Saturday, March 28, 2015

By the numbers

Turns out in the US there are more museums (35,000) than Starbucks and McDonalds combined. More here

Friday, March 27, 2015

Landed as promised

You can see photographs of Michael Parekowhai's incredible exhibition at GOMA in Brisbane here on OTNFacebook

Show and tell

The survey exhibition that curator Maud Page and Michael Parekowhai have put together in Brisbane is extraordinary. And that’s just from a quick look during the last minute rush to get finished for the opening tonight. The space GOMA has dedicated to the show is immense. Parekowhai has got to be one of the few New Zealand (or Australian) artists who could manage both the scale and the volume of these cavernous spaces. He’s done it by carving out three large areas. The opening space is dominated by a full-scale, two-storey house (the original can be seen in Sandringham, Auckland) that shows off the most recent work in the exhibition - an oversized, stainless steel sculpture of Captain James Cook. Loosely based on the famous Nathaniel Dance painting, it traces a full circle for Parekowhai back to one of his first works, The Indefinite Article, which was a 3D version of Colin McCahon’s 1954 painting I am. The middle section of GOMA is marked off by a massive version of the Cuisenaire wall that featured in The far side exhibition at Michael Lett in 2011. Behind the wall is an idiosyncratic survey of Parekowhai’s work mixing up work from different periods in a series of domestically-sized rooms. And then it’s into a huge, almost empty space with the carved red piano He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: Story of a New Zealand river and an elaborate neon sign. We’ll be at the opening tonight and will post photos on Twitter and Facebook as soon as we can.

Image: catalogue for the exhibition Michael Parekowhai: The Promised Land at the Gallery of Modern Art at the Queensland Art Gallery and The English Channel a stainless steel sculpture of Captain Cook.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Art chart

From I love charts. Thanks:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Out with the old, in with the old

Has Rick Ellis got a vision for Te Papa? Not really. Listening to Radio NZ it’s sounds pretty much like less-business-than-usual plus digital. The big idea is to ‘refresh the fixed exhibitions’ so they'll last another 15 years which (as anyone who works at there knows) has been a big idea at Te Papa for about five years now. Has Ellis any idea about what those displays will be? No, there’s to be a 'consultation process' with ‘community groups’ who might well wonder why the highly-paid experts at Te Papa can’t work out what’s needed by themselves. To do all this he is going to ‘establish a senior leadership team’ oh, oh.

One fatality will be temporary exhibitions. They'll be 'suspended for three years', so goodbye to ‘we’re showing more art more of the time’ and Sarah Farrar’s on-again-off-again Art at the Boundaries exhibition. Talking about Te Papa’s interest in art, what’s the story about having a separate art gallery? Ellis's response: ‘Not something I’m focused on to take further.’ Even the chances for the 18-month old Te Papa North project sound blurry in Ellis-speak, 'We have a bid in for a new facility. That bid is going through the budget process.' 

As to upping the level of digital output Ellis made no mention of where significant extra costs for storage and staffing were going to come from, and hard to see how it can be achieved on current budgets and staff levels.

Don’t watch this space.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cutting is the new black

Following on the Govett-Brewster dumping its collection funding Christchurch Art Gallery is getting its collection fund cut to hell.

Art Chart

Monday, March 23, 2015


News the other day that Te Papa is thinking of joining in on the scramble by NZ's museums and art galleries to cobble together foundations and friends groups. They're all hoping, of course, to get fresh meat to cough up for exhibition costs, public programmes, and acquisitions. This sudden interest in rich-people-who-like-art is driven by the current government’s insistence on philanthropy as the new driver for cultural funding. Te Papa sees itself as something of an expert in this field publishing guidelines for others, but this expertise is resolutely focused on Government funds via the public sector. Corporate and private sponsorship get exactly 40 words in the 3200 word document. It feels like an absurd end game all these public servants making applications to each other for public funding but, moving on, Te Papa's longstanding indifference to expertise and collectors, could make finding passion partners with open wallets a stretch. Add in the growing disinterest of the corporate sector (just check out the scale of some of the enterprises trumpeted as major funders today) and the task feels even more epic.

Of course there have been some successes. Since it was set up in 1987, The Patrons of the Auckland Art Gallery has been responsible for some stunning acquisitions (it has given more than a million dollars according to the Gallery). Amongst others the Chartwell Trust and the Walters Prize have also both been spectacular partnering achievements, as was the gift of the New Gallery to the AAG in 1995 by Jenny and Alan Gibbs. When you observe how well connected the AAG is to these partners, it makes sense. Philanthropy is built on close association and respect between the institution and the givers as much as it is on a call to civic responsibility. There are always ups and downs in such relationships, but for most philanthropists it's not just about passively dishing out the dosh. They see it as a form of activism, of being engaged, having input, making a difference etc. And dealing with that sort of approach is going to demand a very different mindset for institutions.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Jono Rotman's photographs of Mongrel Mob members have just opened as an exhibition at Wellington's City Gallery. Key images from exhibition were originally shown at the Gow Langsford Gallery in Auckland April/May last year. That exhibition was instantly controversial when it was revealed that one of the portraits was of Shane Harrison who at the time was charged with the murder of  25 year old Sio Matalasi.

