Friday, July 29, 2016


‘All collections are political’. That was the American artist Fred Wilson in his exhibition Mining the museum. More contentiously, ‘Possessiveness, when it appears as a symptom, is always a secondary phenomenon of anxiety.’ That was the English psychoanalyst D W Winnicott. These thoughts are here to introduce you to a couple of startling exhibitions on the business of collecting. The first is The Keeper, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, which has just opened in New York at the New Museum. At its center is Ydessa Hendeles’s Teddy Bear project (more Teddys than you could possibly imagine). We once saw it installed alongside another artwork from her collection (not a teddy bear this time), Maurizio Cattelan’s Him, a miniature figure of Hitler at prayer. The New York Times took the opportunity offered by The Keeper to ask its readers what they collect. The responses are here including one guy who collects photographs of men in lines. And this brings us to the second exhibition and one of our favourite collectors, the artist Patrick Pound. He is showing his work Documentary Intersect at the Adam Art Gallery, opening tonight. A highlight of the show is a set of around 30 postcards of the same floral clock that Pound has patiently assembled over the years. Incredibly, each card is in fact a different photograph of the same clock and, even more remarkably, each one shows a different time. Eat your heart out Christian Marclay.

Image Pat Pound installing his exhibition at the Adam art Gallery

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Big, bigger, biggest

How big is too big for an art museum?  No doubt about it, building has turned out to be more fun for directors than collecting or even putting shows together. A feature of NZ’s art museum building boom since the 1980s, is that it has triggered pressure on funds for everything else. Exhibitions, public programmes and collections have to go on the endless hunt for private funding. It’s not just a local problem, of course, as this NY Times article demonstrates. There are profound structural consequences to deal with too which are seldom factored in when everyone is playing with plans and models. As the buildings get bigger, the number on staff grows too, and once you have staff, they want to do things. And that costs money.

Now even the slightest exhibition gets a full schedule of targeted activities and sessions for the kids who have to create sculptures one month and copy paintings the next. Artists cop it too as the new super-sized spaces have got to be filled even though this is not something all artists are good at, even when the dollars are available.

The curious thing is that most of this attention grab just seems to be about getting more people through the door. At a time when capitalism is facing fundamental questions about growth for its own sake, the museums’ claims to social responsibility and sustainability are looking tattered. All this is why, having cracked remarkable attendances with the opening of the new Len Lye Center, the director looks ahead to next year with trepidation when the gloss will be off. ‘I'm terrified,’ he admits.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

By the numbers

2  the number of women currently showing at City Gallery Wellington

3   the number of books to be published by Te Papa Press in 2016

24  the number of policy statements setting out the principles for presenting Len Lye’s work at the Govett-Brewster

25  the number of Gordon Walters paintings currently on loan to the Auckland Art Gallery by the Chartwell Collection

29  the number of Trevor Moffitt paintings being sold as consecutive lots (one to 29) at Dunbar Sloane on 10 August

11   the number of years the Britten V1000, the star of Billy Apple’s latest exhibition at Christchurch Art Gallery, held the speed record at Ruapuna Raceway

30  the number of documents online relating to the Sarjeant Gallery’s extension and its funding

36   the number of works by Gordon Walters in the collections of the Auckland Art Gallery

100  the number of paintings by Gottfried Lindauer that the Auckland Art Gallery thinks are unaccounted for and possibly held in family collections

220  the amount in dollars needed to purchase Fiona Clark’s Artspace edition Book Shelf, Tikorangi

700  the cost in dollars of lighting a public sculpture (based on Neil Dawson’s Spires in Christchurch) for one year

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Broken news

The New Zealand Herald, big time supporters of the arts (#kidding), couldn’t resist showing a stealth photograph of Michael Parekowhai’s sculpture Lighthouse in mid-construction. Kind of inconsistent for a newspaper that will put out a spoiler alert for discussion of an episode of Game of Thrones. Of course the NZH had its view of the work sorted out long ago.  So not surprising this latest story notes that, ‘it has been labeled a monstrosity and joke by some members of the public’ but forgets to mention that (spoiler alert) nearly one hundred percent of the outrage was via the comments sections to its own stories. It's not called the ‘news cycle’ for nothing.

