Wednesday, October 01, 2014

MoMA makes significant purchase of Denny works

In the scheme of things a New Zealand artist getting something purchased by the Museum of Modern Art is a very rare thing indeed. Len Lye has work there and we think Phil Dadson does too. Now it’s Simon Denny’s turn. Today MoMA confirmed that five significant works by the artist have been acquired by the Department of Painting and Sculpture for the permanent collection.  They are Berlin Startup Case Mod: Rocket Internet (2014), 16.20 Family Strings, 16.40 Conversation, 17.05 Break (3 works; all 2013) and All you Need is ... Data? (2013).

For Denny the MoMA confirmation represents the high point of a number of significant purchases into important collections including Channel document into the Rubell Family collection in Miami. Last month his exhibition New management at Portikus in Frankfurt was also purchased by a private collector.

Denny received news of the MoMA confirmation as he was setting up his exhibition The personal effects of Kim Dotcom at Wellington’s Adam Art Gallery. The scale of the confiscations of Dotcom’s possessions by the New Zealand police is revealing. Anyone looking at the ambition and complexity of this show will get a great insight into why Denny was the object of desire for the famed New York museum.

Image: Berlin Startup Case Mod: Rocket Internet, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York

The price is right, or wrong, or something

Webb’s latest publication continues with its argument that statistics are the way to the hearts of collectors. Again it's Bill Hammond who wears the stat hat with a timeline of his auction prices marching through the ages, well from 1996 to 2009 at least. In dollar terms we’re talking from $326,250.00 to $322,000.00 with a work that sold for $316,250.00 in the middle. But you know statistics. At a loose end? Try putting the numbers through an inflation calculator and a somewhat different story emerges. In today's dollars the 1996 painting is Fortified Gang Headquarters and adjusted would be worth $477,324 and the 2009 painting Farmer’s Market worth $355,957. So good news for Hammond buyers, though maybe for investors, not so much. In its next auction Webb’s have a classic 1996 painting Searching for Ashburton on the block with an estimate of $220,000 - $280,000. Sounds pretty impressive but go in reverse and put it into 1996 inflation adjusted figures (have these people nothing better to do with their time?) and you're looking at $150,000 to $190,000. You can play games with inflation here on the Reserve Bank site.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Len, again

UK based Graphic Designer and Illustrator Kate Moross reaches out to Len Lye for All We Are’s video I Wear You (Just noticed this version is cutting off the side of the video. You can see it in its full glory here on YouTube)

Simply the best

On Sunday 21 September we tested our now-you-hear-it-now-you-don’t audio system at Simon Denny’s Walters Prize discussion with Robert Leonard. The results were spectacular. Four days later the same microphone with its peerless intermittent broadcasting capabilities was the star at Walters Prize judge Charles Esche’s talk.

So when we needed the very best in broadcast quality for winner Luke Willis Thompson's presentation our revolutionary start/stop system was the obvious choice. Auckland Art Gallery. Technology when you need it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

On the way down the island

Thinking about Rohan Wealleans

Water world

What would it take to make someone who has been Commissioner, lead patron and key sponsor for New Zealand’s presence at the Venice Biennale spit the dummy? In the case of Jenny Gibbs it sounds like it was a return airfare to Venice. Oh, did we mention it was for Nicky Hager who is also an advisor for the Simon Denny project. Gibbs along with the Friedlanders has left the patrons group only months before the Denny project launches in Venice. Ironically this odd gesture comes at the same time as Charles Esche has been lecturing the Auckland art scene on the perils of mixing patronage and the public purse in art’s name. All this is hardly likely to worry Simon Denny who has just had a survey exhibition confirmed with MoMA PS1 for next year. Creative NZ seems to be taking things in its stride and the rest of the other patrons seem to be staunch. The fact is over the years the Venice boat has been rocked too many times for it to be swamped by a couple of the crew jumping overboard.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Art was the winner on the night

Last night Charles Esche gave the Walters Prize to Luke Willis Thompson. As previewed in his talk the night before, Esche took a particular liking to the works that were in his words “tentative, quizzical and modest” and that existed outside the traditional gallery context (Leach, Thompson, ‘Uhila). He found Thompson’s winning taxi ride and the interaction with his family to be overwhelming in its “uncertainty, unease, anticipation and privilege.” Unfortunately Simon Denny, the only artist to exhibit physical works in the gallery, was misunderstood by Esche who mistook Denny’s work as a megaphone rather than the mirror it is. Still, a great result and exciting for Hopkinson Mossman who are now celebrating the second artist in their line-up to win in a row.
Image: top, Luke Willis Thompson and bottom the ride to the family home

Friday, September 26, 2014


Michael Parekowhai's art continues to fascinate the cartoonists, this time Bromhead  with his Munch lookalike in the Herald today.

