Saturday, 12 October 2019

Reading list, 12 October 2019

New Scrutiny of Museum Boards Takes Aim at World of Wealth and Status - yet another report from the New York Times, this time with stats on the 536 trustees of America's 10 most-visited museums, the sources of their wealth

I didn't know that the Victoria & Albert provided career and skill development opportunities for young people as part of its public programme offer. They've just published Let me in: Getting young people into the Creative Industries, a report on the audiences they've serving through these programmes, which they break down into profiles:
  • The Selector: Starting to make decisions that will affect their career path 
  • The Multifaceted Creative: Talented and interested in more than one field 
  • The Decided: Chosen a career, looking for relevant opportunities in that field 
  • The Switcher: Transitioning into a creative career 
  • The Explorer: Looking for new ideas, spends time critically thinking to form new opinions.
 The New MoMA Is Here. Get Ready for Change, by Jason Farago for the New York Times:
“We as institutions are so trained to treat our temporary exhibition program as the main tent,” said Glenn D. Lowry, MoMA’s director. “And we made the commitment, financially, programmatically and intellectually, that we’re going to shift that. That our main tent is our collection.” 
"Manchester Museum, which is part of Manchester University, is the first UK institution to return sacred artefacts [to Aboriginal people] under an Australian government-funded project to repatriate items of cultural heritage to mark 250 years since Cook’s voyage in 2020."

In funding:

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Reflecting on Paul Reynolds (1949 - 2010)

A short speech given at the National Library Te Puna Mātauranga on 4 October 2019, when Gareth Seymour was awarded the Paul Reynolds ‘No Numpties’ Award. The award, administered by LIANZA, was set up following Paul’s death in 2010; it has been awarded 5 times, and expires in 2020. The 2019 recipient is Gareth Seymour, of Ngā Taonga.

* * *

Paul's blog, People Points, is still alive on the internet. His quizzical face still looks out at you from the top right hand corner of the Blogger template.

In his final blog post, published on 19 May 2010, Paul updated his readers on a lecture series he'd just delivered around the country for the New Zealand Computer Society. He wrote:

The presentation opened with a speculative challenge as to whether we - that's anyone involved in boot-strapping the next phase of the Internet as an open digital public space - are in touch with the historical parallels of the 18th Century Enlightenment and of how the subsequent gold seams of science and technology came about in part, in addition to the long march to democracy, by embedding public education and literacy as a key public good? 

Turning to current challenges, my thesis is that the current definition/policy frameworks around open data - especially around government-owned or managed data sets - needs to radically expand to include all the cultural/heritage data assets contained in the myriad of cultural institutions - libraries - galleries - archives - museums, which in turn are one of the great products of, and containers for, the inheritance of the 18th century Enlightenment. 

And that, not only were these rich cornucopias of assets and opportunities key ingredients to the development of a 19th and 20th century public literacy, in turn they are key contributors to the development of 21st century digital public space, and its mystic twin - public digital literacy. 

Over the previous 18 days of May on his blog - while travelling to present in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland, mind you – he had …

  • recapped an appearance on Jim Mora's National Radio programme 
  • touted the call for papers for the National Digital Forum conference scheduled for November 
  • written about Tuhoe's settlement under negotiation with the Crown at that time, 
  • shared a video on the concept of Web 3.0 
  • referenced Derrida 
  • shared a campaign to save Middlesex University Philosophy School (Middlesex was his alma mater) 
  • shared a TED talk 
  • noted that France had adopted a law change enabling the return of toi moko
  • and posted a video of a 2 and a half year-old handling an iPad for the first time. 

I hope that single extract and that quick list - all from fewer than 20 days in 2010 - will give you, if you didn't have the good fortune of knowing Paul, something of an insight into the breadth of his interests, his erudite and capacious mind, his twinkling curiosity, the role he took as a communicator and connector, and his dedication to causes he felt that would uplift and connect people, allow them to learn the lessons of our histories and make a richer future together.

Paul died on 24 May 2010. Today would have been his 70th birthday.

Preparing for this presentation, I read back over the tributes people posted when news of Paul's shockingly sudden death reached us all - fittingly, largely through the internet channels he himself used. He was remembered for his humour, his emphasis on community access and contributions to knowledge, his work with libraries and the wider GLAMs sector, his passion for collaborative action, for being the best kind of friend and colleague: funny, smart, supportive and challenging.

And a word that got used a lot was "visionary". The older I get the more I realise what a rare and special characteristic this is, and how hard it is to maintain over a lifetime. Experience is a wonderful thing but it has a tendency to narrow you down a bit. Paul was always, always expansive, always asking you to think bigger, be bolder.  

