Saturday, 8 December 2018

Reading list, 8 December 2018


“I fell into a trap for 10 years or more of trying to educate the non-Native about what Natives were about,” says Gerald Clarke Jr., a Cahuilla artist known for his large welded sculptures. “It’s a trap because the default setting for mainstream America is that the artist is the ambassador of the community, and that almost replaces the interest in the artist’s own creativity.”


Designing for Instagram is fully established as a real thing (to wit - Ollie Wainwright's
Snapping point: how the world’s leading architects fell under the Instagram spell). The NGV have just paired M.C. Escher (perhaps one of the most Instagram-adaptable of artists) with design firm Nendo: MC Escher gets another dimension – and a show that plunges you into his obsessions.

Ticketed for later listening: a Slate podcast interview with exhibition designers Lana Hum and Mack Cole-Edelsack of MoMA’s exhibition design and production department.

A really fascinating read: Revisiting Suck magazine’s experiment in radical feminist pornography.

Excellent fluff: What 8 Collectors Wore to a Fall Art and Design Fair.

Nathalie de Gunzburg
Age: 52
Occupation: chairwoman, Dia Beacon
You’re wearing leather.
Yes, I’m wearing a Hermès black leather dress.
It’s very strong.
Of course.
How do you dress for an event like this?
I don’t know. I like the dress, I had it in my closet. I thought, Why not?
Your shoes: Are they python?
Yes. They’re Aquazzura. All my shoes are. And they’re very comfy.
I don’t believe that. It’s like a four-inch heel.
It’s a full-time job to know how to walk in heels.

It's that time of the year: How Pantone Picked ‘Living Coral’ as the 2019 ‘Color of the Year’.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Reading list, 2 December 2018

Nathan Sentence, who is a project officer in First Nations programming at the Australian Museum, regularly puts out some of the best writing in the sector. Most recently: Diversity means Disruption.

Among the many reactions to Bénédicte Savoy and Felwine Sarr's report to President Macron on the repatriation of African artefacts from French museums:

Return of African Artifacts Sets a Tricky Precedent for Europe’s Museums, featuring Hartwig Fischer (British Museum), Hartmut Dorgerloh (Humboldt Forum) and Prince Kum’a Ndumbe III (AfricAvenir International)

Restitution Report: museum directors respond, featuring Tristram Hunt (V&A), Nicholas Thomas (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge) and Dorgerloh

Legal challenges remain for restituting African artefacts from French museums

Monday, 26 November 2018

Reading list, 26 November 2018

Better late than never ...

Matariki Williams (curator Mātauranga Māori at Te Papa, Tusk co-founder and The Pantograph Punch contributor) writes about the RA's Oceania for Frieze: Complicating the Narrative of ‘Oceania’.

Follow-up from an earlier link: the Ben Uri Gallery in London is deaccessioning a chunk of its collection to raise funds to widen its remit: the inner circle of trustees has approved this decision, the wider advisory board (stacked with big names) has come out swinging against it: Ben Uri museum advisory board resigns en masse over Sotheby’s sale of works from the collection.

Look for big moves in repatriation next year: from the BBC, 'Stolen friend': Rapa Nui seek return of moai statue; from the Art Newspaper,  'Give Africa its art back', Macron's report says.

I'm considering an overnight trip to Sydney before March especially to see Nick Cave's installation at Carriageworks - Nick Cave on his darkly exquisite new work: ‘Is there racism in heaven?’

Glenn Lowry's contract has been extended at MOMA - if he serves his full term through to 2025, that will be 30 years in charge. He got the job in 1995 when he was 40.

The Gray Market goes deeper into a recent report published in Science about how artists' careers are made or broken on the basis of a small number of key galleries & how fast they get into them. Good graphs. Still my best weekly email newsletter.

