Friday 8 May 2009


Randomised thoughts from the end of the week ...

@brooklynmuseum brought the Walker Art Center & Minneapolis Institute of Arts' site to my attention this morning. I haven't yet delved properly into the content, but the design and layout of this collection of tools for teaching the arts is just exquisite, and I'm looking forward to digging into it further. Would it make sense of New Zealand galleries to join forces and aggregate their teaching resources for web users?

Proving how fickle one art consumer can be, this post about the installation of a two-storey high artwork (again, from the Walker) reminded me of how much I love the behind the scenes of exhibition installation, and how seeing paintings propped on sponge blocks and inflatable bunnies being blown up is such a different, more personal, more valued experience than just visiting a hung show like every other punter. On the other hand, it also made me reflect that one of my most-loathed types of art "journalism" is time-lapsed recordings of portrait painting; that's a behind the scenes that can stay there, as far as I'm concerned.

Talking about arts journalism, this week Russell Brown took on the topic of the arts market on Media 7, with a panel made up of Warwick Brown, Hamish Keith and Hamish Coney (curiously not introduced with his Art+Object affiliation). The conversation was kick-started by the topic of the Auckland Art Fair, which according to organiser Jennifer Buckley was largely unaffected by the economic situation.

Russell Brown used the presence of guest speaker economist Don Thomson (he of the stuffed shark) to try to start a conversation about art and the marketplace which Keith deftly turned into a discussion about the art sector's largely overlooked contribution to the economy. This turned into a brief discussion of the lack of media coverage for the arts (output and industry), with Brown rolling out the old saw about the paucity of arts coverage in our daily newspapers compared to sports (more on that later). Russell asked Coney a potentially very interesting question (Russell (paraphrased) You're all old guys. Where's the next generation of art commentators hiding?) which turned into a ramble about how young NZ artists' work doesn't look like young NZ artists' work, just young artists' work.

At any rate, despite being a bit fragmented, it was one of the best pieces of NZ TV coverage of the visual arts I've seen in a long time, in that it was people involved in the sector, axes left mostly to the side, being asked questions by an intelligent interviewer who was interested in talking about more than (a) whether his four-year-old could have done it (b) that a four-year-old had actually done it (c) should the tax-payer be funding it or (d) wasn't it really just pornography under another name?

Back to the arts-sports comparison. I think that one of the reasons that sports gets coverage (and an entire radio station, for goodness sake) and art doesn't is that it's easy and rewarding to be a sports fan. It's hard and often unsatisfying to try to be a fan of an art gallery or even an artist (without shading into stalker territory). I'm going to be mulling over this topic at Webstock Mini on May 19th, if anyone wants to join in ...


staplegun said...

Uh oh, don't get me started on the whole sports-art thing...

I've been searching for that THING that would make arts (any form) as compelling as sport. No joy yet :(

The thing that makes sport attractive to punters is that most human of traits - being able to replicate internally the feelings of someone you see. When we watch someone running with the ball, we are virtually doing it too - that's why it's so easy to get so involved and passionate about it.

Plus sport is cunningly structured to bring us back again and again as the next step is (usually) unpredictable - each game/match/race we start affresh.

Arts on the other hand tend to be one-off experiences, and only the performing arts play directly on that aspect of viewing people. I guess TV/film is the closest there is to sport appeal (aside from Theatre Sports, which kind of cheats by crossing to the dark side).

So most art forms have a large fight to be half as attractive as the most obscure sports.


staplegun said...

... so presumably the media is merely applying standard supply vs demand. I mean, if there was an arts-only radio station (that wasn't government funded), would it survive?

Um, for some reason I seem to be arguing against myself.

Maybe we have to realise arts is basically a minority, so has to queue up alongside other minorities to get exposure? (The 'majority' being sports and sensationalist headlines, if TV news is anything to go by ;) .)

I wonder if anyone has done any market research on what NZers would actually like to see on TV about arts and arts news?

Based on what we currently have, apparently NZers want to know about Britney, or any NZ artist who does something 'outrageous', and watch incredibly long 'old school' documentaries about NZ artists.