Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Falling water

In Christchurch thinking about Regan Gentry
Images: Top: Regan Gentry’s McCahon Incarnation at the City Gallery and bottom waterfall building, Christchurch.

…and statistics

As they say in the house and land valuation business, “Stay the hell away from OTN.” Our guesstimate of the small deco-style building that is to be sacrificed for the Len Lye Center in New Plymouth was $250,000. Now sources in New Plymouth (thanks, you know who you are) tell us that in fact the property was purchased for $804,375. This is an embarrassing half a million dollars more than we guessed and even the current rateable value of $580,000 puts our valuation skills to shame. 

As to the 1990s addition that is to be demolished and replaced, it's valued by the Taranaki Regional Council at $2.39 million excluding the land value of $610,000. And if you are wondering how much the New Plymouth District Council puts up for the Govett-Brewster each year (and who doesn’t?), in 2011 it was $2.415 million. That's more than twice the $1.017 million they coughed up in 2009.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The up and the down of it

Top: in Christchurch the gallery threatening 14 story apartment block is now reduced to safer proportions and bottom, still standing tall the building that art people know as The Physics Room.

Bang or whimper?

If there is one thing that talks in a recession it's cash, and it never talks louder than to cash-strapped local bodies. When the Len Lye Foundation got people to pony up $8 million for a new Len Lye Centre, the decision to proceed came with its own built-in steamroller. And, as they say in the business world, if you're not part of the steamroller you’re part of the road. 

That’s pretty much how members of the Govett-Brewster Foundation must be feeling. Tasked with fund raising and cheerleading for the Govett-Brewster itself (i.e. as distinct from the Len Lye Foundation), they fronted up to a meeting in December to deal with a fait accompli. Their discussion of the plan for a new Len Lye Centre as part of the Govett-Brewster was over-shadowed by the City Council's solid backing for the Centre and very successful fundraising. 

The plan confronts the GB Foundation and the Gallery's supporters with serious questions. Why pull down the existing black box gallery and theatre built in 1997 and replace it (plus some workspace and another gallery) with another bigger black box gallery and theatre? The idea of the Lye Centre as a separate entity on a separate site has been lost in the rush to fundraise. 

Clearly the new building with its Gehry-like folded stainless steel façade will all but swamp the physical identity of the current Govett-Brewster and this has been exacerbated by the total focus on building a new Len Lye Centre rather than presenting it as an expansion of the Govett-Brewster. All this will obviously have a big impact on how the Govett-Brewster is perceived locally and nationally. Remember the V&A's notorious 1980s advertising slogan: "An ace caff with quite a nice museum attached"? It’s not hard to work out who the quite nice museum is in the New Plymouth mix. And the shiny Len Lye Centre façade that covers a good deal more than 50 percent of the final exterior footprint isn’t the most subtle way of giving the finger to supporters of the Govett-Brewster as the key cultural player in NP and NZ. At the very least the project needs rebranding, how about the new building being renamed The Govett-Brewster, home of the Len Lye Centre?

The reality is that Lye has turned out to be a money magnet. The numbers:

2006: $250,000 (estimate) The site on the corner of Queen and Devon streets is acquired by NPDC.

2008: $2 million from Lottery Grants Board’s Environment and Heritage Committee for new Len Lye artworks

2008: $1 million from TSB Community Trust

2011: $4 million from the Government’s Regional Museums Policy for Capital Construction Costs

2011: $500,000 from Lottery Grants Board’s Environment and Heritage Committee 

2011: $2.5 million pledge from Todd Energy

2011: $500,000 pledge over five years for an innovative education programme from Todd Energy

2011: $65,000 from the New Plymouth City Council for opening exhibitions

Given that level of funding attracted by the Len Lye brand (just north of $10 million) it is going to take some serious metaphors and some fast talking to guarantee the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery brand retains its place in the sun.

Monday, February 27, 2012

On the road

On the road is an exciting new ongoing series celebrating the Ministry of Land Transport and Local Body support of New Zealand artists.

Just for kicks

Oddly we have had not one response to our dollar for dollar start-up offer to any art institution prepared to be the first to purchase a work for their collection via Kickstarter style funding. This reticence is particularly odd when you find out actor / director Taika Cohen used this system to rake in over $90,000 ($40,000 of it in one day!) to market his film Boy in the United States.

