Wednesday 31 January 2007

The bash is back

Artbash seems, after a few months of summertime languishing, to have sprung back to life. Well, 'sprung' might not be the right word, but some of the regular contributors, including John Hurrell and 'Jean' (Emily Cormack) are posting again.

Artbash describes itself as:

... an online community of New Zealanders who love art and love to talk about art. Sometimes things get a bit scrappy, but generally there are a bunch of intelligent and educated (well, we've been to art-school anyway) people to interact with.

Run out of Christchurch, it can be a bit Christchurch-centric, although Hurrell does his best to broaden the discussion. On the other (even) hand, it can be interesting to follow a community that's largely talking to and about itself - for example, the Christchurch Art Gallery review, restructure and re-staffing.

So - welcome back Artbash. Looking forward to seeing some sparks fly: Prospect 2007 would be a good launch pad.

Watching the clock

As part of its site design, the Statistics New Zealand site has a population clock in its banner design - which currently reads 4,168,445 people.

Stats New Zealand site

It's a nifty little thing, but what I really like about is the figuring-out that underpins it:

New Zealand's population is estimated to increase by one person every 10 minutes and 29 seconds.

This is based on the estimated resident population at 30 September 2006 and the following component settings.

  • one birth every 9 minutes and 13 seconds
  • one death every 19 minutes and 23 seconds
  • a net migration gain of one New Zealand resident every 25 minutes and 59 seconds.

Tuesday 30 January 2007

Blog buzz

I've been playing around a little with blog search engines, and I think I've settled on IceRocket. It's got a nice lay-out (strongly reminiscent of Google), not too many paid ads, you can search MySpace separately, and clicking the search results takes you directly to the blog, not to another page of advertising.

And remember Google Fight? On IceRocket you can measure and graph 'blog buzz', and generate results like the one at the top of this blog: Painting (in blue) takes on Relational Aesthetics over the past month. Stats don't lie.

Monday 29 January 2007

Digital do-gooder

My new-New Year's resolution / proof I'm really committed to my job: I'm going to become a volunteer proof-reader with Distributed Proofreaders, on online organisation set up to assist with the digitisation of books for Project Gutenberg.

One of the reasons I'm doing this - apart from the goodness of my heart - is that the digitisation of the books is being done using OCR (optical character recognition). We're running a project here at work using OCR to convert millions (well, million) of TIF files of pages of historical newspapers into fully text-searchable pages. I think/hope this will provide an interesting insight.

Friday 26 January 2007

Up close

One of the challenges we're facing with our website redevelopment at work is how to maximise the presentation of images of works in our collections - from maps to miniatures to panorama photos to pots.

Someone recommended the FAMSF's (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco's) ImageBase to me last night, for its zoom functionality.

FAMSF ImageBase

ImageBase uses Zoomify, a Flash-based application, to display high-resolution images online. The image quality is fantastic. Zoomify is also being used by the Library of Congress and the Getty.

One of the other interesting things about ImageBase is that they've employed descriptive keywords in their search functionality. So in addition to searching by typical cataloguing terms, like artist name, or date, or medium, you can search by the kind of words that you might use to describe the work less formally - the work at the top of the post, for example, has key words including stylish, leggy, young, clad and loosely - all good words for John Buckland Wright.

Image: John Buckland Wright, Jeune Fille Accroupie, 1929. Wood Engraving. Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts. See more details here.

Wednesday 24 January 2007

I would like to stress that I strongly believe in the efficacy of art as a means for social change through a process of democratic questioning.

Dan du Bern - what he wanted to do for Prospect 2007

The long and the short of it

In a post on Monday, Tim O'Reilly wrote about the way that web publishing - and particularly the growth of blogging - is changing the way we create and deliver information.

In particular, O'Reilly notes the prevalence of short-form content, which suits the way we scan and skip through web content, and also lends itself to social production, or the collaborative creation of content.