In the 29 April NZ Herald story Art or insult” Accused killer in show Anna Leask reported that Matalasi’s family were “disgusted his alleged killer will be "immortalised" in a photo exhibition at an upmarket Auckland art gallery.” Gow Langsford Gallery director Gary Langsford told Leask that it was gallery policy ‘not to censor an artist's work’ “

The same day the Sensible Sentencing Trust's Ruth Money waded into the argument over mob photos being shown publicly in TVNZ’s Mongrel mob’s faces used in art.

TVNZ’s Te Karere programme also broadcast a short item on the Gow Langsford opening that has so far attracted 39465 hits on Youtube

Dr Paul Moon, Professor of History at Auckland University of Technology wrote a considered piece the same day Portraits fall back on shock value questioning Rotman’s use of Mongrel Mob members as subject matter. “His emphasis on the lurid 'Other' no doubt has an appeal for some viewers, but at the same time, the echoes with 19th century propaganda art which aimed at denigrating Maori are deafeningly loud.”

Blogger Arthur Meek is in awe of Rotman approaching the Mongrel Mob and on his blog takes Dr Paul Moon to task for dissing Goldie in his Rotman commentary in his 30 April post I’ll have my art like I have my porridge.

6 May TVNZ’s Seven Sharp reports in Mongrel Mob photographer refuses to give in to grieving father’s plea that photographer Jono Rotman refused a personal request by Matalasi’s father to remove the photograph of Shane Pierre Harrison, during a weekend meeting between the two men.

In his 9 May review A sharp emotional response NZH art critic T J McNamara compares Rotman’s work with Gottfried Lindauer, “Rotman's photographs are certainly not picturesque. They emphasis conscious brutality yet in the same way as Lindauer they bear witness. They are a record, done brilliantly and are totally memorable images.”

On 12 May in its item Rotman exhibition Auckland University student paper Craccum posed a few questions with John Mutambu and Emma Jameson concluding, "Rotman’s images represent a real facet of New Zealand society whether we, as viewers, choose to voyeurise or vilify it.”

24 September Shane Pierre Harrison and Dillin Pakai were found guilty of murdering Sio Matalasi. The story was reported on the Stuff website in Double guilty verdit in Mongrel Mob murder trial. "Two gang members have been found guilty of murder after a confrontation between rival factions turned deadly."

The Rotman exhibition opened at Wellington’s City Gallery on 13 March. The Dominion Post in its story Killer’s portrait to hang in victim’s hometown indicated confusion between the gallery and the Matalasi family as to whether Shane Harrison's portrait should be shown. “Gallery director Elizabeth Caldwell said Matalasi's family understood the project and were supportive of it. But his father, Iafeta, said this week that many family members were unhappy Harrison's portrait would hang in the gallery. It would be "ideal" if Harrison's portrait were removed from the exhibition, though he accepted that would not happen. “

In Photographer brings Mob portraits exhibition to Wellington Stuff’s Diana Decker talked to photographer Jono Rotman who defends his use of mob members as subject matter. "I understood the potential for difficulties to come about because of the history and public perception of these guys. That was always understood. The work is not about specifics, not about who did what or what happened. "

In its online introduction to the exhibition the City Gallery claims it is presenting Rotman’s Mongrel Mob Portraits to raise “questions why we consider certain types of people suitable to hang on a gallery wall in a formal portrait.”

Meanwhile a stream on NZ’s reddit are engaing in a long discussion (153 comments at this time) around the Rotman photographs including contributions from commentators claiming to be gang members.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


The Ministry for Culture & Heritage and Creative New Zealand have just published An economic profile of the arts in New Zealand. They say it's a working paper. That could mean they're looking for feedback (although we didn't find a specific request) but there's not a lot to go on. The question is, does it work as a stimulus to ideas and discussion? There are so many disclaimers and excuses, it’s hard to see how.

Apart from a don't-blame-us-for-any-mistakes clause from MC&H and CNZ, how about these four game-breakers that kick the project off:

“Government support for the arts (both central and local government) is difficult to quantify, as there are multiple funding streams and it’s not always possible to identify funding for specific arts-related activities within the broader ranges of activities supported.” i.e. it's hard to identify arts funding.
“Because the research is limited to secondary data analysis (that is, the data wasn’t collected specifically for the purpose of this analysis), the data and the way in which it was collected were not the most ideal for this analysis.”

“Creative design activities such as graphic design and fashion design were excluded from the research, as most of the output of this type of activity involves mass commercial production.”

“Most of the data used in this research is drawn from Statistics New Zealand datasets and is reported according to their coding classifications for occupations and industries. 
Under that classification system a significant proportion of arts activities are not captured with sufficient detail to allow them to be readily identified and analysed.”