Meanwhile, in the US, Kickstarter is set to distribute over $180 million to projects for the year 2012. Compare this to the entire annual budget for the National Endowment of the Arts stands at $173 million. 

So, in the spirit of giving another kick to kickstarting an NZ art museum purchase, we are raising our offer to $400. C’mon guys… there must be something you’d love for the collection… a drawing… a small abstract painting… a photograph? Anyone?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Soap and water

The Dowse must wonder what hit it. Maori objections to the proximity of morgue water to the pataka Nuku Tewhatewha led it to cancel the installation So It Vanishes which was to have been a star turn of the International Festival of the Arts. The work by Mexican artist Teresa Margolles would have dropped bubbles containing traces of water used to wash bodies in a morgue into the exhibition space from the ceiling. Although the Dowse has dealt with the Maori challenge in this instance by cancelling the exhibition, there are some big issues here that won’t go away, and no one wants the Dowse to end burdened by a future of avoidance, second guessing and self-censorship. 

The debate has now become about the ability of the Dowse to show all kinds of contemporary art without this kind of pressure requiring a back down. Death, sex and challenging behaviour are part of contemporary art’s package and have been for some time now. They aren’t going away any time soon.

What has complicated the situation for the Dowse is the question of its identity. Originally called the Dowse Art Gallery in the 1970s, it veered into the territory of community museum in the 1980s expanding its commitment to local taonga by taking in Nuku Tewhatewha. Now it is struggling to redevelop its role as a contemporary art museum. All these different identities and expectations make for contradictions as well as conflicts.

From outside the outcome of the present fracas is surprising and feels arbitrary. Consider that most spectacular of Museum/Maori cultural meetings -- the presentation of Te Maori at The Metropolitan Museum in New York. Here the presence of death which is central to the Met’s vast Egyptian collections butted right up against Te Maori and was accommodated by both Maori and museum. If that spirit had endured in this instance we would have seen Teresa Margolles opening at the Dowse this weekend. Perhaps it would have been introduced by signage about spiritual concerns, possibly there would have been some kind of Maori spiritual guidance, but the show would have gone on and its potential audience could each have chosen whether to interact with it or not. 

As usual in these situations what happens next is far more important than what has happened up to now. Do the Dowse’s communities agree that the presence of Nuku Tewhatewha trumps all other cultural concerns? Whatever they resolve will have a major impact on the evolving role of the Dowse as a contemporary art museum. We’re not talking theory and rhetoric here. Rightly or wrongly the Dowse has dropped the exhibition of a significant and highly respected artist and given specific cultural reasons for doing so. 

Teresa Margolle named her exhibition So It Vanishes. In its role as an independent contemporary art museum the Dowse and its supporters will be finding that title alarmingly charged. It’s now their opportunity to lead the discussion.
Image: The barrier erected to separate Te Maori from the Egyptian collections at Te Papa.

Friday, February 24, 2012

In Wellington

Thinking about Colin McCahon's Tomorrow will be the same, but not as this is in Christchurch

Natural selection

Te Papa has refreshed its contemporary galleries with some new work purchased over the last couple of years. The major additions are three large 1969 works refabricated by Jim Allen (purchased), what looks like all of Anne Noble’s photo series Ruby’s room (gifted anonymously) and jewellery galore by Karl Fritsch (purchased). 

The Mayor attended the opening and hopefully she noted the strong representation of artists based in the city or with strong Wellington connections. At a rough count we reckon they include Jim Allen (born and educated), Anne Noble (teaches at Massey), Karl Fritsch (resident), Maddie Leach (teaches at Massey), Simon Morris (teaches at Massey) Andrew Ross (resident) and Lisa Walker (resident). At a stretch you could include Bill Culbert who spent his school days in the Hutt Valley. Leaving Culbert aside, however, nearly 30% of the artists shown are either from Wellington or teaching here at Massey. In number of objects Wellington scores 54% and if you look at the space allocation, largely thanks to Noble and Allen, it is probably close to 50%. 

The Wellington City Council is currently playing footsie with Te Papa over whether or not it will continue its $2mil annual funding. If this showing doesn't convince it that the National collection has the region front of mind, nothing will.
Image: Charles Darwin's sketch of how the theory of evolution by natural selection might work

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lookalikes: Fashionista division

A while back we posted on fashion people looking to art (Serra) for ideas (well at least it gives the Innuits and Mongolians time to rest up). Here’s more with influences coming from Max Azria (Anni Albers) and Corey Lynn Calter (Malevich). You can see the full spread on artinfo.
Images: top, Max Azria and 1926 Anni Albers study for a wall hanging. Bottom, Corey Lynn Calter and a Malevich painting from the late twenties.