A dual interview with Phyllida Barlow and Anna Maria Maiolino in the NYT MagazineTwo Pioneering Artists Discuss Motherhood and Machismo.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Peter Peryer, 1941 - 2018

Peter Peryer in his Devonport studio, 1985. Photo by Jim Barr and Mary Barr

The artist Peter Peryer died on Sunday. I say 'artist' advisedly, because Peter was a photographer who came of age in the 1970s, when contemporary photography was scrapping its way into the art system: galleries, criticism, the market.

He was a great artist, and also one of the first artists I was able to get to know as a human being, not the subject of an art history lecture. I've been lucky enough to be able to buy a few examples of his work over the years - including a portrait photo of a set of salad servers that was an engagement gift to ourselves over a decade ago now. I was even luckier to be able to work with him when I was director at The Dowse, on the exhibition Peter Peryer: A Careful Eye, beautifully curated by Sian Van Dyk.

It's a cliche to say that artists make you look at the world in a different way, but Peter's visual sense literally infected me. When I'd been spending time with him, my eyes would attune themselves to his imagery, and walking through the world after that felt like being a roving Peter Peryer image-making machine - snap snap snap. He was a characterful and distinctive man, articulate, gorgeously presented, ever so romantic, and possessed of the most wonderfully naughty gurgling laugh. I got to spend Sunday night thinking about him and writing a memorial of sorts for him for Radio New Zealand today, which you can listen to here.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Reading list, 18 November 2018

Tara Robertson is back in Wellington as a keynote at this week's National Digital Forum, and catching up with her sent me back to her 2016 essay Digitization: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, on the social and cultural considerations beyond the value of 'open access' when it comes to digitising archival collections, which is still bloody good.

3 Days, 150 Paintings: A Whirlwind Tintoretto Tour - why won't anyone pay me to write pieces like this? (Lots of reasons, really. Good ones, too.)

For my own future reference - historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore interviewed on her new book, These Truths.

A handy recap: Museums don’t just want gift shops to make money — they want them to shape our understanding of art.

Lisa Martin for The GuardianAustralian cultural institutions struggle to survive as War Memorial gets half-billion dollar upgrade.

Dr. Barabási and his team spent the past three years reconstructing the exhibition histories of nearly 500,000 artists, whose work was shown in about 16,000 galleries and 7,500 museums between 1980 and 2016. He and his team also scoured sales held in 1,239 global auction houses from the same 36-year time period. 
They used this data to help trace the paths that artists took early in their careers, tracking how one who earned a spot on the roster of Gallery A subsequently got exhibited in Museum B and then Museum C, for example.
Kelly Crow's The Surprising Formula for Becoming an Art Star for the WSJ, on a recently published study that over three years researched the exhibition histories of nearly 500,000 artists, whose work was shown in about 16,000 galleries and 7,500 museums between 1980-2016, to map the network of power behind artists who become successful.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Reading list, 10 November 2018

Museums are dangerous places: How Te Papa is challenging colonialist history - or as the author, my stellar colleague Puawai Cairns put it in a tweet, "The byline I’ve seen “How Te Papa is challenging colonial history” is a bit wrong though. The Māori communities who work with us are provoking most of the best change, we just have to be brave and reMāorify how we tell stories."

And another stellar colleague, currently on secondment to MCH working on repatriation at a national level: Amber Aranui for Pantograph Punch - Toi moko in Toi Art: A Harbinger for a Conversation.

Your taste is why your work disappoints you:  a simply wonderful piece by Penguin Random House New Zealand's publishing manager Claire Murdoch, who manages to mine memories of childhood reading, writing and friendship without ever getting saccharine.

The Ben Uri Gallery in London, established to help Jewish immigrants gain access to the arts, is deaccessioning works from its permanent collection (through a combination of selling via auction and distributing to public collections) in order to expand their mission and respond to contemporary society by championing immigrant artists.

An insightful article by Charles Desmarais for the SF Chronicle on the appointment of Tom Campbell (unceremoniously ushered out of the Met directorship last year) to fill the vacancy left by his successor Max Hollein at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Love a good new-director story: Suzanne Muchnic for ArtNews on Klaus Biesenbach and LA MOCA.


