Saturday, 18 March 2017

Reading list, 18 March 2017

Indian author and MP Shashi Tharoor on the need for a museum communicating British colonisation of India.

US technology writer Farhad Manjoo on the cultural supremacy of the camera (and Snapchat).

Margaret Atwood's introduction for a new edition of The Handmaid's Tale.

Teju Cole's latest essay 'A Photograph Never Stands Alone'. Also, he's coming to Auckland Writers Festival.

Kyle Chayka for Racked on why gray clothes feel appropriate now.

The full New York Times special museums section.

Ugh. There's loads in Daniel Grant's Observer piece 'The Admission Fees Are Too Damn High' that I disagree with (like the tone of "art museums around the country are struggling mightily to make themselves appealing to millennials and to what we now call “diverse” audiences by creating their own apps, as well as by acquiring and exhibiting contemporary art, as well as art by women, latinos, Africans, Asians and whomever else", let alone "Pleasure and prestige for museum curators and directors is acquiring more works for their permanent collections, not in seeing more and different people come through the doors.") But the central thesis - that American museums could divert some of their major acquisition funds into defraying admission charges - is interesting. His argument that America's entrance charges are the only thing keeping wider audiences away however is disputed by the data.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Reading list, 11 March 2017

Showing how Michael Parekowhai's The Lighthouse will become an icon of Auckland: Simon Wilson's first column for the new Auckland focus of The Spinoff uses the public art work to outline its kaupapa.

Science historian and writer Rebecca Priestley shares a reading list for her MA in creative non-fiction.

In the States, 'downsizing boomers' start donating their artworks (no mention of the tax incentives).

There is a mild irony to this article about "the greatest single loss of cultural artefacts from Britain", given the general British museum stance on repatriation.

'Can I have some more?' - Shelley Bernstein on the Barnes Foundation's latest lessons from visitor-testing their new interpretation for their galleries via smart watches.

Colleen Dilenschneider on the reputational boost to MOMA since they rehung their galleries to focus on artists from the Trump administration's travel ban countries.

Josh Niland for Hyperallergic on the Max Beckmann painting that changed American art museum collection policies in the 1970s (and still affects today's collection management).

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Reading list, 4 March 2017

File under here-we-go-again: Dorothy Howard's 'The Social-Mediafication of Museums' for Canadian Art.

Sheila Regan, 'In Mainstream Museums, Confronting Colonialism While Curating Native American Art', for Hyperallergic.

Looking outside my own sector - Ballet Austin conducts research & audience experiments into understanding how people might move from being attendees at 'traditional' performances to 'contemporary' performances. It's all about removing the gulf of the unknown.

Gearing up: Thomas P. Campbell's 'The Folly of Abolishing the N.E.A.' for the New York Times. Campbell has of course since announced his resignation as director of the Met.

Ross King for Aeon on how Monet & the Impressionists were introduced first to American collectors, and via collectors to the museums: 'How wealthy Americans grew to appreciate the French Impressionist painter – as an artist but also as a financial asset'.

'Losing Streak' by Kathryn Schulz  for the New Yorker - an essay that goes from humour to heartache in one elegant spiral.

Why do a blockbuster for free? Mark Garrison's 'Yayoi Kusama exhibit is an economic puzzle for museum' for Market Place.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Reading list, 11 February 2017

MOMA protests Trump's immigration executive order by replacing works throughout its 5th floor collection galleries with works by artists from the seven banned countries. A pointed, powerful and on-mission gesture.

Pippin Barr on the difficulty of displaying water in the (video game) gallery.

Mary Pelletier for Hyperallergic on the gypsum-window workshop at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque.

Alexandra Lange for Curbed: "The forgotten history of Japanese-American designers’ World War II internment".

Robin Pobegrin for the NYT: "Is the Met Museum ‘a Great Institution in Decline’?"

Anthony Byrt for Paperboy on Michael Parekowhai's new Auckland public sculpture, The Lighthouse.