Image: Michael Parekowhai sculpture under construction. Photo: New Zealand Herald, pixelation OTN

Monday, July 25, 2016

Size matters

OK, we’ve done this sort of thing before but this is a great one: Colin McCahon’s Victory over death squeezed into $1.85 million apartment kitted out for Auckland’s ‘empty nesters’. Forget for a moment that the McCahon family owns the copyright on this painting and that it was a gift to Australia from the people of New Zealand, you’ve got to raise an eyebrow at the size thing. You’d think for just South of two million you could expect the scale of the art to work with the size of the room and furnishings. But hang on a minute maybe given that price it is in scale. So that makes the couch around 10 meters wide with each cushion coming in at 3.3 meters square. Makes sense. And while it’s a plus to see McCahon recognized as the million dollar man (there are two other works by McCahon pasted onto the ‘walls’ of this apartment) it’s ironic that the whole engorged affair looks out over Grey Lynn, the suburb where the artist lived in a smallish villa in Crummer Road. 
(...and thanks to you M)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Three times weird

1  Artist claims he never painted a work and the courts don’t believe him

Peter Doig has made it clear that a painting owned by an ex prison warder was not by him. In fact, says Doig, who did serve time himself, it was by another Doig (no relation) serving time at the same time as Doig, as it were. But the courts disagree and now Doig (the Peter variety) is being sued for denying authorship and is being required to prove he didn’t paint the work. OK

2  Artist says he never painted the work and the BBC reckons he’s wrong

A BBC reality show about fakes has claimed that a Lucian Freud painting that the artist has disowned was, in fact, painted by him. SO THERE.

3  Artist claims that fakes painted by a forger who has confessed to making them are in fact his

Korean painter Lee Ufan, after inspecting 13 forgeries of his work in a Seoul police station, has claimed, even though the forger has admitted to banging them up, that he could find nothing wrong with them.  SAY WHAT?

Images: top to bottom, Doig, Freud and Ufan

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mobile art

Looking back, OTN has posted quite a bit of stuff on tattoos where the needle guys have reached for the fine arts. Not so usual, and in fact kind of strange, to see sculpture inked in, and more so with kinetic sculpture. And then we spotted these Alexander Calder inspired tats. What the hell do we know?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Seeing double

We came across a familiar sight in San Francisco - George Rickey’s Double L Excentric Gyratory outside the SF Public Library.  This one, of the edition of three, was made in 1982, three years before the version outside the Auckland Art Gallery. Now that’s an unusual numbering system given that AAG has number one of three in the edition. The OTN research team (#google #wikipedia) went to work and found that it looks like the final copy in the edition, Double L Excentric Gyratory – Pond, dated 1988, is still available via Rickey’s dealer Maxwell Davidson. The inclusion of the word ‘pond’ in the title perhaps points to yet another editioned version of Double L Excentric Gyratory. It’s on the cards considering there’s also an edition of three Double L Excentric Gyratory II that is, to all intents and purposes, exactly the same as the other DLEGs. All the IIs have been placed in prestigious American collections but weirdly they are dated 1981, a year before the SF version. It reminds us of NZ sculptor/photographer Boyd Webb who would change out some minor detail, like the colour of a character’s socks, in a photograph and go on to produce a different edition of a popular work.

Images: top to bottom left to right, George Rickey’s Double L Excentric Gyratory (produced in 1985) at the Auckland Art Gallery; outside the San Francisco Library and Double L Excentric Gyratory - pond in the stock of his dealer gallery. Double L Excentric Gyratory II at Pepsi Cola’s Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens and the Williams College Museum of Art. And in Sacramento.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

One day in the director’s office

Director: I’m alarmed. We really do need to wake up our ideas and raise the bar.

Staff: We could make better shows...

D: Don’t be facetious. I mean pumping up our attendance figures.

S Better shows?

D: Yes, yes, very amusing …. I get it. We need something that will attract a completely different breed of punter. It’s the Trump thing. I’m thinking ....oh, I don't know... body builders or the craft-a-noon crowd or maybe, just maybe, the God Squad - they usually give us a miss.

S: We could dust off Michelangelo for them.

D: I don’t need another DWM what I’m after is - Michelangelo …the…the… WOMAN.

S: Woman plus God plus Art? .. that’s a challenge. (brightly) How about that singing nun?...

