Friday, 31 August 2007

Smoking and modernism

I'm a big fan of the smoking-and-modernism genre (think Clifton Firth portraits, or Rita Angus's iconic 1936-37 self-portrait, or take a look at copies of Home and Building from the 1950s-1960s).

So this was a nice thing to find: tapestry (believe it or not - quite big in modernist Auckland), Louise Henderson, smoking and Landfall....

Image: Portrait of Louise Henderson in front of the New Zealand Room tapestry, Wellington, 11 March 1963. Evening Post collection, Alexander Turnbull Library. Reference number: PAColl-7796-93. From the Timeframes website.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Sales round up

Damien Hirst's business manager Frank Dunphy has told media that the Hirst's diamond-encrusted skull has been sold to a group of investors for US$100 million in cash.

"Private dealer" Richard Polsky suggests that usually "buyers operating at the $100 million level would get a discount", but no go, says Dunphy.

Laurence Graff, London jeweler and art collector, "looked at the skull when it was on show and didn't buy it". He doubts that it was bought by "diamond people".

The sale of Shaun Gladwell's Storm Sequence at Sotheby's Melbourne on Tuesday night for AUS$84,000 is being reported as the first digital installation sold at auction in Australia.

In the same sale, Eugene von Guerard's The Great Lake, Tasmania went to "property developer Max Moar and his former wife, Iris Lustig, for their corporate collection" for $1.86 million. The painting was sold by "Victoria's cash-strapped National Trust".

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Bill Bleathman made a call for the work to remain in Tasmania earlier this month - the painting was showing in the Gallery at the time as part of a state-wide touring exhibition staged by the National Trust to promote the work prior to the auction.

Images, from top:

Damian Hirst,
For the Love of God, 2007. Image from the Bloomberg website.
Shaun Gladwell,
Storm Sequence, 200. Image from the Sherman Gallery website.
Eugene von Guerard's
The Great Lake, Tasmania 1875. Image from the Melbourne Age website

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Mug shots

This morning photographer and blogger Alec Soth reminded me of the things on offer through Matapihi (New Zealand) and PictureAustralia . These websites are run from the New Zealand and Australian national libraries, and offer a one-place search across numerous online collections.

Soth searched PictureAustralia for ‘new south wales police dept’: the results made him "why I bother with photography. It seems unfair that an anonymous police photographer can be as good as Avedon and Arbus".

I searched for 'mug shot' and found 79 images from the Historic Houses Trust, including:

Fay Watson, convicted for cocaine possession in 1928

Hazel McGuiness; her and her mother's house was raided in
1929: during the raid her "mother Ada threw a hand bag
containing packets of cocaine to her daughter, shouting, 'Run Hazel!'."

B. Smith, Gertrude Thompson and Vera McDonald, arrested in
after a raid on a "notorious Sydney thieves' kitchen".

Emma Rolfe - numerous convictions for theft.

According to PictureAustralia, about 2500 of these "special photographs" were taken by New South Wales Police Department photographers between 1910 and 1930, mostly in the cells at the Sydney Central Police Station. There are plenty of pictures of men as well - but something about these photos fascinates me.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

$50,000 to uncover value of creative industries

Steve Maharey, Minister of Research, Science and Technology, announced at the opening of the 2007 Humanities-Aronui Congress in Wellington yesterday a $50,000 pilot project to link humanities research with government priorities.

“The study will examine the contribution of government-funded cultural industries, such as film, television, literature, museums, and performing arts, to New Zealand, and to driving our creative industries”, says Steve Maharey.

“This pilot project will examine the issues facing New Zealand’s cultural industries, and the role of this government in further supporting their sustainability and development.

“This pilot project also aims to get greater value from the ideas and expertise within New Zealand’s humanities research community.”

The new study will be a partnership between the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage on how humanities research can contribute to policy that will help further develop cultural industries in New Zealand.
Steve Maharey press release - Beehive website

Council for the Humanities website

Monday, 27 August 2007

Physics Room announces new director

Christchurch freelance writer Kate Montgomery has been announced as the new Physics Room director, proving Best of 3 was way off.

In other news - welcome back to the blogosphere Peter Peryer - please post again soon.

Everything - really, everything - you need to know about buying art at auction

Over August, Art and Auction magazine have been running a series of articles by Judd Tully, looking at the ins and outs of buying art at auction:

Salesroom Confidential - are you in the skybox, the 10th row, or the B room? how do you read the bidding? are you interested in bottomfishing (buying a work after the sale)?

