Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On the road

On the road is an ongoing series celebrating the Ministry of Land Transport and Local Body support of New Zealand artists.
For others in the series search 'on the road' in the blog search box above.


In a curious effort to promote tonight’s auction, Webb’s attempted to drum up interest by associating an emblem in a Shane Cotton painting with gang patches. The New Zealand Herald went into a paroxysm of shock and awe and asked the New Zealand expert on gang patches, Michael Laws, Mayor of Whanganui, for a response. He didn’t see or care about the connection and driving to New Plymouth in the weekend we saw an image that might just as easily have attracted Cotton: beer brand symbols that are on billboards and pub façades throughout the Horowhenua and Manawatu. Such references are only minor footnotes to the final work, of course, but it’s cool to drive through our own art history.

Monday, March 29, 2010

40 years on

When John Maynard arrived in New Plymouth in 1967 to kick-start the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery he was 24. Maynard remembers the date he landed in Taranaki because it was the day after his twenty-fourth birthday. Impossible to think that any city would now allow a 24-year-old to direct (let alone establish) a public art gallery. We’ve posted before about the aging of museum directors. Nowadays it would be hard to find anyone doing the job in their thirties let alone twenties. 

Maynard was in New Plymouth last weekend to join the Govett-Brewster fortieth birthday celebrations. A big contingency had turned up from out of town and by the evening the locals had come to the party too. In his congratulations Maynard told a great story commenting on how much art depends on context. In the late 1960s he and his friends were obsessed by contemporary art, and the obsession provedy contagious. A young child travelling with them pointed to a statue in a park and said, “Look! There’s a man standing on a sculpture.” If you know of a better plinth story, you need to tell us.

Image: OTN paparazzi shot of Maynard telling the statue story

Don Peebles 1922-2010

He was a formidable presence at Ilam art school in the 1960s. A highly regarded painter trying to instill some design sense into young kids, quite a few of us untrained idiots who gave him little but grief. But, as is so often the case in retrospect, the firmness was covering an introspective sensitivity and a genuine desire for us to succeed.

Later, when the odds were a little more in our favour, we also found how kind and generous Don could be. The few visits to his studio revealed him as an artist at constant play. Not sure if it was Don who first told us the John Cage maxim, “take something, do something to it, do something else,” but it might as well have been.

One New York Winter it was Don who sat with Pippin in a very cold and rather grim apartment and gave us two evenings free to see Laurie Anderson perform United States at BAM. It was also Don who was reading the map upside down when he was supposed to be navigating us to Philadelphia to see the Duchamps (ok, so he wasn’t perfect). We heard that Don was in the Christchurch Art Gallery recently looking at the shows and checking out some of his work. That sounds right. Like many of you, we offer our condolences to his wife Prue and his kids.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


 "As artist Ronnie van Hout Joe Don Baker gives his most disturbing performance since Edge of Darkness" - Variety

Other feature films about New Zealand artists and the world they live in:
My camera mon amour

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sculpture at work in the community

Knock, knock

All eyes will be on the big-ticket items at the Webb’s auction next Tuesday. At Art + Object last night most of the good, middle range works managed to achieve or get close to their low estimates, although an exception that had the room applauding was Ralph Hotere’s elegant Yellow on White which was hammered down for $16,500 above its high estimate. The five works that were low estimated for $100,000 or more (Hanley, Hammond, Walters, Hotere) stumbled at the finish line, most getting hammered down for $20-$30,000 less than their low estimates (the Gasgoigne just snuck in).

Is this finally the retraction that seems to have hit everything in New Zealand apart from the art market? Next week at Webb's will tell the tale with Fomison, Hammond, Goldie, Cotton and Hotere carrying low estimates that range from $120,000 to $230,000. Last night’s showing suggests the climb to the top will be a struggle.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blessed is the nine inch plate

In his book promoting eating less as the best way to lose weight, Alex Bogusky notes the incremental increase in the size of the dinner plates we load up and put in front of ourselves. Now, a group of researchers have studied 52 depictions of the Last Supper painted over the past 1000 years. They found that between the years 1000 and 2000 the food on the plates in front of Jesus and his fellow diners grew by around 70%, and the amount of bread by 23%. And the plates got larger too over the years, 65.85% larger to be exact.

