Monday 31 March 2008

Irresistable II

The latest iteration of the One Day Sculpture website

Sadly, the image is not captioned People queueing to enter our site . Delivery date now set for April 2.

Cost comparison

One year's subscription to the New Zealand Listener: NZ$139

One year's subscription to the New Yorker, at last week's exchange rate: NZ$140

Wednesday 26 March 2008

So long

Mary Kisler has just written about Peter Tomory's death on the Auckland Art Gallery blog. Tomory died yesterday.

Peter Tomory was director of the Auckland City Art Gallery (as it was then) from 1956-1964. He followed on from Eric Westbrook, and was only the second trained gallery director to work in NZ, coming out from England after short stints in several regional galleries.

Tomory, along with a small and close-knit staff at the Gallery which included Colin McCahon, cleaner-turned-keeper, did some bloody amazing things over those years. They ran a relentlessly-paced exhibition programme, shipping in shows from overseas and touring shows throughout New Zealand. Tomory introduced the yearly survey of contemporary New Zealand art - the predecessor of City Gallery's Prospect series.

Tomory also drew up a expansive acquisition policy, largely focused on strenghtening the international collection - New Zealand art would follow a bit later. He researched the collection, often calling on colleagues around the world for attributions and further information. He faced down an outraged council twice, once over the Henry Moore show (admittedly, a bit of a set up) and once over the Barbara Hepworth acquisition, when he threatened to resign should the Council force the Gallery to withdraw from the deal.

And he wrote - boy, did he write - texts that became the backbone of Brown and Keith's Introduction to New Zealand 1839-1967, and which came under attack (often unfairly, in my opinion) by the "post-nationalist" critics in the 1980s/1990s.

But the thing that really inspired me about Tomory and his crew is that they truly believed that something was at stake. They really believed that art could make society better - that people deserved access to art, and art deserved an audience. And that that audience should be informed. And they worked like dogs to achieve this.

After leaving Auckland Tomory taught and curated in the States, before going to Melbourne to set up the art history department at La Trobe. In an address he gave there, he stated that maybe the most important thing an art history department can do is produce an informed and sympathetic audience for the visual arts. Earlier, in Auckland, he said that it wasn't the gallery's role to cosset working artists: it was the gallery's role to create an audience that would go out to the emerging dealer galleries and support artists there. And that wouldn't get in a strop when you tried to buy a piece of abstract sculpture.

Since then, nothing's changed, and everything's changed, and one of the things I think has changed the most is that that almost visionary passion - that utter committment to what a gallery is trying to do for and with its community - has leached away somewhat. I know it's easy to idealise a time you weren't there for, but I do hold a candle for the Auckland City Art Gallery, c. 1960.

Death amid the pohutakawa trees

A Tony Oursler video projection at Alan Gibbs' sculpture farm, featured in Dan Halpern's sizable article in the February edition of Men's Vogue:

A sample fun weekend activity at the Farm: sit inside the caged ball at the top of the world's largest Tesla coil while several million volts of electricity spin around you before they burst into 40-foot-long lightning bolts. "It'll knock your socks off," Gibbs told me a month later, his voice resonating like a pistol shot over the phone. "We've all been inside the damn thing: It's scary as hell."

via, via Supertouch.

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Do you give your installers a clothing allowance?

This NY Times slideshow profiles the unsung heroes of the art gallery: the installers. In New York, installers wear jumpsuits by the likes of Maison Martin Margiela and Calvin Klein. What are your installers wearing?*

The slideshow is part of the NY Times' extended arts coverage this week, including an interview with fashion designer Miuccia Prada, currently in the process of establishing an art museum to house the Prada collection, and caterers to the art world, Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold (local alert: Henderson was born in New Zealand).

My personal favourite though is the Ladies Who Launch slideshow - featuring NY patronesses of the arts. Why didn't my high school Careers Advisor tell me about this?

