Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Round the web

Oh, the great unwashed. Not only do they want to twitter with your staff, hang with you on Facebook, film video responses in your galleries and generally get uncomfortably intimate with your institution - now the buggers are infiltrating your galleries and impersonating security guards. (via C.Monster.net)

Conflict within the Dedalus (previously Motherwell) Foundation (NY Times)

Jay Jopling - 6 foot 3 inches and always destined for greatness (Times Online)

The fun is officially over - Birmingham City University offers a masters in social media (Guardian)

Or you can read something substantial and meaningful - 'Scientists Map the Brain, Gene by Gene' (some pictures possibly not suitable for lunchtime viewing) (Wired)

Monday, 30 March 2009

Everything is connected

I think that the One Day Sculpture story that has intrigued me most so far is the tale of the Santiago Sierra that wasn't. Brought to New Zealand to research a work by AUT's St Paul Street Gallery, Sierra's proposal was apparently turned down. Instead, an un-One Day Sculpture performance was carried out in Wellington this Saturday.

When the time comes for the ODSers to compile their documentation, I sincerely hope they approach the Dom Post and ask them for permission to include this story by Tom Fitzsimons about the work, which apparently consisted of a man standing in a room with his penis exposed. Viewers were required to queue outside the room and wait to be admitted.

From 'Artwork with fly undone proves a bit of a letdown':

One woman, a local artist, said her expectations were raised by the queue but the reality was less impressive. "When I went in the door, there was a man standing there with his fly undone and his penis hanging out."

The man, who may have been the artist, had a "brooding" look, but the woman stayed only "about 10 or 15 seconds", she said. "It was quite a funny thing ... In terms of an event, it was quite an occurrence." However, she said that kind of nudity was boring and she would be concerned if a lot of money had been spent bringing Sierra to town. "I don't know about [justifying] it economically ... that sort of stuff isn't really that shocking in art circles."

However, to my mind the most interesting part of the story is the final paragraph. Reinforcing my suspicion that NZ journalists have a specialised piece of editing software that prompts them to include random references to et al's Venice Biennale work in any art story that has a whiff of controversy, the final two lines of the Sierra piece read:

In 2005, an artwork by et al caused a stir when its creator refused to speak publicly about the Venice Biennale exhibit. Et al's earlier works had included a toilet that brayed like a donkey.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Imitation would be welcome

While I wouldn't go as far as to stack him up against the Sistine Chapel (having not seen either) I'm as big a fan of Sol LeWitt as the next art person.*

While I've seen (and enjoyed, and blogged) art galleries who record the creation and erasure of LeWitt's wall drawings, I think Christopher Knight is the first critic to capture the experience he's having on video, so he can share it with his readers. Artists and galleries are going multi-media; why shouldn't critics?

*who doesn't think that "Sol Lewitt was not an artist, and none of his so-called drawings qualify as art---not by any objective definition of the concept..."

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Throw us a bone

So, a couple of weekends ago I went out to the Dowse with a few good friends to see Plastic Māori. I noticed two things:


If you say the gallery's official name (TheNewDowse) as its typographical treatment indicates you should (ie. kinda slurred) it sounds quite close to TheNudeHouse (that's 'nude' as in 'neewd', not 'nooed')


Nooed or neewd, the Dowse needs more signage.

Since opening they've made efforts to help visitors find the entrance; the door eluded me on my first visit, and while I'm not great shakes on those IQ tests where you have to manipulate shapes and predict what-comes-next, it shouldn't be that hard to figure out how to get into a public building.

Once you've made it in, it's easy to find the shop or the cafe, or the reception desk, or that space where sometimes they have workshops and children's activities, and sometimes they don't. But it's helluva hard to find the galleries.

The entrance to the main gallery spaces is occluded by a glass door; once you figure out that's where you're meant to go, there's no schematic to help you see what's on where. After confirming that the big dark rooms with floors littered with open umbrellas were not Plastic Māori, we sent some scouts off to the far gallery (the main exhibition space in TheOldDowse) who, when they returned, confirmed the show wasn't there either.

So we backtracked to the reception area and went up the concrete block steps (the access way to the upstairs galleries, also not visible from the entrance to the building, and behind your back when you're at the desk). While we found the show without effort once we made it to the first floor, I didn't spot any signage saying the show was up there.

I'm not saying that the Dowse doesn't have signage. It's likely that it does. What I am saying is that 4 people came to visit a show and couldn't figure out where it was. Four people who go to galleries a lot. One of your target markets, in fact. In the world of user-testing that would be considered an epic fail, and would have you rethinking your design pretty damn quick.