You can read the full story here in the LA Times

Other Supper posts on OTN here and here and... in fact it's probably easier just to put Last Supper into the search box

To make an omelette etc.

When we first started OTN back in 2006, we spent a lot of time on Gordon Walters lookalikes. It seemed everyone was onto the Walters’ icon – building fences, decorating plates and chairs and screens with the familiar Walters’ koru. In the end we had to admit Walters’ koru had gone vernacular. Now it looks like McCahon is headed the same way. We’ve already posted on the uses (and misuses) of Luke Wood’s McCahon typeface but here’s someone else having a go at McCahonotype. Vanessa has come up with her own McCahonesque script to write out decorative recipes on blackboards. Who ever thought that one day McCahon’s handwriting (or a rough approximation of it) would make for a “great pressie for friends overseas” on TradeMe? Vanessa may even be known to some of you because she tells us in her profile that the “biggest influence with my art is my Dad who studied under McCahon and now is a well recognised and successful NZ artist”. OTN hat etc.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

OTN charts #1

click on chart to enlarge

By the numbers

At the end of the month both Art + Object and Webb’s are holding contemporary art auctions.

87 the total number of lots in A+O’s auction
72 the total number of lots in Webb’s auction

12.46% the percentage of works created by women in A+O’s auction
15.2% the percentage of works created by women in Webb’s auction

5 the number of items valued at $100,000 or more at A+O
6 the number of items valued at $100,000 or more at A+O

1.95 the total value in millions to be auctioned estimated based on lowest estimates at A+O
1.96 the total value in millions to be auctioned estimated based on lowest estimates at Webb’s

331,300 the value in dollars estimated for the sale of art created by women based on lowest estimate at A+O
212,000 the value in dollars estimated for the sale of art created by women based on lowest estimate at Webb’s

1.68 the total value in millions of dollars for the sale of art created by men based on lowest estimate at A+O
1.75 the total value in millions of dollars for the sale of art created by men based on lowest estimate at Webb’s

456,000 the value in dollars estimated for the sale of art created by Maori and Polynesian based on lowest estimate at A+O
436,000 the value in dollars estimated for the sale of art created by Maori and Polynesian based on lowest estimate at A+O

COMMENT from Damian Balle: The figures listed on the Australian Art Sales Digest website aren't completely accurate; in their sale of the David and Angela Wright collection in June of last year, Art and Object set a new artist record for the sale of Judy Millar's work - $42,210 (hammer price: $36,000, lot 14). Art and Object posted on their blog re. the result at the time. So the situation is slightly less grim.Thanks D.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Art in the workplace

Art at work in the foyers of the world


N is for Nationalism

The argument has died on the vine along along with a lot of other art theoretical sour grapes, but there was a time where art about New Zealand and art about the world were at loggerheads. It really should have stopped in 1968 at the moment Jasper Johns painted his global local redux American flag. As it was, our stags locked horns (it was mostly stags) in the eighties fighting it out under the harsh New Zealand light, abstract butting against pictorial, United States hard up against united regionalists. All gone now, and through it all our flag remained unchanged. Salut.
Illustration by Pippin Barr

Monday, March 22, 2010

One of the reasons Te Papa and Te Manawa insist on barriers

Thanks G

Friends and neighbours

Upper Hutt’s public art gallery Expressions might be small but it has some good spaces, a curator/acting director with an art history degree and an audience as sophisticated as most, and possibly more interested than some. Finance is obviously a challenge in a place without the rating grab of a big city but we’ve seen some good exhibitions there over the years. 

Their current offering Snap shot is on loan from Palmerston North. Drawing on Te Manawa's collections it gives a good slice of the seventies with one startling omission, well a couple in fact. Colin McCahon should be there and isn’t. And there is nothing by Milan Mrkusich either. We suspect Te Manawa decided works by these two artists were too 'valuable' to allow this small venue to show them safely. 

