Monday 30 June 2008

Dollar signs

In an alternative life, I'd quite like the idea of being groomed to take over the family business of arts patronage.

I'm less sure about the notion of buying shares in an artist. Although perhaps that's an alternative to the resale royalty?

Friday 27 June 2008


There were two sheds down at the cow shed, both painted the same plasticky light blue. The Big Blue Shed was the taller and longer of the two - tall enough to have a neck-threatening mezzanine that held up six or seven decades of farming supplies; things that seemed romantically outmoded (leather horse collars, rusting hand shears) and excitingly new (coils of bright yellow plastic tubing, boxes of shiny fencing staples). The Big Blue Shed smelled of sump oil, welding sticks, grease, thick warm dust. It was a place to work on wet days, to let the kids loose in when they couldn't run round with the dogs.

The Little Blue Shed sat on a hump of earth in the middle of the tanker turn-around. It was like a barrow - low and dark, piled with abandoned stuff that had compacted over the years until it was part of the building's fabric. It smelt like diesel and dirty dirt. Once, crawling back into a corner, I found an ossified blackbird, a stiff collection of dried-out skin and feathers, lying inside a wooden crate with a chicken-wire cover.

The blue sheds came back into my mind recently, after seeing Don Driver's work at the Govett-Brewster. I don't want to go all literal on you, or use phrases like 'alchemist of everyday life', but it's impossible for me to see his banner works without the hessian and pitchforks and mysterious stains taking me back to my childhood.

I was really looking forward to seeing the show and I have to admit to being disappointed. The falling feeling began as soon as I walked into the GBAG and saw that the view up the staircase had been blocked by a temporary wall, which forced a left-hand turn into the ground-floor gallery.

Once in the gallery, the walls were crammed with works, several familiar from the joint show with Julian Dashper at Hamish McKay's last year. Maybe the curators were aiming for a joyful jostle, but the effect was more of carelessness. My gut feeling is that work as maximalist as Driver's needs a bit of space on the wall - allowing both it and you to breathe a bit between pieces.

The sense of overcrowding was emphasised by the retention of false walls at the end of each gallery, which blocked you from seeing up into the first floor landing like you usually can (you can just see one of these in this surreptitious photo - sorry, gallery attendant, you were doing a good job really and I had trouble evading you).

It was also curious that Produce - arguably the best of these works in the GBAG's collection - was not included in the show, but instead represented rather forlornly by an postcard in the shop window.

I don't like whinging, especially not on a Friday afternoon when you all deserve an uplifting post, not a downer. But my visit was several weeks ago now, yet I'm still a bit saddened . But there is always a bright side; Peter Robinson's solo project at the GBAG - Snow Ball Blind Time - opens on 13 September, and I can't wait.

Thursday 26 June 2008

Off topic

From the childish (and lovely) to the grown-up (and surreal): Winnie the Pooh in Russian, and Polish designer and animator Jan Lenica's 1963 Labirynt.

Wednesday 25 June 2008


You spend a couple of hours innocently concentrating on your work and boom - everyone beats you to the scoop that's not a scoop.

A brief analysis of first media coverage of the Venice announcement on Stuff, via the Dominion Post, shows us that

(a) dollar values are important: of the 288 words in the story 6 are monetary figures -
  • spend $650,000
  • $150,000 more
  • raise another $400,000
  • $80,000 report
  • at least $125,000
  • prestigious $50,000
and (b), you can never get enough out of flogging a dead donkey.

Monday 23 June 2008


As Over the net have noted in the past, media coverage of the visual arts tends to focus on auction records, monkeys and graffiti.

A Massey University researcher is surveying the New Zealand visual arts community on journalistic practice. Judith Bernanke is looking for info about:

  • The visual arts community and you
  • Your experience with NZ's media
  • Your opinions about arts journalism in NZ
  • Your opinions about the media's coverage of the 2005 Venice Biennale.

I imagine that the visual arts community still has a lot to say about the 2005 Biennale experience, so go ahead and take the online survey (approx 30 minutes to complete).

Right of reply

To the anonymous 'Venice Loser' - the Barrs have replied to your comment, you may like to respond?

Meanwhile, Josie McNaught tried to raise the topic of the Venice selection with Lynn Freeman on The Arts on Sunday yesterday (first clip) but Freeman forestalled her, saying that the official announcement is meant to be made this week and "we'd better not spoil it for those that don't know".

And Art, Life, TV, Etc muses on securing exhibition venues in Venice.

Friday 20 June 2008

Three views

I love exhibition installation time. I think it's the intimacy with the work; art feels different in a packing case or leant against a wall to when it's fully installed.

