The most awkward moment was when Judy Millar and Frances Upritchard 'met' for the first time since the announcement in a three-way call with Lynn Freeman on Radio New Zealand. The interview itself was quite interesting, especially when the inevitable "will your work reflect New Zealand" question arose.
Freeman asked Millar "We know you for your abstraction [blogger - huh?]; is there going to be a New Zealand feel to the abstraction?". Millar stated that she wasn't interested in "ideas of pure abstraction", and was more interested in the "idea of an image". Freeman then asked her if her imagery would have a New Zealand feel, or if it could be "more subtle than that" [blogger: god, I would hope so]. Millar was pretty clear she wouldn't be painting abstracted kiwifruit or All Blacks any time soon.
Upritchard noted that it was hard to see where "the New Zealand" was in her work anymore, and that Venice itself was in some ways the origin of the work she'll produce for the Biennale; the figurines she's been working on recently, which will feature in the work, emerged from the experience of seeing medieval carvings in Venice.
Later Freeman moved into the "furore and bad feeling" that surrounded et al's Venice project, and the "responsibility" that placed on Upritchard and Millar to help "mend bridges" with the New Zealand public. At this point both Millar and Upritchard [blogger: rightly] pretty flatly said it was their job to make good art - nothing more, nothing less.
Reading Christopher Moore's piece in the Press , with his talk of a 'distinctive New Zealand sensibility', I had to wonder if he'd heard the interview. Even more surprising was this statement:
For the first time in several years, it was also a genuinely representative national team, rather than one that was drawn from the tight introspective world of Auckland's curatorial elite.
Maybe it's a Christchurch thing (bearing in mind Andrew Paul Wood's Artbash rant about the Auckland-centric Walters Prize), but I'd never thought that the previous Venice projects had any Auckland clique-ness. If anything, the artists we've sent to Venice are notable for the amount they work outside of New Zealand.
So my weekend question: who is this mysterious Auckland curatorial elite? Does it have something to do with wearing the right shoes?