Sunday, 28 October 2018

Reading list, 28 October 2018

Back on the wagon ...

A great Longform podcast interview with New York Magazine's veteran art critic Jerry Saltz. Start listening to it for his enticement of more writing from younger people on their own peer group: stay for where he talks about his marriage to the stellar NYT art critic Roberta Smith. P.S. I hope Roberta has both health insurance and retirement savings.

I spent last week on the Museums & Galleries Australia week-long residential museum leadership programme. I'm still processing it - I went partly to build out my Australian networks, partly to audit the programme on behalf of Museums Aotearoa (New Zealand has no equivalent programme) and partly for my own reflection and (hopefully) growth. Without any doubt, the most valuable part was the day we had with Nicholas Serota, as he walked us through what I think of as the four 'seasons' of his extended tenure at Tate.  I'm still processing this, but one of my classmates, Paul Bowers, managed to reflect & write-up on the day: A day with Nicholas Serota.

This McKinsey Quarterly piece was cited by another instructor on the MGA programme: Accidentally agile: An interview with the Rijksmuseum’s Taco Dibbits in which the director talks about how teams were formed and dissolved around pieces of work for their massive renovation. Reading it, I couldn't help but think that small evolutions look like revolutions in hidebound old institutions, but there's a few nuggets, like having one exhibition team prep the first list of works for a collection hang, and a second team then be charged to come in, reduce it by two thirds, and argue for the inclusion of every object they're keeping.

Nina Simon and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History have released a Community Issue Exhibition Toolkit, based on their own work.

Why Are Antiques So Cheap? Because Everyone Lives in the Kitchen - this NYT piece by Scott Reyburn starts out kinda chintzy, but then becomes really interesting on how families' use of their houses, and accompanying furnishings trends, are changing.

Oof. From the Harvard Business ReviewWhen Boards Broaden Their Definition of Diversity, Women and People of Color Lose Out.
Whereas a mandate of diversity once inspired attention to demographic differences, including gender, race, and ethnicity, it now increasingly prioritizes differences of functional and industry experience. ... 
... Attention once oriented toward underrepresented groups (women and racial and ethnic minorities) is increasingly centered on technical attributes, such as experience and skills.
Mandatory proxy disclosures offer plain evidence of this shift. Among the largest U.S. firms last year, less than 45% attended to traditional measures of diversity (for example, gender) in their proxy disclosures. Director and recruiter interviews confirm evidence procured from company disclosures. 
One result has been a noticeable slowdown in the rate of appointment of women and other minorities to board seats. Globally, women hold only 15% of all corporate board seats, a mere increase of 2% since 2015. Among large U.S. companies (S&P 1500), women hold just 16% of seats — fewer seats than are held by directors named John, Robert, and William. Moreover, among the premier Fortune 500, women’s share of board seats actually declined by two percentage points in 2016. 
Thought provoking stuff from art consultant Lisa Schiff: Is This the Victory Lap We Were Hoping For? Why We Must Keep Women and Artists of Color From Becoming the Next Victims of Market Speculation

And finally, tangentially linked to Nick Serota (now chair of Arts Council England) - one of their recent research reports, commissioned from Golant Media Ventures and The Audience Agency, What is resilience anyway?, which has introduced me to the concept of 'bouncing back' and 'bouncing forward'.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Reading list, 7 July 2018

An excellent and topical piece by Adam Goodall for the Pantograph Punch, The Difficult History and Precarious Future of the PACE Programme.

And more bias ahoy - Francis McWhannell for Pantograph Punch on Simon Gennard's curatorial project Sleeping Arrangements, currently on show at The Dowse.

The latest issue of reliably excellent Gray Market Weekly is reliably excellent, and looks at - amongst other things - expansionist activities by the mega-galleries, such as Hauser & Wirth's three bars/restaurants. It also points to Richard Polsky's op-ed, Why the Passing of Interview Magazine and the Rise of Gagosian Quarterly Represents a New Era for the Art World.