So, at the very least, buyer beware and probably best to wait for V 2.0

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The orange and the blue

Big Orange and Big Blue are back in the Australian courts. You may remember that art conservator, Mohamed Aman Siddique and art dealer Peter Stanley Gant have been charged with creating and selling fake Brett Whiteley paintings. Now the ‘facts’ are being presented to a Magistrate to see if the case has legs for a jury trial. Reporting on the suspect painting Orange Lavender Bay dated 1988 an expert found that ‘the paint does not behave like paint from 1988.’ But the accused are sticking with their they-may-be-fakes-but-they're-not-our-fakes story and that nothing puts them at the canvas face or prove they were involved in the production of the works. Updates as they come to hand.
Images: top Orange Lavender Bay and bottom Big Blue Lavender Bay being exhibited in court

18 March: magistrate has deferred a decision to 'a later date'.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Male call

Using some sort of statistical magic NZ On Screen Content Director Irene Gardiner has managed to select five 'great' documentaries that feature male New Zealand artists. #howdotheydoit? 

Later: 12 films about women artists in New Zealand (thanks A)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Somewhere over the rainbow

What’s going on with the Auckland Art Gallery and Michael Parekowhai? It's not about the collections. The AAG has 10 works in the collection and another 13 on loan from Chartwell and it usually includes his work in its permanent collection display (you would, wouldn’t you #popularwiththepublic) but for some reason the Gallery seems to struggle in its relationship with this significant, Auckland-based artist. Some examples:

Thanks but no thanks
   On 27 March the largest exhibition so far of Michael Parekowhai’s work will open to the public. It's a major survey with both new and earlier works putting the artist into perspective.  The weird thing? The Promised Land will open in Brisbane at the Queensland Art Gallery. Will it come to New Zealand or more specifically to the Auckland Art Gallery? No plans at this point. How is this even possible?

Full on Fiona Foley fury   In April last year the Auckland Art Gallery invited Australian indigenous artist Fiona Foley to speak at a symposium. The topic? The changing thinking around Māori art today. Known here for her very public (and well publicised) opposition to a large public commission Michael Parekowhai was given in Queensland, you might expect Parekowhai would have been invited. He wasn’t. And Foley, the only non-Maori of the five participants on her panel, predictably used the event to accuse Parekowhai of cultural theft.

No play  In 2011 Michael Parekowhai was NZ's representative at the Venice Biennale. It was there he exhibited the red carved piano He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river. It was purchased by Te Papa immediately and since then it has been on loan to NZ galleries and museums around the country. At the Christchurch Art Gallery, for example, large crowds came to a temporary venue in the city to hear it played. Its first showing in an Auckland public art institution was at Te Uru in Titirangi. It has never made it through the doors of the AAG.

The sorry State of things   August last year the NZ Herald gleefully went into art bashing mode when it got hold of leaked sketches for a proposed Parekowhai sculpture on Queen’s wharf in Auckland. It did tend to hide behind 'our' correspondents with headlines like Readers up in arms over "offensive, stupid" state house sculpture, etc but it kept the brouhaha going for a week or two. It was left to art patron Jenny Gibbs and Metro’s Anthony Byrt to wade in publicly (Why Michael Parekowhai’s State House Sculpture is Worth Celebrating) in defence of the work. The Auckland Art Gallery? Not a peep.

Rhana Devenport will be at Parekowhai's Brisbane opening later this month, presumably with some of her senior Auckland Art Gallery staff. Let's hope that at the top of her agenda is sorting out with Chris Saines, Director of the Queensland Art Gallery, what's required for a bringing The Promised Land home.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Match play

The indefatigable John Hurrell has written over 40 reviews on his site EyeContact over the last six months each around 600 words. Never short of a metaphor Hurrell has probably described thousands of works since EC began. Here’s a few of them and here are the artists whose work they refer to: Jim Allen, Stephen Bambury, Joyce Campbell, James Cousins, Andrew Drummond, Selina Foote, Richard Killeen, Patrick Lundberg, John Nixon, Daniel Malone, Judy Millar, Seung Yul Oh, Jeena Shin. Match them up. Answers here.

 “a rainbowlike hippie sweetness”

 “serious and urgent themes”

 “muscularly textured but nuanced sheen”

 “pleasurable little columns”

 “a tortured ambivalence”

 “ubiquitous rawness“

 “an airy celebration of natural light”

 “cavernous space and descending fluttering leaves or birds”

 “an unnerving quality about their more optically ‘stable’ peek-a-boo laminations”

 “viewing and thinking benefits”

 “repeated configurations, total gestalt, contrasting alignments, and patterns in linear or spatial configurations”

 “unpredictable topographical clusters of linked up lines”

 “barely restrained anger and vibrant immediacy”

 “sumptuous richness” and “velvety colour”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

If you build it they might not come

“As early as 1996, Nicholas Serota framed ‘the dilemma of museums of modern art’ as a stark option, ‘experience or interpretation’, which might be rephrased as entertainment on the one side and aesthetic contemplation and/or historical understanding on the other. Nearly twenty years later, however, we needn’t be stymied by this either/or. Spectacle is here to stay, at least as long as capitalism is, and museums are part of it; that’s a given, but for that very reason it shouldn’t be a goal.”

In The London Review of Books Hal Foster looks at the new art museums  and wonders what the hell are they trying to do? Image: Rome’s Maxxi by Zaha Hadid