The connection between short, modular and open - O'Reilly Radar

On Rough Type, Nicholas Carr responds to O'Reilly's piece, noting the danger posed by the short-form to the long-form (movies compared to Youtube clips):

"The new medium doesn't just promote the proliferation of small pieces; it devalues the long form. In fact, it doesn't even make room for big, extended works. It's actively biased against them, technologically and economically. More than that, though, it both reflects and reinforces our own increasing bias against anything that requires sustained attention or contemplation."

Honey, I shrunk the culture - Rough Type

Tuesday 23 January 2007

Going to market

Visiting Edward Winkleman's blog this morning, his current post about pricing the work of emerging artists seemed to follow on nicely from what I was reading earlier on the Auckland Art Fair site

What they're willing to pay - Edward Winkleman

Winkleman's advice to emerging artists is to keep prices enticingly low, until a steady demand is established, and you can start to move the prices up in response. He's looking at the issue in light of recent, stupidly high, prices on the secondary market - notably Ron Lauder purchase of Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. He asks - and answers - some interesting questions:

"What if an artist knows that one particular piece is the best work they've ever done...should they insist its price be higher than their other work? And, conversely, just because the market goes nuts for one particular piece by an emerging artist, does that mean that the price of all subsequent work should be higher? What if that one piece is the one true gem and the later work not quite so?"

Collecting art - it's, like, so hot right now

This May the second Auckland Art Fair is being held in the Viaduct Harbour. Overthenet has posted a list of dealer galleries who have joined the event, after apparently sitting back and watching the inaugural event, have signed up for this one.

On the AAF's website, Jennifer Buckley and Deborah White describe the event's objective: "to secure Auckland a place on an International Art Fair circuit which includes Melbourne, Basel, Miami and London and we expect it to produce significant long term economic benefits for artists, galleries and Auckland City.".

The aim of the AAF is to "provide the opportunity for existing and aspiring art collectors and aficionados to meet and discuss their art interests with the people who have an extensive knowledge of – and dedication to – their profession."

The best bit though is the inclusion of this quote, from Elaine W. Ng, Editor-in-Chief, Art Asia Pacific:

“Art fairs are the new Biennales. Even the New York Times coverage of Art Basel Miami describes it as an event where 'young, hip hedge-fund managers, Fortune 500 executives and A-list actors are shopping side by side in a spree fuelled by new wealth, a hot art market and the headlong pursuit of membership in a glamorous , elite club'.”

Auckland - the new Miami.

Friday 19 January 2007

If an installation fell in the woods ...

On Tyler Green, a post about a particularly daft division between 'installation' and 'sculpture', on the basis that installation 'needs' you. Who knew it was so easy to draw the line?

Art BS - Tyler Green

Image:Michael Parekowhai, Parliament of Fools, 2006. Automotive paint on fibreglass. From the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery website

Wednesday 17 January 2007

My first widget

Following a tip from Tyler Green on Modern Art Notes, I've just downloaded my first widget - from the Rijksmuseum.

The Rijkswidget is, according to the Rijksmuseum, the first widget ever to emanate from a museum. The widget delivers a work from the Rijksmuseum's collection to your desktop every day; you can enlarge the image, and flip it to read the 'reverse', which gives you info about the work and a link to a collection page on the Rijksmuseum site that features the work.

The widget runs through Yahoo Widgets, and can be downloaded from their widget gallery or via the Rijksmuseum site.

**Some background on widgets from Wikipedia**

What I find really interesting is the feedback the Rijksmuseum have received. As well as people commenting on the beauty of the art (the work at the top of the post is today's example, and I'm picking there's a lot of easy-on-the-eye representational painting loaded up) and the way it improves their lives ("Outstanding! Rijksmuseum provides me with a gift I cherish every morning. My day is truly better") there's a lot of feedback on the widget itself:

  • world-class . . . world-wide-web enhansement, I have sent on to every web designer I know who is working in this environment, well done. The high-res downlaod is welcome.
  • Very beautiful widget, wonderful lay-out. Just right. I love it a lot.Absolutely perfect widget. I use it every day. You can bet when I visit Amsterdam next summer I will be visit your museum. I am on a Mac OSX.4 and it installed and works so well.
  • I am running Mac 10.4.6 and the new version of your widget works very well. I am pleased that your museum is so familiar with the Mac platform and makes use of its superior capabilities, in this case in the form of the widget.
  • If you have a large bit of open desktop real estate, you may wish to consider activating the "widget developer mode" which allows you to place the widget above the desktop but not in the dashboard. This is a bit confusing until you see it, but it means that whether dashboard is activated or not, this beautiful and stunningly effective educational device is always visable and just as interactive as it's dashboard incarnation. It's also possible to put it back in the dashboard in the unlikely event that you ever lose interest in one of the world's great collections of art.
I'm now thinking about ways that we could incorporate this into my organisation .. as a way to access the collections, but also as a promotional tool.

UPDATE: The past two mornings I've got to work, turned on my PC and waited - in vain - for the widget to appear. It seems to disappear over night, and not be replaced by the next day's image. Today I'm going to try to find out why.

Image: Johannes Verspronck, Portrait of a Girl Dressed in Blue, 1641. Collection of the Rijksmuseum.

Tuesday 16 January 2007


In Monday's Guardian, a lengthy article by Steve Rose about the new MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art), part of mayor Ray Mallon's desire to turn the city into a 'designer label town'.

Steve Rose on the new MIMA - Guardian website
MIMA entry - Wikipedia

The article features a lot of commentary by the MIMA architect, Erick van Egeraat, who by the sounds of it has created a good box for looking at art in - and inviting people in. My attention was attracted by this statement though:

"The gallery spaces are artificially lit, which might be a taboo in major international galleries, but is a practical consideration here, says van Egeraat, as artists can control the lighting conditions. Besides, most thefts from art galleries are through the skylights."


There's an interesting discussion on Edward Winkleman's blog at the moment about gallery lighting - the general consensus in the comments seems to be that natural lighting is best, and thus artist-run and dealer spaces often look the best, as galleries and museums are restrained by preservation policies (and use spot lights, which people seem to abhor). I was at the Govett-Brewster in the weekend, looking at the Break: Construct exhibition, and the combination of too-small lighting and expanses of grey carpet lighting absolutely killed Yvonne Todd's work, displayed on the first mezzanine floor - which was a shame, because the photos themselves are extraordinary.

Edward Winkleman's blog
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Image from the Middlesbrough Council site.


In what he's retrospectively describing as 'not my finest hour', Toby Harden (US editor for the Daily Telegraph) has been caught out by bloggers for posting a news story about Saddam Hussein's execution before it happened.

Journalist suffers bloggers' ire - Guardian website

The Daily Telegraph has pulled Harden's blog after three days' worth of commenting by blog watch-dogs, who quickly noticed the errors in the story.

The original text has been posted on Colin Berry's Dreams and Daemons blog.

It some ways, it's like blog comments are the new Letters to the Editor. Moderation on blogs however seems to be a much trickier ethical proposition, given blogging's ideals - free and easy exchange of ideas and opinions, short-circuiting mainstream media - and tenor - less formal, more rapid, very specific, and with the ability to quickly pull together a vocal group of supporters or dissenters.

Monday 15 January 2007

What shall we tell them?

We're at that point on a website redevelopment project where, after a few months of being out of the loop, we're about to present the business with the draft site. They've had the opportunity to see the site design (although it's developed from that point) but they haven't yet seen the final (read, ruthlessly edited) version of the reams and reams of text they contributed for the site.

Inevitably, there are still a number of bugs to be worked out, and some things we wanted won't happen this time round, and some things look downright odd. On the blog Creating Passionate Users, there's an interesting post about the dilemma of managing expectations with demos:

"When we show a work-in-progress (like an alpha release) to the public, press, a client, or boss... we're setting their expectations. And we can do it one of three ways: dazzle them with a polished mock-up, show them something that matches the reality of the project status, or stress them out by showing almost nothing and asking them to take it "on faith" that you're on track."