Colleen Dilenschneider on a drop in the US "High-Propensity Visitor Confidence Index" (the expressed interest from current non-visitors to visit a cultural institution) since the US election. This sounds dry, but it's actually quite fascinating.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Reading list, 4 Feb 2017

Seb Chan's annual end of year wrap

An in-depth article on free museum admission in the Atlanta context

With rumoured cuts to the NEA and America, Art News goes into its archives to find examples of tension between political decision-makers and the arts funding organisation.

Fascinating longer read: Patrick Sisson's 'How Your Mall Sausage Gets Made in Columbus, Ohio'.

Devin Leonard in Bloomberg Business Week: 'George Lucas Can’t Give His $1.5 Billion Museum Away'.

The latest from Good, Form & Spectacle - a new tool to explore MOMA's exhibitions data.

By Graham Bowley, for the New York Times: What if Trump Really Does End Money for the Arts?

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Reading list, 28 January 2017

Very NYT biased - must still be slow news season.

Adam Nagourney profiles LACMA director Michael Govan and his mission to reshape the museum's campus; Govan commissions photographer Vera Lutter to document the buildings that will be demolished using a camera obscura.

Roberta Hughes recaps the 25-year history of New York's Outsider Art Fair and positions "outsider art" as an alternative narrative to Conceptual Art in an interesting way.

Joshua Barone profiles designer Irma Boom and her development of a library of radical book design.

The NYT magazine produces 25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going, noted especially for the design of this interactive feature.

Yale produces principles on renaming - canvassing the vexed issue of monuments and buildings named for people whose beliefs and actions no longer fit with social mores. (Download the PDF here)

Incoming Tate director Maria Belshaw on the art that stood out for her in 2016.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Reading list, 14 January 2016

I'm really enjoying the writing on Racked right now. Here's Cory Baldwin interviewing designer Liz Pape on her decision to publish in detail the costs of producing her garments.

When is a sad burger excusable, and when is it not? NYT food critic Pete Wells, profiled in the New Yorker last year, gave a zero stars review to a chain of LA restaurants trying to improve food options in different neighbourhoods. Eater explores Wells' reasoning and tracks the backlash.

danah boyd's 'Hacking the Attention Economy' looks at how hacking of mainstream media has transitioned from lulz to serious political impact.

On my last trip to the US, the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis stole my heart - largely because of the coherence of its identity, which spread all the way from language classes to exhibitions to the cafe. So I was fascinated to read about Sweet Home Cafe, the restaurant inside the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.

Thomasin Sleigh's 'Babies and time: The stolen and beloved minutes, weeks, days, nights and years' is a wonderful read, regardless of whether you are a parent or not.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Tiny Letter newsletter update

I've been writing a weekly newsletter using Tiny Letter since April last year. As part of my new year mental clear out, I'm changing my approach to this newsletter.

Previously, I've largely focused on a longer and more elaborate version of the Reading Lists I publish here every weekend. However, the most positive feedback I've received on the newsletter has been occasioned by more personal essays, like this one about watching pro wrestling, or this one about getting my purple belt.

So, to reduce the number of deadlines in my life, and to push my writing a bit, I'll be using the newsletter from now on to explore the personal essay format. If you'd like to subscribe here's the link.

This blog will keep being a repository for interesting things I've read, presentation and talk notes, and publishing pieces of writing I've produced elsewhere.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Reading list, 7 January 2017

Bloomberg Business Week's round up of the best articles (published elsewhere) in 2016 is full of gems - I particularly like how it ranges out to food journalism, a topic I read very little about but always enjoy when I do.

Glenn Fleishman for The Atlantic on the history and internet-enabled decline of the curly quote.

Wesley Morris for the NYTVisiting the African-American Museum: Waiting, Reading, Thinking, Connecting, Feeling.

A virtuoso breakdown of the influence of one of my most favourite ever songs: Kit Lovelace's 'All Mapped Out' for Popbitch.

Rob Walker's 'The Year in Nine Objects' for The New Yorker. More end of year lists like this, please.

Another instance of the evolution away from advertising-funded arts coverage: a Buffalo radio station will add an arts and culture desk this year, producing around 50 segments on local culture, supported by two philanthropic groups.

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?