Friday 21 December 2007

My wishes for 2008

... that Venice not turn into a total debacle

... that an art gallery / institution starts a blog and posts more than 3 times on it

... that the mainstream media carries a news story about art that's not based on it being obscene, obscenely expensive, obscenely expensive and damaged, or 'quirky'

... that the Ministry of Culture and Heritage set the policy wheels in motion to start a debate about extending the tax breaks on charitable donations to the gifting of artworks over a certain value to public institutions

... that Creative NZ or Museums Aotearoa set the policy wheels in motion to start thinking about the re-introduction of internships (especially training for registrars and conservators) and a mentor programme for aspiring directors

... that someone curates an exhibition that really really surprises me.

Best of 3 will be back posting on 7 January 2007. Until then, have a safe and happy holiday.

Thursday 20 December 2007

Beware the gallerinas

An article of tips for beginner collectors on concludes:

In the end, though, [collector W.M.] Hunt told ARTINFO the most important thing to do when buying art is to "commit, commit, commit! Look at the hair on the back of your hands, listen to your heart, figure out if you can afford it, and then commit!"
Is this a guy thing? I don't get a lot of guidance from my hand hair. What does your hand hair say to you?

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Enter the zeitgeist

The phrase 'trip of a lifetime' enters the vernacular via Kathryn Ryan in this interview with Stephen Wainwright, regarding Creative NZ's announcement that they will indeed return to Venice.

Tuesday 18 December 2007

The Besties - bits'n'pieces edition

Best collection of images I saw online this year: The NSW Police Department mug shots on Picture Australia.

Best art work I saw in real life this year: Maurizio Cattelan's We are the revolution in the Guggenheim show at the NGV.

Best news item about pre-pubescent art collectors: from the Wall Street Journal

Best reason not to let your curator blog

Images, from top:

Mug shot of Hazel McGuinness, Central Police Station, Sydney, 26 July 1929. From the Picture Australia website.

Monday 17 December 2007

The Besties: Best Online Resources (local edition)

You can't go past the Auckland Art Gallery here. While their website is starting to look a bit geriatric, I think the online collection and the digitised resources are the best in NZ.

Word on the digitisation grapevine is that the AAG will be releasing a new digital product next year, which will add wiki-style commenting to a heritage resource.

Also worthy of mention:

Christchurch Art Gallery with their growing collection of Audio on Demand.

Te Papa's new mini-exhibition sites are nice to look at, and the Zoomify is cute. At the moment though there's no sectional nav (not even breadcrumbs) and you can get foisted out unexpectedly into TP's main site, which is a bit disconcerting. And this leaves me wordless.

Friday 14 December 2007

The 2007 "Besties"

It's the time of the year when people start publishing their Top 10s and Best Ofs, and so Best of 3 is inaugurating the Besties.

First of: Best Online Presence

I've been incredibly impressed by the Brooklyn Museum this year. They're blogging, flickring, youtubing, myspacing, and more.

For those of you still focused on physical people through the door, it's time to think about promoting the value of the engaged virtual visitor at management level. I might visit a big exhibition at a local gallery three times, and not write about it or talk to other people about it (flatteringly).

Meanwhile, I subscribe to the BM's blog feed, I check out their Flickr page regularly, I follow their other endeavours, I write about them here, and I promote them to other people who are thinking about these kind of things. I'm more of an evangelist for these guys than I am for my local institutions - and I've never been to Brooklyn. So - what value the online visitor?

Thursday 13 December 2007

What are you thinking? Take Two

A further installment in my semi-occasional series. Search terms which have brought people to this blog in the past 10 days:

Lots of people have been interested in the Glue Society's God's Eye View project

Someone wants to 'learn art for free in dunedin'. They might like to get in touch with the person who's wondering 'what use is an art history degree'.

To the searcher wanting 'everything i need to know about pheasants': can I suggest the American Pheasant and Waterfowl Association. Steer clear though of the male Reeves pheasant, apparently this is not the bird for the inexperienced pheasant keeper.

Princess Bride fans (presumably) are looking for the phrase "never start a land war in Asia", although I stick by my preference for this quote.

And finally - to all those wondering if Jussi Pylkkanen has a wife or whatever: that was a purely tangential blog mention, I can't help you with that query.

Wednesday 12 December 2007

An open letter to John Hurrell

Dear John,

I'm pleased you've started your own blog. I've thought for a while this would suit you better than Artbash. Sad to hear though that you're struggling with the Blogger platform.

I don't know if you read Best of 3, but I know you read Over the net, so maybe you stumble over here sometimes. Who knows, maybe you've hit on Google Alerts, and are tracking the blogosphere's reaction to your new enterprise. Anyways, here's a few bits of advice:

1. Formatting images

Don't blame the browsers for the image/text crunching. The cleanest way to display images is to set the default to 'centre' instead of left or right align when you upload images.

Bonus tip: dot images though your post instead of piling them at the top by cut'n'pasting the image in the HTML view. You can tell the image file 'cos it will have BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID and a whole bunch of other code between the tags.

2. Get a Feedburner account

If you're not posting on a regular basis, people will get sick of visiting your blog to find new content and being disappointed. This is going to make you dependant on search engines and feed readers for your readership.

Make your blog feed nice and easy to find by setting up a Feedburner account and displaying the icon they give you prominently in your blog's nav. Added bonus - you'll be able to track the number of subscribers to your feed (although warning: feed stats are slippery little buggers).

2.5 Change the dates on posts

Or, you could post regularly. There's this sneaky little defect in Blogger, which I suspect you've yet to spot.