Their bottom line?

"How 'done' something looks should match how 'done' something is."

But what's really interesting is the finding that the more finished-looking the demo is, the narrower the feedback; whereas the looser the demo looks, the more likely viewers are to give you high-level feedback. And there's even a programme that will help you fake the napkin-scrawl creative feel.

It reminds me - in a opaque way - of a comment by Wellington designer Neil Pardington about presenting to clients, cited by Lara Strongman in an essay for the catalogue for the Objectspace exhibition 'Just Hold Me' (the catalogue's not online, but you can find out a bit on curator Jonty Valentine's website).

Basically, the gist of what Neil said (I don't have the text in front of me) was that you take in four options. Two are clearly unacceptable. Of the remaining two, he wants to push one. So he makes a subtly disparaging comment about the unfavoured design, so the clients magically opt for the design he's selected for them.

Which begs the question - why bother producing four mock ups, if you only believe in one?

Thursday 11 January 2007

The iPhone

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has launched the new iPhone (anticipated by 'industry insiders' since 2002) during his keynote lecture at the MacWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco. According to my local paper, in an article syndicated from The Times:

"The iPhone was unveiled yesterday by Apple's polo-necked co-founder, Steve Jobs, ... to near-hysterical cheering from a crowd of 4000 Mac enthusiasts, who had been expecting either an Apple phone or a wide-screen iPod, not both."

The new iPhone, which Jobs says will 'reinvent' the telecommunications sector, got its media soft-launch in Time magazine, in an article you can read here, which describes the genesis of the phone as a mixture of Apple wanting to get onto the tablet PC wave and people hating the little buttons on their cell phones.

The iPhone abandons buttons for a touchscreen, which they will be hoping will prove as popular as the iPod click-wheel. The iPhone combines internet access, iPod functions, a built-in 2 MG digital camera and video playback features with the ability to make calls, and check your voicemail in a fandangled manner.

The phone is being released in the States this year, but won't make it to Asia-Pacific until 2008. The Time article points out a few glitches - you can't download music directly from iTunes, there aren't any games on it, you can't synchronise it wirelessly with a computer, and you need to be signed up to a cell-phone provider.

This last point is kinda important. As Jack Schofield notes on the Guardian's tech blog,

"However, in the US, you will only be able to get the phone from Cingular, apparently on a two-year contract. Frankly, if I was going to sign a two year contract with a UK network, I'd expect to get a $600/£300 smart phone free."

Schofield's bigger point however is about how Cingular has had to conform to Apple's requirements in order to get this bit of business, and what the wider implications of this might be ...

Image from the Time article

Wednesday 10 January 2007

New from Google

Google has released a new product - a search engine that offers full-text search across more than 200 year's worth of American patents, or about 7 million patents.

Google Patent Search

The US patent office had already made this information available online, but Google claims to have improved the search functionality.

An article from yesterday's Guardian, by Dan Glaister, describes the new search tool and some of the celebrity patents that can be found on it, from Jamie Lee Curtis's nappy-and-a-baby-wipe design to Marlon Brando's drumhead tensioning tool.

Dan Glaister article - Guardian website

Monday 8 January 2007

Work in progress

A couple I met yesterday have a website - profiling a New Zealand children's alphabet book - that they are trying to promote. When I told them what I do for a living, they asked me if I had any ideas about how they could drive visitors to their site.

I thought I'd take this on as a research task for this week.

My first Google search was for 'children's books recommendations'. One of the first sites that came up was, 'the definitive map of New Zealand web space'. I got taken to this page, listing authors and poetry. You can get a basic link for free, while sponsored links will cost you.

Interestingly, the claim would seem to rival what the National Library's Te Puna Web Directory is trying to achieve. This site - which I don't think is well known - lists mega-numbers of NZ and Pacific websites. You're able to suggest sites for inclusion.

