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.