Monday, January 26, 2015

Auckland Museum and the vanishing of Michael Parekowhai

You'd think, wouldn’t you, that a museum by its nature would be kind of committed to the keeping of history thing. So what’s going on with the Auckland Museum and Michael Parekowhai? And why is the Museum trying to remove all traces of the exhibition Pare Kawakawa by Parekowhai from its website?

Let’s back up a bit. Early December last year the Auckland Museum announced 'a new exhibition from renowned New Zealand artist Michael Parekowhai.' It was to open this year on 17 April in the Sainsbury Horrocks Gallery as part of the much touted First World War Centenary Programme. According to the media release Parekowhai had already been working with the museum for about a year so the project was well advanced. Auckland University was behind it and Creative NZ had put in $174,000 into the project via the WW100 co-commissioning fund [link 3 December]. Pare Kawakawa by Parekowhai was also lined up for an international tour.

So why has the Auckland Museum suddenly decided to make this exhibition disappear? A quick search for it on the Museum's site brings up a series of ‘Page not found’. Page not found is like telling someone you can’t find the cat when you’ve just drowned it in a sack. What they really mean is ‘Page removed' which is quite a different thing. More disturbingly the media release circulated on 11 December 2014 has been removed from the Auckland Museum media archive (aka the historical record). But welcome to the internet - you can read it here or here.

For a century New Zealanders have struggled to deal with the trauma of our involvement in WWI. It has been distorted, idealized and manipulated. Ironic then that the same history-bending games are now being played out via the commemoration of that very event. In one final twist, the Auckland Museum theme for the year’s programme that included the proposed Parekowhai exhibition is ‘Death of Innocence’.

Images: top, now you see him. Bottom, now you don’t

Friday, January 23, 2015


In passing.    Francis Upritchard is currently showing at the Hammer Museum in LA while her frequent co-exhibitor Martino Gamper has just completed some very superior window dressing for Prada in Milan. And in the better-late-than-never section good news for Sarah Farrar who has finally been officially acknowledged on the Te Papa website as Senior Curator Art (strangely she is at the bottom of the art section staff list, but that's what happens when you order things alphabetically by first name #weird). 

Ouch!     “A lot of New Zealand architecture is bland and oppressive, like Te Papa. Athfield's buildings were never like that. Think what could have happened if he and the genius Frank Gehry had been chosen to design the national museum instead of failing even to make the short list. We might have had a masterpiece; we would certainly have had a building that lived in controversy. Instead, we have a giant nonentity.” That was the Dom Post rather ungraciously using Ian Athfield’s death to stick one to Te Papa. At the other end of the spectrum the Dowse probably went an appreciation too far when it tweeted "The Dowse has grown in so many ways thanks to the genius of Ian Athfield & his team." Somewhat over the top given that Athfield's Dowse build was probably one of the most incoherent refits ever done on a NZ art museum. Wellington is holding a public memorial service for Athfield in Civic Square 3pm on Sunday 1 Feb and you can see a nice doco on the young experimental Athfield here.
Crowing.    Art writer and critic Thomas Crow famously declared, "A major contemporary of Rothko, Newman, Pollock, Twombly and Johns - an artist at their level of achievement - is in the midst of his first major touring exhibition. The artist is Colin McCahon, and, yes, he is that good." Word is that Crow is writing another book and, yes, it is on Colin McCahon.

China shop.    You can read how Giovanni Intra almost single-handedly invented cool in Chinatown. The second part of Joel Mesler’s drugs and drama account of the LA art scene and its general all round insanity is in the latest Art News. And soon a chance to see a great Intra Blue of moon at Michael Lett starting 28 Feb (OK, we confess, it's ours). 

Rick Ellis, note to self: “Check this guy out”.     Remember how long it took photography and video to be acknowledged as art? Make way - Virtual Reality coming through! Artist Ziv Schneider and his Museum of Stolen Art. More here.
Number graphics: Pippin Barr

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

His story

Te Papa Chief Executive Rick Ellis has been in the job for more than half of his first 100 days. But has there been anything in the mainstream media about how he's planning to fix (or in Te Papa Chair Evan Williams words 'transform') the troubled museum? Um ... no. Quick to have a go at the last CE when things went wrong, even the Dominion Post has been strangely silent. So if and when NZ's media does decide to put the new CE to the test, here’s 10 questions they might like to ask him. Not at all, it's our pleasure.

1. At each business you've led you've pushed through major organisational changes and you've done it fast. What more needs to change at Te Papa?

