Saturday, 31 December 2016

Reading list, 31 December 2016

Tim Denee's 2017 calendar is available for download.

Adrian Ellis for Apollo on the outlook for New York's museums under the Trump administration. Less fearmongering, more analysis of draw on endowment, earned revenue, and the possible impact of economic changes on major donors and the outbreak of a fresh set of culture wars.

Createquity undertakes a meta-analysis of research into the benefits of the art.

Martin Fuller in the New York Review of Books on a new crop of books that underline the resurgent interest in Brutalist architecture.

An article from October last year on the introduction of Holacracy to reshape Zappos' organisational culture (I know that doesn't sound interesting, but it really, really is).

 Dimitra Kessenides  and Max Chafkin in Bloomberg Business Week: Is Wikipedia Woke? (aka can the site diversify its contributors and therefore content?)

Isaac Kaplan writes an Artsy editorial about then-Mayor Bloomberg's battle with the Brooklyn Museum over Sensation.

Linda Holmes' tribute to George Michael for NPR; Wesley Morris' tribute for the NYT.

2016 in review

At the end of 2015 I was struggling with the feeling that my time was leaking away with nothing to show for it. I felt busy, but not productive; things happened, things were delivered, but I had no personal sense of completion or achievement; I was running every day just to stay in the same place.

So from the start of 2016 I kept a diary of all the things I do that aren't part of my day job - all the fringe work, all the hobby work. Taking a leaf out of one of my American colleague's resumes, I also kept a record of what he termed ‘service’ - things like sitting on boards.

From the perspective of the end of the year, I don't know if this exercise has lessened that sense of being busy yet not productive, but it has plugged somewhat that sense of time leaking away - I can now view that time as being invested, and understand that while the returns might not always be immediate, they do amount to something.


I broke 1000 Wikipedia edits for the year in December, a combination of continuing to update pages I've worked on over the past two years and creating new ones. You can see my editing stats here; my most-edited page was the timeline of feminist art in New Zealand.

I bashed out my report on my Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Scholarship-funded trip around art museums in seven US states: clocking in at around half the length of my MA thesis it covers open storage, membership programmes, digital developments and general visitor experience observations.

I posted nearly 100 entries here - mostly, to be honest, weekly round-ups of interesting things I've read online but also the occasional longer piece: a frustrated response to Tiffany Jenkins' arguments of repatriation; an extract from my keynote at the Emerging Museum Professionals hui in the middle of the year, on how to network; a wrestling with the ideas of 'engagement' and 'experience' in art museums;  a reflection on the Four Waves of Feminism hui we hosted at The Dowse in April.

I contributed pieces to the The Third Enjoy Retrospective Five Year Catalogue, to the first issue of Tauhere | Connections and wrote a column for Art News New Zealand that may become a more regular gig in 2017.

Beginning in April, I experimented with a (nearly) weekly email newsletter using Tiny Letter, drawing together online articles I'd been reading recently. I do this partly because I enjoy writing for people, and partly because I read so much online that I felt the need to do something with it. It feels like it duplicates my blog dreadfully though, so it might be that in 2017 I'll stop my weekly blog roundups and focus on the newsletter. We'll see. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best reaction I got to the newsletter was when I stopped collating other people's thoughts and collected my own instead, in an issue devoted to getting my purple belt and why I do jiu jitsu.


God, I talked this year. Just talking - turning up at functions, meetings, briefings, planning sessions, community groups, what have you - takes a big chunk of my working time and my energy. This year I tried to keep a record of my non-core-work talking gigs.

It was a real thrill, and pushed me well out of my comfort zone, to be asked to chair a session of the New Zealand Writers Week Festival with Mallory Ortberg in February (I also got to introduce and handle the Q&A with the charming Robert Dessaix).

In April I chaired a panel discussion for Wellington City Council and the Goethe Institut on artist residencies. In May I chaired one of the panel discussions held to inform the National Library's new strategy document, ‘Taonga and Mana: Capturing experiences and stories of New Zealand’s heritage’; in May I was also part of a panel discussion relating to the Julian Dashper exhibition at City Gallery Wellington; that same month I presented, or was part of a group of people presenting, five different things at the Museums Australasia conference in Auckland. In August I facilitated a Q&A session with the Wellington mayoral candidates for Arts Wellington. In October I was part of a panel at the Art Crime Symposium in Wellington. At the NDF conference in November. I facilitated a panel discussion on 3D technologies (a topic of which I know little, and actually I'm quite sure I was asked to facilitate primarily because the five speakers were all men) and got to do a fireside chat with the awesome Seb Chan.

Throughout the year I also spoke to the Mahuki Lab at Te Papa, Museums & Heritage Studies students at Victoria, did a day of reviewing students' work in AUT's Crit Week, popped up at Enjoy's Book Club, and got rung in at the last moment to (happily) be the speaker at the Whitireia arts end of year celebration.

After taking the first six months of the year off, I went back on to RNZ's Nine to Noon programme in June with a monthly report on the visual arts. I tried hard to balance my coverage not just between New Zealand and international, and North and South islands, and small and large institutions, but between male and female artists, an apportioning I think I've not paid explicit attention to before.


In February this year I joined the Arts Wellington board. I'd previously only been loosely aware of the organisation, which facilitates networking, information sharing and advocacy on behalf of members, which represent most of the professional arts organisations (of all stripes) in the Wellington region. Over the year my understanding of the greater cultural territory has dramatically improved; in August I took on the chair role and in December I ran my first ever AGM. [Arts Wellington takes up about one working day per month.]

Mid 2016 marked the beginning of my second year of my term on the Museums Aotearoa board; with Cam McCracken taking on the chair role I became deputy chair. As with Arts Wellington, it's been a fantastic opportunity to better understand the wider museum sector, and to start seeing what I think are the long term challenges and opportunities for the sector. Just before Christmas we released an update of the MA strategy to members and I'm encouraged by the energy I see. [Museums Aotearoa takes up about 1 working day per month, probably a bit more across the year.]

2016 was my third year participating in my favourite extra-curricular activity (besides BJJ), as a member of the independent panel of experts for MBIE's Tourism Growth Partnership. The other members of the panel are just stellar people, I have learned so much, I have contributed usefully, and it has been fully worth the time investment. [The TGP took up about probably about two working weeks this year.]


I'm contemplating another digital outlet in 2017, a quick and dirty way of checking out a concept that I failed to get funding for this year. I'm curating my first big project at The Dowse. I'm staying on the radio, but plan to step down from at least one responsibility during the year, which will free up little chunk of time. I'd actually like to fill that will less reading, less writing and more physical activity - maybe it's finally time for The Year of Gymnastics?