Covert operations - chandelier, shill and ring bidding explained.

Snaps, signals and signs - what did that arched eyebrow mean?

The article is accompanied by a nifty photo gallery, with cartoon portraits and written sketches of the major auction house figures. For example:

Jussi Pylkkanen, President of Christie's Europe, 44, Finnish

Famed for his aristocratic bearing and almost snobby delivery. Can at times be agonizingly slow, due in part to the spike in phone bidding, although lately has speeded up his march through ever-larger London sales. Style: a tad pompous and some say patronizing, but with the boyish enthusiasm to get the job done.

Tobias Meyer, worldwide head of contemporary art, Sotheby's, 44, Austrian

Cool, poised, glamorous face of Sotheby’s. Although not everyone warms to his imperial style, undeniably a pro, cutting a trim figure at the podium, announcing bid increments with a Teutonic crispness while keeping the body language simple. Style: strong and confident if a bit impatient at the rostrum.

Images: From the Art and Auction photo gallery. From top to bottom: cutting the bid; Henry wyndham, Sotheby's; Tobias Meyer, Sotheby's.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Pinched: one Ralph Hotere

You turn your back for one moment, and the Hotere painting you left sitting in your doorway gets stolen ...

$5000 on offer to recover painting - New Zealand Herald

Must watch TV II: John Reynolds on Artsville

Questions for Mr Reynolds
Artsville, TV One,
Sunday August 26, 10.20 pm

Image: from the Sue Crockford Gallery website

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Good looking

Cranes are one of my favourite things to look at. There's something very satisfying about their shape and their swing. I get to see a lot of them on my walk to work, and I often wish Peter Peryer would photograph a series of them.

Until then David Shariatmadari's post about the 'gangly invaders is dominating London's skyline' on the Guardian's art blog will have to suffice.

Image from the Guardian website.

Do we need a hero? Succession planning III

A few weeks ago I posted twice on succession planning: the question of how (and who) we're preparing to take over our art galleries when the current directors leave (see also Over the net's useful diagram of directors' tenures).

Continuing on this theme, here's an interview with Malcolm MacKay, art world head hunter:

A consultant at the prestigious New York executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, MacKay, 66, is a sort of art world superhero, swooping in whenever museums are in need of a new director.

Fortuitous update: An article on, about MacKay's involvement in the search for new directors for the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Read it and weep

A recent opinion piece on by Gary Kamiya sings the praises of editors. While the relationship between writer and editor is sometimes cast as prickly (genius vs grammar nazi; 'my precious prose' vs 'that's not actually a word') Kamiya points out that sometimes it can be mutually beneficial:

Early in my editing career I was startled when, after we had finished an edit, a crusty, hard-bitten culture writer, a woman at least twice my age, told me, "That was great -- better than sex!"

I make no such exalted claims, but there's no doubt the editing process can be an intimate and gratifying experience for both parties. Although, to pursue our somewhat dubious metaphor, there are also times when writer and editor, instead of lying back and enjoying a soothing post-fact-check cigarette, stare emptily at the ceiling and vow never to share verb tenses with anyone again.

Later in the piece, Kamiya argues that editors are even more necessary in the internet age, with content pouring online from more writers than ever before.

I agree. Writing online is different from writing for print publication.

People drop into a web page from wherever and expect to understand what's going on (imagine opening a book at random and expecting to understand what the protagonist is up to after scanning the first two lines). People read web pages - and paragraphs on pages - in a rough F shape, meaning key words need to be loaded up in the first sentences of each page and each paragraph within the page (see the heat map below). The rough guide to length is: write it, then halve it. And add some bullet points.

For all that I agree with it, you still lose some beauty. You lose passive sentences. You lose paragraphs that build to their point, not launch with it. You miss the finely-wrought sentence full of carefully crafted clauses. No one scrolls down to your pithy or poignant final sentence. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" becomes "Rich men needs wives" (probably 'partners', really). It's not a bad thing, necessarily - it's just a different way of using words. In some cases, I think it's important to keep the distinction.