2. Your previous experience has been in growth sectors (TV, telecommunications, IT) with a lot of investment. What does that experience tell you about Te Papa's future with restricted growth and limited investment?

3. You've endorsed Te Papa's vision to change hearts, change minds and change lives. How do you think a museum can genuinely change lives?

4. The Chairman of Te Papa has also said said Te Papa needed 'a shift in the culture of the organisation.' Given that the organisation has just come out the other end of a radical restructure, what needs to change?

5.   The last CE was criticised for picking exhibitions people didn’t want to see. What kind of exhibitions do you have in mind that will be more successful?

6. You've talked about using digital to transform Te Papa. So far Te Papa's digital presence seems to be a standard museum website and traditional interactives. What are your priorities over 2015 to transform Te Papa with digital?

7.   You're known for insisting on expertise. Will the current curatorial staff be able to produce the sort of digital content you envisage or will you need to hire new specialist staff?

8.   When can we expect to see some effects of Te Papa's digital transformation?

9.   Can you name a couple of museums in the world that have adopted the kind of digital focus you are proposing for Te Papa?

10.   What percentage of Te Papa’s funding do you think should be raised by Te Papa? Currently it's 46 percent. Can you give some examples of projects that will increase Te Papa's non-government income?

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Ok, here’s what we’re going to do. From now on need-to-know news items will be on OTN’s Twitter feed (it also runs down the right column of OTN). We may add some more background on Facebook and if it needs it even more on OTN. Every Monday (starting on Tuesday 20 January) there will be an OTN post and on Friday an aggregated post of interesting stuff called ‘5 Things: for Friday.’ And then random things will happen depending on the weather but not on public holidays or Sundays unless….

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Back with you 20 January

Monday, January 12, 2015

Music to our ears

Game designer Pippin Barr has reached out to art again for his latest game Sound System I. You can play it here and if you find yourself wondering where the idea for this ready-made music came from read about it and see a vid clip of it at work here at Kill Screen

Friday, January 09, 2015

Art chart

Numbers of art works purchased by the Chartwell Trust and Te Papa over 12 months

Friday, January 02, 2015

In Wellington...

... thinking about OTN

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Time out

OK OTN is taking a breather for four weeks. We’ll be back on 20 January. We had our hearts set on the 19th but it’s public holiday and OTN is  a hard-line rules-based organisation as you know. The plan for next year is to post twice a week unless something newsworthy comes along. Any additional posts will be tweeted and Facebooked. Monday will probably be something OTNish and Friday a catch up on what we thought was worth knowing from the previous week. You can still expect an eye to be kept on our art institutions and any gossip that's even halfway credible (usually something we hear from at least three sources is a god-given fact) will be run up the OTN flagpole for you to make your own minds up about. Will you ever see another painting animal on OTN? Well, as we’ve said many times before, not if we can help it. Have a good break, enjoy Christmas and join us in the new year. If anything crops up before then we'll use Twitter and or Facebook.

A flip and some twisters

Too late for the spoiler alert as you'll already have seen one of the pop up surprises in Judy Millar’s book Swell with Trish Gribben and paper design by Phillip Fickling. Of all the things you might expect to pop up in a kid's book La Maddalena (a neo classical church in Venice and the site of Millar’s Venice Biennale outing in 2009 and Michael Stevenson's Trekka installation in 2003) is probably not high on anyone’s list. But it certainly lets Millar give her work the ultimate indoor-outdoor flow.

The first 3D pop up books as we know them today were probably first produced in the 1930s but the precedent for an artist book like Millar’s is probably Andy Warhol’s 1967 book Index (there 's a copy in the Auckland Art Gallery library from memory) with it’s pop up can of tomato paste.

Swell is also a testament to Boosted which raised enough funding to cover the printing and then some. Swell has been published by Lopdell House Gallery and  you can get a copy here.

Images: Top, Swell by Judy Millar showing the pop up for Giraffe-Bottle-Gun, Middle, Judy Millar’s studio via OTNSTUDIO and bottom, Andy Warhol Index book

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Less is more

"That would be vulgar"

Art dealer Leo Castelli to art collector Robert Scull on being asked to sell him all the works in Jasper Johns' second exhibition (Scull purchased two but would eventually own 22 major works by Jasper Johns)

But let’s not talk about me ...

Art museums are always on a charm offensive but who do they really think they are? Here are nine of them tooting their horns. Your job: match the statement to the museum.

So here's a quick quiz. Who….