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Reading list, 24 December 2016

Amelia Groom muses on Ōtsuka Museum in Japan, where masterpieces of Western art have been digitised, printed on ceramic tile and put on display, creating a massive museum of simulacra disassociated from time.

Randy Kennedy profiles New York dealer gallerist Marian Goodman for The New York Times.

Tauhere, the journal organised by emerging museum professionals in Aotearoa New Zealand, publishes its second issue (PDF) in time for the Christmas break.

Sean Mallon, inspired by Albert Wendt: Why we should beware of the word 'traditional'.

The very attractive NYT recommended reading 2016 list

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Reading list, 17 December 2016

Kyle Chayka for The Verge on how the formatting inherent in Google's AMP and Facebook's Instant Articles makes it hard to discriminate between news sources.

NPR's Best Books of 2016 - a more diverse and less intimidating listing than most.

#ShowMeTheMonet - the New York Times  profiles the hunt for the Marcos art collection.

MBIE have released the report on copyright and the creative sector in New Zealand.

Anthony Byrt on the new Noted site on what Auckland could learn from Detroit.

The inimitable Glenda Jackson.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Reading list, 10 December 2016

Jennifer Schuessler in The New York Times on an independent report commissioned by Yale University into the 'renaming controversy'.

Max Chafkin for Bloomberg BusinessweekConfessions of an Instagram Influencer - dissecting how to get to the point where you'll be paid to Instagram.

fari nzinga on public trust and art museums, from her MCN talk and published on The Incluseum.

Anthony Byrt on Kate Newby for Paperboy - a recent Mediawatch segment suggested Paperboy may expand to Wellington, in response to which I say "Yes, please".

It seemed like months, years, followed the evening in the hipster pub, where we would find ourselves shifting from table to table, raising our glasses. Sampling the regional spirits of the Western world. About three years on from that early pub date we found ourselves with a fat, spirited baby, going through the ropes of getting him two passports. If the umlaut had been fascinating to me before, it now became something of a furious obsession.

From Airini Beautrais' Landfall Essay Competition winning piece, Umlaut, published on The Pantograph Press.

Shelley Bernstein on an experiment using Amazon's Alexa to answer visitors' questions in the gallery.

Johanna Hanink reviews Tiffany Jenkins' Keeping Their Marbles (a source of much angst earlier in the year) for the Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

This week on the radio

Today on Nine to Noon, at about 11.45am, I'll be doing a whirlwind tour around the country covering exhibitions for people to see over the Christmas break, including:

Anne McCahon, Te Uru, Auckland

Ann Shelton, Auckland Art Gallery

Richard Orjis, Tauranga

Frances Stachl, Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui

Buy Enjoy fundraiser, Wellington

James Greig, The Dowse, Lower Hutt

The Devil's Blindspot, Christchurch Art Gallery

Lisa Walker, Christchurch Art Gallery

Kushana Bush, Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Reading list, 3 December 2016

My Sunday routine is pretty unshakeable, and E-Tangata's weekly profiles are a significant part of it. This week: te reo advocate and member of Te Mātāwai, Mereana Selby.

Olivia Laing wrote The Lonely City, one of my favourite books this year. Here she is on Robert Rauschenberg's life and work: she's the subject of a new show at Tate Modern - Hal Foster wrote for the catalogue, a piece reproduced on the LRB site.

Writer and anthology editor Jolisa Gracewood wrote up influential and much-loved books from throughout her reading life for the New Zealand Festival website: we have significant reading overlap, but Jolisa can nail down the essential nature of a book where I would flail and hand-flap.

"My only conclusion is that LinkedIn is the social media equivalent of cargo shorts" - Jonathan Kelso on LinkedIn for Tusk's Digital Platforms series.

Mark Wilding for The Guardian on the diversification of British podcasts, and Imriel Morgan, co-founder of one of the discussed podcast networks, on Gal-Dem about developing audiences and advertisers.

Claire Murdoch for Te Papa's Off the wall on the gender politics of Alexis Hunter's photographs.

Ashleigh Young for The Spinoff on the correct spelling of the word eh.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Reading list, 26 November 2016

Jonah Weiner for Billboard on Donald Glover and Atlanta, probably my favourite piece of pop culture this year.

Victoria Wynne-Jones interviews Erica van Zon for The Pantograph Punch, the first in a series of artist features The Dowse is collaborating on with PP.

This week it was my great pleasure to do a 'fireside chat' with ACMI's Chief Experience Officer Seb Chan for the National Digital Forum conference in Wellington. Here's a recent interview with Seb from Sandpit, 'Everything is partially broken'.

Every word Maciej Ceglowski publishes is worth reading: his latest talk is Who Will Command The Robot Armies. As always, it is hilarious, thought provoking and terrifying in equal measures.

Mark Sinclair on the Kinfolk redesign, and a throwback to Rob Alderson's piece last year on the divisiveness of the magazine and its aesthetic.

The ongoing fascination of digital restoration and facsimiles: Daniel Zalewski for The New Yorker on Factum Arte, a “digital mediation” workshop which seeks to “redefine the relationship between the original and the copy.”

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Reading list, 19 November 2016

Rob Walker for the New York Times Magazine's Design Issue: Inside the 21st century craze for redesigning everything.

James Surowiecki for The New Yorker: What's in a brand name (when Marianne Moore suggested Utopian Turtletop for a new car but Ford went with Edsel)

Lynda Kelly on audience research for exhibition topics (some points reassuring, some points dismaying)

Nina Finigan frames up Tusk's newest theme: digital frontiers (and museums). See also Jane Groufsky on curating and online anecdotes; Bridget Reweti on her Flightpath podcast.

Elizabeth Merritt of the Center for the Future of Museums on data about the political affiliations of various American museum roles, and areas of conservatism in our field.

Sally Blundell for the NZ Listener on Te Papa's plan for extended art exhibition spaces, released this week.

A congressional panel in the States finds that the country needs an American Museum of Women’s History (to be run by the Smithsonian but the construction to be entirely funded by donations).

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Reading List, 12 November 2016

Sometimes a writer just goes to town on a (literally) tiny little subject, and it's a delight to read. To wit: Ian Brown for The Globe and Mail on the Art Gallery of Ontario's exhibition of miniature carved boxwood prayer beads.

Sarah Archer for Hyperallergic on the Philadelphia Museum of Art's exhibition of fashion made with Vlisco fabrics: How Dutch Wax Fabrics Became a Mainstay of African Fashion.

Jiayang Fan for The New Yorker on the private/public museums of Chinese billionaire art collector Liu Yiqian.

