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 ....