This big gallery swagger is also apparent in Te Manawa’s insistence that all their paintings have barriers in front of them. Apart from Te Papa we can’t think of any other institution that makes this a blanket (and expensive, and time consuming) rule. The irony of it is that if the Upper Hutt audience is as unruly as Te Manawa imagines, these barriers are more likely to trip the rioting bogans and plunge them into the works rather than protect them. In reality it’s just posturing. OK, the Hotere and the Driver have delicate surfaces but the rest could easily cope with the average New Zealand audience without barriers. Besides, as we all know, most art works are damaged by the staff because they are the ones who have to handle them.

These sorts of strict restrictions feel like an unnecessary slight on the people of Upper Hutt, and this from a city that isn’t exactly a major metropolis. In our small art world, if the provincial art galleries won’t trust and support each other, who will?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Like, likes?

Friday, March 19, 2010

In Bangladesh

We were thinking about Tony De Lautour


One of the most memorable New Zealand sculptures for our money is Ronnie Van Hout’s Duck Character and Mouse Character made in 1999. Ronnie's two ungainly Disney lookalikes are modelled on a concrete set you can find in a kids’ playground in Picton (in Ronnie's kinetic version the mouses head swivels Regan-like). That got us thinking about how creepy playground sculpture can be including the brilliantly weird monkey trash can and concrete croc we saw in Kolkata. The more abject examples are from Russia. Now go out and play.

Images: From top, Ronnie van Hout’s Duck Character and Mouse Character, concrete Duck and Mouse in Picton, New Zealand, Monkey trash can Kolkata, slide, duck and elephants from Russia (with love). Click on image to enlarge

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oh I don’t know… three? …. maybe four.

“How many friends buy an entire museum and duplicate everything inside just so it could be burnt to the ground?” - Steve Berry, The Venetian Betrayal

Images: Museums burn on Google. Clockwise from top left, Barnum Museum, Boston Tea Party Museum, Boot Hill Museum, Cae Dai Museum, Yankee Air Museum and the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Olympia

Reversal of fortune

We missed the exhibition but we’ve just read the catalogue of Objectspace’s Printing types: New Zealand type design since 1870. One of the typefaces highlighted was Luke Wood’s McCahon face. Wood has written a very entertaining account of the font’s life and times up to its recent use by Charlie’s for its fruit juice packaging. The illustration for Wood’s article was very familiar. Based on a photograph in Wystan Curnow’s essay in the Colin McCahon catalogue I will need words, it is a Wood’s McCahon type version of a get-the-hell-off-my-property sign.

We know this sign well. Back in the 1980s on the way to Wanganui we removed it from a farm gate (sorry) and slung it in the back of our car as a great piece of typographic art. Before liberating the sign we took a photograph, which was just as well as our car and the sign were stolen (that’ll teach us) a couple of weeks later. That was the photograph used for the I will need words catalogue with one major difference. It was decided the words would look better white against black (more like the fruit and vege signs McCahon favoured) and so the neg was reversed.

Now, all these years later, 26 of them to be exact, the script is returned to its black on white origins. Thanks Luke.

Images: Top, Wood’s typeface on Charlie’s OJ. Bottom, the Trespass sign in Wood’s McCahon typeface. Generously Objectspace have made the Printing Types catalogue available on pdf. You can get it here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


"The collection has been cobbled together from works owned by private art lovers - not art collectors."
Mahara Gallery curator Janet Bayly describing her Frances Hodgkins exhibition in the Dominion Post

Spell check

You realise there are not many New Zealand artists to have cracked the overseas reputation thing when you hear the name Frances Hodgkins constantly dredged up as an example. Probably one of our most successful recent artists – and we reckon we can still claim bits of him because he went to Ilam art school – is Boyd Webb. Not only has Webb had a high profile international career with works held in public art museums all over the world, he did it from the bastions of the Anthony d’Offay and Sonnabend galleries. There was even word that Sly Stallone owned a large sculpture by Webb, a work that featured two giant sized teeth. 