Image: An eye-tracking 'heatmap' showing where readers' eyes fall on a webpage - red means high attention, blue little attention, grey is untouched. From Jakob Nielsen,

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

New Zealand galleries on Wikipedia

There's some fuss in the news at the moment over WikiScanner, a data-mining tool that matches ISP addresses to edits on Wikipedia. Using WikiScanner, people have been able to trace corporations (including Wal-Mart) making changes to pages related to their business. See Russell Brown on Hard News for the New Zealand-related story.

Thinking about this, I decided to check out the Wikipedia entries for various NZ art galleries:

Auckland Art Gallery
Sarjeant Art Gallery
City Gallery Wellington
Christchurch Art Gallery
Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Of these, the DPAG has by far the fullest entry; the AAG, CGW, CAG and Sarjeant are all stubs (and tend to focus more on architecture than art). None of the pages list the directors or other senior staff at the galleries; none provide information about current exhibitions. The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery doesn't have an entry (although there's a full entry on Len Lye).

The Te Papa entry makes interesting reading. The Collections section makes mention only of the giant squid; there are also Controversy and Trivia sections.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Better than a coffee table book

Today Over the net points out that you don't need the Affordable Art Show (or its door charge) to find budget-friendly New Zealand art.

To their list of galleries offering editioned work (most of which can be browsed online) , I'd add Papergraphica, offering prints by John Reynolds, Lonnie Hutchinson and Bill Culbert, amongst others.

If you do want a coffee table book, like Over the net I have to recommend the limited edition version of the Mike P book published by Michael Lett. An absolute snip when you compare it with Taschen's limited edition photography books.

Mrkusich @ McKay's

Make sure you drop by Hamish McKay's new space on Ghuznee Street before September 8, to see the current show 'Milan Mrkusich: Four Paintings'.

With just four paintings (spanning 40 years), Hamish has magicked up an overview of Mrkusich's work. There's the brushy Painting No 7 (1960), and elegant 'Segmented Arc' from 1982, the recent Painting III Red (2000) and the somewhat odd but also quite entrancing Four Zones (1966), shown above.

Don't forget the office space, where there are further smaller works, including a very beautiful diptych in white, black and blue - my personal favourite.

Meanwhile, the 'miss' of a weekend's gallery-going was City Gallery Wellington's current array of shows. A more generous person might call this 'something for everyone' programming - I'm going to go with 'inchoate'.

Wait instead for the next season (starting 17 November), and two big touring exhibitions: 'Reboot', from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, and the Bill Hammond survey 'Jingle Jangle Morning' from Christchurch Art Gallery.

Image: Milan Mrkusich, Four Zones, 1966. Oil on canvas, 34.5 x 54 inches. From the Hamish McKay Gallery website.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Wallace Art Awards finalists announced

It's that time again - the finalists for the 2007 Wallace Art Award have been announced.

The awards will be presented by the Governor General on 3 September at the Aotea Centre in Auckland, with the exhibition of winners and selected finalists opening to the public the following day. The show arrives at the New Dowse in Lower Hutt on 29 October, where it will be opened by Chris Finlayson, the National party's art spokesperson.

Finalists include:

Lee Cunliffe

Jacqueline Greenbank

Andre Hemer

Megan Jenkinson

Peter Madden

Miranda Parkes

Image: last year's winner: Rohan Weallans, Tingler, 2006. Image from the James Wallace Arts Trust website.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Trash talking on Artbash

Yeah, I'll admit it. I lurk on Artbash. Sometimes I laugh at Artbash. But I never contribute.

Over the last few weeks, there's been a rash of reviews, apparently by students enrolled in a contextual studies course at a tertiary institution (going by the Wellington skew, I'd guess Massey).

There's been grumbling from Artbash regulars over the quality of the writing and thinking in these reviews - and fair cop to, in some cases. A review of Richard Serra's Tilted Arc, describing it as a ineffectual public sculpture about the Vietnam War, drew particular ire. (One site regular plausibly suggests that the writer was actually reviewing Maya Lin's Vietnam memorial, and got a bit confused).

In response to the criticism, one of the students posted this comment:

You wanna know the hilarious things Alibi... you're right, we are here completing projects that we have to do for our contextual studies -- and yes, some of our writing might be garbage as you and John have pointed out in some other comments.(we're obviously not as intelligent as you appear to be!)

None of us want to post on here because the environment is completely negative and does not inspire me to want to engage with any of you and learn anything from you at all. While I agree with what it says on this page about criticism being good (and therefore encouraged)-- there's a difference, I think the criticism we're looking for is 'constructive'.