That's why I find it so fitting that the No Numpties award was established after Paul's death, donations from National Library, Internet New Zealand, and friends of Paul’s, namely Penny Carnaby, John Truesdale and Sue Sutherland. Sue contacted me in advance of this afternoon - she's very sorry she couldn't make it - and the way she spoke of Paul in her message reminded me what an example that group of friends and colleagues set for me and my group of friends and colleagues: of people excitedly united in a vision of creating benefits for all of Aotearoa by joining the wealth of our collections and taonga, our knowledge and mātauranga, with the communities they all ultimately stem from.

Gareth - congratulations on your award. Very best of luck for your travel to Canada, and your work and connection with First Nations projects there. Paul would have been thrilled to see your nurturing of mātauranga and kaitiakitanga supported through this initiative.

* * *

Giving this speech yesterday caused me a lot of reflection. I felt somewhat hypocritical to start with. Paul (along with that whole coterie - him, Penny, Sue, John, the dreamers and doers of a connected and collaborative GLAM sector) was very influential on my early career, those years when I was working at National Library under their leadership. I'd seen Paul around the Library regularly, and had the odd beer with him in Auckland, and was briefly on the National Digital Forum board with him. But I feel like I didn't know know him, not like (I whisper inside my head) not like the grown-ups did. Not like the people who could talk about Paul as a dear friend, who knew him in the round rather than in the faceted way that I did.

And yet. What it also made me reflect on was a thing I've mulled over a lot in the past 5 or 6 years. The National Library environment at the time I was there (2006 to 2010) felt like a golden age: all the best qualities of libraries (the value of connecting people with information and knowledge that benefits their lives in multitudinous ways; the creation, care, and accessibility of collections that reflect Aotearoa New Zealand) being souped up by the digital revolution; the relaxing and expanding effects of Web 2.0, giving collecting institutions a new role in people's lives; the atmosphere of innovation and experimentation driven by Penny Carnaby, who as National Librarian and Chief Executive brought all her knowledge and love of the library sector to the role, and drove the organisation into the future (with much energy, love, and bullheadedness).

It was also a time of real focus on collaboration: EPIC, the Aotearoa People's Network Kaharoa, Digital New Zealand, the National Digital Forum. Today tt feels like our cultural institutions (my own included) are so busy keeping our own hamster wheels turning, battling resourcing that feels like it's being chipped away (or just is being chipped away) as costs and expectations rise, that we've lost our collaborative muscle tone.

But, reflecting more: it's just time and priorities, isn't it? And leaders and staff who want to work together, are willing to accept the lag that accompanies collaboration because they see the wider benefits it creates. And people like Paul, who challenge us to think bigger than we currently are. If we can't wait for another catalyst to come along, perhaps we just have to shoulder his mantle ourselves.

Reading list, 5 October 2019

Sometimes an exhibition turns out so much better than the core idea suggests it might. Two reviews (the Guardian, the New York Times) suggest Gossamer, an exhibition at Carl Freedman Gallery in Margate, England, curated by Zoe Bedeaux and including artists from Sarah Lucas to Man Ray to Enam Gbewonyo who have worked in some way with woman's stockings, is one of these shows. (Check out the articles for some extraordinary images.)

Charlotte Burns of Art Agency Partners gives Max Hollein, director of the Met, a good poking on repatriating taonga, the stats on women artists & the market & collections & exhibitions,  ethics & governance, and the museum's one billion dollar package of capital projects.

Dropping this here because I'm still working cancel culture out but it's full of useful links: Osita Nwanevu for The New Republic, The “Cancel Culture” Con

And ticketing this one up for value-clashes: Massey University's statement on providing venue hire to a group called Speak Up 4 Women for an event called 'Feminism 2020' that throws the university's commitment to fostering free speech into opposition with its commitment to fostering a campus environment welcoming to all identities.

The latest from the MuseuPunks podcast: Decolonization and its Discontents featuring Sumaya Kassim and Nathan “Mudyi” Sentance.

A request from The Spinoff about gender diversity in exhibition programming circulated around public and private art galleries a couple of months ago - the outcome is Anna Knox's lengthy article Gender bias and art in Aotearoa: a Spinoff survey reveals the harsh reality which ends up focusing on dealer galleries and has some interesting insights / observations (and reveals data is indeed a slippery fish)

Aligned to the proposed re-definition of a museum by ICOM and growing focus on ethical leadership, in the NYT: Shareholder Value Is No Longer Everything, Top C.E.O.s Say:
 Breaking with decades of long-held corporate orthodoxy, the Business Roundtable issued a statement on “the purpose of a corporation,” arguing that companies should no longer advance only the interests of shareholders. Instead, the group said, they must also invest in their employees, protect the environment and deal fairly and ethically with their suppliers.
Kara Walker takes over the Tate's Turbine Hall

By me (cough, cough)

