Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The name game

Charismatic painting  Jerry Saltz 2015

Zombie Formalism  Walter Robinson 2014

Art Flipping Katya Kazakina 2013

Selfie Hopey 2002

Gallery goers Vito Acconci 1972

Arthur Danto 1964

Happening Allan Kaprow 1961

Concept Art Henry Flynt 1961

Pop Art  John McHale  1954

The decisive moment Dick Simon for Henri Cartier Bresson’s book Images a la sauvette  1952

Action painting Harold Rosenberg 1952

Abstract Expressionism
Robert Coates 1946

Readymade Marcel Duchamp 1913

Post modern John Watkins Chapman 1870

Avant-garde Olinde Rodrigues 1825

Modernist Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1769

Academy Giorgio Vasari 1562

Monday, October 05, 2015

Broken records

The long legal tussle between artist Stephen Bambury and art dealer Andrew Jensen has run its course. It's been an important case. It asked the court to consider the relationship between artists and dealers that are usually (given that there are few solid contractual agreements) conducted in a pretty fluid state. The way art is bought and sold in New Zealand can be complex with closely negotiated deals on prices, time payment, part-payments, packaging of works, exchanges, etc etc. Given that throughout their professional education artists learn diddly squat about how to run even the smallest business, it's not surprising that many artists end up with incomplete records and a sketchy idea of what’s in their various dealers' stock rooms or indeed who ends up owning their work.

This is the context in which Bambury questioned missing payments on sales made by Jensen’s gallery and Jensen, in the way of these things, counter-sued. Now the High Court has found in favour of the artist, awarding him over $100,000 plus interest accumulated over the years the complaint has been in dispute. Jensen’s counter-claims were put aside. Of course all this started with Jensen and Bambury working together very closely. Jensen was a believer in Bambury and Bambury a strong supporter of Jensen’s gallery with both benefiting. Unfortunately such friendships can also lead to the business practices associated with them being looser than usual. Dealings can get muddled via undocumented oral agreements, payments being used to offset other expenses, trade-ins and so forth.

Indeed the court found the Bambury-Jensen relationship to be so closely intertwined that the judge regarded it to be more like a partnership than a business relationship between two separate companies. As a result issues of trust were seen as less critical than they might be in business to business relationships. This maybe why some of Bambury’s more complex claims were dismissed. So, a much reduced pay-out based on the initial claim of around $700,000, but still significant. It will no doubt reverberate through the dealer gallery system and should be a wake-up call to artists look carefully at their own responsibility to keep track of their work and the money it brings them.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Art at work: Tokyo

Friday, October 02, 2015

Did we say small? We meant big

The exhibition spaces in the contemporary art museums of Tokyo are like their peers in the rest of the well-off world - grossly inflated. When was the last time you could use a simple ladder to hang something off the ceiling of an exhibition space? The result of this institutional love affair with volume is extreme pressure on artists to produce larger and larger works. Having seen a lot of art over the last few days, here's some of the strategies currently in use to make big work with smallish budgets.

1 Building large structures from cheap materials (bamboo, cardboard, plastic etc)

2  Arranging 100 or so small paintings in a grid pattern to take up a big wall

3  Presenting videos inside cheap structures like tents or cupboards

4  Installing large real world objects (the more unexpected the better) in front of paintings or videos. Start with a rowboat or a car and you'll probably get to a homemade working helicopter

5  Leaning large objects (the floor from a school room, for instance) against walls

6  Locating multiple screens in a long line (and they can be showing the same image, see repetition below) or as large scale panoramic projections

7  Isolating and spotlighting furniture (desks, tables, benches) to facilitate a visitor survey or some other bureaucratic task

8  Piling things or stacking things

9  Going for repetition. One plaster cat is dull, 1,000 not so much

Images: top to bottom, left to right. large structure - cheap material, piles, large real-world object, tv in a tent, survey and lots-a-paintings

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The race for the bottom

The auction business is at the pointy end of the art market, the arena where individuals publicly demonstrate what art is worth to them. While there’s some horse-trading in the primary market it’s mostly around commissions rather than setting prices. That means when an established auction house announces it has been conducting ‘extensive research of the market’ to work out the best categories for its sales, it’s time to pay attention. 

The auction house is Webb’s and its research has told it to go with five levels of sale. The groupings are pretty much the ones it has been using recently (Paramount, Vision, Discovery, Affordable...oh…and Photography) but the frequency is a surprise. We’re talking an extraordinary 18 art auctions a year. As we say in Counting-On-Our-Fingers-Land, that’s one every three weeks. Whew! Simply put, Webb’s reckons the future of art auctions is a volume business and it’s going to lead the commodification charge in what is usually thought of as a premium market. While the twice a year Paramount events will include ‘important paintings and contemporary art for major collectors of artworks valued over $20,000’, the other 17 auctions will be selling works on average between $10,000 and $2,000. It’s a bold move. To turn over a million on the hammer price you only have to clear around 8 works in the $125,000 range, or 200 works at $5,000 each. That’s a lot of consigning, cataloguing, freighting, marketing, transacting let alone actual auctioning. Of course Webb’s will be hoping to land some big fish for its Paramount outings but with only around 10 percent of their auctions geared to the high end you can see where the energy will be going.