So, don't worry, we are all meeting with our 'teacher' to get our 'homework' marked today, so you can be glad that many of us will probably disappear and you can have your elitist website back.

To which John Hurrell replied:

The site is hardly 'elitist', Jabby, and hardly 'negative' when regulars mutter about the site being bombarded by contributors who lack the conviction to stand their ground and argue their point of view.

If you write when you don't want to and say things you don't mean, what use is that? The result is clutter with no substance.

The review and its comment thread have now been moved to the trash section of the site. Which is one way of arguing your point of view.

Wasting time more efficiently

Using Google Reader, I follow feeds from 45 art and tech blogs and websites - my Trends pages helpfully tells me that in the past 30 days I got through 1,387 items. So this morning I was really happy to see that one of these items was a Web Worker Daily post on using Google Reader even more quickly, including some helpful tips on keyboard shortcuts.

But hold up. Was what I just wrote all Greek to you?

If you read the Best of 3 blog, you most likely read Over the net as well. Maybe you keep revisiting Peter Peryer's blog to see when he'll post again. Maybe you follow Tyler Green, or have found One moment caller, or are one of Ed Winkleman's fans.

If you're visiting more than 3 blogs a day, you could save yourself bundles of time by setting up a feedreader. The simplest way to explain this: a personalised feedreader will receive RSS feeds from websites that you select and then arrange them for you to read; just like emails in your inbox. Everytime a new item appears on the site you've selected, it will be replicated in your feedreader.

How to set up a feedreader

There's a bunch of feedreaders out there, but I'm a Google Reader fan. It's free, it's web based (meaning you can log on to the net and access it from any computer), and it's easy to use. Here's how:

1. Get a Gmail account / address, if you don't have one already, by going here:

2. Go to Google Reader, sign in using your Gmail address and password, and then your reader will automatically set itself up for you

3. Set up the feeds you're interested in. The orange and white symbol at the top of this post signals that a RSS feed/s is available on a website. Sign up for the feed by:

3a. When you're on a website, look for the symbol (either in the address bar of your browser, or on the page somewhere) and click it.

3b. Clicking the symbol will either (a) take you into Google Reader automatically or (b) bring up a page which looks like total gibberish. If you get the page of gibberish, don't freak out - just copy the page url in the address bar of your browser, go to Google Reader, click 'add a subscription' in the left-hand column of navigation, and paste the url in the pop up box.

4. Once you've got your feeds established, you can arrange them in folders, tag them, and trash feeds you're no longer interested in. Trust me - this is low barrier technology with big pay offs.

For a gentle introduction to RSS and feedreaders, check out this short video by CommonCraft's Lee LeFever.

Advice for collectors

Buy futures

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

It ain't easy being an editor

John Hurrell's most recent comments on Artbash:

15 Aug 2007 12:48 pm: Your article needs images. They are essential.

15 Aug 2007 12:47 pm: I'm not sure whether a non NZ work should be discussed on Artbash. Please paste on an image.

15 Aug 2007 8:08 am: Do you think your council is stable, Alibi? I've heard they are heading the way of say Hamilton, Wanganui, Invercargill and Palmerston North - thinking of merging the galleries /museums with libraries or theatres. And removing the galleries' independence. If so, no art professional with half a brain would want to work there. The environment would be far too hostile.

14 Aug 2007 8:59 pm: The magic word begins with 'I' and ends with 'es'.

14 Aug 2007 8:57 pm: I-m-a-g-e-s, yullofello pretty please

14 Aug 2007 8:55 pm: Some images, please...

14 Aug 2007 8:54 pm: We need images of the work, Akiras.

14 Aug 2007 8:52 pm: Please give us some images, b-man.

The best things about Melbourne

1. My friends who live there

2. Trams

3. The collection galleries at the NGV International

4. Two great contemporary jewellery galleries: Gallery Funaki (on Crossley Street, just by Pellegrinis) and Pieces of Eight, a relatively new space on Brunswick Street in North Fitzroy.

In a sweeping generalisation: New Zealand jewellery tends to be focused on narrative: it has to be about something (witness Jason Hall's current show at Craft Victoria). In comparison, Australian contemporary jewellers seem to be more interested in materials, and to be more playful. In Melbourne RMIT seems to have fostered a strong and productive community, as well as a number of spaces for work to be seen and sold.