That's why I'm really glad to see galleries writing about and posting pictures of exhibition installations, and sharing this feeling around. Three things that popped up in my feedreader today:

Kara Walker at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

A post about temporary walls and crate details (no, really, you do want to read this) and a link to more construction pics on Flickr

Click! at Brooklyn Museum

The photos in this exhibition were contributed in response to an open call and judged by the community. The exhibition designer has decided to print the photos in the show at sizes that reflect their popularity with the community, an interesting physical reponse to the tag cloud aesthetic. More about the exhibition here.

The opening of the Public Gallery, West Bromwich, England

The Public Gallery is "part town planning, part regeneration, part visitor attraction, part contemporary art gallery and part media collection". A "notoriously cantankerous and rigorous" gallery designer invents a "tree structure" to cope with the architect's "interior landscape".

Thursday 19 June 2008


This Village Voice article caught my eye this week - Artist, Fan Clash Over What Constitutes Online Piracy. Artist Alex Grey has filed a copyright-infringement suit against Juan Pablo Fernandez, a big fan of Grey's work who buys prints legitimately, frames them, then resells them on Ebay.

It's not the on-selling that bothers Grey: it's that Fernandez is making digital images of his work available. From the article:

Whether online photos of artwork constitute illegal reproductions is a murky legal question, but one that is hugely important to sellers on eBay, CraigsList, Amazon, and other venues where people often resell their possessions. While publishing a photo of a copyrighted work for the purpose of reselling it certainly can be legitimate, it's a question of interpretation, says Paul Fakler, vice chair of the New York State Bar's intellectual-property section: "The courts have a lot of latitude on deciding what is fair."

I know this is an American example, but I had been wondering recently: do auction houses have to get copyright permission to reproduce artworks in print and online catalogues, or is this covered by the 'fair use' clause of copyright law? Does anyone know?

Wednesday 18 June 2008


UPDATED You know, I think the sports writers tried harder.

In seventh form, I bunked a history class so I could attend a crucial NPBHS First XV match (yip, I was a kinda different person then).

Come the time of the mock exams, it turned out the history class was actually pretty crucial too. I wound up writing an essay comparing Elizabethan parilamentary standoffs to the team-psych of performing a haka before a match. (Maybe that would have gone down better in post-grad than in bursary.)

Anyway, I was quite excited to see the Guardian's current experiment - sending art critics to report on sporting events (published today), and sports writers to report on art events (coming tomorrow - I'll update the link when it's available).

I guess there's little chance that the experiment could rise above novelty value. The arts writers showed little interest in or knowledge of sport, and seemed largely content to compare the sport they were watching to the art form they normally write about. Watching the crowd afforded more interest than watching the game. But that still makes me curious to see if a rugby correspondent will try to tackle an opera in a similar manner ...


No official announcement yet, but Overthenet have reported painter Judy Millar as the NZ representative at the 2009 Venice Biennale.

Judy Millar I will, should, can, must, may, would like to express, 2005. Installation at Auckland Art Gallery. Image from the Gow Langsford Gallery website.

Monday 16 June 2008

Vicarious art

I just spent twenty minutes drafting a post only to realise whilst struggling for a concluding statement that it would be of interest to no-one.

Instead, I offer you a peek at a friend's art pilgrimage to Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party.

Friday 13 June 2008


So it appears my bird was wrong - no Biennale announcement today (or not to the public, anyhows).

However, there has been an announcement in the art blogosphere - congratulations Tinks & Family.

Peter Peryer, Isabella, 2001. Silver gelatin print.

Thursday 12 June 2008

Down with the kids

Things I learnt from watching these videos from first-year Design students at Victoria:

1. People still like drawing
2. Time-delay / stop-motion photography is either (a) very cool or (b) a lot easier than the regular kind
3. The iPod does not epitomise design. It IS design.

Thanks to Timothy for the original link

Believe It or Not?

A little bird has told me the 2009 New Zealand representative for the Venice Biennale will be announced today or tomorrow. So keep an eye on the CNZ Venice site.

To refresh your memory: the rumoured (partial?) shortlist, as fed to Over the net-
  • Francis Upritchard
  • Yvonne Todd
  • Judy Millar
  • Phil Dadson.

Tuesday 10 June 2008

Go there, do that

If your institution's web presence currently consists of a website and an e-newsletter and you're wondering how to step outside the boundaries of your URL, look no further - do I have the conference for you.

The Transforming Cultural and Scientific Communication conference is being held in Melbourne, 5-6 March 2009. The conference is chaired by Angelina Russo, who works closely with Seb Chan (who's a bit of a rockstar, really, from where I sit).