Many other galleries have similar problems. It is remarkably hard to spot the Christchurch Art Gallery's temporary exhibition spaces from their massive foyer. In fact, I think it's often the foyers that create the problems. Big spaces are needed to raise money through venue hire - but during the daylight hours when the public comes to visit the gallery (the point, let's recall, of having the place) they becoming empty and often intimidating voids that prevent you from immediately seeing the whole point of you being there - the art.

I think of all the galleries in New Zealand that the Tauranga Art Gallery succeeds the best here; you move straight into the exhibition space, without even having to run the gauntlet of the reception desk. I'll be curious to see what City Gallery and Auckland Art Gallery do in this respect: Auckland promises a "bold new gallery main entrance" and City Gallery's redevelopment involves the creation of the "Russell Hancock Gallery, replacing the existing cinema [which will] connect directly to the foyer, increasing options for hosting functions and events." I'm looking forward to finding out what artworks I clap my eyes on the first time I visit.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Round the web

A selection of interesting things unearthed in my feedreader after four days of neglect:

With the launch of Google street view in Britain, the search giant paired with the Tate to create a map interface so you can contrast paintings of urban and rural locations with their current appearance (although to be honest, I don't think this is a patch on Paul Hagon's work)

Nina Simon writes up the Meta.L.Hyatten project. A historic blast furnace site in a Swedish steel town is is open to the public; rather than using wall labels or an audio-guide, visitors are given special flashlights to illuminate the site and trigger interactives.

Ed Winkleman tackles the 'how do I get a dealer?' question
, for the umpteenth time, with unfailing grace and common sense.

The New York Times rolls out its (yearly?) Museums section, including a review by Carol Vogel of ways museums are looking to up visitation in tough economic times (anyone want to take a bet on who'll be the first NZ institution to offer yoga classes in the gallery?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


I think City Gallery Wellington & Auckland Art Gallery should be looking very closely at this piece that Jonathan Jones has done on the redevelopment of the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

First up, Jones is the Guardian's architecture critic, but he's tackling history, shows & building here with a light touch, and an interview with Nicholas Serota gets hiffed in for good measure.

Secondly, there's a nice short video piece, featuring director Iwona Blazwick and board member and advisor on the rebuild, artist Rachel Whiteread. And lots of nice work-in-progress footage (which, it's obvious to note, you can only make when you're in progress - so best get your cameras out now)

Thirdly, there's a photogallery by Juergen Teller (but I'm not expecting City Gallery & AAG to do that).

Fourthly - it's on the homepage of the Guardian's website today - the video is embedded there, and there's links to article & gallery. That's serious profile.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Well played

At the beginning of the year there was a deaccessioning furore in the States, triggered by the National Academy Museum in New York's decision to sell two Hudson River School paintings.

Deaccessioning is a touchy subject. There's money involved, of course - sometimes sizeable amounts. There's moral issues around works that were donated or bequeathed to institutions, or where money was donated to assist with acquisitions. There can be accusations of faddishness of taste, or of short sightedness. There are some who simply believe that once acquired, a collection item is forever.

I think that's why there was a little flurry of tweets last night in response to the Indianapolis Museum of Art's deaccessioning page on their website.

Not only does the IMA explain why they deaccession items (including a link to their policy) and list the collections that have been reviewed since 2007. They also have a searchable database of items that have been deaccessioned, which includes information about how and when the items were disposed of, or if the items are still waiting to be sold, transferred or exchanged.

Funds raised through deaccessioning are dedicated to purchasing new works in the relevant collection area, and the IMA notes "We will soon be linking deaccessioned artworks [in the database] to artworks newly acquired by means of the relevant funds."

They say that sunlight is the best disinfectant. In this case, I think the IMA is proving that transparency and the ungrudging release of information is the best way to tackle potentially tricky situations.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Round the web

Dumbing up? Dumbing down? Health & safety? Hugo Rifkind asks why museum attendance is growing.

Laura Cumming's post on the roll-out of Anthony d'Offays single artist rooms had me googling the phrase "curate's egg" and agreeing with a fellow twitterer that the slip to "curator's egg" is not inappropriate.

When I have a spare half hour, I'll be devoting it to Clay Shirky's 'Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable'

Finally, I find all the "the recession will be great for artists" commentary pretty distasteful, but this article in the SMH has a header so good I couldn't leave it off today's list.