Some of my favourites:

Blanche Tilden's industro-chic glass and silver bike chains:

Mari Funaki's work in mild steel (Funaki is the founder of Gallery Funaki, which shows local and international jewellers, including New Zealanders Kirsten Haydon and Warwick Freeman) :

Craig Spark's delicate, intricate but unfussy gold and silver necklaces:

Kiko Gionocca's long articulated porcelain chains, which you'll have to go to Gallery Funaki to see, as I can't find an image anywhere, but here's some pins by him to make do:

Manon van Kouswijk's porcelain necklaces, like this one, which look perilous to wear, and her paper sequin necklaces, which are funny and light:


Blanche Tilden, 'Everywhere', glass and silver, image from the Vetriglass website

Mari Funaki, 'Space between', mild steel, image from the NGV website

Craig Spark, neckpiece, image from the Pieces of Eight website

Kiko Gianocca, 'I’ve got butterflies' , oxidized silver, steel, epoxy, image from the NGV website

Manon van Kouswijk, necklace, image from the Klimt02 website

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Guggenheim @ NGV: highs, lows, and distressed attendants

Last week in Melbourne I went to see the Guggenheim exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. Created just for the NGV, the show had all the hallmarks of a blockbuster: extensive (somewhat baffling) advertising campaign, sizeable ($20) entry charge, bags of merchandise and a mixed selection of works.

My best moment in the show was seeing Maurizio Cattelan's We are the Revolution. Placed at the end of a narrow corridor which was blocked off from the rest of the final gallery, I laughed out loud when I rounded the corner and saw it (no on else did though, so maybe I'm the weirdo). It's fantastic - the slump of the shoulders, the quirk of the eyebrows, the nap of the suit.

There were some other things that were fantastic to see in all their painterly fleshiness: like Lucio Fontana's exquisite Concetto spaziale, Attese (the NGV also had a beautiful Fontana on display in their contemporary international collection gallery)

and Ellsworth Kelly's Dark Blue Curve.

Both of these are the kind of painting that do nothing in reproduction, and everything when you get to stand in front of them. And standing in front of works was quite easy - although there were crowds of people, a preponderance of audio guides meant viewers tended to stand well back from the work they were listening too, and the guards were being fairly relaxed (although more on that shortly).

Part of the reason that the guards were being laid back was that the majority of the paintings in the first room of the show - the Pollock, the Frankenthaler et al - were inside glazed frames. This was okay for the mini Pollock, but the bigger paintings were just ruined. Motherwell's Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 110 was almost impossible to view unless you were nose-to-frame with it: standing back to try to take in the whole work equated to watching 20-odd people reflected against a cream and black background.

And the two glazed Agnes Martin paintings just died on the walls, which was such a shame.

Apart from the Cattelan, my most enjoyable time in the show was spent watching the antics of the poor attendant patrolling the thin white line that surrounded Ann Hamilton's between taxonomy and communion, a long table covered with iron oxide powder and approximately 14,000 human and animal teeth.

The people actually looking at the table were very careful. The barrier line was barely noticeable, however, meaning that people passing the work to get to other parts of the exhibition tended to step over it. At which time, the attendant would streak after them and reprimand them. When she wasn't running after accidental interlopers, she was hovering anxiously and craning her neck around to spot infringements, like a chicken on speed.

Although it had some definite highpoints, the Guggenheim show was overall a disappointment - somewhat incoherent and inelegantly displayed, especially when compared to the smaller, well-chosen and beautifully hung works in the permanent collection.


Maurizio Cattelan,
We are the Revolution (La Rivoluzione siamo noi) 2000. Polyester resin figure, felt suit, and metal coat rack, ed. 3/3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Lucio Fontana,
Concetto spaziale, Attese 1965. Water-based paint on canvas. 130 x 97 cm.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Ellsworth Kelly,
Dark Blue Curve, 1995. Oil on canvas. 46 x 190 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Robert Motherwell,
Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 110, Easter Day, 1971. Acrylic with pencil and charcoal on canvas, 82 x 114 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Gift, Agnes Gund, 1984.

Agnes Martin, White Flower, 1960. Oil on canvas, 71 7/8 x 72 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Anonymous gift, 1963.

Ann Hamilton, between taxonomy and communion 1990. Steel table, iron oxide powder, and approximately 14,000 human and animal teeth. 78.7 x 487.7 x 137.2 cm (table). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Gift, Ginny Williams in honor of the artist, 2004.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Back next Tuesday

Best-of-3 is taking a short break - posting resumes on 14 August. In the meantime, treat yourself to some back issues:

Where are the art gallery blogs?