Two wonderful profiles - Thomas Chatterton Williams on Adrian Piper for the New York Times and Steve Rose on Theaster Gates for the Guardian

Off topic, but too good not to share - Judith Newman's He’s Going Back to His Former Wife. Sort Of., published in the New York Times Modern Love section, is a beautifully written piece on the death and complicated burial wishes of an older husband.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Reading list 30 June 2018

A deeper than expected article on artist-branded merchandise from The Guardian - Van Gogh leggings and Tracey teacups: how art merch broke out of the gift shop.

One of my nightmares: He Couldn’t Refuse a Deathbed Plea. Now He’s Got 10,000 Pieces of Art. (I genuinely feel for the friends and family who have to care for the artworks and studio left behind by a loved one - especially if they were unprepared.)

Shelley Bernstein's next move. Always pay attention to Shelley.

Such an interesting edition of The Gray Market: On the Reason Museums Might Soon Take Political Positions, a Bold New Approach to Provenance, and a Telling Quirk of Felix Gonzalez-Torres's Market.

Biased much, but - Matariki Williams for The Pantograph Punch, The Singing Word: On Shannon Te Ao’s my life as a tunnel.

The reliably insightful Colleen Dilenschneider on Why the Percentage of Families Visiting Cultural Entities is Declining (US data) - not because they hate museums, but because the number of households with children is proportionally declining.

Teju Coles's latest for the New York Times, Take a Photo Here, looks at how buildings and built environment 'ask', or have been constructed, to be photographed.


Saturday, 23 June 2018

Reading list, 23 June 2018

Creative New Zealand recently released New Zealanders and the Arts, their regular research into how the arts are being experienced and perceived across the country. Likewise, Arts Council England has released a data map of arts engagement across England, which will guide their investment through a new £24m programme. And in Canada, Culture Track: Canada, a similar report but one funded by an advocacy group with contributions from corporate sponsors and institutions. (One interesting finding there: it's people who don't have English or French as their first language who are most culturally engaged.)

Jason Farago breaks down *that* video: At the Louvre, Beyoncé and Jay-Z Are Both Outsiders and Heirs.

Rachel Wetzler on the "that photo is just like a Renaissance painting!" meme:
A contemporary photograph simply can’t be “like a Renaissance painting” because it partakes of another kind of social relationship, conditioned by a different set of conventions for making and seeing images.
I've kinda missed reading good old-fashioned deep dive explanations of fairly straightforward digital projects, like Colin Brooks's Answering the question “what’s on today?”, about the changes made to the Whitney's 'what's on today?' feature, which also successfully flowed through to their public wifi log-in.

Is the Art World Too Big for Its Own Good? - The NYT's T Magazine gathers NYC dealers Paula Cooper, Elyse Derosia, Bridget Donahue and Sean Kelly to 'discuss art fairs, auctions and staying in business'.

This account of a new gallery in the Uffizi to house some of their Renaissance heavy-hitters cracked me up: on the one hand, the director is receiving updates on climate control around the works on his cellphone; on the other hand, there's this photo from the transfer of the paintings, which my registrar would shoot me if I posted on Insta:

Museum workers carrying the dual portraits of Agnolo Doni and his wife, Maddalena Strozzi, from the Palazzo Pitti to their new location in Room 41 of the Uffizi. Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
And this beautiful piece: Natural Causes by Annie Godfrey Larmon, on environmental change and America's heroic 20th century land art icons.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Public letter: Cuts to Art History at Victoria University of Wellington

Victoria University of Wellington is currently running a change proposal for the School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies. According to the proposal, academic positions in the Art History department will be reduced from 5 to 4, and the dedicated administrator role disestablished. A further review is indicated for 2019 with the possibility of further cuts; it is the only department in the proposal treated in this way. Changes (considerably more encouraging in tone) are also signaled in the change proposal for the Museums and Heritage Studies programme.