Story-Go-Round is a website run by children's author Lorraine Orman. It's partly a guide to NZ kids literature, partly promotion for her own books. Great early-90s design.

My next Google search, for 'new zealand children's books' came up with the Storylines site at the top of the search. Storylines supports children's books and literature in New Zealand. They have an online database of authors, illustrators and books - although, irritatingly, the alphabetical search doesn't seem to work, so you have to go by keyword (no serendipitous findings here). No suggestion of how to get a profile, or contacts for a web editor.

The New Zealand Book Council has a page of links, which seems to mix commercial and non-commercial. Again, not sure how you go about getting yourself up there - a polite email, I guess, their contacts section is great.


Yeah, not so funny after all

Since posting below about the Art Squad, a story has hit the news about the theft of works by C.F. Goldie and Colin McCahon from the Auckland University Library ....

Art theft story - NZ Herald

Friday 5 January 2007

Now hiring...

The Art Newspaper has posted a story about the Metropolitan Police's effort to recruit members of the art world to its Art and Antiques Unit (in danger of being disbanded if it's not able to start paying its own way).

Art Beat Special Constables are being recruited from museums such as the Victoria & Albert and the British Museum, universities, insurance companies and other cultural organisations. After four weeks training in police procedure as well as specialist art squad techniques, volunteers will be sponsored by their employers to work as Special Constables for 200 hours a year or one day a fortnight. They will be uniformed and will have full police powers.

“The aim is to build bridges between the police and the art world and maintain a high visibility presence in areas with a high level of art sales,” said DS Rapley. “This could include patrolling antiques markets like Bermondsey or areas with clusters of art dealers like Kensington Church Street, Bond Street or Camden Passage, or undercover intelligence work.”

The Art Newspaper story

Interestingly, the Met police are London's largest employer

Recruitment -

The story has caused a bit of tongue-in-cheek commentary on various blogs, including Edward Winkleman's. However, given last year's spate of art thefts in new Zealand, maybe we could think about freeing some of our directors' time up so that they can give back to the art world?

Ray Haydon sculpture stolen from Parnell gallery -
Sarah Courtney sculpture stolen from Hawkes Bay gallery - Hawkes Bay today
Helme Hein sculpture stolen from property in Russell - TVNZ website

Image: A stolen silver carriage clock, from S.L.A.D - the Met's Stolen London Art Database

Thursday 4 January 2007

I think I'm in love

I've written before about how much I enjoy Peter Peryer's blog. Now, courtesy of Tyler Green's contribution of his top 10 art blogs for the Walker's year in review posting, a new favourite ... Alec Soth.

Soth is a photographer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I'm not about to venture an opinion on his work yet, having not spent enough time sifting around on his site. However, having read a few of his posts, I can see this is going to become a regular read, for the same reason I visit Peryer's blog - to be able to see photography (and the world) through someone else's passionate eyes.

Beginning December 17, Soth declared it 'snow week' on his blog, waiting for the arrival of a white Christmas. For the next few days he discussed the work of photographers who have worked with snow, in various ways. I particularly liked this post, about photography, science, poetry and the work of David Goldes, a photographer who for Soth brings together this things. That's a photo by Goldes at the top of this post.

Another post I really enjoyed was Soth talking about being asked for permission to reproduce his work on the covers of books. He points to a website, Covering Photography, made for the study of the relationship between the history of photography and book cover design, and makes some interesting observations about covers, author photos and the New Yorker.

Image: David Goldes, Rain on flour, from Alex Soth's blog.

Wednesday 3 January 2007

Empire building

I've never mastered drawing programs - I couldn't Photoshop my way out of a paper bag. Which is why I find things like this DIY topographical map program so fascinating. At you can waste hours playing around with land features, cloud opacity and fractal noise (whatever that is) to make your own little 3D topographical maps, which are then brought to life in front of your eyes.

Originally found at, and image from,