2016

943 the number of ‘ideas’ thrown up by the Auckland Art Gallery’s website when you click on the ideas category in the ‘Art & Ideas’ section