Saturday, November 01, 2014

It's Sandro about the Biennale

The Saturday movie clip for everyone who thinks that Biennale's are a bit of a laugh (not you Simon).

Friday, October 31, 2014


Here's something for everyone who believes that skulls have a little more to squeeze out of the art world. Get the plans for this great, easy to make (so they say) mask from artist designer Steve Wintercroft and go scare the hell out of the neighbourhood tonight.

The road goes ever on

They say Lookalikes are where you find them. Well, we just did. Could this campaign pasted all over Wellington be from the same agency that did the Spielberg face for the Auckland Art Gallery's Light Show? You kind of hope not, but there it is again, the slack jaw and the glazed stare, but this time for Sky movies. So we've got a Lookalike of a Lookalike, what more could you ask for? You can catch up with the Spielberg face here and our original AAG/Spielberg post here.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hidden in plain sight

We’ve always had a soft spot for camouflage and OTN has made the camo art link many, many times (you can check out all the camo posts below). But when we entered the Demilitarized Zone between North Korea and South Korea we saw the camo art combo in its full glory and more as art than disguise. It turned out that despite the real tension on the border, most of the military paraphernalia and architecture was in fact a series of elaborate art and architectural metaphors for we-are-more-successful-more-peace-loving-and-all-round-better-human-beings-and-citizens-of-the-world-than-you. A large snazzy railway station in the South zone is poised to send travellers via the Trans-Siberian rail to Europe if only it could. Unfortunately this is not possible without access through the North. A modern cluster of tall apartment buildings you can see in the North was built with no glazing and no residents but as a sign of progress and prosperity. The camouflage too is mostly pure decoration (indeed kind of gaudy) to brighten up playgrounds, entrances to buildings and any spare wall. When you do see a real lookout post painted so that it blends into its environment the effect is very different.

Images: top three show camouflage as decoration and bottom, the real thing at work on the border of North Korea and South Korea

OTN on the camo trail:

All the camo fit to ship
Art camo
Contemporary art camo
Camo is where you find it
Koons and camo
Camo heads up
The book that started the whole thing (thanks e)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When art collectors pose on furniture

Art collector and dealer, Michael Lett (Thanks for the memory H)

Prepare for glory: 100

The Art Review 'Power 100' is out again with its list of 75 powerful men headed by Nicholas, David and Iwan. This year a woman did sneak up into  the top ten. It was Marina Abramovic of course up from possie number 11 last year and judged to be more powerful than Jeff Koons. In the top 25 there were seven women with three of them in the top 10. They included two artists with Cindy Sherman taking slot 10, up from 13 last year. The criteria may be dubious but who can resist a list? There are even some NZ connections to be made. Two Walters Prize judges made the top 100 - Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev at 19 and this year’s judge Charles Esche on the list for the first time as number 87.  A number of the 'powerful' artists have shown in NZ but the City Gallery scored two big ones Rosemarie Trockel (slot 63) and Yayoi Kusama (slot 52) who both had solo shows. And that's not to forget the National Art Gallery's solo exhibition of Cindy Sherman way back in 1989. Then, with the rise and rise of the dealers, lets give a nod to Simon Denny’s German dealer Daniel Buchholz who came in at number 67. You can study the full list here.

Image: OTN breakdown chart of the Art Review 'Power 100' occupations

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Good to know

“Art prices are not pulled out of thin air”

New Te Papa boss to be announced soon

Te Papa has six of its 14 senior positions vacant at the moment (and that’s not even counting the Senior Curator Art where Sarah Farrar is no longer credited as Acting in the role on the staff list) but one position is about to be filled. Yes, hold onto your seats, the announcement of the next Chief Executive is expected “very soon”. 

It’s not been an easy ride for the people who run Te Papa. The first director Cheryll Sotheran left unexpectedly apparently made ill by the job, the second, Seddon Bennington, died in a mountain accident and the third, Mike Houlihan, jumped ship ostensibly to help with World War I celebrations but in reality to head back home to the UK three months after leaving the building.

Now the word on the street is that a selection has been made from the final two candidates to take up this unenviable job. Putting the odd hints together it sounds like we’re in for a New Zealander who is not a museum person. It also seems as though the appointment may be shorter term (say three years or so) with the specific mission of getting the current shambles sorted out. Maybe we’re talking a younger version of those professional public service fixer-uppers like George Hickton or Ray Smith, or even a spare ex Vice Chancellor, given Te Papa’s insecurity over its research outputs.

Whoever it is it will be a tough slog. Te Papa was created in good times. It has always had an over-developed sense of its own national importance not helped by its spot on the Wellington waterfront and a mega scale and high quality building. To match its self-image this institution locked down with a culture of over-the-top presentation, wastefulness and bureaucracy that has now almost brought it to its knees. The permanent exhibits conceived in the early 1990s (natural history, history) and planned to be on display for 12 years have now been out there for 16 and so far there's no sign from the government that there's any cash to pimp the place up far less make a fresh start. The Maori displays in particular need a huge amount of effort to present them as the museum’s key treasures that they are. It's hard to believe that Te Hau ki Turanga itself would have ever looked so neglected. As for the art, well, the best you can say is that changes every six months or so.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Art to go

This Saturday forget joining the gate lice at international airports and the long wait for Biennale / Art Fair / Special exhibitions to open. Just sit back in your chair and create your own installations in galleries, public spaces or Turbine halls. All this now possible in the comfort of your own home thanks to Artomat (...and also thanks  to P)

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Keane eye for art

It's a truism that there are many art worlds but Tim Burton has just made a movie about one that is about as far away as you can get from the version presented by the public museums. It's based on the life of an artist Burton collects himself, in fact he even commissioned her do a portrait of his ex wife Lisa-Marie holding a pet dog. Yes, we're talking bug-eye painter Margaret Keane. She turns out to have had a movie script life with a husband who stole her identity and claimed that he was the one who'd painted the popular pneumatically pupiled ones. Keane has since won her rights back through the courts and of course has a website where you can see the full range of her output. In Burton’s movie Big eyes she is played by Amy Adams with Christoph Waltz as the mine-all-mine husband.  With the film about to open Keane’s sales have picked up and other celebs are at her door like Japanese models willing to pay big bucks for the eye-widening experience.

