Friday, November 28, 2014


"I consider most definitions of contemporary art to be magic-less, meaningless, crap and almost all the "now" kinda artists you could name to be nothing but desperately over-schooled, funding-seekers with their faces pressed up against the window of the art worlds revolting middle class dinner party."

Wellington based musician Campbell James Kneale on being asked by UTR why he didn’t call his work art

Lye's sculpture dead in the water

It’s spring and the minds of local authorities throughout the country turn to maintenance. Here in Wellington public sculpture got a bit of a beating over winter. The spinning cubes of Leon van den Eijkel's Urban forest all but ground to a halt, Phil Dadson’s Akau Tangi was rarely all systems go, Phil Price’s Zephyrometer was literally blown out of the sky by lightning and the other pointy stick sculpture Len Lye’s Water Whirler doesn’t any more.

While Price is rebuilding Zephyrometer it’s probably time to call it quits on Water whirler and admit that Wellington's Lye is a no-go. The City Council has already repaired just about every component at some stage largely because of the effects of numbers 11 and 17 on the periodic table. Anyone who lives near the water in Wellington knows about salt corrosion, it’s probably what is slowing down the van den Eijkel and Dadson as well.

Anyway just do the math. WW was intended to run for 12 minutes nine times a day adding up to whirl action for around 655 hours a year. It has now been operating (theoretically) for nine years. Most marine engineers will tell you that a marine engine is best for the first 500 hours, so-so for the next 1,000 and after that….  And it's not a complete loss. The Ian Athfield base could come into its own as a diving board or somewhere to do a selfie with Wellington's harbour.

Images: top, figuring that Water Whirler is no longer functioning the base has become a popular picnic spot. Middle, Oriental Bay's Carter fountain being repaired and bottom, Kon Dimopoulos’s Pacific grass is given a spring steam clean.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


A couple of weeks ago Thames and Hudson launched their latest artists-to-watch book 100 painters of tomorrow. It features Christchurch painter AndrĂ© Hemer on its cover and of course as one of the hot 100. There is a strange hybrid website for the book that includes an opportunity to buy the works of the artists and has Hemer’s New smart object #61 up for grabs should you want it.

By the numbers: close to home edition

1             the approximate number in millions of dollars it costs to represent New Zealand at the Venice Biennale (MC&H)

2.9         the number in millions of dollars that Creative NZ has allocated for distribution in Christchurch through its Earthquake Recovery Grants fund (CNZ)

16           the number of times Te Papa’s announcement of their new Chief Executive was retweeted (Twitter)

19           the percentage of the total Creative NZ budget that goes to project-based support for arts organisations and individual artists and arts practitioners (MC&H)

27           the percentage of works in the Auckland Art Gallery’s collection that are not owned by the AAG (NZH)

40.5      the number in millions of dollars that the Government has allocated to Te Papa for the 2014-15 year (MC&H)

48          the number of years T J McNamara, has been writing about the arts for the New Zealand Herald (NZH)

240.8   the annual number in thousands of dollars that Webb's will pay for renting their new rooms in Parnell (NZH)

261        the value in millions of dollars of Auckland Art Gallery's collection (NZH)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Art chart

CNZ income and expenditure trends.

You can read the full CNZ briefing to their new Minister Maggie Barry here


Staying with our friend theatre designer John Parker we came across a file box full of tiny furniture. Dozens of small chairs, tables, lamps, beds, benches and couches all made to inhabit the set models John designs. In the spirit of art-is-where-you-find-it we've put a selection of the best (ok, cutest) ones up here on their own tinyfurniture Weebly website. And because we stole the title from Lena Dunham's movie, here's a link to that too, well the trailer anyway.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When art collectors pose on furniture

Art collector Carmen Busquet in her Paris apartment

'No' means ... whatever

The photography/no photography thing has jumped the shark with the Auckland Art Gallery banning it from their Light Show. If ever an exhibition could do with some buzz via photography this is the one. What is it about the connection between light and the camera the AAG doesn't understand? Maybe it's because Light Show is such a Po-Lite show that they don’t want too many images out there to alert the punters. Most of the works fall into one of three camps; reflected colour on the walls, reflected lights via mirrors or sparkling things. There’s certainly nothing that’s going to flare out, give you a sunburn or surprise you or the kids. "Extrasensory"? not so much. Some imaginative pics from out of the hive mind could do nothing but good.  They could make the show look more lively and give an entertaining reason to visit. 

