Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Good to know

"New Zealand has been blazing a trail with Creative New Zealand’s Optimise online marketing capability building programme and the Optimiser online benchmarking project, led by The Audience Connection."

Presentation at the CNZ conference The Big Conversation (download report here)

Starkwhite comes to Wellington

The relationship between dealer galleries and public art museums has changed a lot. There was a time when the museums stood on their ethics and kept the dealers at arm's length in case their curatorial independence was compromised. That stand feels rather quaint now with big international dealers like Gagosian and Hauser & Wirth having a huge impact on what goes into (or possibly more importantly what’s not made available for) public museum shows, biennales and commissions. These galleries fund exhibitions and publications on a lavish scale and of course present substantial exhibitions of their own. The boundaries are well and truly blurred and the results not always to the benefit of museum independence. When visiting public museums shows today studying the labels to see who claims who and who's credited for what and who gets thanked is simply another part of the filtering process.

If you visited the current suite of exhibitions at the City Gallery in Wellington you'd think you'd hit the nexus of the public museum/dealer relationship. The City Gallery's spaces are all but filled on both floors with three solo exhibitions by artists (and yes in the City Gallery tradition they're all male) who show at a single Auckland dealer gallery - Starkwhite. Then stir in some personal history. The City Gallery’s Senior curator Robert Leonard was Starkwhite director John McCormack's curator at the Govett-Brewster and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. And what about the transparency issue? The Starkwhite connection is credited on two of the exhibitions (Martin Basher and Grant Stevens) at the City Gallery but is nowhere to be seen in the biggest exhibition where the three ground floor galleries are filled with Seung Yul Oh’s work. And this in an institution that raised eyebrows in the past over the multiple appearances and support of artists from the Sydney-based dealer Roslyn Oxley.

But as it happens it turns out the Starkwhiteathon is actually a mixture of loose programming and poor timing: the Seung Yul Oh show was developed in conjunction with the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and had no association with Starkwhite, Leonard has been a long-term supporter of Grant Stevens (he introduced the artist to Starkwhite way back) and the Martin Basher exhibition was already on the books.

So not exhibition programming's finest hour but a King-hit for Starkwhite

Image: Seung Yul Oh (detail)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Big bird

Like the animal artist line up there seems to be no end to the out pouring of giant sculptures in general of animals specifically or in this case bird life. This 15 meter long parrot (a Norwegian blue) was made by Dave Crosswell, Iain Prendergast and Toby Crowther as a commission work to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Dead parrot sketch by Monty Python.
Images: The Norwegian blue being installed

Big eyes

After a scan of some dealer galleries, a best-of show in LA and too much time on Google, here’s some of what to expect from art in the next 12 months.
  • Plants in pots, in arrangements and in fragments
  • Large mirrors and reflective surfaces
  • Installations in stand-alone rooms
  • Tiles and more tiles, on the floor, on the wall and on the ceiling
  • Performances (many of them based on work by Yvonne Rainer)
  • Collectives and groups
  • Ceramics, ceramics and more ceramics
  • Rumbling bass sound tracks
  • Small abstract paintings that remind you of other paintings you've seen
  • Artist statements printed onto the gallery wall
  • Things made of bronze that look like they are made of something else
  • Artists writing printed in handouts
  • Artists curating other artists as their own work of art

Monday, July 21, 2014


We're on a roll. This from a reader (Thanks M), über art collector Eli Broad and his wife Edythe sitting on furniture, in this case designed by Frank Gehry

Prize list

Once again the NZ Herald has dusted off Adam Gifford to harrumph about the Walters Prize. Last time Gifford was appalled by the four finalists who he decided “are in fact deeply conservative – a new academy." In a turn around this year Gifford is shocked by the radical nature of the final four. As the Auckland Art Gallery hasn't bothered to answer the obvious mistakes and misunderstandings in Gifford’s piece either on FaceBook or Twitter, here's our take on it:

 “The Walters Prize is the way Auckland City Gallery Toi o Tamaki deals with contemporary art. It outsources the selection of the finalists to four people from elsewhere in the New Zealand art world.”

Two of the four on the selection panel live in Auckland while a third, Tina Barton, graduated from Auckland University and was for some time a curator at the Auckland Art Gallery. Three of the four finalists went to art school in Auckland.

"There's no cover charge for the Walters Prize this year."
Admission to the Walters Prize was also free in 2012.

“The Walters selections so far have shown a bias against older artists and object makers.”
Five of the six winners of the Walters Prize (et al., Francis Upritchard, Peter Robinson, Dan Arps, Kate Newby) are object makers and Yvonne Todd is a photographer. Seventeen of the 28 finalists to date have been object makers. The average age of Walters Prize winners is 36 and 12 of the 28 finalists were over 40.

“As to the question of what contemporary art is, the answer seems to be, "It's what contemporary artists do."

This idea was first proposed by Marcel Duchamp 100 years ago in 1914.

