Saturday, August 23, 2014

The horror

“It will likely include reproduction tanks, planes, famous battlegrounds and even a "smelly" trench, allowing people to experience the muddy and decaying stench soldiers were forced to endure on the frontline.”
Stuff’s Ben Heather reporting Peter Jackson proposed Government funded World War I museum in Wellington. (Thanks for the clip and diagram T…we think)

Friday, August 22, 2014

At a farm workers museum display.... Scotland, thinking about Ronnie van Hout. (Thanks D)

Better than collecting dust

News that the Christchurch Art Gallery has just raised ‘more than $80,000 toward a Bill Culbert sculpture installation' (if $80K is just ‘towards’ it’s surely a record price for the artist) is an indication of director Jenny Harper's unswerving belief in the importance of collections. This resolve is not as common as you might assume. Many of NZ's art museums have let acquisitions budgets shrink as staff numbers and marketing costs have soared. There was a time when the collection was at the very heart of public art museums but this heart has long been replaced with the temporary exhibition and its ability (or let’s face it failure) to haul in big crowds. The usual complaint that art-is-sooooo-expensive-these-days-we-can’t-afford-it’ is kind of blown out of the water when you hear that one of Michael Stevenson’s meticulous and mysterious drawings went for just $5,875.00 at Webb’s last auction or at Art + Object where you could pick up a sensational Don Driver for around $15,000 and work by l budd for considerably less. Christchurch Art Gallery has understood that waiting around for the City Council to provide more funds for purchases is a thing of the past. It's drawn on crowd sourcing channels like Pledgeme and Boosted and made smart use of gifted money to leverage even more works into its collection. The Christchurch Art Gallery also encourages gifts. You might ask 'who wouldn’t?' but many of our art museums are oddly reluctant to ask for gifts. To find out why they'll probably have to go deep into therapy.

Image: Christchurch Art Gallery's work Bebop by Bill Culbert as shown in Venice

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Art/life, life/art

Top  Christo and Jeanne-Claude Surrounded Islands, Miami and bottom Lake Hillier, Australia

Hammer heads

Since the appearance of Art +Object in 2007 the Auckland auction world has been nothing if not exciting. A+O shook Webb’s initially with a super-energetic jump out of the starting gate that included smart catalogues, a front foot approach to collectors and the shock of the new. It didn’t take Webb’s long to catch up and now both houses produce catalogues that can match anything in the world for panache. Then a couple of years ago A+O scored the Les and Milly Paris collection from under Webb’s noses. Lots of talk followed about how A+O managed such a coup, most of it around massive reductions in commissions when the two houses struggled to secure what turned out to be a $4.5 million dollar sale.

Now the word on the street is that yesterday Webb’s has made another mega move with the trimming of staff, reduction in its range of sale catagories and its intention to put art front and centre. At least part of this strategy probably lies at the door of 51 percent shareholder John Mowbray. His stamp business Mowbray Collectables has struggled on the stock market since listing and he’d be looking for a leg up from the art biz.

Another player behind this tighter focus on art (and lets face it we’re talking modern and contemporary art) would have to be investment guru and art collector Christopher Swasbrook who was made chairman of the Webb’s part of the Mowbray collectables empire last year. You can see what he thinks is the sort of art that has pull by visiting his collection web site here. A+O has never been backward in coming forward when a challenge is issued so watch out for some action over the next six months.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Et tu?

McCahon lookalike, lamp post on Aro Street in Wellington

The information sage

Somewhere along the way someone asked what it meant when Simon Denny was called a ‘post -internet’ artist. Now we know. The difference between artists who grew up before the internet and those who didn't is starting to become a little more apparent. It is only possible for Simon Denny, living in Berlin, to keep right up to date with NZ politics and culture post internet. Pre (say) the early nineties, when you went overseas (as we called it) NZ faded away into a few letters from the folks and out of date newspapers. Now someone like Denny can get as much information as those of us on home ground and, as we have seen, information is his stock in trade. The result of his intense curiosity and his current focus on NZ has led him into the spectacular media trifecta of Dotcom, Five Eyes and Nicky Hager. All three are intimately intertwined in ways that only digital media could deliver. The recent pic of Dotcom snapping a selfie at the Waihopai listening station only needed Hager in shot to be picture perfect. Now stir in Hager’s relationship with the hacker drip feeding #dirtypolitics emails off Dotcom’s Megaupload cloud and it's all too good to be true for any self-respecting post-internet artist. The only person not playing the game is John Key. By bringing the election forward a month, he's possibly deprived Denny’s next exhibition The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom of some valuable publicity.

Image: Nicky Hager and Dotcom at Waihopai (thanks Photoshop)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Being there

Meanwhile outside the Serpentine Gallery in London where Marina Abramović is doing her 512 hour performance .... at last something for art world pug lovers (you know who you are), more here. (Thanks for that important art news heads up M)

Rinse and repeat

Over the last year or so there's been a run of exhibitions internationally that recreate …um…other exhibitions. The most spectacular so far was the replay of Harald Szeemann's 1969 exhibition When attitudes become form. Squeezed into the Venetian palazzo of the Prada Foundation during the Biennale last year it took the art world by storm. In its wake has been the here-it-is-again version of MoMA's The photographic object 1970 at Hauser & Wirth as well as Other primary structures revisited at the Jewish Museum.

So here's a question - are there any exhibitions in NZ's own history that could do with another outing? You bet there are, and here’s a few to get started with:

Colin McCahon’s Wellington exhibition in 1948. Mounted by Lower Hutt’s head librarian Ron O’Reilly, it nailed McCahon’s efforts to turn the NZ landscape into Bible Land. Many of the works are now in public collections so this would be very doable. We're looking at you City Gallery seeing as how you're in the Library building that hosted the original.

