Friday, October 09, 2015

Back in your court

We’ve now had time to read through the Judgment papers issued by High Court Judge John Fogarty in the case of Bambury vs Jensen. At 145 pages it must be one of the most expensive art texts written in this country! A number of readers have suggested that our initial post was somewhat unfair to defendant Andrew Jensen claiming Stephen Bambury as a clear winner. Despite our comment that the settlement was ‘a much reduced pay out based on the initial claim of around $700,000 about the much reduced pay out on the initial claim of around $700,000’ we also wrote up that ‘the High Court has found in favour of the artist’ so it’s probably a fair enough reaction. 

Here’s a little more detail about what happened. There were 41 items disputed by the artist (mostly around payments owing on paintings) of which 26 failed to convince Judge Fogarty for various reasons. Two other items were set aside because of the Limitations Act, a couple were granted leave to apply at another time and seven required payments being made to Bambury in the total amount of $139,200 plus some interest. Given the amount of money that must have been spent taking this action to the High Court there were probably no winners on the day. We’ll try to make a copy of the Judgment easily available on OTN if we can. It’s a fascinating insight (and a rare one) into the back office world of dealers and artists. 
Image: trajectory of a ping pong ball

Thursday, October 08, 2015

A great art museum building from Shigeru Ban

The Oita prefectural art museum in southern Japan, a couple of hours by train from Fukuoka, has got to be one of the most beautiful art museums in the world. Designed by Shigeru Ban, the same architect who designed Christchurch’s cardboard cathedral, it shares some of that building’s signature elements but then expands and develops them. This is a large light box so beautifully measured and detailed that just walking around the exterior is a revelation in the use of design and materials. And then a wonderful interior with clear zones of different functions that work closely together visually. The effect is you always know exactly where you are and with a very good idea of why. Connect all this with a graceful atrium and what you get is an invitation to explore further rather than the shock and awe of so many recent museum entrances. You can see our photographs of the building inside and out here on OTN: ARCHITECTURE

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Te Papa’s new Go Away policy

It must be pretty annoying becoming a Chief Executive in the public service if you come from the private sector. Stuff that is no business but your own is now open to public scrutiny. Your business expenses, for instance. How much you spent on taxis even. I mean, what the hell? Remember when Josie McNaught took it on herself to detail some ‘embarrassing’ everyday expenses of the previous CE of Te Papa in national art mags? 

Now there's a new sheriff in town and one that's obviously not going to put up with that sort of transparency bullshit. If he wants to wine and dine and catch a cab or even a damn helicopter if it’s called for, what has that got to do with anybody else, let alone taxpayers?  

And so the bi-annual ‘Te Papa CE and Kaihautū expenses disclosure document’ (scroll down the page) that has been in the public domain since 2010 via Te Papa's web site has been closed down for the July 2014-June 2015 period. 'Authentication required. Put in your password'. Oh, you don’t have one? Then 'Access denied'. 

Expenses documents from July 2010 to June 2013 are still available at the time of writing. No shoving please. There are plenty of expired reports available for everyone.

LATER: Te Papa have been in touch and have now made this material available

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The name game

Charismatic painting  Jerry Saltz 2015

Zombie Formalism  Walter Robinson 2014

Art Flipping Katya Kazakina 2013

Selfie Hopey 2002

Gallery goers Vito Acconci 1972

Arthur Danto 1964

Happening Allan Kaprow 1961

Concept Art Henry Flynt 1961

Pop Art  John McHale  1954

The decisive moment Dick Simon for Henri Cartier Bresson’s book Images a la sauvette  1952

Action painting Harold Rosenberg 1952

Abstract Expressionism
Robert Coates 1946

Readymade Marcel Duchamp 1913

Post modern John Watkins Chapman 1870

Avant-garde Olinde Rodrigues 1825

Modernist Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1769

Academy Giorgio Vasari 1562

Monday, October 05, 2015

Broken records

The long legal tussle between artist Stephen Bambury and art dealer Andrew Jensen has run its course. It's been an important case. It asked the court to consider the relationship between artists and dealers that are usually (given that there are few solid contractual agreements) conducted in a pretty fluid state. The way art is bought and sold in New Zealand can be complex with closely negotiated deals on prices, time payment, part-payments, packaging of works, exchanges, etc etc. Given that throughout their professional education artists learn diddly squat about how to run even the smallest business, it's not surprising that many artists end up with incomplete records and a sketchy idea of what’s in their various dealers' stock rooms or indeed who ends up owning their work.