One of the funny things about taking over a public art gallery is that it somehow feels like you can't say 'Hey, actually, it's great as it is, I really look forward to contributing my own skills and point of view'. Instead, everyone expects you to change things. For example, this interview with the incoming director of the Dallas Museum of Art, who follows on from Max Anderson, who made massive overhauls in how the museum treats its visitors: New DMA director thinks Dallas’ flagship museum is art-rich but needs to change the way it relates to visitors. Having said that, I thoroughly endorse Agustín Arteaga's plan to introduce multi-language interpretation.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

On the radio

On the radio today I'll be talking about the dropping of the art history A-level, MOMA's acquisition of the original 176 emoji, and Koen Vanmechelen's Cosmopolitan Chicken Project.

Griselda Pollock, 'Axing A-level art history only amplifies class divides', The Conversation

Paul Galloway, 'The Original Emoji Set Has Been Added to The Museum of Modern Art’s Collection', Medium

Hilarie M. Sheets, 'Playing Chicken With the Art World', New York Times

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Reading list, 5 November 2016

It starts off sounding like a typical "an elephant painted this" story, but Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen's Cosmopolitan Chicken Project is way more interesting than that.

American painters Kerry James Marshall is interviewed by the Art Newspaper on the process of assembling his touring retrospective, and is very straightforward about the way institutions' own rules get in the way of their own projects.

Lana Lopesi reviews Johnson Witehira’s Half-blood for the Pantograph Punch, who are strengthening their visual arts coverage.

Megan Marshall previews her forthcoming book on the relationship between poet Elizabeth Bishop and Alice Methfessel in a long, affecting article for The New Yorker.

All critique and no solution: a British theatre critic (paid to write for the Guardian) queries the emerging American model of arts criticism in newspapers subsidised by philanthropy.

Sounds like sour grapes: Why Do Colleges [actually - college art museums & their exhibitions programmes] Have So Much Art?

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Reading list, 29 October 2016

Shelley Bernstein teases a new wearable-tech approach to interpretation at the Barnes.
“When you go to a store, they are public buildings as much as they are privately owned businesses. You walk into Topshop, you walk into Loewe, you walk into J.W., you walk into a department store — they are these open buildings, which I feel have to give back. Now, they can give you back an experience, customer service, or something you’ve never seen before so it’s educating you at the same time."
“I enjoy going into a store where I find something new, so when I go to Dover Street [Market], I go 'Wow, that fuelled me up for today.' Now I will come back and make a repeat purchase, it’s not a hard sell. We need to lure people in to make them feel part of what we’re doing.”
I continue to be interested by how Jonathan Anderson's view of designing for two fashion houses links with running museums.

The time is certainly ripe for the "rediscovery" of Carolee Schneemann.

Walsall is a town in England's West Midlands, with a central population of about 68,000 and a wider borough of about 270,000. Faced with having to find  £86m in savings by 2020, the local council is floating proposals to shutter 15 of its 16 libraries and slashing funding to the 15 year-old New Gallery, opened during the regional museum-building boom of the turn of the century. This article, interviewing local library users, shows the kind impact on quality of life these closures threaten. Working for a council myself, I fully understand how imperative - and difficult - finding savings can be, and I have such sympathy for this situation.

Can a polemical, even propagandist, cartoonist be absorbed into the framework of outsider art? Jeet Heer on the death of Jack Chick, the 'Leni Riefenstahl of American Cartooning'.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Reading list, 22 October 2016

Carolina Miranda for the Los Angeles Times on artist protests over gallery-driven gentrification in the city (a much more nuanced article than I expected from the headline). On Hyperallergic, a pendant piece by Seph Rodney on galleries moving into Harlem.

John Morrison for The Conversation, proposing an alternate narrative of the development of Scottish art, driven by Scottish identity, for the country's galleries.

Lana Lopsei and Francis McWhannell review Artspace's New Perspectives for The Pantograph Punch. The discussion format reminds me of the issue of the Circuit podcast where Thomasin Sleigh, Mark Amery and Tim Corballis discussed Stephen Cleland's Inhabiting Space at the Adam Art Gallery.

Researcher and activist Chris Garrard critiques London's Science Museum over entry charges and sponsorship by an oil company for their new children's lab.

Elizabeth Merritt of the American Alliance of Museums on volunteers and museum labour.

Kaywin Feldman of Mia on gender and leadership in American museums:

We recently completed a branding process at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, working with the design firm Pentagram. We had been in the fun and engaging process of fully defining and expressing our brand for the previous 4 years. Pentagram studied us and responded, “Your full name is too long. Luckily, your acronym is pronounceable. You’re just saying your name wrong. Instead of being MIA – Missing in Action or the Miami International Airport – you should be “Mia”, which means “mine”, “my own”, or “beloved” in 8 languages. Now that was pretty compelling, but our team was concerned. At first nobody articulated it, but the discomfort derived from Mia being a female name. Finally, one of our trustees voiced it: he didn’t like Mia because “it is not strong. It’s not classical or smart. It’s just not serious.” I pointed out that if our name spelled “SAM” or “STEW” he wouldn’t have had the same reaction. What he was clearly saying, was that the name – a female name – didn’t have “gravitas”.

Monday, 17 October 2016

A month of protest at the Contemporary Art Museum St Louis

I'm publishing less here this year, and moving a lot of my regular writing to a weekly Tiny Letter email newsletter (you can sign up here) where I bring together a group of things I've read in the past few weeks that share a theme I'm interested in. This past weekend's newsletter was a bit different, so I thought I'd share it here

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On September 16 the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM) opened the exhibition Kelley Walker: Direct Drive. Organised by their chief curator Jeffrey Uslip, the exhibition is a major survey of the New York artist's work, and takes over the entire museum.

Walker, born in 1969, is a white conceptual artist, whose work uses the forms of advertising and the techniques of screenprinting and digital reproduction to comment on political and social themes. Kelley Walker: Direct Drive includes a body of work from 2005 called Black Star Press. From the exhibition page on CAM's website:
A parallel to Warhol’s canonical 1964 painting Race Riot, Walker’s Black Star Press series comprises images of racial unrest that have been digitally printed on canvas, silkscreened with melted white, milk, and dark chocolate, and rotated in ninety- degree increments. These manipulations mask and partially censor the act of police brutality with a perishable material as well as alter the power dynamic between the image’s subjects. Similarly, in his series schema; Aquafresh plus Crest with Whitening Expressions, the artist scans smears of toothpaste directly onto a flatbed scanner. Digitally overlaying the scans onto a variety of images—including the cover of men’s hip-hop magazine KING—Walker creates gestural abstractions and alludes to consumption, objectification, and impermanence.
Works from the Black Star Press series are held by both the Saatchi Collection and MOMA (who have a sizable collection of his work).

On September 17, Walker spoke about his work in a talk at the museum. On Facebook, the black St Louis artist Damon Davis wrote about Walker's appropriation of black bodies, the display of these works in St Louis after Fergusson and in the current climate of race relations in America, and the artist and curator's lack of willingness to address this aspect of his work. Hyperallergic interviewed a number of attendees about the talk, and the subsequent call for the show to be boycotted.