*I'm utterly serious about art installers being unsung heroes. Not to mention having some of the sharpest eyes in the business.

Friday 21 March 2008

Do you see what I see?

What Doughboy found on the One Day Sculpture website: an invisible (or badly coded) statement about the project. Revealed using the magical highlight-it-with-your-mouse tool.

p.s. The text is just the press statement about the project - nothing special. But as I'm sure I've said before - if you're going to have a website, for goodness sake, at least try to make it work properly.

Thursday 20 March 2008

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Money and criticism

Adrian Searle asks in the Guardian: Has big money displaced the role of the critic?

Searle says:

At almost every international art fair over the past few years, there has been a panel discussion about the crisis in art criticism. I have found myself talking about the topic in London, Madrid, Berlin and Miami. ...

... There is indeed something faintly ludicrous in sitting around at an art fair talking about criticism. Never has the art market been stronger. Never has money been so powerful. Never have so many artists got so rich, and never has there been such alarming stuff on sale. Never have critics felt so out of the loop.

Searle also cites Jerry Saltz:

"At no time in the last 50 years has what an art critic writes had less effect on the market than now."

My first reaction was "Huh? You think criticism is there to influence collectors?". I mean, statistically, that's not the case. These statements are a bit of a red herring though - for Searle, criticism seems to boil down to the need to "[meet] art with more than silence". Critics' writing becomes part of the meaning that accrues around an art work over time.

There was a semi-diverting thread on Artbash a wee while ago about art criticism - and a comment that there's a difference between art reviewing and art journalism. The Listener seems to have opted for the latter, with none of last year's art reviewers appearing to have made the move over with new arts editor Guy Somerset.

I might start asking more people why they write criticism - or if that's even what they think they're writing....

Monday 17 March 2008

Cerebral challenge

I've been idly tracking reviews of the Whitney Biennial, which have been mixed (nothing new there). This sentence in Jerry Saltz's review caught my attention though:

Like many young curators, Huldisch and Momin are more cerebral than they are visual, and this show feels very, very controlled.

Later on Saltz describes the show as 'academic' and a sidebar draws attention to the two curators' 'sparkling academic CVs'. My take on the review is that Saltz feels the curators made their choices based less on visual impact, more on the concepts the artists are working with.

What interests me is that Saltz sees this is a young curator thing: like it's either (a) something they'll grow out of (b) something they'll learn their way out of, or (c) a trend. If I were an evil lecturer in visual culture, this is definitely a statement I'd make my students parse.

NB Vision is cool. And it is, of course, a cerebral process. Dredging up some 3rd year neuroscience, light enters the eye, bounces around a bit, and is broken down by receptors on the retina at the back of the eyball.

This information is passed along each eye's respective optic nerve; information from the two eyes meets at the optic chiasm, where it is mixed and divided into visual fields.

From the optic chiasm the information passes along the optic tracts, and about 90% enters the lateral geniculate nucleus in the thalamus (a small percentage is diverted to the midbrain, creating a really interesting phenomenon known as 'blindsight'). From the LGN the information is passed on to the primary visual cortex, which is right at the back of your brain, where the visual image is built back up again.

Friday 14 March 2008

Dream a little dream.

Suzy's Coffee Lounge is one of my favourite Rita Angus paintings. the coffee lounge was a Wellington hangout for the slightly bohemian - Rita often dropped in for coffee. Suzy's was designed by architect Friedrich Eisenhofer - you can see original plans on

This house, built in 1968 to a Eisenhofer design, is currently for sale in Titahi Bay. If you happen to buy it, can you leave me a note in the comments and let me come visit?

Thursday 13 March 2008

What are you thinking? Take Three

Tee hee. I actually know.

Many of you are thinking - hmmm, I wonder where to find those Google Earth Glue Society God pictures?

Quite a few of you are keen to find Shane Cotton's Redshift, which Jim Barr and Mary Barr nominated as their top NZ painting in the Listener last year.

