Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Last day

This year on 18 and 19 November The Dowse is hosting the annual Curator's Hui, a chance for people working in (and near!) museums and galleries to share ideas, updates, case studies and emerging trends.

The first call for proposals closes TODAY. We are offering a range of talk formats (from 10 minutes to an hour) and the list of topics we're interested in is long and diverse.

All the relevant info is available on our website, and if you're familiar with the hui and want to dive straight into submitting your proposal, there's a handy dandy online submission form here.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Whither the design museum

Behind the Financial Times registration wall (hand over an email address and some "details" for access), a lengthy article about the history of design museums (starting with the didactic impulse behind the first, the V&A) and their current status, as directors and curators deal with the digital age and the sense that design might actually be in and of everything.

[V&A director Martin] Roth is animated about the future of the museum. “There are three issues facing a design museum today,” he says. “First is the question of how you avoid it looking like a furniture store; how is it different to a typical bourgeois living room? Second is the problem of the inflation of design. Is it craft or is it a philosophy? Or is it lifestyle? Is everything digital part of design? Design isn’t everything and the perception that it is, is confusing and damaging to the museum. And third . . .” 
He pauses, I’m not sure whether for dramatic effect or if he’s considering if he should tell me this, “ . . . is the quality of contemporary art – which is 95 per cent rubbish.” 
I raise my eyebrows over my coffee cup. “The hyper-currency of art, the plutocrats’ purchases, these things corrupt the relationship between art and design at the same institution. They affect the future of the design museum and I worry that as contemporary art runs out of ideas it will need fresh blood . . .” He makes a theatrical sucking noise “ . . . and they will come to design.”

Sunday, 28 September 2014

On the radio

On the radio this week I talked about three ceramics shows at Dunedin Public Art Gallery: The Dowse's touring Barry Brickell exhibition, Paul Maseyk's solo show, and Madeleine Child's contribution to a group show of work by Dunedin artists.

Friday, 12 September 2014

High rotate

Two songs with absolutely no connection

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

On the radio

On the radio today I talked about the DomPost's decision to cancel art critic Mark Amery's fortnightly column.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Fact checking

Next week I'm talking at Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design in their seminar series about careers in the art world.

I'm going to talk about my own trajectory, but I also want to tackle the question of whether we're currently in a 'golden age' of female leadership in the visual arts, or whether this could be as big a blip as 2005/06 turned out to be, when the five most powerful positions in New Zealand (PM, Governor-General, Speaker, Chief Justice and - sign of the times - CEO of Telecom) were all held by women.

As part of that I'm trying to grok some figures on museum and gallery leadership. For the purposes of this exercise I am focusing on the larger council-funded organisations (not artist-run, CNZ or university) that have been around for 25+ years.

I'm also interested in how many women have held multiple directorships across these institutions.

Corrections and additions are MOST WELCOME, either in the comments, or via email or twitter.


Auckland War Memorial Museum
8 directors, 1 woman

Auckland Art Gallery
10 directors, 1 woman (most recent)

Waikato Art Museum / Waikato Museum of Art and History
X directors, 2 women

Tauranga Art Gallery
I director, 1 woman

Govett Brewster Art Gallery
10 directors, 3 women

The Sarjeant
4 directors, no women

Whanganui Regional Museum
12 directors, 2 women

Manawatū Art Gallery / Te Manawa
9 directors, 3 women
*Note: Mina McKenzie at the Manawatu Museum pre-Te Manawa

The Dowse
6 directors, 1 woman (most recent)

Te Papa
3 directors, 1 woman

City Gallery Wellington
5 directors, 3 women (most recent)

The Suter
3 directors, 1 woman (most recent)

Christchurch Art Gallery
6 directors, 1 woman (most recent)

Canterbury Museum
10 directors, 0 women

Dunedin Public Art Gallery
9 directors, 3 women

Otago Museum
8 directors, 0 women


Priscilla Pitts - GBAG and DPAG (plus Artspace)
Cheryll Sotheran - GBAG, DPAG, Te Papa
Jenny Harper - NAG-that-was and CAG
Elizabeth Caldwell - DPAG and CGW (plus Robert McDougall Art Annex)
Rhana Devenport - GBAG and AAG
Julie Catchpole - Te Manawa and Suter

While we're on the topic: an oldie but still a goodie from Over The Net: length of director tenures.

Opposing views

Jonathan Jones:
People may think I'm London-centric, but that's where the great art needs to be, and here's how the capital's top museums can make themselves more enticing.
(King for a day: what I'd do if I ruled Tate Britain - The Guardian)

Hrag Vartanian:
We need to break up the major museums. That may sound radical to some, but it’s an idea whose time has come. I’m suggesting not that museums sell off their collections but that more museums consider aggressively building outposts or prioritizing longer-term partnerships with smaller or newer institutions that could benefit from such relationships. 
(Break up the major museums to save them - Aljazeera America)

Friday, 5 September 2014

For god's sake

Many things in this article about Bendigo Art Gallery Karen Quinlan (it's a few months old, but I only just stumbled on it) are interesting: her career path, her strategic choices, the collection development. But it was pretty much spoiled for me by this thumbnail sketch:
Behind her sylphlike frame and a gentle voice that doesn't have to be raised to be heard, is a determination forged from titanium: slender, light, but incredibly durable. 
Why the journalist found the need to include a paragraph that reads like something out of the Drina series is frankly beyond me. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Quote of the week

As the search goes on for a new director for the National Gallery of Australia, quote of the recruitment campaign has to go to art historian and Canberra Times art critic Sasha Grishin:

"The reason for this is the enormous amount of scrutiny that is actually given to the position of director. Every single bowel movement is reported on," he said, adding that Dr Radford's state counterparts were rarely watched as closely. 
"The director of [the Queensland Art Gallery] or the director of [the Art Gallery of SA] would have to be seen screwing a dog in the middle of the street during the early morning peak for someone to take notice," Professor Grishin said. 

Monday, 1 September 2014


A thought-provoking piece by Auckland Museum director Roy Clare published on MuseumID has received the tl;dr treatment from MuseumHack. Either makes for good reading.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Open wide

Walking towards Te Papa this morning, through the fruit and vege market in the adjacent carpark, and then onwards to City Gallery via the harbour front, it struck me again how much that building seals itself off from the activities and interactions taking place on the waterfront. The entrance to Te Papa doesn't meld in with any of the natural paths in that area, but nor does it provide that feeling of anticipation that the classical frontage of the old Museum created.

I thought about this again this afternoon after instapapering up this interview with Renzo Piano about the museum projects he has worked on, and particularly this comment
All the buildings you mentioned—they “fly.” They are rooted, but they lift up, above the ground and that lets light to come under and inside and allow the ritual of the city life to merge with the ritual of the building life. By lifting the building, the ground floor becomes almost a continuation of the public realm. You leave space beneath it for life to happen.
It reminded me of hearing, years ago, Dan Hill talk about the State Library of Queensland. Of course, the clemency of your climate plays a significant role in your ability to embrace the world, but there's a generosity there that I think is incredibly important.

(See also Dan Hill's follow-up work with SLQ and the way the environment was used, particularly in relation to the wi-fi availability.)