D: A nun? .... did you say nun? ...why didn’t I think of that? … a nun (quietly hums to himself ‘Dominique, inique. inique s'en allait tout simplement. Routier pauvre et chantant’).

S: I was joking…please tell me you’re not thinking of going with a singing nun… aren’t we supposed to be about the visual arts?

D: (ignoring him) Now if we go with my nun idea it’s going to have to really pop. (thinks) …POP! ….. I’ve done it again! We’ll show that Pop Art Nun, what’s–her-name.

S: Pop Art Nun?

D: (on a roll) The Great Pop Artist nun Sister Thingumy. I can see the poster already. “GOD ALMIGHTY…IT’S POP ART! “

S: But she isn’t a Pop artist.

D: Of course she is, everyone says so … PURE POP.

S: But she’s selling God. Warhol wasn’t making work to sell Brillo, Lichtenstein wasn’t shilling comics, Rosenquist wasn’t flogging F111 Bombers on commission.

D: You’re splitting hairs. …. A Pop Art Nun … holy shit…we need to get onto this right away.

And that is what they did.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Thinking about...

At the Joan Jonas retrospective in Montreal we rounded a corner and immediately thought of the Don Driver sculpture at the Dowse Art Museum.

Images: left Joan Jonas and right Don Driver

Friday, July 15, 2016

When life follows art.


Image:  A study attributed to Benjamin West of the two delegations at the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War in 1783. After much hard bargaining, representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America agreed on conditions that were considered exceedingly generous to the US. The British delegation refused to pose for West’s painting and it was never completed. It is currently hanging in The Met Breuer in New York as part of the exhibition Unfinished.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The art of art chart art

As part of our admiration for the certainty of Art Charts, we’ve previously posted the famous one by Alfred Barr that fronted the catalogue for MoMA’s groundbreaking exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art in 1936. Many years later the idea showed it had legs when it was provocatively updated. The ‘torpedo’ chart was also a Barr special demonstrating his unwavering faith that the art of the Americas owned the future and that the end of Europe as path-finders was nigh. We also found in MoMA’s archives online Barr’s original sketch for his Abstract art mind-map. All this gives us the opportunity to list two of our favourite art charts that have come our way, a link to others and thank again the people who sent them in.

The art chart thing
Jobs at Te Papa
Touch, don't touch?
How to be an artist
List of past art charts

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

If you build them….

Ever wondered what a full-sized ocean liner might look like inside a building? If that’s the sort of thing you crave, head over to OTNARCHITECTURE where we have put up some new buildings, including Zaha Hadid’s Library and Learning Centre in Vienna. There are also a couple of modernist masterpieces: Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Villa Tugendhat that was built between 1928 and 1930 in Brno in the Czech Republic and Adolf Loos’s 1930 Villa Müller in Prague. Plus we got a look at the more recent Dancing House in Prague, a collaboration between the Croatian–Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry from 1996.

Images: top left, Villa Tugendhat and right, Villa Müller. Bottom left, Dancing House and right, the Library and Learning Centre University of Economics in Vienna

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rotten Apple

Given the mileage Andy Warhol and his peers (including Billy Apple) got out of advertising, it’s probably reasonable to expect some blow back from the agencies. In Billy Apple’s case, however, you might have expected it to come from somewhere other than New Zealand Trade & Enterprise. Its promotional materials for the 2016 International Business Awards celebrate the successes of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board with a gold apple and a gold pear.  Not only that, they are also placed on a plinth, complete with an art museum label detailing dimensions and media, we’re in lookalike copycat territory, as in the clear reference back to Billy Apple’s 1983 apple made of 103 ounces of pure gold (unlike the Apple effort the somewhat cheesy copycat is only plated).  

So why shouldn’t T&E liberate Apple’s gold apple idea? Well maybe because one of the stated goals of the Awards is that it, ‘recognises success in developing and commercialising innovation in international markets; incorporating intellectual property strategy, processes and monitoring’. And protecting Billy Apple’s innovation and IP? ….um….we’ll get back to you on that.

