Friday, 28 September 2007

Announcements in the public's interest


Over the net posts today on the revolutionary idea that art galleries should maybe tweak their exhibitions post-opening if the audience response isn't positive.

To give one example: in one gallery I know, visitors frequently complain about the size of the text on wall panels. In order to read the panels, they have to step over the white line. Then they get told off by the security guard for getting too close to the works. So why not, if you know there's a problem, print a new lot of wall panels, spend a couple of hours sticking them up, and make your visitors happier? [And yeah yeah yeah, I know not everyone wants a huge font, but would you ever complain in the visitor's book because the wall panels were too easy to read?]


E-Day is this weekend - dispose of your clunky old computers responsibly at locations around New Zealand.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Hitting his straps

I've been watching Peter Peryer's visual exploration of Southland with interest. One of the things I like most about his work is the (sometimes unconscious, I think) returning to constant motifs - hence why these two recent images caught my eye:

Completely unrelated, yet somehow salient, a recent work by Kobi Bosshard from the current Fingers show. he has a similar necklace on show at Avid in Wellington currently, which reminds me of bridge architecture (engineering? design? is there a proper word I should be using here?).

Images: from Peter Peryer's blog and the Fingers website

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Critic on critic

The Guardian's Jonathan Jones on whether critics should have regrets

And an interview with the New Yorker's Peter Schjeldahl, the 'dean of a bastard profession' (thanks J)

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Lovely RITA

Gaylene Preston's latest documentary 'Lovely RITA', on the life and work of Rita Angus, will be showing shortly around the country as part of the DOCNZ Festival.

You can catch it in:

Auckland – Academy Cinemas, 27 September at 7.15pm; 8 October at 2.45pm.

Dunedin – The Octagon, 11 October 2.10pm; 17 October 6.40pm.

Christchurch – Regent on Worcester, 25 October 2.10pm; 31 October 6.40pm.

Wellington – Regent on Manners, 9 November 7pm; 17 November 6pm.

Monday, 24 September 2007

A new way of being critical?

The Metropolitan is currently showing an enormous (228 works, 14 galleries) exhibition 'The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art'.

Rather than being curated by chronology, theme or schools of painters, the show presents the Met's entire holding of Dutch painting in the order that the collection was assembled:

from the founding purchase of 1871, to the major gifts and bequests of the 1880s through the 1940s, and finally to the strategic accessions of the 1950s onward. Reflecting how the Museum's great collection of Dutch paintings is closely linked with the institution's history, the installation outlines how the collection was formed, following the taste for Dutch art in America and among New York's great collectors.

While it might not work for a casual or targeted visitor (who wants, for example, a greatest hits, or to see all the Metsu's together) I find this approach fascinating. Imagine applying it to the Christchurch Art Gallery's collection of Canterbury painting, and seeing who was being bought when, by whom, and how.

Responding to the potential difficulties of the hang, New York Times critic Holland Cotter has assembled a mighty how-to-visit guide for the exhibition:

The major complication is in the show’s shape. The paintings are arranged by the date they entered the museum’s collection, not by artist or genre or city of origin. So tracking down a particular Rembrandt portrait, or all five Vermeers, or a compare-and-contrast array of floral still lifes, requires some footwork.

You’ll customize your own tour. But if it’s any help, I’ve mapped mine out. My goals were to find something of everything and to balance the familiar with the seldom seen.

Cotter provides descriptions of 13 works. These have also been turned into a multi-media guide, with images, gallery layouts and audio of the written texts (narrated by Cotter), which is well worth checking out. The audio can also be downloaded to provide a audio-tour that you can take when you go to see the show.

This wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary if it was done by the Met. But I'm astounded that a critic has gone to such effort for his readers - it's a really different approach to the role of the critic.

Note: original story via Ed Winkleman. And I'd be interested to know if Cotter worked with the Met to produce this.

Image: Pieter Claesz (1597/98-1660), Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill, 1628. Oil on wood. 24.1 x 35.9 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image from the Met website.

Friday, 21 September 2007

The internet: where your husband can pay for your shopping online

Today I found nothing of interest in my feedreader, so I'm lazily going to point you to this clip on YouTube, a 1969 forecast of our internetted future.