On September 18, three black members of staff wrote to the museum's leadership, calling for Uslip's resignation, the removal of works, and stating the limitation they were placing on their working duties for the duration of the show.  Walker released a response through his dealer, Paula Cooper Gallery.

In late September, director Lisa Melandri said that removing the works would be censorship,but the museum would build a wall to conceal the works, and put warning signage in place. A press statement released by CAM stated:
Throughout our dialogue with community activists and leaders, we have listened to their requests to remove Kelley Walker: Direct Drive from the museum. In accordance with CAM’s steadfast commitment to free speech and freedom of expression, we have concluded, after lengthy and thoughtful deliberations, to keep the exhibition on view. Taking down the show would violate the Museum’s core principles and end the productive dialogue that this work has initiated. CAM has a history of showing controversial artists; we have shown works that have challenged common sensibilities and presented work that has critiqued, in a difficult way, misogyny, patriarchy, homophobia, and the military industrial complex, among other issues. Despite the debates and discomfort these exhibitions generated, we never removed them.
On September 29, the St Louis Post-Dispatch published an editorial stating that Walker and Uslip should have backed the exhibition and treated controversy as an opportunity for meaningful discussion.

On October 3, a CAM staff member was harangued at a petrol station while wearing a CAM-branded t-shirt: the museum released a statement that a number of its staff members had been harassed and threatened over the exhibition.

On October 7, a public event was held where Lisa Melandri took questions on the exhibition. (As a director of a contemporary art gallery myself, the idea of this fills me with fear, and also admiration.) At around the same time 20 local artists withdrew from a CAM-organised open studio event in protest over the exhibition.

At the beginning of this week, the resignation of curator Jeffrey Uslip was announced; CAM have said he is moving to another institution but chooses not to say which. Three days ago James McAnally wrote a piece for Hyperallergic titled A Call for a Collective Reexamination of Our Art Institutions:
What specific factors made the museum unable to appropriately address the community’s concerns and is the reason unique to this context or is it generalizable? Is it actually the museum staff or board members involved — their biases, their inability to act — or is it the complex relations between the museum and its many partners, supporters and collaborators at stake? Is it the maintenance of the museum’s reputation within the art world itself, defined here as the spectacle industry of art fairs and commercial galleries, biennials and trickle-out economics? Or perhaps we have to admit here that the art world and its institutions are in fact constructed of mutually exclusive communities — donors and neighbors, corporate supporters and those seeking alternatives, the demographics claimed in a grant report and those whom the exhibitions are actually organized for.
Watching this story unfold over the past month has filled me with questions. I can imagine the museum's leadership being sideswiped by what has happened. I can see a scenario where they believed they were bringing to their city an ambitious exhibition by a high-profile artist, containing works which were controversial but which could provoke meaningful discussion, in a move that would garner them national attention - if not for the reasons they thought. I can see a scenario where the leadership was bewildered as to why decade-old works were provoking protest when they hadn't previously. I can see a scenario where non-leadership staff looked at what was being planned by the people above them and were appalled by their choices but felt powerless (or simply chose not) to raise questions. I can see a scenario where staff on the floor had to soak up the community's response whilst they felt leadership was hiding in a bunker. I can see a scenario where board members, funders and other stakeholders lost their shit whilst collegial support melted away.

Most of all I have taken out of this how quickly our social contexts and social movements are changing. Artworks which ten years ago were judged valid and valuable for their political statements are now being decried and protested. It's a sobering (or perhaps an illuminating) thought as a museum professional.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Reading list, 15 October 2016

The Adam Art Gallery and Victoria University are offering an intensive course over summer 2016/17 on Researching, Writing and Curating - an amazing opportunity not only to learn from the best, but be widely introduced to people and organisations in the gallery and museum sector.

Emil McAvoy writes for Pantograph Punch on Julian Dashper, the "friendly ghost", and his appearance across the recent Circuit symposium and more.

Tim Corballis on the connections and disconnections between Ira Cohen's The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda and Francis Upritchard's Jealous Saboteurs at City Gallery Wellington.

The 2016 Salient arts coverage has been ace. This week four regular contributors wrapped up with their peaks and pits.

A lengthy piece by Alison Croggon for The Monthly on the pernicious pruning of arts funding in Australia and the long term effects.

An even longer piece from Micah Walter at the Cooper Hewitt, documenting how they sent their Immersion Room to the London Design Biennale. A text-book example of the generous sharing you see in the museum web world.

Robin Wright covers the reopening of the National Museum of Beirut for The New Yorker, four decades after the museum closed during the Lebanese civil war.

I find the auction market to be a fascinating marker of wider trends in the art world (and from there, wider trends in society): Is the art market racially biased?  by Brian Boucher for Artnet.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Reading list, 8 October 2016

A typically mean-spirited response from American critic Lee Rosenbaum to the news that the Met's staff layoff will affect their digital innovation unit

A sloppy review of digital developments in museums by Sophie Gilbert for The Atlantic

A much better review of digital developments in museums by Brian Droitcour, William S. Smith for Art in America

A very good review of the digital overhaul at the Cooper Hewitt and how it fits with its philosophy as a museum of design by Desi Gonzalez, also for Art in America

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Reading list, 1 October 2016

The Met raises $12M-plus for its collection by auctioning off duplicate Chinese ceramic holdings

A quite interesting article about the National Gallery of Art in Ottawa's summer exhibition visitation over recent years.

The latest Artsy podcast starts with a discussion about whether the language around "pioneering" feminist artists and the "rediscovery" of important women artists actually undermines their position in the art world.

Ahmed al-Faqi al-Mahdi has been sentenced to nine years' imprisonment for his part in the destruction of historic buildings in Timbuktu in 2012 - the first war crime conviction for the destruction of cultural sites.

Teju Cole on Instagram, Twitter, photography, travel, writing and more

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Reading list, 24 September 2016

Moana Jackson, Facing the truth about the wars, on E-Tangata (seriously, if you're not reading this site's new articles every Sunday, you should be)

Jenna Weiss-Bermann, co-founder of production company Pineapple Street Media, on a new business model for making podcasts.

Sometimes it's fun to read a good old old sector-specific nitpick: Google Cultural Institute and The Natural History Museum

Blake Gopnik for the New York Times: Virginia Dwan, a Jet Age Medici, Gets Her Due (and called out for not supporting women artists). The NYT must have had an editorial meeting because you also got Roberta Smith's Museums Embrace the Unfamiliar (by which they mean "not white male artists") and Holland Cotter's In Art This Fall, Women Win in a Landslide (really, Holland? Do they really?).