Irresistable: Florentijn Hofman's riff on giant inflatable art

Sharing the love: how much should the dealer's cut be?

Advice for collectors ... what's the deal with art advisors?

A better breed of art fair ? ... Gallery Weekend Berlin

Free tools for free lancers

Opening up access to collections: the Powerhouse story

Congratulations, Don Peebles

Last night Christchurch painter Don Peebles received one of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand's Icon Awards. Couldn't happen to a nicer senior New Zealand abstract painter.

Don Peebles story - The Press

Other people Icon-ised last night: Ans Westra, Arnold Manaaki Wilson, Don Selwyn and Dr Raymond Boyce.

Earlier visual arts Icons: Ralph Hotere and Milan Mrkusich. See them all on the Art Foundation website.

John Johns (and others) at the Adam Art Gallery

Several years ago at the McNamara Gallery in Wanganui I saw an exhibition of photographs by John Johns, the New Zealand Forest Service’s official photographer for more than three decades.

Johns' photos are just astounding. They reminded me very strongly of Peter Peryer's work, when he sinks you so far into the texture and pattern of what he's showing you that you lose track of what you're looking at and are simply absorbed in the looking.

A selection of Johns' photos feature in Tina Barton's second show at the Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University. 'Primary products' opens on August 11, and "teases out new connections between the facts of New Zealand’s emergence as a modern industrial nation and the history of art that accompanies this, to try to determine the nature of the relationship between modernisation and modernism in this country."

Images: these photographs and more by Johns can be seen on the McNamara Gallery website .

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Julian Dashper: To the Unknown New Zealander

I think Julian Dashper probably wins the 2007 most active artist award - the man is every where this year.

His new show, 'Julian Dashper: To the Unknown New Zealander' opens at the Christchurch Art Gallery on 10 August. The exhibition is a response to Rita Angus' iconic Canterbury landscape, Cass, a work that has interested Dashper since the mid 1980s. The show features some of iconic-ness of Dashper's own, with a suite of his drumkit works. Mention of which allows me to segue into this moment of artist-dealer historicity...

p.s. great font

Where have all the men gone?

Danae Mossman finishes as director the Physics Room in Christchurch at the end of this week. Here's my speculative list of who will apply for her role:

  • Vanessa Coxhead (Programmes Coordinator, Physics Room)
  • Laura Preston (recently Curatorial Intern at Artspace)
  • Marnie Slater (currently acting director of Enjoy)
  • Melanie Hogg (assistant curator at the Govett-Brewster)
  • Paula Booker (Publications Manager & Writer, Enjoy)
  • Thomasin Sleigh (coordinator, High Street Project)

Prompting me to ask ... where are the men? In the dealer galleries and auction houses? Making art, not pimping it?

Monday, 6 August 2007

More Seraphinity

'Seraphine Pick: Recent Paintings' opens tonight at the Ramp Gallery at the Waikato Institute of Technology, as part of the Spark 07 festival.

Seraphine Pick: Recent Paintings
Ramp Gallery
Collingwood St, Hamilton
6-24 August 2007
Image: Seraphine Pick, Untitled (Bird) 2006, oil on linen. Image from the Michael Lett Gallery website.

Coming this week

After a lot of tub-thumping last week (about succession planning for New Zealand art gallery directors; plans for touring art exhibitions to regional galleries; and the dearth of blogging in our public arts institutions) this week Best of 3 will be profiling some soon-to-open shows around the country (mostly).

In the meantime, check out Over the net's post on the length of 22 New Zealand art gallery directors' tenures ....

Friday, 3 August 2007

Must-watch TV: Seraphine Pick

A 20-minute documentary on Wellington painter Seraphine Pick screens on Artsville this weekend (TV1, Sunday 4 August, 10.25pm).

The documentary was filmed while Pick was painting Phantom limb, the work which won the 2007 Norsewear Art Award.

Image: Seraphine Pick, Tablelands, oil on canvas. Image from the Brooke Gifford Gallery website

What goes on tour ...

This week I've banged my drum on a few pet topics, namely blogging and succession planning in New Zealand art galleries.

Another pet topic is the touring of art exhibitions. I've thought for a while now that New Zealand would benefit from a central organisation to coordinate the touring of shows around the country.