  • On RNZ talking about the Amsterdam Museum's decision to no longer use the phrase 'Golden Age', and the theft of Maurizio Cattelan's golden toilet
  • A short speech given to remember Paul Reynolds at the event to celebrate Gareth Seymour's award of the scholarship set up in Paul's name.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

On the radio - October 2019

In my monthly spot on RNZ's Nine to Noon programme, this week I spoke about the Amsterdam Museum's decision to stop using the term 'Golden Age' to describe the 17th century in Holland; and the theft of Maurizio Cattelan's golden toilet America from Blenheim Palace

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Reading list, 28 September 2019

The art of pricing - a new British report on ticketing in cultural organisations

Masha Gessen for the New Yorker: Poland's ruling party puts an extraordinary museum of Polish-Jewish history into limbo

A bit middle-of-the-road, but the attention Nicholas Thomas calls to valuing the relationships that museums foster is important: What are museums really for? (responding to the ICOM definition debate)

I was so surprised by how much I loved the Wallace Collection when I first visited London; reading between the lines here I feel like the new director came in and was like 'So, this no lending thing? Like, do we really think that's what she meant in her will? Really really? Really? But like - do you think we could maybe change it? We could? Yeah? Yeah, good. Good good'. 'Untapped treasure': Wallace Collection to start lending artworks

A Bronx Event Organized by New Museum Shut Down After Protest by Local Activists: a day-long event focused on climate change was shut down by protests from local groups opposing the New Museum acting in the Bronx.

Forest in a Soccer Stadium Outrages Austria’s Far Right - an art project protested for other reasons than you might at first think.

I loved Lonnie G. Bunch III's series of tweets (and series of tweets, Twitter's still a bit shit for aggregating ain't it?) recalling the opening day of the NMAAHC.*

Two deep dives by Erin Potts on current evaluation and measurement techniques for cultural strategy - an annotated reading list, and an analysis of current themes.

*Is that how you usea possessive apostrophe on the name of a person who's a III?

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

On the radio - September 2019

In my monthly spot on RNZ's Nine to Noon programme, I talked about the debate stirred by the International Council of Museums releasing an update to their decades-old definition of what a museum is, and photographer and video artist Joyce Campbell's full-gallery exhibition at the Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Reading list, 22 September 2019


Art Agency, Partners and Artnet News have partnered on a significant piece of research and publishing on women's place in the (American) art world. As the headline article states: Museums Claim They’re Paying More Attention to Female Artists. That’s an Illusion. Depressing and important reading.

In a similar vein - Emily Hartley-Skudder's pretty wrenching piece for The Pantograph Punch, The Power of the Pussy Bow: Fighting Back Against Rape-Art, recounting her experience on a recent residency in China, where another (older, male, European) artist made performance art about his attraction to Chinese women.

Fighting the good fight: Judy Chicago on Rescuing Women From Art History’s Sidelines.


This article makes me realise I'm definitely an incrementalist - and that I need to be mixed in with people who are not, in order to create change ‘We Don’t Need to Demonize Wealthy People’: Ford Foundation President Darren Walker on the Unnerving Aftermath of the Warren Kanders Protests

Philanthropy, but at what price? US museums wake up to public's ethical concerns - with comments from Daniel Weiss, Adam Weinberg et al

Second verse, same as the first How Rich Donors Like Epstein (and Others) Undermine Science (Wired)


Curated resources on diversity, inclusion, accessibility and equity for libraries

On curating difficult ideas A Nazi Design Show Draws Criticism. Its Curator’s Comments Didn’t Help.

A call for cultural courage - a slightly odd direct email from Anne Pasternak, director of the Brooklyn Museum (maybe just odd because emails like this don't get sent out often by directors)

How Lonnie Burch built a museum dream team (a sampler from his new book on opening the NMAAHC)

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Reading list, 14 September 2019

Wow, I have a lot of reading to catch up on ...

Daniel Weiss, Adam Weinberg and other museum leaders speak out following the fallout from the resignation of the Whitney’s vice chairman and the ongoing Sackler affair - for The Art Newspaper

There was “next to nothing” about Muslims in the Brooklyn Historical Society’s century-old archives. Now there are 54 oral histories, which serve as the foundation for a new art exhibition.

The Amsterdam Museum will no longer use the descriptor "Golden Age" to for the 17th century:

The Golden Age occupies an important place in Western historiography that is strongly linked to national pride. But positive associations with the term such as prosperity, peace, opulence and innocence do not cover the charge of historical reality in this period. The term ignores the many negative sides of the 17th century such as poverty, war, forced labour and human trafficking.

The Wellcome Collection's new long-term exhibition Being Human has been designed "accessibility first" and has garnered a lot of well deserved press: No art lover left behind: how galleries are finally welcoming disabled people (Guardian); Is This the World’s Most Accessible Museum? (NYT);

A British survey shows that four in ten cultural organisations pay their junior front of house staff less than a living wage.