I did a quick office check to see whether I was being naive in accepting that this really was made in 1969, and isn't just a piss-take. An American colleague assures me that the appearance of a young Wink Martindale confirms its antiquity.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Little red towel

In preparing for his current joint show with Don Driver at Hamish McKay Gallery, Julian Dashper selected and responded to Driver's works - this set of three red white and blue circular digital prints, for example, are carefully matched to a flag in one of Driver's assemblages.

What I like about the show is that it makes you look a bit harder at both of them. A tarp in one of the Driver's play up the plasticky finish on one of Dashper's paintings. You think more about the way Driver uses colour. A block of wood nailed to the wall might belong to either of them.

Dashper currently seems to be New Zealand's busiest artist. It's great to see more of Driver's work, but 'With Spirit' was eight years ago .... is it getting close to time to have another prolonged look at his work?

Images: installation shots, from the Hamish McKay Gallery website

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Daddy, can I have a Jeff Koons?

This article in the Wall Street Journal just blew me away.

It investigates the American trend of wealthy parents helping their kids set up their own collections. For example this Roman bust ....

.... is owned by a seven-year-old. And this nine-year-old in her bedroom ...

... with her Warhol.

I don't even know where to start with quoting from the article. Maybe here

[Shammiel] also leverages her kid appeal when negotiating deals. At last year's Scope art fair in the Hamptons, she spent three days haggling with dealer Don Carroll before he agreed to knock about $200 off a $3,200 plastic sculpture by Nao Matsumoto of a block of cheese topped by two toy soldiers. Mr. Carroll says that bargaining with Shammiel, then 9, was "pretty awkward at first -- I mean, she's just a little girl," but eventually he relented. "On the last day, she came up and said, 'I'm really scared, but Daddy told me I have to negotiate,'" Mr. Carroll says. "I told her she was already doing a good job."

or here

Other kids receive art allowances -- a $5,000 cap per piece is typical -- or buy art with their birthday, bar mitzvah or even tooth-fairy money.

or here

"Vanity does come into it," says New York real-estate developer Aby Rosen, whose sons are collectors. "People never used to show off their boats and cars and houses and art, but now we can, and that's great. It's nice to show off that my son likes art."

Yet I'm intrigued by Peter Brandt's method of teaching his 9 kids to appreciate art:

He held up flashcards of famous works and promised $1 to the child who could identify the artist.


A few weeks ago a friend drew my attention to this post on David Cauchi's blog. On the upside, he pairs me with Jim Barr and Mary Barr's Overthenet (yay!) - on the downside we're paired as his 'most hated johnny-come-lately art blogs' (ouch).

David hates my blog partly because the comments are turned off. I'd actually forgotten that I'd done this way-back-when, and just assumed that I got most of my comments in person. So thanks David, I've turned them back on, although I am going to moderate them - apologies if that insults your sensibilities.

The other reason David hates my blog is because it's anonymous. To quote:

I really dislike anonymous bloggers.

Part of it is that, if you don't think enough of your opinion to put your name to it, why should I care?

Another part is that it's one-way communication. They set themselves up in an unassailable position of power, with no transparency or accountability.

It's simply not an intellectually or morally respectable position to take.

I must say I quite fancy the idea of being in an unassailable position of power. Makes me feel ... powerful . Unassailably so. In reality, I know most of my regular readers, and I appreciate that they keep in touch with me this way. Anonymity stays, David - I guess you're stuck with not caring about my opinions.

Of course, if I'm flooded with requests to come out via the comments I may have to rethink that ....

Monday, 17 September 2007

Your digital bookshelf

Who needs archives when you have the internet?

Auckland Art Gallery
has digitised its exhibition catalogues from 1954 to 1969. This includes the 1963 McCahon / Woollaston retrospective, and the Contemporary New Zealand Painting series. The catalogues are available in PDF format

The AAG has also digitised the Auckland Art Gallery Quarterly from 1956-19789. The Quarterlies are available as PDFs, with HTML versions available for issues up to no. 25. You can search by issue, or by using the index of artists.

Christchurch City Libraries
, along with the Christchurch Art Gallery, have digitised a number of Cantabrian resources, including The Group catalogues from 1927-1977. The Robert McDougall Art Gallery : a profile of the Art Gallery of the City of Christchurch, 1932-1982 is also available as a PDF from the CCL site.

An added bonus, Una Platt's Nineteenth century New Zealand artists : a guide & handbook is available as a PDF on the CCL site. The book is also available as HTML and as Microsoft Reader e-book on the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre site.