What’s in that crate?

As this photograph was taken through the closed doors of the City Gallery last weekend while they were setting up their next exhibition The Obstinate Object which opens tonight, we are picking that it was elements of Don Driver’s installation Ritual. The work consists of nine provocatively semi-clad dolls each standing on a 44 gallon oil drum that are conveyed in a wooden tumbrel resting on a bed of hay. Ritual hasn’t been seen for a while and with its flashing lights and soulful soundtrack it’s intended to be a centrepiece of the City Gallery curated exhibition. 

The last time we saw Ritual was in 1999 when Driver’s survey exhibition With Spirit toured. Hilariously, when it was first shown at the National Art Gallery in 1982 a handout was issued reassuring visitors that the work was not connected with any form of black magic.

Ritual is now owned by Te Papa, thanks to the Govett-Brewster shamefully reneging on a commitment to purchase negotiated by Director Dick Bett and later resubmitted by the new director Cheryll Sotheran. Fortunately the National Gallery stepped in and purchased Driver's controversial installation in 1989. Ironically Sotheran got to live with Ritual on the rebound when she became CEO of Te Papa. So maybe Black Magic was involved after all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

After the fall

Some good news from Christchurch. The statue of Robert Godley that toppled from its plinth in the Square has been restored and will be on view in the Canterbury Museum as part of a new earthquake exhibition. You can read the full story here in the The Press and OTN’s account of the difficulties getting RG up on the plinth in the first place here.
27/2/12 Turns out we were wrong about the restoration. Godley is in the exhibition on his back and still damaged.
Image: Robert Godley is trucked in to the Canterbury Museum. Photo: The Press

Garage sale

Back in the seventies still life painting was a minority sport and usually dominated by the art societies. This bad rep did not deter Philip Clairmont who obsessively painted and repainted the objects in the rooms he lived in. Looking through some 1970s photos, we found this image of a Phil Clairmont still life set-up that was taken in the small garage Phil used as a studio when he was living in Waikanae. 

Although he painted many of his larger works in the living room of that house, in the garage he had arranged a small table surrounded by the mirrors he often used to add complexity and diversion to his compositions. On that table Phil would place a vase of flowers, a glove, the housing of an old clock or other items that became his familiar subjects. We thought of this photograph when we saw an image of Still life with jug and paintbrushes. Our photograph was taken early in 1977 just before Phil, Vicki and their daughter Melissa moved to a larger house in Wellington’s Roy Street.
Images: Left photo taken in Philip Clairmont’s garage studio in Waikane. Right Still life with jug and paintbrushes, Philip Clairmont, 1977 (Fletcher Trust collection)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Follow the money

"When I started at Christie's many years ago clients would ask me about the work of art or the artist. In late 2007 they started asking: 'what's it going to cost me and how much will it be worth?' ”
Anthony McNerney, head of contemporary art at Bonhams

A good look

Today lots of artists use photographs as a basis for their work - with Chuck Close probably being at the extreme end - so it's hard to recall just what an insult it used to be to say that an artist had ‘copied’ a photograph. Peter McIntyre used to cop it on this point from ‘serious’ art people. It was ironic really because although he did use squared-up photographs for some of his work at least as many came out of drawn observation in the tradition manner. 

All this comes to mind on seeing Ron Schick's book Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera. It includes the photographs that were the basis of Rockwell's most memorable paintings and immediately reminded us of the classic advertising images you can find in the National Library collection. Here’s one droll example that happened to remind equally droll tweeter Cheryl Bernstein of an old and “extremely vulgar joke.”

And then there are these images of Rockwell's photographic set-up enabling him to render his own Triple self-portrait. Bizarrely it was later recreated as a sculpture for the studio museum dedicated to his work. 

And so Norman Rockwell had the unique opportunity to look at a painting of himself in a photograph looking at himself looking into mirror.