Now another contender is shaping up in the person of Francis Upritchard. The latest marker of her success is an invitation to make a show at the Vienna Secession in April. 

The Secession was started in the late nineteenth century by a band of free-thinking artists and now boasts an extraordinary building and a long-running programme of exhibitions. It has become a showcase for some of the most interesting artists of the last 50 years. Paul McCarthy set up a tent city there and Gregor Schneider recreated a basement room of his apartment, Isa Genzken has shown as have Maurizio Cattelan, Larry Clark and Sharon Lockhart. 

When it comes to NZ artists abroad, it’s nice to have another Francis on the job.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

That’s sweet of you Andy

Warhol chocs available from Ligne Blanche, Paris and selected art museums


....and speaking of giant sports people sculptures, how about these inflated football players featured as part European Soccer Champsionship. Thanks R

Game’s on

There are two competing teams in Wellington’s Sculptural smack down. In the red corner is the Wellington Sculpture Trust, earnest proselytisers for high art to denote a cultural Capital. In the blue corner stands Weta Workshop, brash enthusiasts who see art as popular culture in its own right. The Trust believes in promoting established artists like Dawson, Moore, Drummond and Lye while Weta is convinced its own skills are more than up to the job of creating cultural monuments. And so from Weta and its staff Wellington has already got the Louise Bourgeois-like Spider in Courtenay Place and a couple of naked guys on the waterfront. 

Now Wellington is about to debate a Weta proposal for giant footy players to mark the 2011 Rugby World Cup. This latest scheme is backed by Wellington’s Mayor Kerry Prendergast, someone who knows a major contributor to her city when she sees one. 

The proposed sculpture is five metres high (as a rough guide it would take ten of them stacked on top of one another to equal the height of Sweden’s proposed giant moose) and is budgeted at $350,000 to be picked up by Wellington ratepayers. Prendergast has told the NZ Herald that, "Art always invites debate but I am hoping that the majority of Wellingtonians will see that this legacy is more than just about rugby." The Weta people, more pragmatically, announced, "It will be a massive construction job with probably up to 30 people working on it at any one time…" 

The proposal is to go up for public consultation. It will be interesting to hear the Wellington’s institutional art leaders stand, in particular the members of the Wellington City Council Public Art Panel (you can see who they are here) will have to say.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The artist formally known as Plinth

While we are on the subject of plinths and touching sculpture how about this work Do not touch the artwork by Jiri Geller. You can see the rest of the exhibition here and an interview with him here.

Mirror, mirror on the wharf

The thing that used to stop people touching public sculpture was the plinth. It wouldn’t stop Queen Vic getting a funny hat or having someone’s underpants strung round her neck from time to time, but it did mean she avoided the odd savage kick, graffiti or over-enthusiastic gymnastics. So what happens to public sculpture that not only shrugs off its plinths but also provocatively smothers them like a set of reflective tea cosies? In the case of Peter Trevelyan’s The Mimetic Brotherhood outside Te Papa, it’s the work – not an attacking public – that has buckled. After about a month into its two-year stint on the waterfront Brotherhood’s corners are bent back, a number of the ‘mirrors’ are badly dented and if the hydraulic system originally promised to “to make them slowly change shape“ was ever installed, it appears to have given up the ghost.

In a last ditch effort to stop further damage the Sculpture Trust announced, “They've been there for people to touch, but we've decided that that's not working, so we will be putting a sign up saying 'don't touch'.“ And they did, in computer lettering onto the sculptures themselves. It looks like it’s a face-off between the Trust’s graffiti and the public. No prize for guessing who will win and, more poignantly, who will lose.
Image: leave me alone signage on The Mimetic Brotherhood

Other OTN posts on the Brotherhood here and here

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bad as

Last year we posted about the site badpaintingsofbarackobama.com that was taken down shortly after it appeared on the internet. Times have changed and you can now visit this important bad art repository which is back in action.
As fast as we point to them, they get closed down. Afraid this link is not working as at June 2010.