I'm particularly interested in seeing shows get out of the four main centres and into the smaller, regional galleries - Wanganui, Hawkes Bay, Palmerston North, Gore. And for a system to be developed where the fees charged for touring shows to bigger, better resourced galleries could help subsidise the fees for smaller, poorer galleries.

At the top of the post is a (slightly crappy) image of page 55 of Creative New Zealand's new Strategic Plan for 2007-2010 (available here - but warning, as a quite hefty PDF).

CNZ have identified 4 strategic priorities:

  1. New Zealanders are engaged in the arts
  2. High quality New Zealand art is developed
  3. New Zealanders have access to high quality art experiences
  4. New Zealand arts gain international success.

Under no 3, the 'delivery of the arts' has been identified as a key objective (thank goodness for all the diagrams in this document, I'd be lost without them). And under this objective is this interesting wee snippet of text:

We will invest in providers who deliver high quality arts experiences for New Zealanders in the metropolitan centres of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. These opportunities will include:
  • facilitating the touring of work
  • investing in key providers to deliver quality arts experiences locally and regionally.
We will invest in targeted opportunities that provide high-quality arts experiences in up to four identified provincial centres.

We will develop systems that enable organisations to better monitor audience numbers attending events.

We will develop and implement a touring strategy [my emphasis].

So today I'm holding out hope.

You can order a hard copy of the Strategic Plan from this page on the CNZ site.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Succession planning II

A continuation of yesterday's thoughts about succession planning in New Zealand art galleries:

As reported in the New York Times, Lisa Dennison is leaving the top job at the Guggenheim, after 2 years (although after nearly 30 with the Gugg all up) to join Sotheby's as a international business developer.

This causes Marc Spiegler on Art World Salon to speculate whether these roles are now getting harder to fill, due to scope creep:

So it seems today’s ideal museum-director candidate would have a PhD in Art History, an MBA, plus several years of Foreign Service and corporate experience under the belt. ... perhaps it’s time to widen the notion of how museums are led: Splitting the job into business and art functions, rather desperately seeking candidates combining all the skills required in the modern museum era and paralyzing the institution until the ideal candidate surfaces.

Spiegler points to another recent article in the New York Times, 'Impossible Job. Here’s What You Need for It' about the Getty's Museum Leadership Institute, a yearly three-week crash course for museum directors looking for professional development, and people a level below directors wanting a leg-up. The course has been running since 1979.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Succession planning

Today Over the net notes that Paula Savage has been the director of City Gallery Wellington for the past sixteen and a half years.

The post dovetails nicely with two articles I've read this week, which have got me thinking about the way we approach succession planning in New Zealand's art galleries.

In the New York Times this week, Charles McGrath looks at Philippe de Montebello's 30-year tenure as director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and at possible successors to the 71 year old. McGrath quotes de Montebello:

“The job doesn’t even resemble what is once was,” he said, listing all his increased bureaucratic responsibilities: dealing with the legal and human resource departments, overseeing publications and, more recently, negotiating with foreign governments that demand the return of artworks they argue were acquired illegally. ...

“If we were to project forward the person I was 30 years ago, that person wouldn’t remotely be qualified for this job,” he said. “I wouldn’t want the job either, because frankly I wouldn’t want to spend so much of my time on nonartistic matters.”

Meanwhile, on the Guardian art blog, Charlotte Higgins speculates on who will replace Charles Saumarez Smith, who resigned as director of the National Gallery after 'only' five years.

In her post, Higgins notes how nice it would be if the people looking to appoint Saumarez Smith's sucessor looked beyond "the legions of more-or-less interchangeable white Caucasian men in nice suits in their 40s" and took a risk - as with the appointment of Neil McGregor (a magazine editor) to the role in 1987.

Higgins also observes that the "vast amount of money" invested in leadership development schemes for arts professionals in England (such as the Clore Leadership Programme) does not seem to have resulted in a phalanx of new contenders for leadership roles.

So - bringing this all back to New Zealand. How do we talk about Paula Savage's successor? Over one-too-many drinks after an opening? Or publicly, through an engaged media, who understands that the people who run our arts institutions imbue them with their own personalities?

And just as importantly - who's out there to replace Priscilla Pitts in Dunedin, or Savage, or Chris Saines, who would be likely to leave Auckland when (if?) the gallery's redevelopment is completed. How are we preparing for the future? And who are we preparing for it?