Lorraine Boissonneault for SlateThe Complicated Decisions That Come With Digitizing Indigenous Languages

Look, I haven't engaged with the Jeffrey Epstein thing at all so just dropping this in here for future reference: Martin Levine, Must Modern Philanthropy Be So Corrosive?, on Epstein's philanthropic relationship with MIT.

The Ford Foundation's president Darren Walker in conversation with artnet's Andrew Goldstein: ‘We Don’t Need to Demonize Wealthy People’: Ford Foundation President Darren Walker on the Unnerving Aftermath of the Warren Kanders Protests

ICOM shrugged off the vote on the proposed new definition of a "museum": Should Art Museums Be More or Less Ideological? After Pushback, a Gathering of Museum Leaders Refuses to Address the Question

Suse Anderson is teaching a new first-year course on museum ethics at George Washington University, and the course outline looks like a primer in contemporary museum discussions

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Reading lists, 31 August 2019

ICOM has put up a proposal to rewrite its definition of a museum (used around the world) and national chapters are not down with that (Hyperallergic)

How historic house tours in the south of the United States are being rewritten to incorporate the history of slavery and experiences of the slaves who built, laboured and lived in them (New York Times)

teamLab’s Tokyo Museum Has Become the World’s Most Popular Single-Artist Destination (Artnet News)

From the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe: debating the definitions of art and craft, fuelled by social media (New York Times)

A review of The Warmth of Other Suns, an exhibition at Washington's Phillips Collection mapping a century of displaced and immigrant artists' works (New York Times)

The Ringmaster: Is Charles Venable Democratizing a Great Art Museum in Indianapolis—or Destroying It? (Art News)

Talking Digital Colonialism with Morehshin Allahyari (article and podcast) (Hyperallergic)

A beautiful interactive mapping the geographical distribution of artists featured over the history of the Whitney Biennial (New York Times)

Shifting the Balance: a report from Diversity Arts Australia on diversity in leadership in Australian arts institutions (Diversity Arts Australia)

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

On the radio - August 2019

This month in my spot on RNZ's Nine to Noon programme, I talked aboutJacqueline Fahey's survey 'Suburbanites' at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery in Wellington; Rembrandt's famous painting 'The Night Watch' undergoing restoration in the Rijksmuseum; and a new study showing a massive leap in value for women artists' work on the auction market.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Reading list, 10 August 2019

Let me suggest an alternate title: new statistics show an area of the secondary market where women artists' work is outperforming mens (it's nuanced)

In follow-up news: Artists Demand Answers [to questions they asked about revisions to the museum's funding policy] One Year After Withdrawing Work From London Design Museum

Andrea K. Scott's summary for the New Yorker: The Whitney Biennial protests and the changing standards of accountability in art

A fascinating write-up in the New York TimesBehind Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: Reframing a Tragedy. Read it for the experiences of Chaédria LaBouvier, the first black woman to curate a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim, which in its 80 year history has never employed a black curator on staff.

The Spinoff making good use of that CNZ money: Megan Dunn and Mark Amery on The art award that’s been annoying the Waikato (and Paul Henry) for 20 years  

Ticketed for reading this weekend: Kyle Chayka's long format interview with Artforum editor David Velasco, appointed in October 2017 when the magazine was in a leadership meltdown.

Jamaica's culture minister challenges the British Museum to return taonga taken when the island was a colony.

New York Magazine identifies New York's most toxic museum boards

Harmony Hammonds is one of those artists I wish I'd known about 20 years ago

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Reading list, 6 August 2019

In a democracy, destroying a work of art is never a solution to any offense it may give. Once art has been made and released into the often choppy flow of life, it should stay there. It will live on anyway. To dictate its elimination is an implicitly autocratic move, similar in spirit, if not scale, to the deliberate demolition of ancient art and artifacts by the Taliban and the Islamic State.
Roberta Smith, The Case for Keeping San Francisco’s Disputed George Washington Murals, NYT
Put a little more generously, Mapplethorpe had the canniness and the guts to exhibit pictures that framed his sexual obsessions with a formal elegance that allowed them unprecedented entree into galleries and museums. He aligned perfectly with the historical moment, but that moment has passed.
Arthur Lubow, Has Robert Mapplethorpe’s Moment Passed?NYT

Hyperallergic podcast: Talking Digital Colonialism with Morehshin Allahyari

Andrew Goldman, ‘Museums Are Contested Sites’: The Art Institute of Chicago’s James Rondeau on Why He Finds the Current Moment So Electrifying, Artnet

Hannah Black, Ciarán Finlayson, and Tobi Haslett, The Tear Gas Biennial, Artforum