Well that takes the biscuit

And there we were giving the Auckland Art Gallery a hard time for its exhibition Taste, when across the Pacific the San Francisco Museum of Art has this sort of treat on offer in its café.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Advice to collectors: Medical division

“I think the art world is becoming embarrassing, the spectacle it has become; the celebrity, the gauche people who come to the art world now because it is an extension of the fashion world. I don’t want to be part of any of that. It’s a sickness. I think the really compelling and interesting aspects of the art world are not reported.” 
UK art dealer, Stuart Shave in Ponystep

Leaps into the void

Looking at the Auckland Art Gallery’s Triennial site, Robert Hood’s Photoshopped collage of Yves Klein leaping off what we take to be a Christchurch suburban home places him as part of a proud tradition of leaper fans. It particularly reminds us of a crazy Klein Leapers site we came across a while back created by Angus Braithwaite & Fred Lindberg. Admittedly some of their leaps into the void are soft-landers into water, but others have a sense of the Klein leap of faith. Only in art, only on the internet.

Images: Klein Leapers. You can see the original of Yves Klein’s Le Saut dans le vide [The Leap into the Void], 5, rue Gentil-Bernard, Fontenay-aux-Roses, October 1960 here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Our local pub meets Billy Apple

This gallery looks like a tip

For the last couple of months Peter Robinson has been in the UK, in Wimbledon in fact. As part of a university exchange he was able to get some work done and end it with an exhibition featuring a signature polystyrene sculptural installation. One of the bugs in the polystyrene business is disposal, but not this time, thanks to UK artist Michael Landy. He has turned the South London Gallery into a 600m³ container for trashing unwanted works of art, as art, that is. Landy is not new to questioning consumption in his work. He once famously destroyed everything he owned, including a number of valuable YBA art works. This time his installation has been given media cred thanks to Damien Hirst turning up and dumping a large skull print. Emin, Wearing, Blake, Hume and a bunch of other well-known artists have pitched in too. As did Peter Robinson who tipped his polystyrene dust into Landy’s bin before leaving town and heading home.
Images: Top, two iterations of Peter Robinson's exhibition. Bottom, Hirst dumps a skull print into Landy's Art bin.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On the table

No opening this time but more great art in weird spaces for anyone in Wellington who likes that sort of thing. Click on image to enlarge.


A reader has sent in this image of Rio the Sea Lion as another example in the rich cast of sea lion painters. Well thanks M, but no thanks. This animal – if it belongs on the art/sea lion axis at all– is more likely to be a sea lion art critic. Plainly it is looking at, not creating, the strange symbols. Perhaps it is part of a secret sea lion ESP experiment or even a sea lion memory expert at work. Whatever it is, it clearly is not a sea lion art practitioner and we have tagged this post accordingly.

Lookalike or copycat: you be the judge

Colby Nolan
Oliver Greenhalgh
Henrietta Goldacre
Oreo Collins
Tobias F. Schaeffer
Kitty O'Malley
What is this list you ask, and how is it a lookalike to Pat Pound’s ongoing work c.v. ― a work in progress? The answer is because these names (like Patrick’s) are all attached to degrees and/ or diplomas ordered up via the internet. Colby Nolan for instance has a bachelor’s degree. The difference is, however, that unlike Patrick Pound, Colby and the others on the list, are cats.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Practice makes perfect

Students describe the benefits of attending Auckland University’s Elam Art School on the University web site.

... to develop my artistic practice

I plan to work as a practising artist

... a rich and resourceful environment for artistic research, development and practice

I plan to articulate my practice

... enrich my work as a contemporary practitioner of painting and installation.

I plan to continue my work as a practising artist

... because it is relatively close to home, as well as the people and the content that has informed my practice


 SOLD! (… maybe.)