Images: Top the photograph directed by Norman Rockwell. Bottom left Triple self-portrait on the cover of Saturday Evening Post 13 February 1960 and right the sculpture of Triple self-portrait at the Rockwell Museum. You can see many other examples of Rockwell's photography by putting "Norman Rockwell photographs" into Google images search box.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Copycat: extreme division

Diana Craig takes Michael Parekowhai’s series The consolation of philosophy: Piko nei te matenga as her own with colour photographs of flower arrangements in the same style of white vase, the same placement in the image, the same large format and the same framing.
Image: Diana Craig's photograph From my mother’s garden in the window of Small Acorns in Wellington

Getting lost in the rush

If you wanted to be the new director of Wellington’s City Gallery you will have already sent in your application. The strange thing about the process though is that even if you'd seen the announcement on day one, you'd only have had 20 days to get yourself sorted. Why the rush?

Current director Paula Savage had been seriously flagging that she'd leave for some time and -- although she certainly did the Museums Trust no favours with her timing -- it's hard to understand why the Trust wasn’t able to arrange her exit more gracefully. At the very least the job could have been advertised a couple of days after she announced her retirement in December last year. 

These appointments famously take time. The process of replacing the director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, for instance, took six months. In that case an acting director took over so maybe this is part of the problem the Trust faced. The City Gallery has no senior curator to step up in the interim. Also word has it that Savage has either already left the building using leave owed or finishes up this month. That means the pressure is on to find a replacement for one of the city's most high profile jobs as the Wellington City Council looks hard at its cultural investments. Just this morning there was tough talk in the DomPost about cutting the Council's contribution to Te Papa.

A list of possible replacements for Savage is easy to come up with as times are tough in museum land. The chances of getting overseas applications have never been better so watch this space as OTN monitors the overseas arrival lounge.
Image: A queue of potential directors line up outside the City Gallery for their interviews. (simulation only).

Saturday, February 18, 2012


"I recently bought a few portraits by Elizabeth Peyton. She did a portrait of Pete Doherty that I loved … and I went to Frieze Art Fair and saw a painting by Jim Hodges. The guy said, 'no, we're waiting for a more prestigious collector to take that.' And I was like, thanks, thanks a lot."
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe in Time Out magazine

Friday, February 17, 2012

Art at work

Art hard at it in the foyers of the world

Stage fright

Wait for it! Yes, it's on the way.  An opera based on the life of Len Lye with music by Eve de Castro-Robinson and a libretto by Roger Horrocks is about to go into production in Auckland. 

This is one of a number of attempts to get Len Lye on the boards. A couple of years ago Brian Hannam’s play Len was workshopped a couple of times - once by Playmarket with a suitably bald Stuart Devenie as Lye and then by the Auckland Theatre Company - but a production never even made it to off-off Queen Street. The actor John Watson also wrote a one-hander Len. The life and times of Len Lye (1901-1980) that he proposed touring round the country but that went nowhere.

Now we hear that along with the opera a musical LYE! is waiting in the wings. A bunch of songs have already been penned including the theme song ‘You are my universe’, ‘Heavy metal’, ‘Twisters’, 'Stop the sculpture I want to get off’, Move me’ and the anthem ‘Stainless.’ More on the Lyes as they come to hand.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Things we hoped we’d never see

American artist Ed Ruscha modelling.
Image: Ruscha for Band of outsiders

Proof positive

For a time in the mid-1980s we arranged with Peter Peryer to get a copy of each of his photographic contact sheets. In those non-digital days photographers passed light through the negatives to produce a same-size positive print to help select images. We've always loved to see the ones that didn’t quite make the cut for the insight they give into what a photographer is aiming for. 

Could anything have been more fascinating than the release of so many Diane Arbus proof sheets in the book Diana Arbus: Revelations? Not for us. For a start who'd have guessed that the famous shot of the young boy clutching the toy hand grenades was selected from a full sheet of the same kid hamming it up for the camera?

Peter Peryer’s proof sheets are just as intriguing. This contact sheet was made in preparation for his October 1985 picture Octopus. The image Peter chose is top right. You can see how he abstracted the image by removing the context of scale, a device he has often used over his 38-year career. You can also see a few clues as to how the photo was shot. In the second image from top right you can spot a peek of Peryer’s shoe and it becomes obvious that the octopus has been placed on a sheet of paper on the ground. To achieve the final version of Octopus Peter would have leant right over his model. A bird's-eye-view of a creature from the bottom of the sea.

Image: Contact sheet Octopus by Peter Peryer (click on image to enlarge). You can see how the final image worked out here in Te Papa's collection

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Looks like art

Refurbishing or art installation. You be the judge.