A number of you (or one very persistent person) are/is coming to Best of 3 via the search "olafur eliasson gibbs zealand". You'd be wanting this post on Over the net.

And cos I'm feeling helpful today: here's the Hoefler & Frere-Jones website, Mikala Dwyer on YouTube and the definition of 'gallerina' on

My favourite of the keyword searches that have brought people to the blog over the past few weeks? It's either "crumpling conference" (which sounds like something Martin Creed might organise) or "art history degree Apple jobs" (Dear Apple, if you're reading: I have an art history degree. In fact, I have several. Please pick me).

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Nerds, words, and novel uses for blogs.

In this post about 'nerdfotainment', Michael Lopp writes about a genre of entertainment that's sprung up over the past 10 years for the generation of nerds in their 30s, who love complexity, Apple, and exercising their 'systematic comprehension muscles. Lopp takes in a variety of nerd-oriented story-telling, moving from 'Lost' to 'Pride and Prejudice', via WoW. Don't worry if this takes you out of your art comfort zone: it's a brilliant and entertaining piece of writing, and you should check it out.

From the brilliant to the torturous: Tyler Green on the Whitney Biennial language (cp. Peter Peryer on a GBAG wall label).

Also from Green, a list of his favourite art museum blogs. His comment about the Amon Carter blog was particularly interesting to me: the staff use the blog to talk about works from the collection that are either out in travelling shows, or on loan to other institutions. A really simple way of showing that while only 5% of your collection might be on display at any one time, other parts of it are in public circulation.

Another novel blog use I've seen recently is Library Answer Person, from Duke University Libraries. The tag line is "Answering your questions about life and the library since 1982", and it includes gems like this page on 'Sex in the stacks'.

Once a physical book in the library, where visitors could write their questions and return later to see the answers, it's been moved online, with people leaving questions using the Comments function, which are later answered as blog posts. The Library has a separate function for research queries - this blog seems to act like a search engine alternative, with questions like 'Does the President shop for his own groceries' and 'Why are phone calls to Europe so expensive'.

I think there's a interesting opportunity to transfer this idea. A blog like this (and here I'd use Wordpress rather than Blogger, because you can build site navigation more easily) could reproduce a lot of the info that gets tucked into the About Us section of a gallery's site in a more interactive way. What's the cheapest way to get to the gallery from the airport? How do I get a job at the Gallery? What shows will you have on in December? I'm a student - can I use your library? Will you be open on Good Friday?

All those questions that the person on your reception desk get asked (and trust me - these questions are both myriad and repeated) could be transcribed over, along with the answer. The blog becomes a resource for internal information sharing (especially if you have a number of staff working the reception desk, or volunteers), is likely to be easier to update with corrections and new info than your website, and can also be opened up to the public to ask questions. Of course, you might end up having to answer some tricky or uncomfortable questions. But with humour, and some lee-way afforded to your staff, it could be great.


I've been checking the One Day Sculpture site faithfully since Friday 7 March, as I'm genuinely interested in knowing who's doing what when (see Over the net's post this morning to this effect).

Now I find out I need to wait for another fortnight.

'This website will go live on 28 March 2008' - One Day Sculpture splash page.

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Eye candy

Call me shallow, but I've always liked the 'click and drag' feature that mimicks flicking through a book online. True Eye is a web-zine that showcases artists' work using the feature - fun to play with ...

And I've posted before about the New York Times' online accompaniments to major exhibitions. Now it's the turn of the 2008 Whitney Biennial: the Times has assembled a set of panoramic gallery views, and a tidily designed guide to selected works, with snippets of narration by critic Holland Cotter.

Friday 7 March 2008

New favourite blog [includes contributions by NZ typographer Kris Sowersby]

Not only is it beautiful to look at, but typography has some of the best words: 'glyph', 'kerning', even the no-nonsense 'font'.