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

On the radio

Today on the radio I'm going to talk about Doris Lusk's centenary, the Peter Doig identity case (he had to go to court to prove a painting signed 'Peter Doige 1976' was definitively not by him) and the Italian government's culture fund for 18 year-olds.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Reading list for 17 September 2016

Colleen Dilenschneider with data on audience access (aka charging and outreach) across likely visitors, unlikely visitors and supporters.

Toronto International Film Festival introduces surge pricing for tickets.
Big assumptions were immediately tested — visitors are great at spotting where a problem has already been solved (e.g. “well I’d just read the labels!?”), where they would expect this problem to be solved (“why would this be on my phone and not the map?”) or identifying where the value of what you’re offering is worth less than the effort of using it (“I probably wouldn’t want to get my phone out for that”).
From a Frankly Green + Webb write up of running rapid design sprints at England's National Gallery.

I frequently try to explain - mostly to myself, sometimes to other people - why I think the web industry's philosophy on sharing information and insight is different to that of most Western businesses. Marco Arment's latest post on working through business models for Overcast exemplifies this.

L.A. museums embrace live streaming - and it's not even silly.

Sarah Hopkinson of Auckland dealer gallery Hopkinson Mossman on The Spinoff's Business is Boring podcast.

MOMA is putting thousands of exhibition records (exhibition views, catalogues, exhibition checklists) online.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Reading list, 10 September 2016

Nancy Spector, chief curator of the Brooklyn Museum, and her somewhat terrifying timetable

The South Australian Museum appoints Glenn Iseger-Pilkington to their first curatorial role designated specifically to an indigenous person - which had to be externally funded.

It's hard to write a good the-internet-has-changed-photography story nowadays, but Jacob Mikanowski does a creditable job of tracking the themes of Instagram photos to moments and movements in Western art history.

Robert Irwin's beautiful design for his survey at the Hirschhorn (I also love the contrasting depictions of his Untitled (Acrylic Column) works in first that story, and second, this NYT review).

V for Volunteer – a dystopian reality - an anonymous interview conducted at a British museum where Council funding was cut and there are no longer any paid staff.

And long reads: Qatar’s oil boom created the world’s most extravagant art scene—and also led to its demise.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Reading list, 3 September 2016

In the New York Times, a remarkably detailed and accurate account of how temporary exhibitions are organised (an American-slant, as "find the money' is the key concern).

They don't write 'em like this anymore (the review I mean - I've yet to handle the book): Simon Palenski on Peter Simpson's Bloomsbury South for the Pantograph Punch.
It’s a finely tuned and self-perpetuating system: Elite collectors, galleries and museums routinely work together to maintain the blue-chip reputations of artists they’ve invested in. The present exhibition is a perfect example of the system at work — a system, not just incidentally, that for whatever reason has been benefiting male more than female artists for a long time.
Adding to the common refrain of how blue-chip donations of blue-chip collections from blue-chip collectors to blue-chip museums keeps adding the the excellent showing of art by white dudes: 51 Contemporary Artists, but Just Three Women by Ken Johnson for the New York Times.

Awwww. I'm not usually the sentimental type but this story about two American museum directors falling somewhat awkwardly in love later in life is so great.

Unveiling the history of the "Crook Cook"- an intensive piece of reporting by Kayla Dalrymple for the Gisborne Herald on the bronze copy of a marble sculpture of James Cook which has stood in Cook Plaza since 1969. Comes with an illustrated timeline.

An obituary for designer and editor Jane Thompson in the NYT led me to this piece on I.D. Magazine; established in 1954 as a journal for industrial designers, Thompson was the first co-editor, along with Deborah Allen.

The winner of this year's Tate Britain prize for a digital project that explores and showcases their collection scans Reuters photos of news events and matches them to artworks.

Using VR to capture ghost train rides before they're decommissioned - this piece feeds into a lot of thoughts I'm having about how to capture experiences of exhibitions / artworks at the moment.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Art News New Zealand column #1, September 2016

This year the team at Art News New Zealand asked me to fill in a column space for a regular writer who had pulled out; I chose to write about a phenomenon I'd noticed both internationally and very locally. The column might become a regular in 2017.


Visa Wellington On A Plate took place in August, and two associated events that happened in my neighbourhood really caught my attention.

At Thistle Hall, the small gallery at the top of Cuba Street, the Jelly Archive set up for a week: displays of brightly coloured, intricately molded jellies, accompanied by a ‘Mad Lab’ where you could buy a kit and book a session to make your own. The day I went in there were no other visitors, but in a corner three PR people avidly discussed their Instagram penetration whilst a camera-man filmed the set-up. The event was sponsored by Resene.

Across the street and down a little, in one of Cuba's charming heritage shopfronts, you could find the Whittakers K-Bar pop-up store, a 10-day nostalgia fest modelled on a 1950s milk bar, staffed by female servers in pink frocks and kiss curls and male baristas in white shirts and bow-ties. The cupcakes were wheeled over from Havana Bar's bakery in an on-theme handcart, the milkshakes took their flavours from the chewy confectionery, and the white shelves were piled with the three new blocks of chocolate with their K-Bar fillings. Over the two weekends lines stretched out the door and across the nearby carpark.

I walk along Cuba Street most days, and so these two events were inescapable. What really struck me about them though was their success as ‘immersion marketing’ - and their similarity to the work of museums.

Whittakers tapped into the nostalgia value of the K-Bar, originally launched in the 1950s, and amped that up with retro stylings, criss-crossed with bunting and sealed with scarlet lipstick. The whole pastel-toned experience seemed more reminiscent of a 1950s we've come to recognise from American movies than the real thing here in Aotearoa New Zealand, but watching the shop fit-out and operation was exactly like watching a museum display go up.

Meanwhile, the Jelly Archive (note that last word) co-opted the glass display cases of natural history specimens and called for visitors to contribute their jelly memories: “stories, handwritten recipes, vintage jelly moulds, old jelly boxes/packets, memories, photos. Basically we are after nostalgic stories around jelly to be part of one of the sections within the exhibition.” Mix in the hands-on experimentation and you've got a full social history experience.

Both projects point to a strong trend in product-driven experiential marketing, focused on getting customers to share a brand via social media. In America, the brand of ‘museums’ has been appropriated to form a framework for these ventures, a new evolution of the pop-up. Thus last December we had Glade's ‘Museum of Emotions’, a temporary structure housing a series of sensory displays, offering free entry and an exit through the gift shop, stocked with the company's new line of candles and room fragrances (the Village Voice assessed it as “a confusing mix of ambient advertising and immersive art”). It drew over 50,000 people and earned a Golden Lion in the Cannes Lions international advertising festival. More recently, Dove and Tinder were among the companies behind the ‘Museum of Ice Cream’, Hulu reconstructed Jerry Seinfeld's living room and invited people in to Instagram it, and Cheetos are taking online submissions of unusually shaped examples of the orange snack for a forthcoming offline museum.