Wind up

We’ve always had a soft spot for inflatable sculpture. The sight of Paul McCarthy’s Complex Shit in the Middelheim Museum’s park outside Antwerp is not easy to forget and Michael Parekowhai’s Jim McMurtry lying in state in Auckland Museum’s Maori Court was a sensation. But artists aren’t the only ones to create inflatable sculpture. In the world of protest inflatables have just the weight to make a big point in any confrontation. 

Anyone who has spent time in New York will be familiar with Scabby the repulsively grimy inflatable rat that Unions park outside recalcitrant businesses. Greenpeace is another master of inflationary art in the service of protest. Here's a roundup of some of the best.

Images: Top to bottom, left to right. Demo pig in 1920s Soviet Russia, Unions bring out a Capitalist Pig and Scabby the rat, Greenpeace’s inflatable whale in Valparaiso, Chile. Unions use scissors and Greenpeace turns to the toilet bowl to make a point. Australians against Japanese whaling. PETA supplying the elephant in the room against circus abuse and a giant pill comes to town for HIV awareness in New Delhi, India.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Left, Man Ray’s 1921 photograph of Marcel Duchamp in Paris. Right Don Logan’s alter ego in the movie Sexy Beast.

Getting messy at Massey

Those of you like us who have stayed on through the epic that is David Cauchi’s battle with Massey University will know that he has handed in his MA thesis. In keeping with Cauchi’s if-they-don’t-react-get-the-stick-out-and-poke-them-again philosophy it is titled A strange book of incomprehensible nonsense or how I became an Intertemporal Avant Garde artist and went completely batshit insane. This time round he is subject to outside examination rather than just the tics of the masochistic Massey staff who so far they have struggled to see the Cauchi for the PBRFs.
The irrepressible author of Pointless and Absurd is certainly pushing the Masters genre around having removed from his own MA submission "the boring factual historical background stuff and added in more madness." At one point he even threatened to "put the entire written output of Philip K Dick into [his] bibliography. And quite a few punk rock records. And Doctor Who. And ..." reminding his readers that, "This is one of many reasons why Fine Arts is the best subject, much better than such dull as ditchwater ones as Art History and Philosophy. Or (shudder) English Literature. Ew. Fuck rigour. Fuck references!" But even he is figuring there will be "a tick in the box labelled 'Major revisions required'."

Will Cauchi be awarded his MA from Massey? (probably). If so, will Massey offer him a job? (possibly). Would he accept? (inevitably). Who would have even thought to ask these questions two years ago?

Monday, February 13, 2012

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.

By the numbers

Art + Object have released some interesting numbers showing the top ten prices paid for art at auction since the early eighties. Colin McCahon takes the number one and number two spots followed by C F Goldie at three and four. McCahon then comes back at five and six while C F claims places eight and nine. Sandwiched between the price titans are Frances Hodgkins in position seven and then Gordon Walters sneaks in at spot ten. Art + Object shares the full list based on Australian Art Sales Digest here.

But hang on. Who fronted up with the most cash for acrerage? Now that is a different list altogether. Here's prices paid per square millimetre in descending order.

$7.12 Colin McCahon I considered all the acts of oppression
$3.17 Colin McCahon Let be, let be
$2.67 Gordon Walters Tirangi II
$1.60 Colin McCahon No 2
$1.04 Frances Hodgkins Still life with landscape
$0.92 Colin McCahon He calls for Elias
And then come the Goldies at $0.70, $0.51, $0.33 and $0.29 a pop.

Contemporary art: putting its money where its mouth is.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Suck it up

Over on Hyperallergic Ben Valentine has been trolling through the depths of FaceBook and other social media in the search of Statue Porn. His animated gif is probably not safe for work (hopefully not too many of you are at work on a Saturday) and not that safe for the sculptures either by the look of it. (Thanks to everyone who sent in the link)

Friday, February 10, 2012

High score

One of our readers searched out the Gibellina memorial in Sicily via Google Maps and here is the result. (click on image to enlarge) Thanks A

Follow the money

Can you connect Mitt Romney, contender for the American Presidency, with the Auckland Art Gallery? That was the challenge we gave OTN readers. The response has been overwhelming. 

