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.