If you load up a post and leave it in draft, and then return another day to publish it, it will appear with the date tag for the day you loaded the draft. This means if you load up all the posts on Monday, then publish one of them each day for a week, they'll all still appear as if you published them on Monday.

To make it publish on a different date, you need to re-set the date, by going back into the draft post, and using the 'Post options' button at the bottom of the text box.

3. Set up Google Analytics

I know you'll have to give CNZ a what-I-did-with-my-grant report (PDF). Wouldn't it be nice if you could say how many people read your reviews?

4. The web is built on the hyperlink

I just skimmed through your posts, and found a handful of URLs - but they're not links. This makes me think you haven't met the link button yet: it's the symbol with the green globe, on the right of the text colour button. Highlight the text you want to turn into a link, then hit the button and paste in your URL. Voila.

Beyond the obvious benefits of giving your readers further sources of information, here's why you need links:

a. Links (esp. with meaningful link text, none of that 'click here' business) will help your blog score better with search engine algorithms.

b. People are more likely to link to you (blessing you with traffic) if you link to them.

c. The change in formatting creates some stickiness in long posts full of black type.

d. You'll look like you belong to the online community.

5. A personal comment

Goodness knows I've been had up before for blogging anonymously. But I enjoy it. I would have left some of the feedback in this post on eyecontactartforum, but you're sticking to your first-name last-name guns. Given that you're moderating the comments anyway, do you really need full names to "minimize personal abuse, waffle and shameless self-promotion"?

Kind regards,

Best of 3

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Len Lye online

Here's a nice thing: among the links on the Govett-Brewster's Len Lye web resources page are a couple of links out the Flickr, and images tagged with 'wind wand' or 'water whirler'.

The GBAG page also links out to the BFI Screenonline site, which has clips from Lye's films, but you can only access these if you're connecting via registered UK schools, colleges, universities and libraries.

Maybe the GBAG should think about linking out to YouTube too, where people have been happily loading up Lye films including Colour Flight, Rainbow Dance, The Peanut Vendor, and a tribute to the Water Whirler in action. There's also Lye talking about his kinetic sculptures, from the Horrocks doco.

Image: Len Lye's Wind Wand on the New Plymouth foreshore; by Cicada, on Flickr.

Monday 10 December 2007

God and Google maps

Via the Guardian art blog this morning, the Glue Society's "God's Eye View".



Moses parting the waters

The images, which show biblical episodes and environments as if captured by Google Earth, were commissioned for Art Basel Miami. The Glue Society is a 'creative collective' based in New York and Sydney; they're also attracting a bit of attention for their Elle McPherson 'Intimates' campaign (the YouTube clips aren't exactly SFW).

Check out the Glue Society's website - although it breaks every rule in my accessibility and usability rule book, it's still very slick and encourages exploration brilliantly.

Friday 7 December 2007

This American Life

If you've never heard of the Chicago Public Radion This American Life programme, treat yourself at your computer today (yeah, I know you're reading this at work).

TAL are hour-long, thematic broadcasts, where a range of takes on a topic are presented. I've just done an hour of content loading while listening to How to talk to kids, which included 10-year-olds on what adults do wrong when trying to talk to them; two 20-year-old stand up comedians who fail miserably to impress at school camp; and a group of teens who edit a magazine about sex on the birds and the bees talk.

Try the TAL favourites page, or the full archive. You can also subscribe via iTunes.

Thursday 6 December 2007

The Great Tate Mod Blog

Tate Modern have launched a blog inviting the public to submit images & ideas to help them "create a photographic 'Mood Board' of the kind of interior spaces, ambience and designs that people would like to find" in the Herzog and de Meuron-designed planned extension.

Currently the blog features "posts" by Jacques Herzog, Nicholas Serota and Culture Secretary James Purnell. It'll be interesting to see what the take-up is like: the "best photos and ideas" will be displayed at the Tate next year.

A more low-tech way of approaching this would be just to put comment boards up in the gallery, and allow visitors to scribble ideas, tack up images, or draw. An interesting idea Auckland Art Gallery and City Gallery Wellington could look into for their redevelopments, as a way of engaging their audiences.

Image from the Guardian website

Wednesday 5 December 2007

The GLAMS sector

Returning to the NDF conference ....

One of the most interesting moments of the conference was when a session chair asked for a show of hands, to see what kind of instition people who were attending the conference worked at. The results looked something like this:

That blue sliver is 'galleries' - and it's probably over represented. About 3 people out of 300 raised their hands when 'galleries' was called out by the chair.

Three things worry me about this. First, the NDF conference (not so much this year, but definitely last year) is a great place to learn about what cultural orgainisations are doing online to increase and serve their audiences. Last year's presentations by Seb Chan from the Powerhouse Museum and a nice fellow from the V&A were total eye-openers.

Second, NDF is currently the most obvious manifestation of what's being called in political dialogue "the GLAMs sector": galleries, libraries, archives and museums. I'm not sure that art galleries are aware that they're meant to be part of this group - or that they're being represented on a national level by this body.

And third - this reinforces my feeling that compared to some of our other cultural instititions, galleries are really not that interested in working collaboratively, sharing information and ideas, or even just hanging out together.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Lighter reading

Hummm. Today's post (below) might be kinda heavy going. For more relaxed reading, try Jerry Saltz on the New Museum, or Charles Isherwood on Donor Graffiti.

Co ..... operation

Last week I was at the National Digital Forum conference (more about which tomorrow) and the presentation that really interested me was by Paul Rowe from Vernon Systems, the company that provides cataloguing software to many of New Zealand's larger arts and collecting institutions.

