Wednesday, 26 August 2015

On the radio

Today on the radio I'm going to talk about Cloud Gate-gate and Fiona Pardington's new survey show,  A Beautiful Hesitation

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

On the radio

Today on the radio I'm going to talk about Old Master artist statements and the outcry that has delayed the opening of a new Jack the Ripper museum in London.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

On the radio

Belated, but - my whole segment last week was devoted to the new collection of Linda Nochlin essays, Women Artists: The Linda Nochlin Reader, edited by Maura Reilly (NYT review here, text of the "seminal" 1971 essay 'Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?' here).

Combined with currently reading Nicholas Mirzoeff's How to See the World (Guardian article by the author here), it's really brought home to me the fact that the visual and social world we (or at least I) has transformed in the past 50 years. Hardly a mindblowing insight, but a little explosive when it's happening inside your head.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Weekend reading

The benefit of being low-grade sick is that you can read half the known internet while you go through a box of tissues*

Question: Can Wikipedia survive? 

Naive Answer: Yes. If our project at The Dowse is any example, there's still a butt-ton of sectors who are yet to make the move into contributing. Less Naive Answer: I have no idea how the arcana of Wikipedia management works, and that's a real weakness of the system.

the best marketing strategy is a “transformational project” brilliantly produced

Article about Michael Kaiser and his new book Curtains: The Future of the Arts in America. Focused on the performing arts (and of course the American context) but it's hard to deny his point about artistic uniformity:
“Rather than conceiving great projects—with enough lead time to find the resources needed to pay for them—too many organizations are planning art that is inexpensive, undemanding and, frankly, boring.”
Standing with a pile of my books and others on the women who also invented Impressionism side by side with their male colleagues, I wanted to hold a banner declaring that this institution wilfully and persistently distorts knowledge of art’s histories.

Griselda Pollock does a de(con)struction job on some art gallery puffery (oh yes - we're all guilty of it) and the National Gallery in London's claims for its exhibition on Paul Durand-Ruel, "the man who invented Impressionism". One of the most enlivening things I've read in a while.

Scholarship in the service of business

Long article in the New York Times about curators from public institutions moving into the dealer gallery world, which ends with the rather oblique line "Often the interests of a curator are somewhat unaligned with the necessities of a gallery.”

*(Or finish watching Jane the Virgin)

Friday, 19 June 2015

On the radio

This week on the radio I talked about some of the exhibitions and events happening as part of the Matariki festival in Wellington, including He Toi Reikorangi at Mahara Gallery and Ngatai Taepa's survey exhibition at Pataka. We also looked at Britain's decision to put a visual artist on their currency and a few stories I've covered over the past 5 years.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Small accumulations

Yesterday at work we ran our second public Wikipedia training and editing day, focused on improving the coverage of Māori and Pacific artists. It's part of the wider Wikipedia project we've been running since last November.

I'm thrilled at what we've achieved with this project. While we're not creating new knowledge, the way galleries aim to with publishing projects, we're doing a lot of dig up and knit together information about artists, to create networks of links between artists, educators and mentors, galleries and residencies and awards.

This is a screenshot of my contribution page from today.  I've been adding links from our podcast at The Dowse to relevant entries, and then links to Circuit podcasts, and then links to interviews from Standing Room Only, and then doing some work on Emily Karaka's page. It's satisfying because my nerdy art history side comes out to play; it's also satisfying because I can see how all the content we produce can have a long tail. And it's satisfying because information is going into the place where it is most likely to be found.

I now treat Wikipedia editing almost like volunteering. I have the occasional sustained burst, like this weekend, but usually it's micro-additions, a sentence or two added to the right pages when a new show opens or magazine gets published or grants get awarded. I might never get around to doing that Ph.D I ponder occasionally, but at least I'm putting my training to some use on a regular basis.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

On the radio

Today on the radio I'm going to talk about two shows I've enjoyed recently:

Frances Hodgkins: Lace Collars and Calico - Dunedin Public Art Gallery, until 16 August

Tell tails - Christine Hellyar, Maureen Lander and Jo Torr, National Library of New Zealand, Wellington, until 14 August

This June is my 5th anniversary at Nine to Noon: after stepping in to cover a friend in the New Media spot earlier in 2010, I started my fortnightly gig just after I left the National Library and on the day (I think) that I flew out of Wellington to take part in Foo Camp. Pretty much nothing else in my life (except living in Wellington) is still the same. It's the longest job I've had, and I still love doing it.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Look closer

At work this week we started resurrecting some diorama removed five years ago from the Petone Settlers Museum, including a scene of tree felling used to tell a story about deforestation in the Hutt Valley floor (it strikes me that this melted face is a bit of an issue).

Dioramas are intriguing. I think it's the distillation and abstraction that they offer. Their three-dimensional nature means it takes more time for your eye to move around, discovering all the details (more like our experience of the real world than a flat picture) and at the same time the reduction of detail leaves room for the imagination and gives the experience aesthetic rather than realistic (also, when you take a photo of a diorama it immediately looks like you've flicked on the tilt shift tool).

I guess then I was primed for this post from Russell Davies about his visit to the Wellcome Collection's Forensics show. There's a real irony that his main observation of an exhibition that's all about close looking was that "everything was too dark and too small for an old person like me to read. I know they have to keep things dark to preserve the documents but I don't understand why they can't blow things up and stick them alongside the originals."

I always enjoy Davies short observations on attending exhibitions because he brings the lens of user experience design from the web to the gallery setting - and because he has a deep visual affinity. The main thing I took out of this post though was his pointer to the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths, a set of 18 incredibly detailed diorama made by Frances Glessner Lee as an aid for teaching the techniques of crime scene investigation in the 1940s. The diorama are displayed in the building that houses the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, and have been more recently closely documented by the photographer Corinne May Botz.

Corinne May Botz, Unpapered bedroom, from the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths 
One of my favourite podcasts, 99% Invisible, has just done a show in the dioramas. Actually, it's about much more than the diorama, fascinating as they are: the story is really about Lee, the child of a wealthy family who, when she came into her independence, took her interest in crime scene investigations and turned it into a mission to better educate the police force and change the way unexplained deaths are approached.    

Saturday, 23 May 2015

To charge or not to charge - that's not all of the question

An article on Art Info about ticket prices at the newly opened Whitney starts off quite same old-same old and then rapidly gets more interesting.

Take for example the increase in inflation-adjusted dollars for movie tickets and MOMA tickets since the 1930s. An institution like MOMA can raise prices steadily because the tourist market they cater widely to (the 56.4 million tourist visitors to NYC last year) is price-insensitive; a visitor to New York expects to pay and (generally) isn't going to stress about five dollars here or there.

There's also a fascinatingly discussion at the end of the article about alternate pricing models. Scotch discounts for seniors in favour of residents, or start defining 'adult' as 'over 25' in order to reach the more visit-inclined university-aged audience. Or - possibly most intriguing - demand-led pricing, a la Uber.