The marketers have identified our brand potential as signifiers of desirable and worthwhile experiences and are now, you could say, eating our lunch. As SC Johnson's global chief marketing officer Ann Mukherjee said AdWeek, “How do you get people to remember a smell? Build memories around it. Create an experience. We gave the world a whole new way to look at Glade”. She sounds remarkably like a museum concept developer.

Or perhaps this trend points up an uncomfortable truth. As one visitor to the Museum of Emotions, Dayna Evans, wrote for The Awl, “When [we] tried to figure out how it was we even came to learn about the pop-up museum, we both realized that a lot of our more ‘arty’ friends had said they were attending the Facebook event. It spread virally. We trusted those people’s tastes, so we decided to go. We never really thought to check if it was worthy of praise, or even exactly what it was. This is the same principle by which the casual museum attendee learns to namedrop Cézanne and Miró. MoMA is just as much sponsored content as the Museum of Feelings - they’re just sponsored by different power structures.”

We've known for a while now that in the great competition for people's leisure time we're up against sport, hobbies, tv and the internet. Now we can add to that list a rival that looks just like us. The challenge then, it seems to me, is: how do we make sure we remain the best at being ourselves?

Monday, 29 August 2016

It's time to say goodbye

On a recent Slate Culture Gabfest, the hosts bemoaned cutesy 404 pages - the responses you get when your device is able to make contact with a server, but that server is not able to deliver the page you've requested. Perhaps the most famous 404 page was Twitter's "fail whale" (discontinued in 2013), and for a period there web people got very excited about making playful, pun-filled and beautiful 404 pages. It was seen as part and parcel of caring deeply for the user's experience ("We can't give you what you want but we'll make it beautiful!"). Pages and pages of results can be generated for a search for a phrase like "best 404 pages".

So it was a little disconcerting to hear people on this podcast who I really like seeing all this effort as going to waste. Perhaps no-one really wants to be delighted when they're told they can't have what they're asking for: maybe they just want things to be fixed.

To my mind, the artisanal 404 page is one of the great artefacts of Web 2.0, and I really hope academic study, plushy print publications, and considerable archival effort are being devoted to its documentation and retention for future generations to enjoy and learn from.*

Right up there with the 404 page is the shutting-down announcement. Nothing reminds you that the web is an ephemeral space with a metabolism akin to a hummingbird's like trying to remember all the web services you've used at some point and then had to transition on from when they close (here's me three years ago being overly upset about Google Reader shutting down: reader, life has gone on).**

I've been mulling this since clicking through a couple of links to the news of - a location-based micro-blogging-ish site I'd never heard of before - setting to close at the end of this month.

I read about this in a post by Russell Davies, where he talks about the pleasure of writing on corners of the internet that are public, but not highly frequented. Starting on Gowalla Davies had written little fictional histories about places he was spending time; when Gowalla closed down he moved on to, which is now, too, shutting down.

But they're shutting down in the most elegant way. As site founder Craig Mod writes in a Medium post, they are taking all due care of their users that they can, but also trying to record the existence of for posterity. As he writes:

Web projects often lack hard edges. They begin with clarity but end without. We want to close with clarity. To properly bookend the website. Sometimes web projects exhaust themselves. Outlive themselves. Are allowed to stagnate, be forgotten. Resources dry up and then one day — poof — they’re gone. This has happened countless times, Geocities being one of the foremost examples. We don’t want this to happen with

So, is enabling users to download their archives, and to promising to keep an online archive alive for at least a decade. And they're also producing a small number of physical storage artefacts, inscribed with the content of the site, that will be deposited with institutions like the Library of Congress:
We’ve partnered with Norsam Technologies and Los Alamos Laboratories to utilize a special ion-etching process, capable of printing tens of thousands of pages onto a 2" × 2" plate. 
The process does not produce “data.” It is not like a CD. It is not a composition of 0's and 1's representing the information. It is the information itself. The nickel plate is a medium, not media. And everything printed on the plate will be readable with an optical microscope. 
The nickel plates have an estimated life span of 10,000 years. They’re fire resistant. They deal well with salt water. And because they’re printed with our pictures and words — assuming contemporary language is decipherable in the future — anyone who finds this and has access to fairly elementary technology (an optical microscope) will be able to read our thoughts and experiences as mapped to city and place.
It's such an interesting question. As with video games (see MOMA on acquiring their first batch) so many questions exist. What are you collecting when you try to memorialise a website or service? The code? The visual appearance? The user interaction? The history of the making and marketing of the site? Or the described experiences of those people who made and used it?

Businesses shut down all the time, and have for as long as they've been around. Traditionally they've been captured for the record - often incidentally, lurking in the background of the main focus) in photographs, newspapers, gazettes, phone books, correspondence, government records. Sometimes - when they're old enough, big enough, flash enough or loved enough - their closing is a cause for reminiscence and celebration. But often they just slip out of sight.

But websites and services seem to take their closures with the same seriousness that they take their launch. (Three thoughts on this: (1) people who work in web design are pretty much the most self-analytical and self-descriptive that I know - what other industry devotes so much time to examining and publishing in real time upon itself? and (2) People who are shutting down things on the internet are doing so in a medium beautifully designed for people to tell them exactly what they think of their decision; and (3) like 404 pages, the attraction of the graceful failure is as potent in this part of web operations as in any other.) Here for example is John Gruber announcing the shutting down of Vesper, a notes app, last week. Although the app is shutting down due to low usage (and, from my deduction, accompanying low interest) and a notes app is hardly a crucial life tool, Gruber's post is a detailed and thoughtful retrospective on what they could have done better, and why they made the decisions they did. No simple CLOSED sign here.

Here, for example, is a long and admiring article on the grace with which Glitch, a massive multi-player online game, was shut down. The game was built out of this almost obsessive love for the end user that powered early Web 2.0 properties like first-iteration Flickr (not coincidentally, the lead designer was the co-founder of Flickr and founder of Slack, both of which place/d a tremendous emphasis on surprise and delight of users). From the Glitch post announcing their shut-down, the list of FAQ titles:

  1. Why why why why?
  2. What will happen to the team building Glitch?
  3. What will happen to Tiny Speck?
  4. How long will the game remain open?
  5. Can people still sign up to play?
  6. But I spent money! What about that?
  7. I'm really angry about this!
  8. Why can't you sell the game so someone else can take it over?
  9. Why don't you give the game away or make it open source or let player volunteers run it?
  10. Why can't you just _______________? 