Vernon Systems have been selected by National Services Te Paerangi to redevelop the (admittedly, currently horrendous) NZ Museums website. Currently a very basic directory, the site is going to be redeveloped into a web presence for members institutions' events, exhibitions and collection information.

The thing that really got me excited about this is that Vernon are producing a web-based version of their cataloguing system. Currently, smaller institutions without access to IT support can't afford the staff or techcosts of getting their collection information into a database that can be made publicly accessible.

The web application that Vernon is building - eHive - will allow organisations to catalogue online - the same that email services like Hotmail and Gmail allow you to email online. Organisations can sign up, then start creating records and loading up images (I think the figure of $250 a year for 5GB of files was given).

eHive will have a public and a private side. On the public side, web visitors will be able to browse the collection - like on the Auckland Art Gallery site. On the private side, organisations will be able to load up information like insurance values and condition reports.

Putting eHive behind the NZMuseums site means that people will be able to search across multiple collections at the same time (see for comparison Matapihi or CollectionsAustralia). If the big organisations that are using Vernon currently choose to import their data into eHive, it could potentially turn into an incredibly useful resource.

I think the success of the eHive system and the NZMuseums site will come down to training and standards. It's one thing to provide the technology - it's another to ensure that the Kauri Museum or Southland Art Gallery are making good digital images of their collection items, and cataloguing them in a useful (publicly and internally) way. I think the site will also need some kind of editorial control - as I understood it, there'll be the functionality to feature certain c0llections adn items on the homepage, form themed groupings, stuff like that.

I'm assuming that National Services has some sort of arrangement with Vernon whereby if the business ceases to be interested in providing the service (and hosting the files), it can all be brought in-house. But it was just really exciting to see an initative that's both about opening up access to collections for the public, and about collaborating to obtain essential services that small institutions can't otherwise access.

Wednesday 28 November 2007

Back soon

Best of 3 is away for a few days - back posting next Tuesday.

Blogging for fun and profit

The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, has just launched a new blog, Photo of the Day. As the title indicates, the blog features a new photo each day.

The interesting thing is that the photos aren't drawn from the Powerhouse's collection. Instead, they're photos from the Powerhouse's Image Library, taken by their Image Services staff for exhibition, publicity or research purposes. The blog is tightly linked in the site architecture to information about the Photo Library - where people can place orders for images. Very savvy.

Two other interesting aspects of the blog; all the images on it are hosted on Flickr - automatically cretaing a second audience opportunity for little effort (although placing them at Flickr's mercy: images at the tail end of the blog are missing right now, and showing a Flickr apology note).

And a nice navigational device: instead of listing post titles or categories, visitors can browse the blog using the calendar function.

Images from the Photo of the Day blog

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Follow my mental leaps

Over the net have dissected today the over-done ( under-done?) lighting of the Bill Hammond survey show Jingle Jangle Morning at City Gallery Wellington. As they point out, the lowered ambient light and strong spot lighting in one of the galleries has created some problems: glare which makes the works harder to see, dimness which prompts visitors to step over the lines to see details and read wall texts, and an unfortunate side effect of turning some of the works into lightboxes.

So far, the lack of lighting does not appear to have caused injury - for example, people walking into walls. You may scoff, but take the example of the Tate's current installation by Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth, a crack running the length of the Turbine Hall which has, in the first 4 weeks of showing, resulted in 15 reported accidents.

Dennis Ahern, the Tate’s head of safety and security, said: “With Shibboleth this hazard differs from equitable ones in that physical protection measures which would normally be applied to a gap of this nature are not deemed appropriate due to its artistic nature.” By which I think he means: "apparently it's art, so we can't board it up like we normally would".

In other art-related danger news: you would need a very large piece of board indeed to cover up Urs Fischer's latest work in New York, (as reviewed by Jerry Saltz). A sign at the door says: THE INSTALLATION IS PHYSICALLY DANGEROUS AND INHERENTLY INVOLVES THE RISK OF SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH.

Monday 26 November 2007

Memories ....

Is anyone else in Wellington having brand flashbacks?

Everytime I see the logo for the 2008 New Zealand International Arts Festival, I'm taken back to the cricket clubs of my childhood, and men with moustaches drinking crate bottles of DB Draught.

Thanks to a visual mondegreen, for me it's now indelibly the DB New Zealand International Arts Festival.

Friday 23 November 2007

breaking news

UPDATE Russell brown's latest comment on the thread:

Which brings me to: My Hobbyhorse: I would dearly love to see a modest contestable fund to which individuals could apply to have a work digitised by the archive that holds it.

Archives and libraries spend forever debating what to digitise. No one seems to grasp the fact that not every decision has to be top-down, and that part of what is digitised (and, ideally, made freely available thereafter) should be things that members of the public have a use for.

Artbash Aficionados and Hamish Keith have climbed on to the Hard News wagon: Russell Brown's discussion of the NZETC's recently released 19th century 'Maoriland' novels having turned into a whinge about, among other fine details, how much it costs to obtain images of collection items from the Hocken ....

Hard News: Maoriland Calling

hell yeah

For me, science is like art. I don't know much about it, but I know what I like - and that includes reading stuff by people who do (and who make it accessible). Every year I buy this series and this series, and I currently have a big old intellectual crush on this guy.

Bogus science gets me hot under the collar. For this reason, I'm really looking forward to reading Ben Goldacre's review of homeopathy research today.

Side column: Even noticed how science has the best words? Quantam theory. Half-life. Heavy water. 'Noggin' and 'sonic hedgehog' are both morphogens (morphogens!) critical to the proper development of the human embryo. I could go on ...