Images: top left, Amy Adams as Margaret Keane and right, Christoph Waltz as her husband Walter. Middle, the other art world does a cameo with David Smith-like sculptures. Bottom left, the real Mrs Keane with her portrait of Joan Collins and right, the Keane portrait of Lisa-Marie commissioned by Big eyes director Tim Burton

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Male call

You may think that holding the world record for women art directors per number of art institutions doesn’t make much difference to the chance of women getting solo shows (a random look at five institutions today shows that at the moment you could see solo exhibitions by 13 men and 3 women) but at least here in NZ there is at least some motivation to make this change.

In Australia the top job record is not so positive. In fact only two Australian State art museums have ever had a woman in the top job - once for the Australian National Gallery in Canberra and once for the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth. Did we mention it was the same woman, Betty Churcher? Well it was. Ex-Auckland director Chris Saines helped maintain the status quo when he replaced the female acting director of the Queensland Art Gallery and a guy has just been announced as the next director of the Australian National Gallery. In the 40 regional galleries under 20 percent are run by women. Australians in the know tend to blame the male-heavy boards of trustees that select all these guys but there is some sign that change is in the air. But still… message to Australian women, don’t hold your breath.

Image: the key to the Executive urinal. 
Source: ArtsHub and RPGNSW (and thanks lol for pointing the way)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Last year in his Los Angeles MoCA show we saw Urs Fischer’s life-size, photographic rendition of artist Josh Smith’s studio. That experience has been now eclipsed by the installation Fischer presented at the Gwangju Biennale. Although it was a real mission to get there, planes and boats and trains (ok no boats really) this one work alone would have made it all worthwhile. 

The first thing to be said for it is the sheer ambition of the installation - a huge 3D set representing Fischer’s 600 plus square meter New York apartment. It's got around 11 rooms, a super-sized hallway and so much storage it's scary. As with the Josh Smith studio the walls of the set are covered with 1:1 scaled photographic wallpaper of each room as it exists with all the furniture and fittings rendered in detail and in colour. You want to know what DVDs Urs Fischer watches, what spices he uses or the brand of his toothpaste, it's all here in this work 38 E. 1st St. 

In the Gwangju installation there's the terrific addition of actual works by other artists selected by Fischer and either hung over the ‘wallpaper’ or free-standing in the space. The two gold George Condo works are a knockout.  This is starting to sound complicated we know, so we've put a short movie we took here on OTNSTUFF to make more sense of it. Ambiguous, thought provoking and disturbingly fascinating, this installation insinuates each of us into the role of voyeur.
Images: Top one of the room's hanging a painting by Greek artist Vlassis Caniaris. Middle only the chairs table and fire hydrant are not photogrphic and bottom outside the set construction.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Counter proposal

While we're on the subject of art museum attendance numbers maybe all our institutions should just purchase Roman Ondák’s installation Clockwork. This could replace surveys done at conveniently busy times or automatic door counters that can't discriminate among people who come in for the café/toilet/convention/dinner and the ones who actually have a museum experience or the itchy-fingered manual counters. In the very efficient Ondák work an attendant stands in an empty room and asks everyone who comes in two questions. “What time is it?” and “What’s your name?” The answers are recorded on the walls. Simple, huh? By that count the Gwangju Biennale can confidently say it had at the very least 23,450 active real-time visitors in its first 46 days or an average of 510 a day.

Image: top, a gallery assistant ready with her pen to add visitor number 23,451. Bottom part of the tally so far.

Be nice

It’s open season on art museums in Wellington at present. The Dominion Post having headlined “Te Papa losing its gloss” in early September announced last week that “The gloss is coming off Lower Hutt's Dowse Art Museum.” So a bad gloss day for those two. The problem in both cases was falling attendance numbers although, in fairness, the Dowse’s weren’t falling, just staying put and you'd have to say that with a local population of 103,000 and an annual attendance of 198,000 it must be getting close to saturation even accounting for out-of-towners. The cost per visitor is also not too bad at $10.10 compared to the City Gallery at $13.32 and Te Papa’s $16.79. 

After a whack or two from the media you might have thought there'd be some collegial support from other local institutions but, not so much. Director of Porirua’s Pataka Helen Kedgley was tight-lipped and “reluctant to speculate on other galleries’ shortcomings.” She then explained that in Pataka's case high attendances were due to “quality exhibitions, its community hub design and engagement with residents.” There was a similar lack of support when Douglas Lloyd Jenkins resigned from the Hawke's Bay Museum not long after a public beat-up from his Council. No one from the profession bothered to publicly support him on Facebook or as far as we can see support him in public in any way. And when Chris Saines was fighting for his life with the big Auckland changes the professional silence was awe inspiring. 

To be competitors rather than collaborators is a risky strategy for most art galleries and museums. As their buildings have increased in size along with budgets, salaries and staff numbers they've become bigger targets for local politicians and Council admin. So you'd think it would make sense for them to be nice to each other. Someone should get them all in a room and tell them the ‘together we stand divided we fall’ thing.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Having a beer in Seoul...

...and thinking about Rita Angus