... is a pathfinder, an innovator and a catalyst for contemporary art and ideas

... provides a vital platform for critical thinking across media, disciplines, cultures and contexts

... is renowned for being bicultural, scholarly, innovative, and fun

... focuses primarily on contemporary visual arts by local, national and international artists and designers

... is the home of the visual arts in New Zealand

... is home to one of New Zealand's most important public art collections

... aims to explore new ideas and initiatives with insight, imagination, and intelligence

... is more than an art gallery

... is renowned today for the richness of its historic collection and its close working relationship with major New Zealand artists.

Answers here on OTNSTUFF

Monday, December 15, 2014

When collectors pose on furniture

Take advantage of OTN’s holiday clear-out final editions.  Not one but 16 art collectors all posing on furniture. No seriously, it’s a pleasure.

Images: top to bottom left to right, Danielle Ganet, Garrett and Marina Leight, Ron and Ann Pizzuti , Nelson Blitz and Catherine Woodard, Alexander Ramselaar, Dani and Mirella Levinas, Peter and Jamie Hort, Joshua and Sonya Roth, Regina Pinho de Almeida, Valeria Napoleone and (apologies all round) Dasha Zhukova

All the news that fits

The news that Simon Denny is showing in not one but two Venice venues (the Marciana Library and the Marco Polo airport) was recently leaked to the Christchurch media. Creative NZ rallied after an initial omg response but if you’re interested in the whole Venice thing (news as well as PR) it’s not that easy to follow what's happening. Creative NZ has put up a dedicated website but it’s not big on news so doesn't really give the whole picture. And on Facebook and Twitter Creative NZ treats its outings at Venice as a continuous event. This means that on Facebook the doings of artists who have previously been at Venice are all interspersed among updates on what we might see in 2015. On Twitter there's been nothing since September.  So kind of confusing, especially if you hit the signature map image  for Secret Power on the NZ at Venice Facebook page. You don't go to the Secret Power site as you might expect, instead you get 25 images, 21 of them of Michael Parekowhai's work.
So here’s a roundup of the extensive media Secret Power has already attracted:

17 January 2015 satirist Steve Braunias lines up Simon Denny as potential future business in his NZH column Steve Bruanias the secret diary of ...2015

21 December John Daly-Peoples does a follow up for the NBR 'Simon Denny expands his Venice Biennale project'

Nine to Noon's Kathryn Ryan interviews Simon Denny on 16 December

The NBR shamelessly digs into Nicky Hager’s relationship to Simon Denny’s Venice gig on 16 December in a story about Hager’s sister getting a writer’s residency in Nick Grant’s 'Hager named Waikato University’s 2015 writer in residence'

On 15 December CNZ write a press release on Denny's dual venue 2015 'Venice Biennale: Second venue secured for NZ pavilion' which is picked by Scoop

The Denny installation at the Venice airport story reported by Charlie Gates in The Press on 4 December. Along with the inevitable photograph of Nicky Hager it announces the airport installation ‘will be funded by private donors’. The following day the story is updated with a brief CNZ response as 'Kiwi art to greet Venice new arrivals'.

Kim Knight’s 23 November interview with Simon Denny in Stuff 'Biennale artist follows his love'

Kate Brettkelly-Chalmers profiles Simon Denny for Ocula

Ashton Cooper profiles Simon Denny in Blouin Artinfo on 4 November with 'Artist Simon Denny On Silicon Valley, Skeuomorphic Design, and Tech Conferences'

Henry Oliver, a Denny insider, writes 'Simon Denny; the fine art of success' that appears in the November issue of Metro and includes news of Dame Jenny Gibbs' withdrawal from the Venice Patrons

On 29 October Jenny Gibbs gives her side of her walk out from the Venice Patrons to Stuff’s Kim Knight in '"Ethics" behind patron's withdrawal of Biennale support'

Natalie Akoorie on Jenny Gibbs withdrawal from the Venice Patrons in the NZ Herald on 30 October in 'Dirty Politics author in arts funding row'

Sally Blundell profiles Simon Denny in The Listener on 9 October in 'Imagining the vastness' (behind a paywall)

The Dominion Post features Simon Denny in Diana Decker’s 29 September piece 'The power of one: The rise of Simon Denny: Tracking Simon Denny's rise in the art world'

Nicky Hager is announced as a member of the Venice team in Tom Hunt’s 19 August article in Stuff 'Hager's book empowers Venice-bound artist'

E-flux announces Denny’s selection as NZ's representative in Venice on 14 August

Scoop headlines Creative NZ’s 5 August media release announcing the venue for Simon Denny’s installation in Venice with 'Spectacular venue secured for New Zealand exhibition'

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Four art memes... kickstart Saturday (click image to meme on in closer)