Thursday 22 November 2007

Design Review - now online

Maybe I'm a paper-sniffing library geek, but I was thrilled to find out that the NZETC has digitised all 29 issues of the 1940s-50s journal, the New Zealand Design Review.

It's transcribed, text-searchable, and has scans of each page, including the ads, some of which are to die for. Your modernist soul will delight in:

E Mervyn Taylor on letterhead design

Two houses by Ernst Plischke

Would a flat suit you?

A house in Stokes Valley - Bill Toomath

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Idle speculation

The Arts Foundation Laureate Awards are being held tonight in Wellington. Last year's Laureates included John Reynolds; previous visual arts Laureates include Peter Peryer, Michael Parekowhai, Ronnie van Hout and Julia Morison.

My baseless list of possibilities for tonight:

And - possibly a rank outsider, because I don't think the Foundation awards to artists based mostly outside of New Zealand, but deserving nonetheless - Michael Stevenson.

NEWER UPDATE Shows what I know.

UPDATE Over the net have pointed out that the male to female ratio of awards to visual artists so far is 4:1 (and that's before you count Warwick Freeman. But if you count him, do you count Ann Robinson? Hmmmm).

My own factoid: no artist has represented NZ at the Venice Biennale and become a Laureate.

Totally unrelated, an interesting article in the Guardian about readers' reports, the invisible arbiters of the publishing industry.

Tuesday 20 November 2007

Around the web

Jori Finkel in the New York Times, on dealer galleries underwriting shows of their artists' work in public art galleries. Institutions draw the line in different places: MoCA received 6-figure sums from Blum & Poe, Gagosian Gallery and Emmanuel Perrotin to underwrite its current Takashi Murakami show; the Walker Art Center regularly accepts donations from dealer galleries to underwrite catalogues, but not exhibitions; MoMA and the Met won't take dealer contributions for shows or publications.

Inside Higher Ed asks if university museums are academic units: 'To what degree is a college art museum considered central to an academic mission, and to what extent is it seen primarily as a financial asset?'

Jerry Saltz does some Guerilla Girls-style counting at MoMA: 'Each fall since MoMA’s reopening in November 2004, I’ve gone to these two floors, counted the number of artworks on view, tallied the number of women artists included, and then pitched a fit in print.'

Nothin against MoMA though: equally dismal amounts of art by women artists are on show (or not) at 6 other New York museums.

Monday 19 November 2007

Art History 456: Guestimating prices

Maybe New Zealand art history departments should bring this in at post-grad level?

Keeping art safe

UPDATE Audio from the Nine to Noon article here

The Bill Hammond survey exhibition 'Jingle Jangle Morning' opened at City Gallery Wellington this weekend.

The show comes to Wellington from the Christchurch Art Gallery. One work - Living Large 6 - is missing from the show. Its owner withdrew it from the touring programme after the painting fell off the wall during the installation at CAG. You can read more in two stories from The Press, here and here.

Apparently this morning - although I couldn't find it on the online programme - Kathryn Ryan will be talking on National Radio about the growing reluctance of owners to lend works to public galleries for exhibitions, due to the number (?) of stories like that of Living Large 6.

Of course, it goes without saying that lenders should expect that their works to be well looked after. And stories like that of Living Large 6 seem to be relatively rare - as compared to, say, people putting an elbow through a Picasso. But if lenders lose faith in the ability of galleries to care for their works, the public will be the losers. So here's hoping the Nine to Noon story is a balanced one.

Friday 16 November 2007

Weekend reading

Who'd have thunk it? Men's Vogue has an auction blog. Check out their art auction posts here. Sample quote:

Larry Gagosian hung on longer than most, taking his leave during lot 81 (a pedestrian Monet being sold by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art); he took home Picasso's Homme a la pipe for $16.8 million perhaps for a new Russian client. Christie's owner Francois Pinault stayed the course, looking down on the sale from a skybox window where he could be seen leaning into an outstretched arm as if he were trying to make a move on someone.

In other news:

Paul Goldberg on the new New Museum of Contemporary Art building

Richard Lacayo on a MoMA extension

Art you didn't know you needed - portraits of muttniks

Thursday 15 November 2007

Long time, no Ed Winkleman

It's been a while since I pointed you to one of Ed's posts, so here's his most recent, on the 'dangers of the secondary market for living artists'.

In the post Ed writes:

I attended a panel discussion a while back with three high-powered Chelsea dealers who were sharing their experiences with a group of us younger galleries. One of the established dealers surprised me by announcing she shares a percentage of every resale that goes through her space with her artists. There are many reasons that makes good business sense to me, none the least of which it helps you retain said artists, but also because by giving the artist an interest in how sold work appreciates, the gallery, the collector, and the artist will all be invested in seeing that work appreciate.

This reminded me of the teacup storm over resale royalty rights in earlier this year; the MCH discussion paper is being analysed now.

Wednesday 14 November 2007

What are you thinking?*

Every so often I like to delve into the web stats for the Best of 3 blog and see what's going on.

Today I had a look through the search terms that bring people to the site, and can't resist sharing some of them:

1 October: 'tupperware dealers taranaki'

13 October: 'mug shots of steve jobs'

14 October: 'bringing sexy back christchurch council'

4 November: 'how to make money with an art history degree'

11 November: 'how to uncover the art in me'

As an added bonus, here's a simple-but-useful Google search technique. If you can't find what you want on a particular site, but are pretty sure it's there somewhere, try typing this into the Google search box

search term site:
e.g. venice report site:

Putting quote marks around your search term will make it search for an exact phrase.