Illustration: Pippin Barr

Monday, March 08, 2010


This riff on one of OTN's Big Ears posts by the celebrated cartoon artist Pippin Barr. You can see more of Mr. Barr's work on his website stimulus/response

Mind the gap

How do we tell if an artist is regarded as important to our culture? There are a number of rules of thumb to work with: appearing on the cover of Art New Zealand, winning the Walters prize, representing us at the Venice Biennale, having a major survey show at a public museum, getting serious CNZ grants and being well represented in the National Collection held by Te Papa.

Using these as a benchmark, you’d have to wonder what’s gone wrong with et al as they tick all these boxes save one. To date there is only one significant et al. work (Object: Misguided) in Te Papa’s collection. It was purchased ten years ago before et al won the Walters Prize or went to Venice and it has never been on display. It is included in Te Papa’s online catalogue, but is not illustrated unlike most other significant works.

There is a precedent for this blindspot. Colin McCahon was not included in the collection of the National Art Gallery until he was 50 and had to wait until he was 59 before a major work was purchased. Since then the National Collection has been playing an expensive game of catch-up buying works that could have been purchased for peanuts if the curators had shown better judgement. [Disclosure: we have personally benefited from this process.]

Auckland Art Gallery gets the significance of et al. It has four major installations representing most phases of the et al. group’s work along with seven other works and a good representation via the Chartwell Collection. And it was smart about McCahon too.

Te Papa seems to have a special problem with et al. Think about it. et al. is the only New Zealand representative at Venice not to have the Venice work shown in New Zealand by the organizing gallery (Te Papa’s contemporary curator at the time, Natasha Conland, curated the Venice show). This year we have Acting CEO Michelle Hippolite being ‘delighted to have supported the staging of New Zealand at the Venice Biennale 2009 and to be able to present Judy Millar and Francis Upritchard’s installations during the New Zealand International Arts Festival'. That support has also been expressed through the purchase of the Venice works of Fraser, Stevenson, Upritchard and Millar. No Peter Robinson purchase and, you guessed it, no etal.

et al.’s work is also missing from the major publication documenting Te Papa’s collection (the only Walters Prize winner not to be included, we assume because the registration department is still unable to supply a picture of the installation ten years after it entered the collection).

While et al. might not be easy for the general public to take, fear of public criticism is no reason to ignore work that has been acknowledged as important in every other art forum we have. Key members of the collective are approaching the age of sixty. Te Papa needs to take action and start building its et al. holdings as part of its mission to tell the stories of New Zealand.
Image: Object: Misguided 1999

Saturday, March 06, 2010

When good models turn bad

Friday, March 05, 2010

On the road

On the road is an ongoing series celebrating the Ministry of Land Transport and Local Body support of New Zealand artists.
For others in the series search 'on the road' in the blog search box above.

When sea lions make art

Most animal art – as anyone who has followed this blog will know – is done by land-based mammals. Fish, who you might think would be great at watercolours, don’t really make at art all and it’s the same with the mollusc, octopus and jellyfish. Seal lions, on the other hand, expand the mammal rule and have a rich art culture. Put a sea lion together with a paint brush and the chances are very good that the result will be serious sea lion art. In aquarium retail outlets all over the world talented sea lions are selling their work and helping to create a steady income stream for their institutions. Artists like Jonao in Japan and the Americans Milo, Huck and Lea would be household names if households were up to speed on recent advances in sea lion art. Here then pictures of six pinnipeds that have stepped up (in so far as sea lions can step) and made art their vocation.
Images: clockwise from top left, artists Jonao, Magie, Morgan, Zuma, Milo and Huck

Thursday, March 04, 2010

No idea

Ok it’s not a moose, but following up OTN’s research project on the history of large animal sculpture, here is a giant deer from way back.

Behind the curtain

Mad magazine often runs a gag that makes heroes of the unheralded people behind great events: the photographer who had to get to the top of Everest first to capture the climbers knocking the bastard off - that sort of thing. 

In the art world these hidden heroes are the fabricators –the sign writers and the cabinetmakers - the unartists who make art works. Knowing OTN this may well be the start of a series, but to kick off let’s hear it for Structurflex Ltd who operate out of Henderson in Auckland. 