On the Christchurch Art Gallery site you can also access the Robert McDougall Art Gallery Survey publication, from 1971-1978, and the Bulletin, from 1979 to the present. All PDFs.

And finally, the National Library has digitised Te Ao Hou / The New World, a bilingual magazine published by the Māori Affairs Department from 1952-1956.

Happy online researching!

Friday, 14 September 2007

Online collection of the day

James Lilek's Matchbox Museum contains annotated digital images of 200+ matchbooks from his personal collection, selected "for their graphic design, historical value, or the sad tale you can infer by holding them between thumb and finger and listening closely."

A new matchbox is added every Monday.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

In pieces

I'm not sure if these photos by Martin Klimas are gimmick or genius, but I like the way he makes them:

I drop the figurine from the same height in complete darkness while the lens of the camera is open. When the figurine hits the ground, the sound triggers the lights to go off for a fraction of a second. I do this procedure many times or until I find the one frame that is just right. I keep just one such picture for every figurine.

Images: photos by Martin Klimas, from the 'Still Life' series. From The Morning News website.

Some things I missed while I was away

Marc Spiegler on Olafur Eliasson's studio

Jerry Saltz on MoMA's 'What is Painting?'

Lee Rosenbaum on the art museums competition with private collectors for works (and Tyler Green's rebuttal)

Robert Ayers on the UK Contemporary Art Society (a registered charity which purchases and presents work by living artists to regional museums, and runs programmes encouraging private and corporate collectors to support contemporary art)

Shane Cotton's new works on the Brooke Gifford website (kudos for the recent changes to this website)

Image: Shane Cotton, Fast Asleep, 2007. Acrylic on canvas. Image from the Brooke Gifford website.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Best of 3 is on a break

Posting will be intermittent - possibly even non-existent - while I'm off expanding my horizons. Posting will resume as per normal next Thursday.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Michael Harrison & Yvonne Todd

Some shameless promotion. Michael Harrison & Yvonne Todd's joint exhibition Crater of Phlox at Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland, is one I'd like to see.

I've always thought there's a similarity in their work - although it's one I find hard to put a finger on. Maybe it's the strain of wistful romance in their work, or that the yearning in Michael's work is matched somehow by the tragi-glamour of Yvonne's models.

Whatever it is - get along and see the show, because online reproductions don't capture the delicate dimply surface of Michael's paintings, or the lushness of Yvonne's big photos.

Michael Harrison, Mountain Air, 2007. Acrylic on paper. 19 x 21cm.
Yvonne Todd, Female Study (silver), 2007. Lightjet print 1/3. 150 x 243cm.
Images from the Ivan Anthony Gallery website.

See more of Yvonne's work on her website:, and more of Michael's on the Hamish McKay website.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Sex and nature in New Plymouth

In New Plymouth over the weekend, I saw 'New Nature' at the Govett-Brewster. Curated by new-ish director Rhana Devenport, the exhibition:

draws on the ideas of biologist Tim Low to investigate the endlessly mutating shifts between the natural world and the many and varied cultural readings of nature.

... New Nature looks at the impact of human habitation, nature as ‘tamed’, ‘interpreted’ and ‘framed’ and something deeply imbued with metaphorical content. It also investigates the reciprocal influence of the environment on community and ecology. Historical, allegorical and culturally specific readings of wilderness are reference points as notions of natural spaces and materials are questioned. The slippages between ‘natural’ and ‘constructed’ worlds become fertile, if aberrant, sites for new visual languages and perceptions to grow.
While the show didn't feel quite as gutsy as Greg Burke's 2003 'Bloom' exhibition, which tackled a similar subject, there was some nice stuff in there. Interestingly, the only New Zealand artist included was jeweller Joe Shehaan, represented by half a dozen of his intricate greenstone carvings.

My favourite things in the show were Brisbane artist Michael Zavros's paintings of fashion stallion centaurs, in which slim male models are grafted onto sleek muscular horses, and his small sculpture Black Ice.

The works stood out both in medium (the majority of the work in the show is digital) and in their unabashed sexiness - a surprise ending to the show.

Michael Zavros,
Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking/Bay, 2006. Oil on canvas, 195 x 250cm.
Michael Zavros,
Black Ice, 2007. Bronze, 17 x 7 x 16cm. Both images from Zavros's website.