*The other logical question being, of course, - what am I writing?

Monday 12 November 2007

Art - leafy greens for the brain

Who thought I'd ever sample from a website called Daddytypes? However, this quote from a long post about taking a wee kid to look at abstract art is priceless.

A docent explaining Clyfford Still's 1951-N to a group of school children:

"Well, there are curators - do you know what that is? art experts who study and know what art is important enough to be in a museum - curators and art historians and other experts who say this is art, and even if it doesn't look like it's about anything and it doesn't make any sense, you just have to bear with it sometimes."

Disclaimer: Some of my best friends are curators. Really.

Image: Clyfford Still,1951-N, 1951. Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection, Gift in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art. 1989.87.1

Newspapers - meet hyperlinks.

This morning James Fenton's Guardian article about the British Museum putting its collection database online popped up in my feed reader.

I scanned the article, noting all the good things he had to say about the project (and loving the way that the British Museum refers to the collection items listed on the database as 'flat art'. Love love love it. I am now dividing all art into 'flat art' 'not flat art' and 'art that you can't see but know is there').

Three weeks ago, the British Museum quietly launched its comprehensive website of what it calls flat art: mostly so far its enormous collection of prints and drawings. The drawings, 50,000 of them, have all been catalogued; the prints, by no means. It is hard to say how many of them there are. There is a collection of a third of a million bookplates (yet to be tackled, and perhaps a low priority). There are large untapped resources - for instance, French satirical prints - which have not been published elsewhere in any form, and will now become searchable.

The effort goes back a long way. In 1990 a team of four staff began cataloguing the drawings. It took them 10 years. At present there are on any given day eight people at work on the online catalogue, plus volunteers. What they are feeding into the system is not just the subject, author, dimensions and technical details, but also, where relevant, the scholarly literature on a given drawing, its full provenance, who gave it to the museum and when. From any entry you can then find out, for instance, what is known about the donor of the object (many of the gifts go back to the 18th century).

And then I thought yeah, I'll go to the site - where's the link? So I scrolled back to the top of the article - no link. Then back to the bottom - still no link. And then I realised that in a 1050 word article about a website, there was no link to the site. Print newspapers I can almost forgive, but this drives me crazy.

Friday 9 November 2007

Lies, damn lies,

I love a good statistic. I like the population counter on the Statistics New Zealand homepage (4,244,761 and counting). I like it when cricket commentators tell you that the record for a seventh wicket partnership by New Zealand versus Pakistan has been broken. As a child I was fascinated by the Livestock Improvement catalogues, with their pictures and stats of bulls and their offspring (I realise that may be sharing a bit too much).

So thanks Tyler Green for pointing out the Indianapolis Museum of Art's new Dashboard feature on their website.

The Dashboard presents some figures and prercentages, in a nice round-cornered bright'n'shiny Web 2 design, that reflect aspects of the IMA's performance. I'm not sure if they're pulling the numbers from smart folders or some idiosyncratic database, but it's an interesting selection: electrical consumption per day, new plantings, number of works in the collection with incomplete World War II-era provenance, number of hours spent by conservators examining art.

It's an interesting selection ... and yet it offers no more insight into the IMA's working than the 7th wicket stand gives into the eventual outcome of the match. Most of the figures are numbers without context - okay, so 12% of visitors are IMA Members: but is visitation up or down on this time last year? The Dashboard looks pretty and all - but I'm just not sure what it's for.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Things I missed while I was away

Nothing, to be honest. Away was perfect.

But here's some things I would have read if I had been near a computer:

In April this year I wrote about the British Art Fund initiative, which put up £5m for regional galleries to buy and display contemporary art from overseas. The five 'winners' have been announced: Bristol Museums; Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art; the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne; and Birmingham City Museum with New Art Gallery, Walsall.

My fascination with art advisors (and anyone who uses the phrase 'starter Warhol') continues...

The Chronicle of Higher Education takes on the fine art Ph.D

And a [p]review of James Stourton's Great Collectors of Our Time. [NB: does anyone else find the Times Online site disconcertingly boppy?]

Thursday 1 November 2007

Tomorrow will be the same but not as this is


For those of you looking for the Colin McCahon painting, it's in the Christchurch Art Gallery collection, you can read about it here (warning, PDF) or listen to a podcast here.


Best of 3 is taking a break: I'll be back next Thursday / Friday.

In the meantime, the Walker Art Center's design staff are blogging - check them out the behind the scenes on projects such as Kara Walker (complete with prudish American booksellers).

And to yesterday's anonymous commenter: noted, but not nice ....

Wednesday 31 October 2007

For sale: hanging space in established art venue

$100 buys you a metre of wall space at Auckland Art Gallery, as part of the fundraising for the $96 million extension. And an invitation to a party. And a certificate. Who needs artist-run spaces?

In the trenches

... sometimes I advocate for more art gallery blogs

... sometimes I smack myself in the head and wonder why

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Nothing but net

Or more appropriately - nothing to do with art.

Every now and then I find a new online tool that changes my life, in a large or subtle way. Getting a feed reader was one of those moments (and yes, I've tried to convert you before). It's completely revolutionised the way I engage with news, ideas and people online.

A subtle improvement: when I found out that in Firefox (and if you're not using Firefox, what kind of art-loving liberal are you?) clicking on a hyperlink using the scroll button on your mouse forces the page to open in a new tab.

My newest find is Google Notebook. If you do a lot of research on the net, copying and pasting chunks of text and URLs into Word docs for later reference, this will change your researching life. It's simple, lightweight, and being an online application you can access it anywhere - fantastic if, like me, you work from two different computers. [If you just want to save interesting web pages but your Favourites are overflowing, I recommend Ma.gnolia].