This is the context in which Bambury questioned missing payments on sales made by Jensen’s gallery and Jensen, in the way of these things, counter-sued. Now the High Court has found in favour of the artist, awarding him over $100,000 plus interest accumulated over the years the complaint has been in dispute. Jensen’s counter-claims were put aside. Of course all this started with Jensen and Bambury working together very closely. Jensen was a believer in Bambury and Bambury a strong supporter of Jensen’s gallery with both benefiting. Unfortunately such friendships can also lead to the business practices associated with them being looser than usual. Dealings can get muddled via undocumented oral agreements, payments being used to offset other expenses, trade-ins and so forth.

Indeed the court found the Bambury-Jensen relationship to be so closely intertwined that the judge regarded it to be more like a partnership than a business relationship between two separate companies. As a result issues of trust were seen as less critical than they might be in business to business relationships. This maybe why some of Bambury’s more complex claims were dismissed. So, a much reduced pay-out based on the initial claim of around $700,000, but still significant. It will no doubt reverberate through the dealer gallery system and should be a wake-up call to artists look carefully at their own responsibility to keep track of their work and the money it brings them.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Art at work: Tokyo

Friday, October 02, 2015

Did we say small? We meant big

The exhibition spaces in the contemporary art museums of Tokyo are like their peers in the rest of the well-off world - grossly inflated. When was the last time you could use a simple ladder to hang something off the ceiling of an exhibition space? The result of this institutional love affair with volume is extreme pressure on artists to produce larger and larger works. Having seen a lot of art over the last few days, here's some of the strategies currently in use to make big work with smallish budgets.

1 Building large structures from cheap materials (bamboo, cardboard, plastic etc)

2  Arranging 100 or so small paintings in a grid pattern to take up a big wall

3  Presenting videos inside cheap structures like tents or cupboards

4  Installing large real world objects (the more unexpected the better) in front of paintings or videos. Start with a rowboat or a car and you'll probably get to a homemade working helicopter

5  Leaning large objects (the floor from a school room, for instance) against walls

6  Locating multiple screens in a long line (and they can be showing the same image, see repetition below) or as large scale panoramic projections

7  Isolating and spotlighting furniture (desks, tables, benches) to facilitate a visitor survey or some other bureaucratic task

8  Piling things or stacking things

9  Going for repetition. One plaster cat is dull, 1,000 not so much

Images: top to bottom, left to right. large structure - cheap material, piles, large real-world object, tv in a tent, survey and lots-a-paintings

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The race for the bottom

The auction business is at the pointy end of the art market, the arena where individuals publicly demonstrate what art is worth to them. While there’s some horse-trading in the primary market it’s mostly around commissions rather than setting prices. That means when an established auction house announces it has been conducting ‘extensive research of the market’ to work out the best categories for its sales, it’s time to pay attention. 

The auction house is Webb’s and its research has told it to go with five levels of sale. The groupings are pretty much the ones it has been using recently (Paramount, Vision, Discovery, Affordable...oh…and Photography) but the frequency is a surprise. We’re talking an extraordinary 18 art auctions a year. As we say in Counting-On-Our-Fingers-Land, that’s one every three weeks. Whew! Simply put, Webb’s reckons the future of art auctions is a volume business and it’s going to lead the commodification charge in what is usually thought of as a premium market. While the twice a year Paramount events will include ‘important paintings and contemporary art for major collectors of artworks valued over $20,000’, the other 17 auctions will be selling works on average between $10,000 and $2,000. It’s a bold move. To turn over a million on the hammer price you only have to clear around 8 works in the $125,000 range, or 200 works at $5,000 each. That’s a lot of consigning, cataloguing, freighting, marketing, transacting let alone actual auctioning. Of course Webb’s will be hoping to land some big fish for its Paramount outings but with only around 10 percent of their auctions geared to the high end you can see where the energy will be going.

The big question is supply. Will collectors release big ticket items to an auction house so focussed on the bottom end? The quality of items very new comers Bowerbank Ninow have snagged for their first auction will certainly give Webb’s pause. Maybe it’s a good time to send someone up the mast to look out for icebergs.