Fifteen New Zealand painters
1952. This was the first exhibition of contemporary art to show outside New Zealand. The dealer Helen Hitchings secured the Irving Gallery in London to show artists like Rita Angus, Louise Henderson, Doris Lusk, Colin McCahon and Toss Woollaston.

Object and image
1954. While this legendary exhibition by the New Zealand Fellowship of Artists might not look so flash today, it's been talked up so much over the intervening years that it would be great to be able to make up our own minds. Colin McCahon had recently taken up a job at the Auckland City Art Gallery and made the famous poster painting (now owned by the Waikato Museum) that hung in the show.

Gordon Walters's first Koru exhibition
at New Vision Gallery in 1966. Only 12 paintings, four drawings and two gouaches to pull together for this one. Mind you the values have increased somewhat since then when Painting number one went for £40.40 (with inflation about $3,000 today).

NZ Maori culture
1966. Fifty paintings and ten sculptures chosen by Buck Nin to represent contemporary Maori art and exhibited in the Canterbury Museum. The exhibition went on to tour overseas and throughout New Zealand. If not the first, it was certainly one of the very early attempts to present contemporary Maori artists.

The active eye 1975. Luit Bieringa introduced New Zealand to photography as an art form in this pivotal 104 image exhibition. The show toured 12 venues in NZ famously losing two controversial Fiona Clark photographs along the way. Word is that the entire show is still packed away in the original crates.

Mothers 1981 toured by The Women’s Gallery in Wellington. Political and opinionated, this exhibition was an extraordinary effort organized by women working on a government work scheme and came complete with a 42 page full colour catalogue.

Choice! 1990 was put together by the very independent curator George Hubbard. The exhibition served up Maori artists as …you’ve got it… artists. It was Michael Parekowhai’s first outing and although it only ran for 18 days and was seen by 555 people according to the attendance book it has become something of a legend.

Headlands 1992 curated by Robert Leonard split the art world and spread Chicken Little syndrome in the institutions (only the National Art Gallery didn’t cancel on the proposed tour to the Auckland Art Gallery, Christchurch Art Gallery and Dunedin Public Art Gallery). OK it’s probably too big to do the whole thing again but how about a sampling or just the Primitive section that caused all the fuss. When Headlands finally showed for a meagre eight weeks (after six weeks of installation) at the Museum of New Zealand it declined to show the film component so maybe that could be resuscitated too.

Parade 1998 was Te Papa’s opening exhibition of contemporary New Zealand art. Now that could be fun to see again just to remember how radical it was and why we all hated it so much. Don’t forget the thumbs up and thumbs down signs next to works so that the audience could have its say.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sympathetic agony

"Poor thing! Poor thing! Poor thing!"
Taxi driver as he past the Phil Price sculpture that was struck by lightning (thanks R)

By the numbers

5         the number of contemporary bronze sculptures reported stolen in New Zealand since 2005

6         the ranking of Auckland Art Gallery patron Julian Roberts in a list of the most generous American philanthropists in finance

8          the number of years MTG former director Douglas Lloyd Jenkins will have devoted to the people of Hawkes Bay and Napier when he leaves town in December

12        the number of days left to put in an application to be the new chief executive of Te Papa

     the amount in millions of dollars estimated as the value of the Christchurch Art Gallery’s site

30.65   the price in dollars per square centimetre paid for Colin McCahon’s North Otago painting at the last Webb’s auction

33        the height in metres of the Phil Price sculpture Zephyrometer that was struck by lightning in Wellington

34        the number in thousands of dollars that the Napier City Council spent to get a report on the first six months operation of its revamped museum MTG

360      the amount in thousands of dollars currently allocated as the salary of the CE of Te Papa

510      the number of stainless steel panels that will make up the façade of the Govett-Brewster’s Len Lye Center in New Plymouth

768     the number of people following the new senior curator of the Christchurch Art Gallery (aka Cheryl Bernstein) on Twitter

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stupid town

Who knew that Saturday is also award's day? And today our award for most idiotic prediction of nominations for the Walters Prize goes to (open the envelope) oooh, it's OTN. Thank you. Thank you.

Friday, August 15, 2014

In touch

It's Awards week on OTN and this month's winner of Best signage designed to stop people touching sculpture goes to the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles

Into the void

It would have been hard to live in Christchurch through the late eighties and nineties and not been caught up in at least one evening with Into the void. If you were in the art world the chances were even higher as the members included three artists who'd gone through Ilam - Jason Grieg , Ronnie van Hout and Mark Whyte. Van Hout was the singer apparently because when he turned up he didn’t have an instrument. What he did have was a voice with mega volume that could chant repetitive monologues one of which we recall involved turning the radio on and turning the radio off way more times than was reasonable.  He's now living in Melbourne of course but still turns up every now and then to perform with the gang.  Some members have changed over the 26 years of the band's life but the spirit lives on.

Now Margaret Gordon has made an eponymous feature length documentary of the band. It will premiere in Christchurch on 23 August at Hoyts Riccarton. You can read more about it here and buy yourself a ticket here. After Christchurch has bathed in Void magic the film is slated to go on to Wellington and Auckland.

Image: Into the void playing at Lyttelton's Wunderbar

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Direct hit

There was hail and then there was lightning. In Wellington's Evans Bay at around 2.30 pm Phil Price's 2003 sculpture Zephyrometer scored a direct hit and has been badly damaged only five month's after its extensive refurbishment.  More here on Stuff.