While this is not technically a public consultation, there's nothing stopping you from making a submission. The Support Art History at VUW website has been set up to help this; you can email  s.vuw.arthistory@gmail.com to obtain a copy of the consultation paper. Submissions are due by midday Friday June 29, and can be emailed to  Lillian Loftus, Faculty HR Manager at lillian.loftus@vuw.ac.nz.

Below is the text of the submission I made this week. Enrolling in Art History at Vic literally changed my life path, and I feel really strongly about this. Please consider adding your own thoughts to the submissions.

* * * * *

SUBMISSION ON CHANGE PROPOSAL – SCHOOL OF ART HISTORY, CLASSICS & RELIGIOUS STUDIES (SACR)

I provide this submission as a graduate of Victoria’s Art History Programme (Master of Arts, 2004), and in my professional capacity as Director of The Dowse Art Museum and Chair of Museums Aotearoa, New Zealand’s umbrella organisation representing 475 organisations.

I made an earlier submission on this change proposal which I have attached for context.

Specific feedback on the proposal as it affects Art History 

This submission is made from a position of strong support for the need and value of a vital, outward-looking and internationally-respected Art History programme at Victoria. With other universities cutting courses in the Humanities, VUW is positioned to exploit the strengths of its existing offer and develop new and deeply relevant programmes for New Zealand and international students – but only with the support and belief of university administration. As an employer and professional in a sector reliant upon art history graduates and professionals, many aspects of this proposal fill me with despair.

I acknowledge that falling enrolments are being at least partially attributed to a reduction in the number of secondary schools offering Art History. Having had a similar conversation with Massey University regarding visual arts intakes, I must say I am considerably more inspired by Massey’s approach of doubling down on outreach and student recruitment, compared to VUW’s slow bloodletting.

The University finds itself in a Catch-22 position. Falling enrolments are being used as an argument for reducing staff positions; at the same time, with a reduction in academic staff and the removal of the dedicated administrator, it will be difficult for the department to refresh papers, build public profile and offer the manaakitanga that has drawn generations of students into the department to date.

The proposal also indicates another review and round of changes in 2019. Such major disruption and uncertainty will not only impact staff hugely: it will undermine current and future students’ confidence in the programme and predictably negatively affect enrolments. I cannot see how this proposal achieves anything more than setting a course towards an utterly predictable failure.

Section 1.5.1 of the proposal contains one statement that puzzles me: “the current academic staffing in Art History, while mainly emphasising curatorial studies, ranges beyond the Gallery’s focus on contemporary NZ art.” This is erroneous on two counts; firstly, while some papers contain a small curatorial element and a number of the lecturers also undertake curatorial projects (a form of generating and disseminating research as valid as publishing), by no means would I describe the department as “emphasising curatorial studies”; and secondly, the Adam Art Gallery has a much wider remit than contemporary New Zealand art and in fact presents a varied programme of international, historical and modern exhibitions that are arguably more diverse than any other Wellington region institution – a major feat, given its staffing size and budget.

Specific feedback: Museum and Heritage Studies

I find the recommendations on Museums and Heritage Studies considerably more encouraging. This includes the recognition that an imbalanced EFTS ratio is appropriate for this course, but more importantly, the two areas of growth that are indicated.

Professional development at advanced levels of the sector is a topic that has already been raised with the Ministers responsible for Arts, Culture and Heritage. Speaking from my experience consulting on professional development needs within New Zealand’s museum sector, there is definitely appetite for the kinds of modular/blocked and executive development courses suggested in the proposal. These would be particularly valuable if they could be delivered in partnership with other areas of the university, including Māori Studies, Pacific Cultures and Languages, Public Law and Business.

I would also encourage in due course further exploration of the concept of a “Heritage Hub”, and put forth Te Papa, National Services Te Paerangi, Heritage New Zealand and Museums Aotearoa as potential partners or stakeholders in this conversation.

Missed opportunities 

The more closely I look at this proposal, the more strongly I am struck by the fact that it appears to be entirely motivated by cost-cutting, and how void it is of aspiration, innovation or even – “even”! – attention to academic excellence or the student experience.