Image: the iceberg thought to have sunk the Titanic

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Vanishing cream

If you've followed OTN for a while you'll know its position over the use of Gordon Walters' version of the koru has gone from astonishment through resignation to whatever. As a design it has been slapped on just about everything but now that the digital is putting copyright itself under such pressure all this WTFing is starting to feel rather old school. But there are always exceptions. And you do have to laugh when you see Walters basic design revamped into a clumsy identity for a product called ‘Come Clean’. Their killer by-line? “Clear skin with a clear conscience.” Not until you've talked to the Walters Estate you won’t have.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Light touch

Now that Michael Parekowhai’s Lighthouse sculpture featuring a super-sized chandelier is all go, you might be interested to check out this video of a couple of guys actually making one. Just how the Parekowhai version is going to look is still obviously in the planning stages although there are hints that it will include NZ imagery. Looking at the skills required, getting something like this made in New Zealand is going to be a challenge. Still we are talking about a guy who had a full-sized bronze elephant cast in Henderson so there you go.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Brilliant or nonsense, you be the judge

One set of entrails that hasn’t been considered in the Venice Binnale selection process for 2017 is Speeculation. This was the 2007 what-you-send-to-Venice-when-you’re-not-sending-anyone-to-Venice publication spearheaded by Brian Butler, then director of Artspace. NZ's continuing participation in the Biennale was seriously in doubt at the time so the book's proposition was a plug for the depth of talent available asking 'Which New Zealand artist now or in the future could be sent to the Venice Biennale and exhibit in the New Zealand pavilion?' Chosen by eight NZ-based curators, the list of 27 artists was Auckland centric (81 percent), but it did include all the five artists who got the call to go to Venice in the subsequent years: Francis Upritchard, Judy Millar, Michael Parekowhai, Bill Culbert and Simon Denny. So maybe somewhere in the rest of the Butler list is another name with a chance although of the artists who are generally considered to have applied for 2017, only Apple and Mitchell are on the list. Maybe curators can only see a decade into the future at a time. The rest of the Butler artists are: Fiona Amundsen, Eve Armstrong, Andrew Barber, Stella Brennan, Judy Darragh, Bill Hammond, Ronnie van Hout, Sean Kerr, Jae Hoon Lee, Saskia Leek, Andrew McLeod, Daniel Malone, Ani O'Neill, John Reynolds, Jim Speers, Sriwhana Spong, Yvonne Todd, Yuk King Tan and Rohan Wealleans.

Image: Bultler and his team search for clues to future choices for the Venice Biennale (thanks for pointing the way B)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Turned on

Martin Creed lights up the Christchurch Art Gallery

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fit for purpose

The Gormley sculpture limbers up and gets some rest in preparation for its stint in Christchurch's Avon river

Friday, September 25, 2015

Down sizing

With public and dealer galleries building bigger and bigger spaces it’s hard to figure how artist are going to be able to fill them with enough art to keep things going? Will we see a return to tiny art? Photographer and art director Tatsuya Tanaka obviously thinks so. You can see more of his work here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

By the numbers: international

0       the number of stadiums designed by architect Zaha Hadid that will be built for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo

2       the number of life-size steel  figures gone missing that were made by Antony Gormley for Western Australia’s remote Lake Ballard

3       the times Anish Kapoor's sculpture Dirty Corner in the Versailles Palace gardens has been vandalised with anti-Semitic and other slurs

15      the number in millions of flowers used to create a giant head of Vincent van Gogh for the Bloemencorso Zundert parade in the town of Zundert in the Netherlands

10      the number of new stories that will open in the Tate’s ever expanding building extension.

60      the percentage of new display space Tate Modern will get with its new $NZ637 million building

75      the age in years of Auguste Rodin when he was filmed by Sacha Guitry in 1915. You can see it here

120    the number of art works made by British artist Damien Hirst owned by collector Jose Mugrabi

800    the amount in millions of dollars that auction house Sotheby’s has guaranteed the sale of the Taubman estate, the contemporary and modern art collection of former Sotheby's chairman

2000  the number of art works in the Broad collection whose new museum opened this month in downtown LA