Starting off as sail makers 75 years ago, the company now has offices round the world and focuses on handling specialised fabric materials. It was Structurflex Alan Gibbs and Anish Kapoor called when they wanted to construct a massive outdoor work on Gibbs’s sculpture park The Farm north of Auckland. For the record, Structurflex used 7,250 kilos of Ferrari 1302-S series PVC fabric spanning 85 meters supported by two steel ellipses each weighing 43,000 kilos.

Image: Anish Kapoor's untitled work on The Farm

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Courier post

One of the greatest of curatorial perks is at risk, in the US anyway. Ask any curator what they dream of at night and (apart from the oddities who say art) they will tell you it’s being a courier. Now we aren’t talking bikes and shoulder bags here but air travel and hotels. For years now public museums have insisted on couriers accompanying valuable art works when they are shipped off to exhibitions in other countries, and those couriers are often curators. How much protection they could in fact afford the work is another matter. Sometimes it might sit up in business class in a seat but anecdotes abound about the fate of works relegated to the hold. Rothko crates leaking coloured water onto the tarmac as rain pelted down and the courier raced about looking for a tarp is one of the more popular. The reality is that most curators are the last people you’d put in a situation that required quick thinking and instant action.

Now, thanks to I’m-setting-fire-to-my-shoe guy and why-is-smoke -coming-out-of-his-lap person the American Aviation authorities have tightened up air cargo security. Art that in the past could be secured at the point of freighting i.e. a gallery, a collector’s home or a museum is now liable for inspection by airport security like any other luggage that goes into the hold. Given the specialist packing, high value and fragility involved this is not good. 

Big-time museums like MoMA have solved the problem with their own certificated-secure packing facilities, but that’s way beyond most institutions. Even those expensive watercolours strapped into a spare seat are now subject to official search. And of course no more running round the tarmac looking for tarps.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

In Bangladesh

We were thinking about Dashper, Driver and Denny

Cloud nine

In the latest round of National Bank ads, Cody the black stallion takes a back seat to art. We’re not talking generic art lookalikes out of a design shop here, but commissioned work by John Reynolds, an artist who has work in every major art museum in the country and who represented New Zealand at the 2006 Biennale of Sydney. The paintings are in Reynolds’ signature style with small canvases, some piled on top of one another. ‘Smaller repayments’ one of them tempts. “Fix for how long?” another slyly questions. Also part of the team is Hawke’s Bay artist Martin Poppelwell. In the ad a young couple unwrap the works from their protective bubble wrap and Academy-hang them on their living room wall before stepping back to gaze lovingly at this strange poem to banking. Recessions are for babies.
Thanks for the heads up W

Monday, March 01, 2010


Gordon Walters photo corners

Solo show

If you believe you can find art anywhere, your conviction would have been confirmed on Friday outside Te Papa where a small blue painting was propped up against one of the mirrored sculptures by local artist Peter Trevelyan. It looked political – “I Believe IN John Key. He Wouldn’t Lie to US” – the sort of thing you might see on the end of a stick in a political rally. A half -hour later there it is again, this time under one of Judy Millar’s Giraffe-bottle-gun paintings on Te Papa’s fifth floor.

There’s a precedent for this sneaking-my-art-into-a-public-museum action. The English graffiti artist Banksy famously exhibited a fake cave painting for a few days at the British Museum and someone calling themselves Cartrain managed to insert a Damien Hirst "portrait" into a National Portrait Gallery hanging. So we hung around for 20 minutes or so to see what would happen.

The audience for Millar’s work seemed to take the addition in their stride, and the Te Papa guides either thought it was part of the work or didn’t sweep that low on their walk-throughs. As we were about to go a young guy with a camera came into the gallery, looked around and took a couple of snaps. Turned out he was an art student (not so surprising) doing a performance installation course. No one had stopped him bring his art into Te Papa and no one had tried to put an end to his short term display. Picking his art up from the floor he tucked it under his arm, gave us a smile, and wandered off down the stairs.