Or for another example, look at how Matt Webb announced the closure of design company Berg through a poem on the company's blog (week 483, RIP). And here's his post on the Little Printer blog that shares that announcement, and explains that Little Printer, Berg's experiment in the Internet of Things and a more human interface with the web, will also be shutting down. And here's his post - redolent of a late night and too many cups of coffee*** - explaining that he's "trying something:
Hi everyone. Hello from where I’m sitting at home in London. It’s Sunday night, I’m Matt, my personal homepage is over here. Till recently I was CEO at Berg, now I’m the last employee and trying to wrap things up nicely. To do that I’ve got about a day a week cos I also now have other commitments. 
I’d like to try something…
I really hope someone out there - an obsessive individual, an academic, or an institution - is collecting these artefacts. By their very nature they're usually written in places that will soon disappear from the internet, and then all we'll have are the GigaOm and FastCompany rehashes (until they too degrade away.) and gravestones in the Internet Archive. But they're such a visceral and telling part of this period of design, communication, and business.  They deserve to be held on to. Maybe there's more nickel-plate books to be made.

*Seriously, there don't seem to be any print publications on the history of the 404 page, and I think that's a real oversight. And of course, all my bookmarks on this topic are long-lost in the endless shuffle of bookmarking sites I've been through over the past decade or so.

**Also, of interest to me but probably not for you, looking at what sites I opened first when I got up in the morning, I've gone from Email > Twitter > Reader > Work email to Feedly > [work] Facebook > Twitter > Email > Instagram .... work email when I get to work.

*** I have no idea how late it was or whether Webb even drinks coffee - I suspect not - but you get what I mean.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Reading list, 27 August 2016

Bulky, heavy, pricey - yet flourishing - Carolina Miranda in the LA Times on the continuing success of art book publishing

Promoting audio guides and other mobile experiences in museums - useful points from Frankly Green and Webb

What it really takes to get a perfect street style shot - actually engrossing stuff from Elle's street style photographer Tyler Joe

The volunteers who do the dirty work for the Field Museum's mammoth bird collection - covered in depth by Joan Cary for the Chicago Tribune

A blog post from Ed Rodley from earlier this year, resurfaced this week on Twitter, about the difference in depth and width between old paper-based exhibition development files and more current electronic filing, in terms of our ability to understand our own and other institution's changing practices
When Times live videos are good — and many are — they capture an immediate experience, feel spontaneous and put the viewer in a front-row seat with a hand on the controls.
Facebook Live: Too Much, Too Soon - Liz Spayd, the New York Times' public editor, gives a critical review of the newspaper's Facebook Live instant video work.

Charles Desmarais' 'Unraveling SFMOMA’s deal for the Fisher collection' for the San Francisco Chronicle has been getting a lot of play amongst American bloggers this week; it's behind a paywall but this link worked for me and hopefully will for you too.

Rebuilding a Former Slave’s House in the Smithsonian - the way entire structures are shown in American museums weirds me out a bit, but this is special.

On the to-read-on-a-slow-day pile: the NMC / Balboa Park Online Collaborative museum digital trends report (PDF).

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Reading list, 20 August 2016

Why Brands Are Building Their Own 'Museums' Where Immersion Is the Price of Entry - AdWeek

The Oppressive Gospel of Minimalism - another kicker from Kyle Chaka for the New York Times

Take Me (I'm Yours) - the Jewish Museum runs a Kickstarter campaign to raise $ for production costs for an exhibition exploring concepts of value and participation.

House Arrest - Nate Freeman's long form examination of how Sotheby's is changing for Art News

David's Ankles - re-examines the already-covered story of how Michelangelo's sculpture is is fatally flawed, worth clicking through for Maurizio Cattelan's amazing hero image.

Two fantastically insightful interview on Tusk: On The Level with Emma Ng and Tuakana with Matthew Oliver.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Millennial child

This essay was my contribution to The Third Enjoy Retrospective Five Year Catalogue, edited by Louise Rutledge and available from the Enjoy website for a value-packed 20 bucks. Thanks to Louise and Emma Ng for inviting me to write for this.

Millennial child  

Enjoy and I appeared in Wellington in the same year: I moved here to study art history at Victoria University, and Enjoy materialised on Cuba Street, a fresh new space for contemporary art practice. My perspective on what Enjoy offers has changed in pace with my own involvement in the art world: as a young arts reviewer, Enjoy was where I went to seek out edgier presentations than those I saw elsewhere; as an arts viewer it was an essential part of my rounds of the galleries; today, it’s where I go to locate emergent voices in art making, curating, and writing. It’s fair to say I can’t imagine Wellington without Enjoy.

I wrote the above earlier this year when Enjoy asked me for a letter of support for a funding application. I was pleased to be asked to support the gallery - flattered, even - because for a good while I was a little intimidated by Enjoy's effortless cool, the contemporary language of the work they showed. Scrolling through the (new, bounteous) online exhibition archive I realised there was a lag of two or three years between arriving in Wellington as a third year arts student and becoming a regular at the old gallery on the other side of Cuba Street.

Wellington was on a visual arts high at the turn of the millennium. The Adam Art Gallery opened in September 1999, and Te Papa (a mixed bag for the arts audience, sure, but perhaps the single biggest moment in Aotearoa New Zealand's museological history) had opened in February 1998; in Porirua, Pataka opened September that same year. In 1999 Massey University had also merged with Wellington Polytechnic, establishing the College of Design, Fine Art and Music. There was a new concentration of established artists putting down roots, and a new cohort of younger artists and art students to fill a space like Enjoy.

Something else came to Wellington in 2000 - the fifth Labour government. Technically, Helen Clark became Prime Minister on 10 December 1999, but let's not let a matter of 21 days stand between us and aligning this auspicious moment with the new millennium. In addition to being our first elected female Prime Minister, Clark took the role of Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage. And boy, could you tell. Even as a student, I could feel the concentration of energy and belief around the visual arts in Wellington (edged with a deep border of frustration and betrayal amongst those older than me over the treatment of contemporary art at Te Papa).

This was the environment in which I came of age. It was one that made optimism around the visual arts feel natural - and one that made the leadership of women feel equally natural. In addition to the lodestar of Helen Clark, in my nearer orbit were Jenny Harper as head of Art History at Victoria, Tina Barton in the same department, Zara Stanhope as the inaugural director at the Adam, the redoubtable Cheryll Sotheran at Te Papa and Paula Savage at City Gallery Wellington. I held part-time jobs at various stages in all four institutions.

Enjoy was reflective of these trends - both towards the investment in a Wellington arts scene (an art scene that could lead the nation) and towards female leadership. From Charlotte Huddleston onwards, Enjoy has been exclusively helmed by women; a fact remarked upon in with some rancour in the first Enjoy Five Year Retrospective Catalogue by Tao Wells, an original Enjoy member.