And for those of you wanting to turn your kids on to typography, try the Bembo's Zoo site [with the sound on].

Image: from the article 'Small Caps' on

Funding for AAG

The Government has announced a $30 million grant towards the estimated $96.4 million cost of redeveloping the Auckland Art Gallery.

Thursday 6 March 2008

Best of 300

Interesting things in my feedreader this morning:

From the Guardian: 'edgy' is the new pre-eminent / innovative / significant / insert-your-favourite art adjective here

Also from the Guardian: a great article about artist's assistants, including Damien Hirst's taxidermist and Mark Wallinger's fabricator.

From Fresh+New at the Powerhouse Museum: a post by Seb Chan about social media in museums and galleries, including some interesting observations on how using social media - blogs, Facebook etc - might affect the way institutions have to approach resourcing projects, particularly in terms of staff time investment.

This was meant to be the 300th post to the Best of 3 blog - only I can't add. Thanks for reading anyway.

Wednesday 5 March 2008


Behold: dessert, MoMA-style.

Read the full dining experience over at

New media, new methods

You know what I love? People who do stuff, then share it. Useful stuff, that is - like the 'Media Matters' research project.

A collaborative project between the New Art Trust, Tate, MoMa, and SFMOMA, Media Matters is a "multi-phase project designed to provide guidelines for care of time-based media works of art (e.g., video, film, audio and computer based installations)."

Hosted on the Tate's website, you can find acquisition guidelines (including downloadable templates and a process diagram) and borrowing / lending guidelines (another process diagram, and templates including facility reports, condition reports and loan agreements).

Image: first steps in the borrowing / loaning process diagram

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Maybe ..... you're gonna be the one who saves me

Lonely? Insecure in your social situation? New research says you should start a blog.

Susan Moore and James Baker, from Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, ran two consecutive studies. Their findings, as reported in this ABC Science Online article:

"We found potential bloggers were less satisfied with their friendships and they felt less socially integrated, they didn't feel as much part of a community as the people who weren't interested in blogging," Ms Moore said.

..."It was as if they were saying 'I'm going to do this blogging and it's going to help me'."

[In a follow up study] Bloggers reported a greater sense of belonging to a group of like-minded people and feeling more confident they could rely on others for help.

The effect happens even if you're not blogging, and just hanging on out on BeMyFacebook:

All respondents, whether or not they blogged, reported feeling less anxious, depressed and stressed after two months of online social networking.

Of course, this is all based on the kind of teeny-tiny sample size (134 self-selected respondents on the first survey; 59 on the second).

p.s. thank you for being my friend.

Monday 3 March 2008

Tall dark and handsome

A bit OTT

You know what we don't have enough of in our art reporting?* Physical descriptions of artists and curators. This NY Magazine write-up of the coming Whitney Biennial includes the following in the first 3 paras:

"doe-eyed bearded men and slim-hipped men"

"Momin, petite in heels and a tightly belted long sweater over a dark green baby-doll dress"

"a lanky 34-year-old New York artist"

"a tall blonde woman standing in the center gallery. It’s Henriette Huldisch [with] her taller, blonder husband, Andy Graydon ... It’s past eight and Huldisch, who has an infant at home, is giving Graydon the look that means it’s time to leave. It’s barely perceptible, a flattening of the lips and an intensity about the eyes."

A bit mental

Meanwhile - Sydney's Hardware Gallery opened its annual Google exhibition over the weekend:

On the same day, at the same time, all the artists had to google the same phrase. From page 2 of the results they had to select one site as their sole source of inspiration for their artwork.

The phrase this year was: Completely Rooted.

For the organisers, the phrase's appeal "lay in its ambiguity".

A bit dirty

Robert Rauschenberg has filed lawsuits against a Florida artist and art gallery who have allegedly been selling discarded studio items found in Rauschenberg's trash.

*Yeah, okay, okay, we don't have a lot in the way of art reporting, so this is a fairly open-ended question.