Friday 26 October 2007

Call me gullible

But on Friday afternoon I chose to believe this is really what it claims to be.

Thursday 25 October 2007

Private / public

Over the last few weeks, there's been an interesting little flurry on the American blogs, on the topic of publicly-funded institutions building shows out of the holdings of private collectors.

At the beginning of this week, Richard Lacayo blogged about the National Gallery of Art, Washington, exhibition "The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978".

Lacayo liked the show, but observed that it would have been nice to mix these vernacular photos in with the work of Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander (etc). This wasn't possible because the show was drawn from a single person's collection - Robert E. Jackson.

About six weeks ago Tyler Green lambasted the NGA over the show, for fluffing collectors. Green felt that (1) the NGA shouldn't do vanity exhibitions and (2) the NGA effectively abdicated responsibility for the show - curating the collector, not the collection.

Green weighed in again yesterday; Lacayo replied that he was okay with shows built from private collections, more iffy about permanent installations of private collections; ModernKicks posted a thoughtful consideration; Regina Hackett doesn't agree with anyone.

Of course, I understand that when an institution shows a private collection they're increasing its worth (well - if they're any good at what they do they should be). But New Zealand's gallery system would be sunk without private lenders: very few institutions can afford to collect comprehensively anymore, and moreover, I have the feeling young curators are losing interest in working on / with permanent collection (to whit, this article) .

Overall, the question seems to less about the content, more about who gets to 'own' the presentation. Is it okay for a curator to make a show from a single (private) collection, not okay for the collector to do it? What about taking a whole show from a dealer gallery? Or consistently sourcing exhibitions from the same small group of suppliers? When do networks become cabals?

Nothing else matters

Via Regina Hackett - via Richard Lacayo - via Alec Soth - via Mark Sullo - I present 'Square America', a celebration of vintage snapshots & vernacular photoography.

Recalling the glorious Melbourne mug shots, the site includes sets on ...

... sleep ...

... dance ...

... and 'candid' street photography ....

Wednesday 24 October 2007

A warrior with his camera

Current small obsession: Australian photographer/cinematographer James Francis Hurley (1885-1962), and his photographs of Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1916).

Shackleton's ship, the Endurance, was destroyed by pack ice: the expedition camped on a giant ice-floe for 5 months. In April 1916 the crew was able to launch the ship’s rescue boats and sail to Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton and five crew members sailed 1,300km in a small boat to reach South Georgia, and then trekked across the island to a whaling station to find help.

Images from the Alexander Turnbull Library collections: available via the Timeframes website by searching on 'Endurance'.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

New kid on the block

The Tauranga Art Gallery was opened on Saturday, with guest speakers Prime Minister Helen Clark, Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby and ... Lynn of Tawa addressing a crowd of 400 people.

The Gallery has an operating budget of about $1 million, mostly funded by the Tauranga City Council. This is already under threat, with Councillor Murray Guy pushing to halve the Council's subsidy over the next five years, and introduce an entry charge next year.

Images: from the Tauranga Art Gallery website (gallery image from open day earlier this year)

Friday 19 October 2007

Coming soon to a gallery near you

The announcement of the MCA Sydney's 2008 programme helps outline what we NZers will be seeing next year. On the cards (warning - PDF) is a Fiona Hall survey show, co-curated by the MCA's Vivienne Webb and City Gallery Wellington's Paula Savage and Gregory O'Brien, with opening dates in Wellington (28 June) and Christchurch (4 December).

Personally, I'd rather they brought out the exchange show the MCA is doing with the MCA San Diego: San Diego gets Australian video art, Sydney gets Robert Irwin, John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger & Ed Ruscha.

Bloomberg is reporting this is the first step in a partnership to bring an Olafur Eliasson show to Sydney: the Daily Telegraph has it from 'feisty' director Elizabeth Ann McGregor that the show's coming via San Francisco and New York in Spring 2009. One can only hope they'll flick it our way: I'd trade Hall and San Diego for that.

Paying the piper

The more I read about the way American galleries and museums are funded and managed, the more I wonder whether New Zealand might be blessed with its municipally-funded public art galleries and centrally-funded contemporary art spaces.

While of course there have been times where the art community has felt that council involvement has negatively affected art gallery operations (Michael Laws and the Sarjeant, the gone-very-quiet Paradigm shift, what's-its-name in the Waikato) you've got to wonder sometimes what the alternatives are. If you're not going to have your gallery funded by ratepayers, and overseen by officials elected by those ratepayers, or funded by taxpayers, and overseen by government, what are you left with?

In this context, Joe Nocera's 8-page interview in the New York Times with ex-Dia director Michael Govan and ex-Dia board chairman Leonard Riggio over the creation of Dia:Beacon and the subsequent unravelling of their relationship makes fascinating reading.

Image: by Dave Kemp, via Flickr.

Thursday 18 October 2007

0800 ART

Never invited to the best dinner parties or after-opening Chinese restaurant soirées? Never fear - now you can get your hot art information over the phone.

APT Intelligence has gathered a roster of artists, curators and critic, and time-poor collectors can now book phone consultations with an advisor matched to their interests:

Our advisors/experts are actively involved in the young emerging art scene around the globe, covering established markets in the US and Europe as well as upcoming regions such as Latin America, India, China and the Middle East. No group of individuals is better positioned to comprehensively cover young emerging artists around the world. APT Intelligence provides access to this unique network of experts through phone consultations and customized tours.

Fees start at $350 for a half-hour. You'd hope the advisors have a nice phone manner.