Some of you pointed out that Mitt is directly related to George Romney the fashionable English portraitist whose painting Lady and child is in the AAG collection. Not bad. Reader C claims the link is that they are both conservative (thanks C). The roundabout award goes to P who made the following chain of links: Mitt Romney is a Mormon, The Book of Mormon is currently the most popular musical on Broadway, the musical was written by Matt Stone and Trey Parker who also write the cartoon series South Park, Elton John once featured on South Park and he collects photographs by Laurence Aberhart, the AAG holds works by Aberhart in its collection. An excellent effort but the winner is reader H who notes that the largest contributor to the Mitt Romney Presidential race war chest is Julian Robertson at $US1 million, the same Robertson who has donated even more generously to the AAG. Nice one.
Images: Top Mitt, George and The Book of Mormon (book version). Middle, The Book of Mormon (musical version), Trey and Matt (writers South Park) and Cartman (resident South Park), Bottom, Elton, Laurence and Julian Robertson.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Square up and play

Ping Pong and art, gotta be OTN. Here's Mondrian pong via wactbprot. See it in animated action here.

Concrete memories

As Christchurch struggles with how memory can be best served in a city that has lost so many of its architectural triggers, consider the radical sculpture that came out of the 6.1 quake that destroyed the town of Gibellina in Sicily in January 1968. Unlike Christchurch the small town was forced to abandon its original site and rebuild on firmer ground. Enter the Italian artist Alberto Burri. He was invited to create a memorial for the town as well as help attract cultural tourists. In response he made a massive work in concrete based on the outlines of the original streets, houses and alleyways of Gibellina. If you find yourself in Sicily you can find Burri’s memorial by taking the SS119 motorway to Madonna delle Grazie and the Ruderi di Gibellina is nearby. You can see a clip of the work on YouTube.

Source: Via:

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Potty mouth

"That's not a man's mouth or a woman's mouth, that's art. They were damned expensive and they're staying where they are."
Rolling Stones Museum founder to women's rights activists concerned about mouth-shaped men's toilets in use at the museum.

What’s in that crate?

What they were hoping would be there was the Mona Lisa which had been in storage and this photo shows a relieved Louvre staff member unpacking the priceless painting which been removed from the famous museum for safe keeping during World War II. On its return the Mona Lisa remained quietly on that Gallery's walls (except for the stone throwing incident in 1957 which knocked off a bit of paint) until Jacqueline Kennedy stepped in.

The thing is that JK was a Francophile and when she had the opportunity to have a word with cultural commissar Andre Malraux, she whispered into the great Frenchman’s ear that it would be neat if the Mona Lisa could come to the States. The great man gathered himself together and reportedly replied, ”I’ll see what I can do.” After some bickering, Malraux forced the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, against all professional advice, to stop arguing and get on with it. Not good news for the conservators and staff of the two museums.

In the end it was the Louvre’s Madeleine Hours who “had to create a new type of packing case which could minimize as far as possible any vibration which would render fragile the preparatory layer of paint.” Nothing was left to chance. “If the liner France were to catch fire or to sink, the packing case would have to be tossed over the side, so we had the French flag painted on it, to show that it was French property.”

On 14 December 1962 the painting was laid inside a special, high-tech traveling case and sealed in a large wooden crate. It was then loaded onto the S.S. France, where it was bolted to the floor of Cabin M-79 and covered with a thick blanket. The Mona Lisa arrived in New York on 19 December and was such a hit that the Met was unable to keep track on the small hand counters they used to assess audience numbers. You can read a fuller version of this incredible story here.

Image: The Mona Lisa is taken from its crate on its return to the Louvre after World War II. The next time it was to go back into one would be for its voyage to the USA in 962.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Branded: Regan Gentry (oh, and Andrew Barber)

The moment when artists become brands

Reporting in

The briefings that Te Papa and Creative New Zealand prepared for the incoming Minister after the last general election are now online. Of course the ongoing recession looms large in both but Chris Finlayson must have been surprised by their very different view of the world. CNZ is pragmatic about tough times and is focused on the solutions. Sometimes there are even moments that are positively upbeat. The gist is that a tougher environment means more work, more clever thinking and the need for a better understanding of what the people they serve need. 

Not so Te Papa. The minister gets a relentless list of troubles and woes: competition, Christchurch (it will impact on their insurance and getting cheap carpenters to do their installations – oh please), lack of storage, pressure on sponsorship, the global economy etc etc . They’ll be lucky if he doesn’t simply agree that it's hopeless and close the place down. 