It's a weird omission. When it suits them our museums are all too keen to invite us to post images of their exhibitions onto Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest. When it doesn’t the shutters come down. Now there’s a third even more irritating variant of the photography rules, the you-can-photograph-this-one-but-not-that-one sign. It's time to get over this. Anyone who photographs the work and tries to make commercial gain out of it, go after them by all means (if in fact this ever happens) otherwise, chillax.

Images: Pics of Light Show. In the spirit of things we only photographed the walls.

Monday, November 24, 2014


"We'll be moving away from the passive physical engagement of the past and looking to technology innovation here out of New Zealand, as well as what others are doing and learn from that and hopefully bring something quite magic alive."

Te Papa CE Rick Ellis interviewed by TV1 on 10 November 2014

OK…well, good luck

The new CE of Te Papa Rick Ellis starts work today.

"The board and chairman, Evan Williams, have reassured me that the issues that have been widely publicised over the past 18 months or so have been addressed and the organisation is actually in great shape for a new leader like me to come in and take it forward," Mr Ellis said.
Te Papa CE Rick Ellis interviewed by TV1 on 10 November 2014

“The Te Papa Board is faced with considerable challenges over the near term, as it reconciles a necessary period of fiscal consolidation with the need for significant capital investment in the museum infrastructure, and a desire to share more of the national heritage and scientific collections with the nation. These challenges are accentuated in the short term, as the museum goes through a period of capability rebuilding following its recent organisational realignment.” 
Briefing to the incoming Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage October 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

One day in the OTN editorial offices

Editor: Is that piece on the changing role of curators in the digital world ready for Saturday?

Features editor: No

Editor: Not to worry we’ll put up this Homer Simpson nail art tutorial video.

And they did

Friday, November 21, 2014

Art in the workplace

Art hard at work in the foyers of the world

Pic of the week

Is Jim Allen the oldest performance artist still standing? He’s definitely the oldest standing operating a chainsaw and with Marina Abramovic at 66, Vito Acconti 74, Gina Paine and Carolee Schneemann just a year older and even Yayoi Kusama a youthful 85, we reckon the honours most definitely go to Allen at 92. On Wednesday night about 50 people watched him recreate the performance On planting a native from 1976 that involved cutting down a small tree and representing it on the gallery wall. In the audience was art writer and critic Wystan Curnow who has been a strong supporter of Allen and the other performance artists of the seventies. It was quite something to see Curnow transfixed by the performance as though it were the first time he had seen Jim Allen at work. He even edged closer mid-performance to take more pictures. Turns out that Curnow is also that other essential glue to the art world, a fan.

Image: Wystan Curnow photographs Jim Allen at Michael Lett

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wonder woman

"The art world is an old boys’ club. People tend to promote people who are like themselves. The barriers to financial success persist for women artists as well. Even for the women who have broken records at auction, their prices are still only one-third the value of the top male artists at auction—on a good day."

Barbara Lee, a Boston based philanthropist who only collects art by female artists

Model behaviour

There has probably never been a wackier representation of art in the movies than the 1955 vehicle for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Artists and their models. It was the last Lewis Martin team-up and revolves around the struggles of painter  Rick Todd who has to do billboard work to keep afloat. In a parallel universe the real James Rosenquist was also a billboard painter learning the techniques that he would put into his famous Pop paintings of the early sixties. For Martin and Lewis the billboard paint job inevitably ends in spilling big tubs of the stuff on the client and a passing cop. Still, this rather sorry mess of a movie ends with a big production number on a giant palette, so not all bad. In fact the movie was presented as a satire on the paranoid delusions of the McCarthy hearings via the censorship and control of comics (Lewis is a comic nut in the movie). You can see the billboard sequence here.

Images: top to bottom left to right, Dean Martin ‘paints’ lips high above the street and James Rosenquist in action above Times Square c.1957, whoops, the palette as art signifier, again, and the small poster for the movie with obligatory palette.