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Peak oil and art galleries

In April 2008 the Canadian federal government is phasing out its Exhibition Transport Services (ETS), which provides affordable exhibition transport. Canadian galleries and museums are predicting that touring costs are going to triple, and that institutions off the main routes are going to be cut off.

Back at home, the price of food at the cafe closest to work is about to increase, because of price rises in flour, milk, petrol etc.

All of which makes me wonder: what's going to happen in New Zealand as petrol prices (and presumably, insurance costs) keep increasing? Without some sort of subsidy (and currently CNZ is the only ready option I can think of) will small galleries and museums be able to access touring shows?

And will we continue to see international touring exhibitions, like William Hodges at the Auckland Art Gallery (still one of my favourite shows of the past few years) or City Gallery Wellington's regular infusions from Australia, such as Hany Armanious, Patricia Piccinini, and Tracey Emin?

Tuesday 16 October 2007

Why you should vote

One Moment Caller reports that Hamilton City Council is dissolving the ties that bind between the City Library and the Waikato Museum.

Meanwhile, Tauranga residents voted out all the councillors in favour of a proposed waterfront museum.

And ex-Wellington Museums Trust head John Gilberthorpe was not elected to the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Critic on critic round 2

Tyler Green weighs in on the Saltz review:

Babylon07 is from a trope much-favored by scenesters: It's an insider's lament, the kind of write-up that earns props inside a community because the writer has spoken out against the perceived dominant influence. Simultaneously the writer seems to have gained credibility outside his community because he has dared to challenge Big Players who are squatting on his home turf. Except in reality Saltz is the dominant influence. And he isn't so much challenging as he is acquiescing.

Monday 15 October 2007


This passed me by in September, but there's been another little flurry of reports: the sixth edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has 16,000 less hyphens than the previous edition. (Never to fear though, more words have been added, including psychobilly, puh-leeze and over-emote.)

Several experts consulted by the media suggest that hyphens are musty, fusty, and largely unnecessary, as most readers can get by without them. They also suggest that fast typing of emails is contributing to the decimation of hyphens. The thing I find funny? Newspaper style retains what I'd say was a outmoded hyphen in 'e-mail'.

The most elegant coverage of the 16,000 is to be found in this article, by Charles McGrath in The New York Times. Check it out.

Friday 12 October 2007

Critic on critic

I was going to point y'all to Jerry Saltz's jeremiad on Wednesday, but Overthenet beat me to it.

However, check out Regina Hackett on Saltz's harangue:

With his latest gambit, "Has Money Ruined Art?" in New York magazine, Jerry Saltz is angling to be the Robert Hughes of our time. Just as Hughes railed against money in the 1980s, Saltz is railing now.

Hughes once wrote that young SoHo art collectors had the "discrimination of vacuum cleaners." Here's how Saltz described the people in the reserved seats at Aaron Young's "Greeting Card" spectacle at the Seventh Regiment Armory last month: "A listers, curators, thin and well-dressed women, up-and-coming artists, and certain critics were given seats. Everyone else had to stand."


This is the first image I've seen from Jake Chapman's and Dinos Chapman's Frieze Art Fair project, where queues of people are forming at the White Cube stall to hand over their pound notes - whatever value they choose - and have the Queen's face doodled over by the artists.

I'm interested to see what happens to these works after Frieze. Will people hold on to them, or will they get flicked off at auction in six months? The Chapmans are making a point by selling cheap art - just like they made a point at last year's Frieze by selling expensive sketch portraits - but can the point survive in the secondary market?

Photograph by Martin Godwin, from the Guardian website.

Tuesday 9 October 2007

From the archives

You've got to admire a publication which puts art reviews from 1985 online.

Here's the New York Magazine on Gretchen Albrecht, Stephen Bambury, Jeffrey Harris, Richard Killeen, James Ross and Philip Trusttum, who were showing at 22 Wooster Gallery in SoHo in January 1985.

The article is right above another lovely piece of arcana: tough times with the clerical staff at the Whitney, after the uppity staff went off and got themselves unionised.

A black cloud has descended over the country

and heads will roll and someone will be held accountable.

Meanwhile, Peter Peryer uses the nation's moment of despair to muse on the efficacy of our national anthem, and One Moment Caller riffs on a Venetian theme.

Monday 8 October 2007

One day, sculpture

There's an article in this week's Listener about 'One Day Sculpture', a 'cumulative series of place-responsive sculptures – each of which will exist within the public domain for no more than a 24-hour period' which, collectively, will 'for the first time, draw together nine of New Zealand’s principal contemporary art initiatives to interrogate key issues in ephemeral and place-sensitive sculptural practice.' (from the Litmus website)

I wish the project all the best. And a bit of MSM coverage like this is a good thing. But when the lynch pin of the project is engaging the public, why not drip feed them a little more information?

Clare Doherty, the curatorial director of 'One Day Sculpture', hasn't updated her blog since May 2007, and the latest news available on the Litmus website is from the same time, announcing that a 'significant group of New Zealand curators will convene in Muenster, Germany, next month' to discuss the project with Doherty.

To beat my blogging drum to a slightly different tune: if you're going to blog, or have online news, keep it up to date! Give us a reason to come back. Hell, we might even spread the news a little. Or turn up on the day ...

Friday 5 October 2007

Wandering on the web

You know how some days when you're walking to work, you don't just see the normal cohort of people who are on the same timetable as you - instead, you see a dance troupe practising their 'Shake your tail feather routine', three marching bands and the Water Whirler actually working?

Well, maybe you don't. But to continue my analogy - Stumble Upon is like that.