Today much has changed, and as I look around me that buoyant positivity that I took for granted at 21 has dissolved. The National government is seemingly unassailable, and the most important announcement from central government to the arts sector this year has been a warning that more belt-tightening is needed as predicted income from Lotteries falls. While we no longer bask in the warm glow of Clark's championing of the arts, on the upside we do see increased female leadership across our art galleries, and the beginning of I what I hope is a generational change away from Pakeha dominance.

And we see the endurance, and maturation, of Cuba Street’s scrappy artist-run space. A move across the road to the same floor as Peter McLeavey Gallery placed the gallery literally on the same footing as the establishment. While still the most freewheeling figure on the Wellington visual art scene, Enjoy is definitely an “institution” these days, a place with a whakapapa of staff and supporters, artists and projects.

It's not easy to stay optimistic in the arts. But I think Enjoy has cracked the nut of that problem. Stay focused on nurturing new talent, stay focused on encouraging experimentation, stay focused on knowing and sustaining your community of interest. Draw your energy from these actions. Use that energy to support others. Kia kaha, Enjoy, and happy sweet 16.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Reading list, 13 August 2016

The Met posts record attendance figures, but attributes part of its current financial strictures to an increase in younger visitors who are paying less for their voluntary admission charges (following a lawsuit where the Met was forced to change the wording on their admission policy, from 'recommended' to 'suggested').

As reported in the above NYT article by Robin Pobegrin, alongside redundancies, the Met is predicted to reduce the number of temporary exhibitions and start shopping in its own closet (making shows from its own collection to reduce the costs involved in loaning works) to continue with cost-saving. Interestingly, the situation has echoes to 2009, when Thomas P. Campbell took over the Met - facing a dive in its endowment due to the GFC, the museum dropped programming and shed staff. At that same time Campbell announced a revitalisation of the museum's digital work, a campaign that led to the hiring of Sree Sreenivasan, former Chief Digital Officer at Columbia University. Now Sreenivasan is among the laid-off staff, and has just taken a new role as CDO for NYC.

This is one of many shake-ups in the small, tight world of museum's digital leadership: Seb Chan from Cooper Hewitt to ACMI, Nancy Proctor from Baltimore Museum of Art to full-time Museums and the Web, Shelley Bernstein from Brooklyn Museum to the Barnes Foundation, Rob Stein from Dallas Museum of Art to the Alliance of American Museums. There's a fascinating long-form piece of writing to be done about how digital overhauls in museums track with changes in leadership - digital work is relatively flexible, compared to programming and collection development, and is kind of like the canary in the mine of major museum operations. Hmmmm.

In other, shorter, news:

In architecture: Adding - invisibly - to Versailles

In the Olympics: The world of dressage

In New Zealand: Paula Morris's tribute to Peter Gossage

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Reading list, 6 August 2016

When museums shut down.

SFMOMA responds to Lee Rosenbaum's sniffy article about their audio guide not with indignation, but with data.

Teju Coles writes for the New York Times Magazine on The Superhero Photographs of the Black Lives Matter Movement, a rare example of a arts critic grappling with the depiction of world events as they happen.

Hyperallergic's new(ish) podcast is showing promise: start with the latest, on women artists in the Ab-Ex movement, because Linda Nochlin. (And also because those of us who are part of the apparatus that determines whose work gets shown and whose stories get remembered have nobody to blame for invisibility and erasure except ourselves.)

Le Guin might have had Roke, Atuan and Gont, but Martin O'Leary has built a naming language to generate fantastical place names.

SEGD (not sure who that is, but hey) have published a list of of the 20 most influential exhibition designs of the 21st century to date. What fascinates me here is that exhibition design (ie. scaffolding to support object display, narration, and visitor interactions) are not differentiated from artworks that are experiential.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Reading list, 30 July 2016

A really lovely piece of writing by Tina Barton accompanies a selection of Pip Culbert's work at Artspace.

In which women continue to agonise over their voices.

Google has updated its Arts and Culture website. It has a lot of slick features (Mary Cassatt's work organised by colour, Gothic art organised by chronology) and three galleries (including the AGNSW) are participating in the Art Recognizer, which looks like it uses Google's image search / image recognition to present you with curated web information when you hold your phone up to a (a? all?) work. I'm genuinely curious as to whether this art-discovery tool will reach more people via Google than it would if pushed out through a museum's brand.
I’ve always called the archive her lover. To marry one man, she negotiated owning another man, whom she’s devoted her life to. It’s a weird love triangle, and I’m the other woman.
Alice Gregory for the New Yorker on the archives of architect Luis Barragán, and artist Jill Magid's project around how the archive's owners restricts access (involves diamonds, and descriptions of people such as his taste in women was particular: willowy, dark, with, as Poniatowska put it, “the big, hollow eyes of someone who has suffered.”)

Artists, architects and curators on what does and doesn't make a great museum (from a displaying-art point of view).

Shelley Bernstein on introducing visitor photography at The Barnes (or not).

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Reading list, 23 July 2016

Hilton Als profiles Nan Goldin for the New Yorker as 'The Ballad of Sexual Dependency' goes on show at MOMA.

Inside the world's chicest cult - Marisa Meltzer attends the annual Spirit Weavers gathering. While I think it's a bit stink to go to events like this just to shit all over them, this is still an engrossing read.

Art (and more) writer Anthony Byrt interviewed by Naomi Arnold about his piece on poker tournaments and approach to writing in general (podcast)
A hundred years ago the male body was transformed. Two arms became one; legs were replaced by wheels; chins and necks slid together; noses pointed sideways instead of down. As the wounded of Flanders and France started to arrive home, it became clear that many of them could never be restored to physical wholeness. Instead, with the help of the very technology that had blown them apart, they would be reconfigured into new shapes for the coming century.
Kathryn Hughes for the Guardian on the history, social and artistic contexts behind 'The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics', a new show at the Henry Moore Institute.

Nina Simon on two types of audience-centered museums: customer and user.

I guess we all have to read at least one article about Pokemon Go and museums.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Reading list, 16 July 2016

Terry Dresbach, costume designer for Outlander, on costume design as the 'women's ghetto' of film-making, and the detail that goes into this show.

Shelley Bernstein, recently relocated from the Brooklyn Museum to Philadelphia's Barnes Foundation, on what her job title, Deputy Director of Digital Initiatives and Chief Experience Officer, really means.

E-Tangata keeps on smashing out the best interview features in Aotearoa New Zealand, with broadcaster and comms professional Sefita Hao'uli.

The 'Netflix of museums' - Adrian Hon's VR Will Break Museums.

4,000 objects go on display simultaneously at the New Museum in The Keeper.