Images: left New Zealand Trade & Enterprise's copycat apple and right Billy's apple.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The back of beyond

You have to have some nerve to show nothing at a New York gallery and, walking into Lisa Cooley’s space on the Lower East Side, that’s pretty much what you got from Fiona Connor. Until you got closer to the back wall that is. Turned out that Fiona had reproduced the back wall of the gallery along with what was on its back, as it were. So a blank wall to start with and then behind it a brick wall with what looked like braces for shelves and a poster for cheese. Next stop was to find the source wall so we left the gallery and went round the block and into the covered Essex Street market. There, right at the back, was Formaggio Kitchen and, sure enough, the back wall matched Fiona’s, including the poster. Now that’s true spatial sleight of hand.

Images: top to bottom, Fiona Connor work front, other side, round the back and bird’s-eye

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Distance comes our way

The era is long gone when public art museums dominated the presentation of world art to us in NZ. There are now many other players competing in this game. Gow Langsford Gallery, as just one example, has a long history of showing significant artists in considerable depth over years. We thought of this commitment yesterday as we waded through hundreds of white balloons in the Martin Creed piece Work number 2497: Half the air in a given space. Although these balloons were large and white, it is a version of the memorable pink balloon Work number 329 exhibited at Michael Lett on K-Road way back in 2004. 

Indeed the reason we were so familiar with most of the works in Creed’s survey exhibition The Back Door at the Park Avenue Armory in New York city (the famous venue that first showed Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain in 1913) was because he has shown regularly in New Zealand. We even had the opportunity to talk with Martin Creed once when he was in Christchurch to make an installation for Scape in 2006. As we have related before (but hopefully so long ago that no one will remember) we had just purchased his Work number 312: a lamp going on and off. All you receive when you purchase Work 312 is a certificate giving you the right to buy a lamp and have it turn on and off, and when we met Martin we had still to buy a lamp to do the job. We asked him if he’d be interested in having a photograph of our lamp once we had selected it. His reply, ‘that’s very kind of you, but I’m really only interested in the light going on and off.’ Genius.

Images: Martin Creed piece Work number 2497: Half the air in a given space at the Park Avenue Armory in New York city

Monday, July 04, 2016

Going Clear

Wellington once had a brainwave about how to get some public sculpture into the city: offer developers more space if they would commission some art for their building. And so they offered five percent additional floor space for every one percent of the building cost spent on art. It sort of worked until Fletcher Challenge purchased a Henry Moore bronze and convinced the city council to allow it to spread the additional floor space it earned over future projects. The Henry Moore, in other words, was not attached to a particular building project thus leading the bonus scheme into the territory known as blurry.

In all there were about 11 commissions in the Arts Bonus Scheme and their fate has been mixed. The Moore was banished to the Botanic gardens (OTN story here), a Paul Hartigan neon which used to flash energetically on Lambton Quay is now static, the Robert Jesson Starfish was re-imagined (OTN story here) and now another on the roster is facing the chop. Phil Trusttum’s stained glass canopy Northern lights on the Terrace is to be disassembled (good luck with that) and all 400 plus panels put into storage.

Of course when someone complained, the building owners came out swinging. There was never any intention of destroying the work they claimed. That sounded ok until you look at the timing. It was only four days before the ‘deconstruction’ was to begin that a meeting was set to decide on the physical removal of the Trusttum looking at ‘how it's done, who pays for what and what the longer term options might be.’ Oh, oh.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Hands up

In the sculpting of giant hands, the one hand sculpture is King. The GH sculpture crown is keenly contested around the world from Joe Louis’s fist in Detroit to  Lorenzo Quinn's big mitt picking up cars or scooters. It’s certainly been a tough run race but the contest is all now. In a single handsome gesture on the roof of the Christchurch Art Gallery, Ronnie van Hout has become the undisputed master of the mega hand. You heard that first on OTN. No correspondence will be entered into.

Images: top to bottom (left to right), Ronnie van Hout’s Quasi in Christchurch, unknown artist Meir shopping street in Antwerp, Lorenzo Quinn twice (scooter and tank), Maurizio Cattelan Middle finger, Botero, Llew Summers The hand in Wanaka, Sophie Ryder The kiss in Salisbury, Gangnam style hands in Seoul, two hand works by Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal’s, Oscar Rodriguez, En-trust by John Merrill and Robert Graham’s tribute to heavyweight champion Joe Louis in Detroit