For work-related reasons today I finally got round to checking this out. After signing up you download a toolbar, select a group of interests, and start Stumbling. Every time you hit the Stumble Upon icon, it serves you up a fresh website that's been tagged with the interests you selected. You give the site a thumbs up or thumbs down, and the service starts to learn your likes and dislikes.

I put 'art' and 'painting' as two interest, and my god, have I seen some scary stuff, interspersed with some gems. Like this gallery of hand art:

This gallery of street installations:

And this post on Ron Mueck, which mixes in images from the Brooklyn Museum's Flickr set, which I talked about the other day, with snaps of people looking at the work:

It interests me that in a world where it's hard to get people to vote in an election, people go out of their way to find ways to vote and favourite online.


Post-It note art:

Thursday 4 October 2007

Self-reflexive musings

A recent article on Newosaur looks at the disenchantment young staff within traditional media companies are coming to feel as they realise that while they might be the 'knowers' and the 'doers', they're not the 'deciders', and can't effect (or affect) change:

But the young net natives, for the most part, rank too low in the organizations that employ them to be invited to the pivotal discussions determining the strategic initiatives that could help their employers sustain their franchises.

“In most organizations, the people with the most online experience have the least political capital,” said one mid-level online editor at a newspaper. ...

Members of the wired generation say the process, bureaucracy and caution common to most media companies steals spontaneity and edginess away from ideas that could be appealing to their peers.

“Management is more concerned about who owns the change than they are about creating change,” said the online newspaper editor.

O'Reilly's Peter Brantley notes that this could apply to young professionals in publishing and libraries.

I wonder if this is just as applicable to art galleries? Is this what lies behind galleries' apparent slowness in coming to terms with Wikipedia, or with blogging, with starting a group on Facebook, or even with just getting on Flickr (a quick search this morning revealed a lot of lovely exterior shots when I searched on Christchurch Art Gallery, City Gallery Wellington and Dunedin Public Art Gallery, but nothing that looked like it came from the galleries themselves. Having said that, check out this great set of photos of Michael Parekowhai's Jim McMurty installed at CAG.).

I know one person who quit their job in an art gallery because they just got so frustrated about the management's reluctance to make use of technology that was cheaply (or freely) available that would help them work better. At the risk of sounding doddery, there's a generation coming through that's incredibly savvy, not just about online tools, but about building brands and networks online. So how will galleries harness this?

Wednesday 3 October 2007

Art online - an update

Christchurch Art Gallery have added three new podcasts to their online offerings: an introduction from director Jenny Harper, and tracks on the pre- and post-2002 Gallery.

SFMOMA have hacked the Wordpress platform to create a simple online visitors' book to accompany their Olafur Eliasson exhibition.

And you can DIY Pollock at Hints: right-click your mouse to change colours; hitting the space bar gives you a new canvas to work on. [Suggested improvement: adding a buy-now feature, so you can print your squiggles on to canvas and then hang it above your sofa, in the spirit of reality TV home-makeover programmes ...]

Image: Best of 3 does Pollock (with a familial resemblance to Andre Hemer )

Tuesday 2 October 2007

Put that art history degree to good use

As reported in the Guardian, historical paintings of sunsets are being analysed in the hopes of providing information about climate change:

The team, at the National Observatory of Athens, is using the works of old masters to work out the amount of natural pollution spewed into the skies by eruptions such as Mount Krakatoa in 1883. ...

The team found 181 artists who had painted sunsets between 1500 and 1900. The 554 pictures included works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Gainsborough and Hogarth. They used a computer to work out the relative amounts of red and green in each picture, along the horizon. Sunlight scattered by airborne particles appears more red than green, so the reddest sunsets indicate the dirtiest skies. The researchers found most pictures with the highest red/green ratios were painted in the three years following a documented eruption. There were 54 of these "volcanic sunset" pictures.

Prof Zerefos's team is now talking to the Tate in London about repeating the study with 40 paintings from the 20th century, to see whether artists have captured the effects of pollution on sunsets since the industrial revolution.

Want to prep yourself for taking part in the follow-up follow up study? Try David Adam's online sunset painting course.

Image: David Adams, East Coast Romance, acrylic on masonite. Image from

Monday 1 October 2007

Show me the blogs ....


This comment was just added to an earlier post, but I'm pasting it in here:

A blog is being established by the Adam Art Gallery (Victoria University Wellington)
While it is still in this formative period it has not been linked from their website.

Good for the Adam. Given the pictures below, I did consider titling this post 'Birth pangs'.


I've had a decent moan in the past about the lack of art gallery blogs in New Zealand. If you're thinking of rising to the challenge, you could do worse than to check out the Brooklyn Museum's blog as a model.

The blog appears to be written by staff from throughout the institution, so in the past month there's been posts on conserving a watercolour, on buying work for the collections, and on participating in the Deitch Art Parade. Sure, it's not all high-faluting art discussion, but it is an interesting - and human - insight into what goes on at the Museum.

Brooklyn Museum is also active on Flickr, posting photos of, amongst other things, exhibition installations, such as the Ron Mueck photos shown here.

Taking full advantage of the word-of-mouth possibilities of blogging, the Museum also encourages people to send them links to posts, if they've visited an exhibition and written about it on their own blogs.

PS: on an apposite note - Ed Winkleman wondered on Friday: 'Are more museums embracing blogs?'

Images: Ron Mueck, his assistant Charlie Clarke and Brooklyn Museum staff installing Ron Mueck on show at the Brooklyn Museum, November 3 2006–February 4 2007. From the Brooklyn Museum's Flickr set.