The artist is present

Tonight Charles Esche will announce the Walters Prize winner. As you can imagine, at his talk last night at the Auckland Art Gallery there was a lot of second guessing around just about every example he gave and every opinion he put out. Esche claimed he still had to make up his mind, but if you believe that you’ll believe anything. Still OTN will be sending out all the news that’s fit to tweet from around 6pm and will record the winner on OTN Saturday morning for all of you who sleep through these things. Our Twitter feed is:

Image: four sightings of Kalisolaite Uhila’s presence at the Auckland Art Gallery today.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

When art collectors pose on furniture

Private collector Valeria Napoleone

Trick or treat

We don’t often get to see the works we photograph being made in artists’ studios in their completed state, but this week we did. The work we had seen creeping towards completion in Fiona Connor’s temporary studio in Auckland has been installed at Hopkinson Mossman in the exhibition Can Do Academy. In the studio the wall elements she had been making stood out in the semi industrial space but once they were in the gallery large parts of the exhibition were all but invisible as they were seamlessly integrated into the walls. 

Even more surprisingly, the bits that were easy to see were so painterly and the floor was so clean revealing how much of a conceit all that painting was. We should have guessed it from how many cans of paint there were in the studio but we hadn't. For anyone who had been to art school it was all instant deja vu. And Fiona had another trick up her sleeve. If you buy one of these works (and it would be a task to figure out where the work ended and Hopkinson Mossman began) you get to choose whether you want to have it flush to the wall as in the exhibition as sculpture or hang it like a painting. Sculptors have always felt like second class citizens in the gallery trade. Barnett Newman set the tone when he said ‘sculpture is what you bump into as you back up to look at a painting.’ Nice to see Fiona get one back on them.
Images: top, in the studio and bottom installed at Hopkinson Mossman

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It'll all come out in the white wash

“Sponsors want exhibits that are popular. I am not saying that popular artists are bad artists but the choice is not as independent as it is when the money is there already. Most sponsors think very carefully about what they want to connect their names and logos to.”
Julia Friedrich, a curator at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne

Bit of a flutter

The PM has promised a new flag by the end of next year .... at least he's promised us a process to get there anyway. Front runner looks to be the silver fern but a range of Gordon Walters' rip-offs have also been thrown in the ring. The chief Walters-like product has been served up by Michael Smythe who promotes what he calls my "Walters’ Koru flag". This is probably not the approach you'd take if Gordon Walters were still alive but you can check out Smythe's ‘Walters’ flag in various colour palettes here. The Taucetione blog is rather more restrained with its Walters’ kinship claims suggesting that its koru flag is “inspired” by the paintings. Pattern Recognition on the other hand goes head-on design-wise by reducing the famous Walters koru to “highlights”. Still, the Walters Prize goes to S Grundwell who has converted the Walters koru design into something that looks like a bunch of glove puppets shaking hands. Maybe the fern is not so bad after all.

Images: top to bottom, Smythe, Taucetione, Pattern Recognition and S Grundwell. More than you need to know about the New Zealand flag and possible changes to it here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Enough already

Tate Modern has just hosted its best-attended exhibition ever. The break-out winner is Henri Matisse's The cut-outs. The final numbers are in and this exhibition attracted an audience of 562,600. In gross terms based on the population of London, around 1 in 14 Londoners attended. Everyone is ecstatic.

So how would that level of success translate into audience numbers based on NZ urban populations? One in 14 people attending in Auckland would get you an audience of 98,350. In Wellington you're looking at 14,357. In reality though, if the City Gallery got an audience of around 14,000 for a major show the director would throw herself off the roof. A big City Gallery success would have to look something more like the Yayoi Kusama exhibition of 2009 with 175,000 people coming in the door. Now that's not far short of the entire population of the city. Of course how the exhibition numbers are in fact made up includes tourists and out-of-towners as well as the locals but it's useful to take a step back and think about expectations. The population comparison between London and Wellington at the very least shows we have unrealistic expectations of the size of the audience most special temporary art exhibitions can attract.

We've now got an arms race as our art museums search for increasingly popular shows to up the numbers beyond even patently unrealistic levels (and sometimes crash and burn - we're looking at you Te Papa). Then as soon as one attendance record is broken it becomes the benchmark to be beaten in turn.  Clearly we need more useful ways of deciding the success of exhibitions. On the ‘Tate/Matisse scale’ if more than 10,000 people see the Ralph Hotere mural at the City Gallery you'd have to say it was a sensational result and on the same T/M scale, if Auckland Art Gallery gets anywhere near 98,000 for its upcoming Light show (around half of what Wellington did on Kusama) it could fairly claim to be up there with the famous London institution.

The comparative number of people needed to match the Tate's super audience for Matisse:
Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui 3,107
Govett-Brewster, New Plymouth 5,299
Dunedin Public Art Gallery 9,000
Christchurch Art Gallery 26,264