The big question is supply. Will collectors release big ticket items to an auction house so focussed on the bottom end? The quality of items very new comers Bowerbank Ninow have snagged for their first auction will certainly give Webb’s pause. Maybe it’s a good time to send someone up the mast to look out for icebergs.

Image: the iceberg thought to have sunk the Titanic

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Vanishing cream

If you've followed OTN for a while you'll know its position over the use of Gordon Walters' version of the koru has gone from astonishment through resignation to whatever. As a design it has been slapped on just about everything but now that the digital is putting copyright itself under such pressure all this WTFing is starting to feel rather old school. But there are always exceptions. And you do have to laugh when you see Walters basic design revamped into a clumsy identity for a product called ‘Come Clean’. Their killer by-line? “Clear skin with a clear conscience.” Not until you've talked to the Walters Estate you won’t have.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Light touch

Now that Michael Parekowhai’s Lighthouse sculpture featuring a super-sized chandelier is all go, you might be interested to check out this video of a couple of guys actually making one. Just how the Parekowhai version is going to look is still obviously in the planning stages although there are hints that it will include NZ imagery. Looking at the skills required, getting something like this made in New Zealand is going to be a challenge. Still we are talking about a guy who had a full-sized bronze elephant cast in Henderson so there you go.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Brilliant or nonsense, you be the judge

One set of entrails that hasn’t been considered in the Venice Binnale selection process for 2017 is Speeculation. This was the 2007 what-you-send-to-Venice-when-you’re-not-sending-anyone-to-Venice publication spearheaded by Brian Butler, then director of Artspace. NZ's continuing participation in the Biennale was seriously in doubt at the time so the book's proposition was a plug for the depth of talent available asking 'Which New Zealand artist now or in the future could be sent to the Venice Biennale and exhibit in the New Zealand pavilion?' Chosen by eight NZ-based curators, the list of 27 artists was Auckland centric (81 percent), but it did include all the five artists who got the call to go to Venice in the subsequent years: Francis Upritchard, Judy Millar, Michael Parekowhai, Bill Culbert and Simon Denny. So maybe somewhere in the rest of the Butler list is another name with a chance although of the artists who are generally considered to have applied for 2017, only Apple and Mitchell are on the list. Maybe curators can only see a decade into the future at a time. The rest of the Butler artists are: Fiona Amundsen, Eve Armstrong, Andrew Barber, Stella Brennan, Judy Darragh, Bill Hammond, Ronnie van Hout, Sean Kerr, Jae Hoon Lee, Saskia Leek, Andrew McLeod, Daniel Malone, Ani O'Neill, John Reynolds, Jim Speers, Sriwhana Spong, Yvonne Todd, Yuk King Tan and Rohan Wealleans.

Image: Bultler and his team search for clues to future choices for the Venice Biennale (thanks for pointing the way B)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Turned on

Martin Creed lights up the Christchurch Art Gallery

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fit for purpose

The Gormley sculpture limbers up and gets some rest in preparation for its stint in Christchurch's Avon river

Friday, September 25, 2015

Down sizing

With public and dealer galleries building bigger and bigger spaces it’s hard to figure how artist are going to be able to fill them with enough art to keep things going? Will we see a return to tiny art? Photographer and art director Tatsuya Tanaka obviously thinks so. You can see more of his work here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

By the numbers: international

0       the number of stadiums designed by architect Zaha Hadid that will be built for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo

2       the number of life-size steel  figures gone missing that were made by Antony Gormley for Western Australia’s remote Lake Ballard

3       the times Anish Kapoor's sculpture Dirty Corner in the Versailles Palace gardens has been vandalised with anti-Semitic and other slurs

15      the number in millions of flowers used to create a giant head of Vincent van Gogh for the Bloemencorso Zundert parade in the town of Zundert in the Netherlands

10      the number of new stories that will open in the Tate’s ever expanding building extension.

60      the percentage of new display space Tate Modern will get with its new $NZ637 million building

75      the age in years of Auguste Rodin when he was filmed by Sacha Guitry in 1915. You can see it here

120    the number of art works made by British artist Damien Hirst owned by collector Jose Mugrabi

800    the amount in millions of dollars that auction house Sotheby’s has guaranteed the sale of the Taubman estate, the contemporary and modern art collection of former Sotheby's chairman

2000  the number of art works in the Broad collection whose new museum opened this month in downtown LA

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ex machina

Simon Ingram is New Zealand’s painting machine guy and he’s the one who got OTN interested in them. Over the years we've looked out for machines that paint, or rather machines that are programmed to paint as they can't quite yet casually pick up a brush as part of their own personal practice. Progress is being made though and a recent machine invented by Professor Simon Colton from the University of London has software that allows it to be influenced (a phase artists, including machine artists, seem to have to work through). Colton’s machine checks out newspaper stories and makes works based on the words it gathers from them.