“Worth noting is that the Walters Prize was opened by Mayor Len Brown, whose council passed a bylaw that includes a ban on "nuisance" begging. 'Uhila would have breached the bylaw when he pitched a tent alongside the gallery to shelter from the winter chill.” 
As far as we know direct begging is not part of Kalisolaite 'Uhila’s work.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday chart

This week Hyperallergic took apart the latest Top 200 Collectors list . You can see more of their results via the link.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Centre of attention

Four years ago LACMA had Franz West and Hamish McKay Gallery artist Andreas Reiter Raabe design a set of galleries for a Pacific collection that they had purchased. Now a new addition to the collection Shigeyuki Kihara’s video work Siva in Motion has been given a prime position.

Image: LACMA’s Pacific collection with Shigeyuki Kihara’s Siva in Motion centre

Signature style

The I’ll-never-wash-my-hand-again syndrome is common enough in the world of popular music and entertainment. Once touched by greatness (ok celebrity) you’ve got an association you want to remember. That’s why people collect signatures (preferably not on their arms with black felt tip pen) although you do have to wonder what these associations are worth. Someone on Trade Me is testing the water at the moment with a ‘Philip Clairmont, Signed, Nostalgic Object, Icon’.

The icon offering is a copy of the album Soon Over Babaluma recorded by the German band Can in 1974. We know it was owned by Clairmont because he hand printed his name on the sleeve presumably to make sure it came back if borrowed. It ended up with Clairmont’s friend the artist Allen Maddox and was in turn passed on to the Trade Me seller. 

So, there you go, two associations for the price of one.

And what do you pay for a record that was once owned by Philip Clairmont and presumably touched by Allen Maddox? Bidding starts at $500. OTY.

Image: top, the associated Can album and bottom, the crucial Clairmont name on the reverse of the sleeve. (thanks for the heads up P)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Skin condition

As you wander round the Getty Museum in LA you start to feel there is a theme to the contemporary sculpture collection. What could it be? Got it. Naked women.


It’s auction season and that means auction catalogues. So here’s our annual quiz, this time based on the catalogue entries for Webb’s Important paintings and contemporary art sale on 31 July. Answers here on OTN STUFF.

Who made an art work that is -
“Monumental and extremely important”
“Highly revered”
“Irritating, strange yet very familiar”
“Profoundly important”
“A subtle political statement that urges its audience to look past the smooth veneers of the modern world”
“Approachable yet cryptic”
“An intense cocktail of vivid colours”
“About the communicative potential of the creative act”

Whose painting has -
“An idyllic eloquent tranquility”
“A strong sense of the transcendent”
“A fresh and improvisational feeling”
“A newfound understanding of the gravity and implications of the human gesture”
“An eerie yet beguiling quality”

Who created -
“A career defining masterpiece”
“A deeply enigmatic work”

Who has -
“A profound but highly personal perspective”
“Inherent spirituality”

Who is -
 “One of New Zealand’s most voracious appropriators”
“Inviting the viewer to gaze upon he façade of a world driven by industrial production”
“Creating imagery in which slight of hand is incorporated into the artistic process”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In Los Angeles...

...thinking about Bill Culbert and Ralph Hotere

In the cut

Although the Lucio Fontana retrospective show in Paris gave new emphasis to his ceramic work, it did include a number of the classic slashed paintings for which he is famous. Fontana saw these works as the end of a spiritual quest to create the perfect painting but for all his high mindedness it's hard not to see the canvases as injured when you stand in front of them. That impression was reinforced looking at a short film that showed Fontana making one of his slashed paintings with a disarmingly prosaic box cutter. Hard not to make the thought provoking jump (one that has almost certainly been made many times before) to the terrible actions of Dutchman Gerard Jan van Bladeren who slashed the Barnett Newman painting Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III in 1986 and then, 11 years later, returned to the same museum to put five meter gashes into another Newman work, Cathedra.

Images: top, Lucio Fontana Concetto spaziale, Attese. Bottom left Barnet Newman  Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III and right Cathedra

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Desk bound

The second in our ongoing series of art collectors and furniture. This time it's Los Angeles collector Mary (Moo) Anderson perched on a desk alongside her husband Harry, known as 'Hulk'.

But seriously

We'd seen the dog with the purple front leg before as part of Pierre Huyghe’s contribution to Documenta 13 in 2012 but then it was often lurking behind a large spill of gravel. This time the dog was roaming around the museum where a large Huyghe’s survey exhibition was underway and was sometimes, but not always, accompanied by a guy with a strange mask. The dog was enough really.

The strange thing was how much more real the dog seemed in these large white galleries than it had outside in nature, albeit a nature somewhat distorted by Huyghe. In part we all felt comfortable about the dog because of the relaxed attitude of the guards at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne. They had obviously been specifically briefed for this exhibition - you could sit anywhere, lean on anything, touch most things, take photos, lie down, and so on.

Was this attitude why most of the visitors were under 30? The exhibition was staged as a series of inter-related but distinct encounters and this chunking really worked. Each event (whether it was a large scale video, a set of drawings, a statue with a beehive growing on its head, an aquarium, smoke and mirrors) was an opportunity for people to lie on the floor, talk among themselves and absorb the exhibition in a way that is quite different from the long hard stare we're used to. It may have become a cliché but the phrase that best summed up the Huyghe exhibition was serious fun. Not just populist or spectacular or interactive (although it turned out to be all three) but the fun made by an intensely curious artist treated seriously. And there were no labels, just a sheet with a map, list of works and brief commentary. #justsaying