Friday, 13 March 2009


This is the last weekend to see the Vivian Lynn exhibition at the Adam Art Gallery. I saw the show a couple of weeks ago, and it's been gnawing at me since.

It's sobering to realise that you can get yourself an art history degree - hell, even a couple of them - and still only have the shallowest knowledge of a reasonably well-known artist's work.

The Vivian Lynn retrospective certainly changed that for me. The show fills the whole building, and is an attractively displayed, comprehensive survey of a number of periods and key works.

However, it wasn't the show I expectedl. Prior to visiting, I was only really familiar with Lynn's Guarden Gates (currently installed in 'We are unsuitable for framing' at Te Papa), and I was expecting a harder-hitting, grittier show than the one I saw.

Walking into the Adam, the first set of works you encounter (I find the trip through the front doors pretty much erases your experience of the window work) was a collection of sketches grouped around a painting of an apple orchard (? - I didn't write down the titles of any of the works, and can't download the texts from the Adam's site) from the late 1950s or early 1960s. Immediately, I was in Jean Horsley/Suzanne Goldberg/early Peebles territory.

This sense continued with the drawings and prints on the top floor, and the collages on the ground floor - a growing feeling that Lynn's work fitted in with contemporary happenings, rather than tilting against it. The one piece that had real impact - that gave me a chill that didn't fade when I read the wall label - was Mantle, a 1983 work reconstituted for the show.

Interestingly, the work in its current form feels very clean and tidy compared to the documentation of its original presentation.

The intent of the exhibition was to 'canvass the diversity' of Lynn's practice, and I guess to place the well-known works within the context of the rest. Overall, I think it succeeds in this aim - whether that's made her work more interesting to me is still up for grabs.

Image: Vivian Lynn, Mantle, 1983/2008. Image from the Adam Art Gallery website.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Giving it away.

Today I'm veering off briefly into techydom, so bear with me.

Late last week the Brooklyn Museum released a API, which allows people to display Brooklyn Museum collection images and data in their own applications. You can read more about the release and the reasons for it in this blog post. In it Shelley Bernstein writes:

So, how did we get here? Recently, I was presenting at a conference in Amsterdam along with Nina Simon and Mike Ellis. Mike’s highly entertaining presentation was about encouraging the public sector to consider releasing their data so that the community of developers worldwide could take advantage and create wonderful things with it. In Mike’s own words “if you love something, set it free” and that idea was something that resonated with me. Mike is a practical guy and he talked a lot about the stresses of staffing at cultural organizations, that we can’t possibly do it all ourselves and he wanted to spread the news of the potential in allowing outside developers the chance to add their own talent and wealth to our data.

It's hard to predict what might happen when you release an API like this. Wonderful things might appear, or equally you could be met with a resounding lack of interest. In the Brooklyn Museum's case, something wonderful has already popped up; a developer named David Wilkinson has built an alternative collection browser using Adobe Flex.

Typically, this is the point where I would bemoan New Zealand cultural institutions usual late-to-the-party behaviour. But late last year Digital New Zealand launched an API that brings together data from other 30 organisations, including museums, galleries, archives and libraries. In her post Shelley gave a hat tip to DigitalNZ for their work in this area, so this morning I'm feeling proud & hopeful.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Frank and Frank

Three architecture stories from the web today:

Frank Lloyd Wright is Hollywood's doomsday scenario architect of doom

Settling-in problems at the new Art Gallery of Ontario (designed by Frank Gehry)

And Gehry interviewed about projects being stalled due to the econopocalypse

Houses of ill repute

"Museums weren't the kind of place that Sir Edmund Hillary would be seen around".

John Banks on Radio New Zealand, 5 March 2009

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

As sweet fullfillment of their secret drowns

This ad on The Big Idea made me wish Ronnie van Hout was still doing band-ad embroideries

While this page on the new Art in America website made me wish they'd digitised content, not covers.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Round the web

The Sydney Observatory experiments with astrotagging (previously discussed on Best of 3 here)

Mia Ridge blog notes from Clark Shirky's recent talk at the ICA, "Mass internet collaboration".

The name of William Crowley's Museums suck blog has set off an antagonistic response in some people, but the content is definitely worth a look.

Bruce Sterling's talk at Webstock has created a lot of controversy within the web community. Me, I wonder what art historians would have to say about his treatment of Art Nouveau: "Art Nouveau was not a success -- it had basic concepts that were seriously wrongheaded."