The three laws of painting machines for those who don’t remember them are:
1. A painting machine may not kick up at the 50 percent commission charged by humans or, through inaction, fail to pay it.
2. A painting machine must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would prevent it producing the sort of art that is demanded by local collectors.
3. A painting machine must protect its own painting style in so far as such protection does not infringe the copyright of other painting machines.

Image: portrait by one of Prof Colton's machines

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Best bets

The proposals for who's to represent NZ at the 2017 Venice Biennale are all in. Now it's up to a panel to choose the lucky winner and made an announcement in around three weeks.  Then it will be off to Venice for the chosen team to check out the current Biennale and get into the endless, stressful search for an NZ venue.

Maybe you remember that for the 2015 outing we asked for a list of who'd applied and after a year of wrangling were refused it. This time round we'll forgo the wrangling bit and offer a list based on gossip, horse's mouth, second, third and even in one case fourth-hand information. In general we have to hear something from three different sources to think it has a chance of being true. Some of the combinations here are common knowledge; Auckland has been in awe watching Auckland Art Gallery director Rhana Devenport’s campaign for Lisa Reihana's wide-screen spectacular In pursuit of Venus, recently on show at the Gallery. In general terms the male/female balance runs slightly against selecting another guy, especially as three of the four women selected previously have had to share the space. There are probably a few more proposals being put on the table but we reckon this list is getting close.

Billy Apple with curator Adnan Yıldız, Artspace

Ruth Buchanan curator Axel Wieder(Director of Index - The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, Stockholm

Alicia Frankovich with curators Abby Cunnane, St Paul's St Gallery and Chiara Giovando, Disjecta, Portland Oregon

Group show (involving McCahon) Simon Rees, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Kate Newby with  curators Natasha Conland, Auckland Art Gallery and Nicolaus Schafhausen, Kunstshalle, Vienna

Seung Yul Oh with curator Andrew  Clifford, Te Uru

Dane Mitchell with curators Zara Stanhope, Auckland Art Gallery and Mami Kataoka, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Fiona Pardington with curator Aaron Lister, City Gallery Wellington

Lisa Reihana with curator Rhana Devenport, Auckland Art Gallery

Other possibilities include another group show from Te Papa Senior curator Sarah Farrar (last time she put up five young artists from Michael Lett and Hopmos) or something from Lara Strongman, another Senior curator who'll be looking to make an impact as the Christchurch Art Gallery reopens. There's been chatter about a proposal putting Rohan Wealleans together with Sarah Lucas, last year’s Venice hit and past co-exhibitor with Wealleans, a stunning idea but probably too good to be true. Still waiting for someone to propose Shane Cotton. He could do a terrific show as our first painter but not a murmur on that front.

We’ll make changes and additions if they come to hand.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Listing badly

By their lists shall you know them. This one is from the Ilam School of Fine Arts in Christchurch. It’s an advert that aims to promote the school by highlighting their 75 most illustrious former students. As with all lists, however, it tells its own story that is probably not the one intended. While it's not so surprising that an art school with only has one female on a teaching staff of nine only includes women as just 31 percent of its alumni, some of the omissions verge on the bizarre. Ok we hear you Ilam, you couldn’t include everyone, but no Jim Allen (the Arts Foundation's most recent Icon)? et al.? Jacqueline Fahey? Boyd Webb? Really?  
Now, over to all of you for a game of who’s in and who’s out. Here’s the full list and our first go at it. Have fun.
IN      OUT
Arts administration 
John Coley                                        Rodney Wilson
Hamish Keith

University Lecturers
Andre Hemer                                Jim Allen
Jim Speers                                        Doris Lusk
                                                            Richard Reddaway

International reputation
Bill Culbert                                       John Panting
Vincent Ward                                   Boyd Webb

Mark Adams                                     Margaret Dawson

Allen Maddox                                   Philip Clairmont
Tony Fomison

Walters Prize winners
Dan Arps                                            et al.
Peter Robinson
Francis Upritchard           

Quentin MacFarlane                        Jacqueline Fahey

Paul Cullen                                        Chris Booth
Anton Parsons                                  Andrew Drummond
                                                             Molly Macalister
                                                             Pauline Rhodes

And, to add to the female-out total, alongside Margaret Dawson, Jacqueline Fahey, Doris Lusk, Molly Macalister and Pauline Rhodes you can add Evelyn Page, Rata Lovell-Smith, Rosemary Johnson, Elizabeth Kelly, Rhona Haszard and Alison Duff.