You can see what the 2008 conference covered on the Social Media and Cultural Communication blog. The themes for the 2009 conference are:

Digital Change Promotion organisational change and new business models
Branding the Cultural Experience interactive strategies for brand building
Implementing a Networked Communication Strategy increasing participation through social networks
Social Media and Public Programming communicating discipline knowledge online.

If you want to get a feeling for the kind of things that are likely to be discussed at the conference, I'd take a look at the following:

> Shelly Bernstein (Brooklyn Museum) on the Museum's Web 2 activities

> Seb Chan on using social media, social media & web strategy, and resourcing for social media

> Seb and Angeline's slides from their Museums & the Web 2008 social media workshop (PDF)

And if you're not sure what I mean by 'web presence' as opposed to 'website', here's a couple of examples.

MASS MOCA, like a number of other American institutions, has a Flickr pool.

Kaliman Gallery in Sydney has just announced their Facebook presence. (BTW, Julian Dashper's show at Kaliman finishes this week).

And the nominees are

The Montana shortlist is out, and three NZ art books make up the nominees in the Illustrative category:

Aberhart, published by Victoria University Press,
designed by Sarah Maxey

Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Morning, published by Christchurch Art Gallery,
designed by Aaron Beehre

comma dot dogma [Tom Kreisler], published by umbrella,
designed by Jessica Gommers

Monday 9 June 2008


A wee while ago I was musing about collection policies. Today I read this extract from an interview with Ron Radford (director of the National Gallery of Australia) in the winter Art & Australia, where Radford talks about the shift in direction for the NGA's collecting activities since his appointment in 2004, and (echoing Nicolas Penny) the waning appeal of the blockbuster.

Reading the extract reminded me of how impressed I was when I read Radford's 2005 vision document (warning: 1MB PDF) for the NGA. Don't get me wrong here - I don't spend my weekends reading mission statements and director's forewords (well - not often). But I did thrill to Radford's proud emphasis on the importance of the collection. Call me old-fashioned, but how can you not admire statements like this?

The collections are the core of the National Gallery of Australia — they must remain the kernel of the building and the central focus of the institution. No blockbuster exhibition can ever be as large, as valuable, as wide-ranging and as consistently high in quality as the collection displays.

Thursday 5 June 2008

Saving carbon

Today is World Environment Day and to mark it I am thinking about a show I would go see if I didn't have to fly to get to Christchurch ... Benjamin Buchanan at 64zero3.

I'm a bit of a new-comer here: I first saw Ben's work at Gang Green in early 2007, and then at Enjoy, in a show that really surprised me (abstract art not being what I usally expect to see when I climb those venerable stairs). You can see some of the work - hidden by people - in the Enjoy social pages. He also showed with the sadly-defunct Roger Williams Contemporary, and their (usefully still live website) has a nice selection of work. I was reminded of Buchanan's work this morning, reading Peter Schjeldahl's New Yorker review of Tomma Abts' show at the New Museum, and his description of her appeal to the "post-post-painting generation".*

Call me a sucker for good old abstract art, but Buchanan is one of a number of artists - including Simon Morris, Jeena Shin and Judy Millar - who I would love to see unleashed on the great foyer space of the Tauranga Art Gallery. That I would burn carbon to visit.

Benjamin Buchanan,
Untitled 2006, vinyl on board, 1000 x 1000mm
Benjamin Buchanan, installation view, Roger Williams Contemporary, 2006.
Images from the Rogers Williams Contemporary website

* I think Schjeldahl was being sarky, but I'm letting it wash over me.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Henry & Hank

Many moons ago, I did a stint on the front desk at the Adam Art Gallery. I always felt the Gallery was in a bit of a quandary - it sat smack dab in the middle of the student audience, but struggled to get the students through the doors (except for openings, and then they flooded in).

As a result, I'm a real admirer of the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Seattle. I met two Henry staffers a few months ago, when they presented a demo called "Reaching the Internet Generation using Interactive Web Technologies and NO MONEY". Realising that students are (in-phrase alert) digital natives, Henry staff understood that the web offered a number of ways for them to communicate with their primary audience.

Today, the Henry has a Facebook group and a MySpace page, and share podcasts via Henry Artcasts and iTunes. All these things take time, but only a small amount of financial input.

The Henry also has the very active HankBlog, which includes students who are doing internships at the Henry as writers. I really like the informal tone of writers like Jamey and Kira who report on events and exhibitions inside and outside and unrelated to the Henry. And although the effect is a little lost on a NZ reader, I also love the localness of the blog - I imagine if you were a kinda-interested-in-art-or-film-or-stuff-like-that student, you'd read the blog as a great way of finding out what's going on.

So, my learning from this? Make use of those students on your front desk. Start up a blog, make a digital camera available, lay down some super-simple guidelines, make sure YouTube isn't blocked by the institution's IT department, and set them free.