The potential is there for Victoria to look for growth from the separate and combined strengths of these two departments.

Aotearoa New Zealand is crying out for academic attention to be given to Māori and Pacific traditional and contemporary art forms and practices; there is a vibrant and ever-growing international discussion about decolonisation and indigenous regeneration Victoria could play a role in supporting, even leading, with a little strategic investment.

There is no postgraduate curatorial training course in the visual arts, and early career professionals regularly head offshore for this – despite the fact the Wellington region has a greater density of potential partners in this area than any other location in the country.

I urge the Decision Panel to consult with the cultural sector before making further decisions, and open your eyes to what you may be able to grow, rather than prune away.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Reading list, 9 June 2018

Wow. That was a long break. Back into it then ...

I've done a lot of thinking about Kaywin Feldman's (the director of Minneapolis's MIA) Museum leadership in a time of crisis. It makes interesting contrast reading to Olga Viso's Decolonizing the Art Museum: The Next Wave (written in the wake of leaving Minneapolis's Walker Art Center, in the wake of Sam Durant's Scaffold). It's worth taking a look at MIA's (short) Strategic Plan to 2021 to see how Feldman's thinking is reflected in organisational priorities. An amazing focus on visitors, members, audiences and communities, ("Mia 2021 is focused on relationships between the museum and: its diverse community, individuals who are sophisticated and loyal arts enthusiasts, and curious explorers seeking wonder and inspiration") but except for a mention of expanding the collection, nary a mention of artists as one of these communities to be focused upon, supported, or better understood.

Mary Louise Schumacher reviews the current state of art writing for Nieman in Critics and Online Outlets Leading the Vanguard in Arts Writing and also produced a focus on Hyperallergic, based on its ranking by other art journalists: Hyperallergic, at Age 9, Rivals the Arts Journalism of Legacy Media.

Yesterday Seb Chan published Ten things for my museum colleagues working in digital, an expansion of ten provocations he was asked to pose at this week's Museums and Galleries Australia conference. It's not just for people working in museums though, or in digital:

... US museums are disproportionately discussed in the global press. The international centres of finance and media remain New York and London, and as a result it should be no suprise that museums that are ‘visible’ to media companies located in those cities will be more widely covered. This is obvious, however it turns out that museum professionals are very good at amplifying these already loud media voices on social media. 
It doesn’t help that our world has become a slow motion car crash and all of our attention is being sucked into a vortex of US politics, but if you are in Australia it might be helpful to remind yourself that we have a different history, different beliefs, and different issues that are more pressing. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t find allies with museum workers overseas, but even something as simple as comparing working conditions requires an understanding of the radically different contexts.
More on the digital front: the excellent Mitchell Whitelaw interviews the excellent George Oates on Making and Remaking Collections Online. I'm so fortunate that I got involved in the National Digital Forum when I did, and got to work with both these amazing people. The interview is part of the Remaking Collections grouping on the Open Library of Humanities, launched in late April and designed to keep growing.

Without a doubt the most dumbfounding art-tech story I've read in the past month: ‘Arrested Development’ Actor Portia de Rossi Has Invented a New Technology That She Hopes Will Render Art Galleries Obsolete.

An interesting piece from Australia's NAVA, Towards national standards for art in the public space:

Approximately 80% of the disputes that come to NAVA concern public art: regular reports of exploitative EOIs; lengthy and contradictory contracts issued after the work has started, or sometimes, after it’s been completed; having to work with third-party fabricators who neither like nor understand art; change of project direction or timeline without warning or compensation to the artist; confused approaches to maintenance, from short-termism to lengthy lifetime agreements; and so much more. 
Without a national approach to commissioning public art, including widespread recognition and mandating of best practice, it remains a relatively ad hoc industry. Public art commissions gone pear-shaped come to NAVA too often, and with so many inconsistencies, we risk seeing artists turn their back on this important opportunity. 
And finally, a beautiful piece from Edmund de Waal for the Guardian, after judging the Wellcome book prize: Breaking the silence: are we getting better at talking about death?