Differences too in how the two organisations see the future. CNZ acknowledged NZ's changing demographics by adding new clients and drastically cutting back on the Boards that distribute the funds. Te Papa, on the other hand, turned its back on a contemporary art gallery space and turned inwards with a search for a new Vision. You can download a pdf copy of CNZ’s report here and Te Papa’s here.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The art of dressing up

OK, so a lot of it was guys squeezing into frocks and bras but in amongst the Sevens’ cosies were a few art references. Top left, Roy Lichtenstein. Top right, come on, it’s a statue. Bottom left, Wellington’s Bucket Fountain. Bottom right may not be based on an artwork (it’s the sunken ship Rena off the coast at Tauranga) but it’s surely a work of art. Enjoy Waitangi Day.
Photos Dominion Post, MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax Media

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Saturday switcheroo

For no other reason than we a huge fans of Martin Creed and that David Shrigley has a survey show that's just opened in London here is his homage to MC's Turner Prize winning The lights going on and off.

Friday, February 03, 2012

A distant drum beat

One of our readers is in LA thinking about Julian Dashper.

Image: T. Lux Feininger Bauhaus Band Performing c.1928–9 collection J. Paul Getty Museum. (Thanks R)

Just saying

One thing you can say about most New Zealand artists, they are generally supportive of one another. Ok you may hear the odd snipe - we remember Toss Woollaston calling Elizabeth Kelly “Pond Cream Kelly” because that's what he thought she painted with - but elsewhere artist-to-artist insults are in a whole different league

“Jackson Pollock’s paintings might be very pretty but they’re just decoration. I always think they look like old lace.”
Francis Bacon

“He finished modern art at one blow by outuglying, alone, in a single day, the ugly that all others combined turned out in several years.”
Dali on Picasso

“It’s a pity he doesn’t paint.”
Chagall on Picasso

"This man has come into the world to destroy painting.”
Poussin on Caravaggio

“Cézanne is a catastrophe of awkwardness.”

"I’d rather sit on the floor in the market of Toluca and sell tortillas, than have anything to do with those ‘artistic’ bitches of Paris.”
Frida Kahlo on the Surrealists in general

“The silence of Marcel Duchamp is overrated.”

“He bores me.”
Renoir on da Vinci

“Oh, I think he’s great. He makes such great lunches.”
Warhol on Jasper Johns

Source: list via flavorwire, you can read more here

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Art chart

Sarah Lazarovic’s charts Damien Hirst in the National Post

Enter the void

Last week we went into the Auckland Art Gallery and didn’t see any art. OK, we saw that animated flower that hangs from the ceiling but nothing else. We were there for lunch and that meant only going through the two main foyers. No art in the lower foyer, no art in the upper foyer and no art in the restaurant. Because we only had time for lunch we literally visited the Auckland Art Gallery and saw no art. Weird. 

You can see the problem. These large foyers (which we bet have been included in the touted 50% increase in space allocated to exhibiting art) have been architected to be pro-events and functions and aggressively anti-art. The stone walls are broken up, the ceiling is extravagantly high, the space is functionally a gathering area or through-way. This is not a place for heavy sculpture or sprawling installations. Let's see how the AAG tackles things when the flowers come down. Hopefully it won't slip into the generic two-or-three-a-year ‘Dome projects’ so loved by institutions.
Images: Top AAG foyer, bottom MoMA foyer (hint).

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Ca Serra Serra

Turns out that the Serra-like walls that have been put up near some Auckland motorways are being de Serraed by Jeff Thomson, the artist who popularised the use of corrugated iron as an art material. Thomson is covering the ‘Serras’ with “tire trails and tread patterns.” Follow it on Facebook.

Lookalikes: creepy division

Is there anything in the world (apart from Te Papa’s logo) stranger than the tableau vivant? That’s the event in which people dress up to re-enact moments in history or well known, and not so well known, paintings. If you owned a mouse and had the ability to google, this month you'd have been aware of the contest to dress up like a famous character out of a painting. The results varied from Claire Ball's meticulously crafted The Two Fridas to the effort of a bloke called Seth Johnson who put on a suit and looked like Van Gogh’s 1889 Self Portrait. You can see the best results here

OTN readers will be familiar with the tableau vivant via our enthusiasm for Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. Those who saw Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho will remember the sex scenes were made in the form of tableaux vivants, but enough of googling.

Images: Top, Claire and Seth. Middle, ukiyo-e woodblock prints by Torii Kiyonaga get the tableau vivant treatment at the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. Bottom, Van Gogh’s Artist on the Road to Tarascon vivant and the Medusa thing.