Friday, September 23, 2016

Listing toward the future

The Govett-Brewster has finally published the history originally commissioned for its fortieth anniversary in 2010 (mumble … mumble … declare … mumble … interest … mumble … mumble … involved … mumble). As the owners of the fearless-supporters-of-contemporary-art brand for so many years, the GB has of course put its contemporary foot forward but also included is a list of 45 ‘moments’. These are of varying page lengths, fully illustrated and take up 100 pages i.e. about one third of the book. It’s one of those best-of-what-we’ve-done in 45 key events. There are a few conferences, an auction, the launch the Len Lye Foundation, but most of the moments are the bread and butter of art museums, exhibitions. And so to the counting. 

Of the 35 exhibitions listed just four are solo exhibitions by women; 31 exhibitions or 89 percent of the total selected are by men. The list also only gives three moments to solo exhibitions by Maori artists (Michael Parekowhai’s Kiss the Baby Goodbye, Lisa Reihana’s Digital Marae and Peter Robinson’s Snow Ball Blind Time). Women do a little better in the pages devoted to illustrating the collection with 24 percent of the pages. Yes, lists can be risky and so revealing. 

Take the spread of ‘moments’ attached to each of the Govett-Brewster’s directors, for instance. Top of the list, with seven moments each, are Gregory Burke (1998-2005) and Rhana Devenport (2006-2013). Lowest on this scale with four or less (we exclude John Maynard who was primarily involved in setting the place up rather than running it) are Bob Ballard (1971-1975), Ron O’Reilly (1975-1979) and Dick Bett (1979-1984). The list makers, like list makers everywhere, clearly thought that the quality went up as they got closer to their own time.

Image: Now showing: a history of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (with cover image, Dane Mitchell's Your memory of rain released 2011) plus spread featuring Christine Hellyar's Country clothesline 1976

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Clone torture

Another actor is going to take on our favourite art icon Andy Warhol. Many years ago we listed some of the films that had featured Warhol and the actors who portrayed him. This time up it’s Jared Leto. Now that feels like a stretch although (#spooky) he is the second Jared to take on the role. The film itself is adapted from Victor Bockis’s 1990 book The life and death of Andy Warhol so this time it looks like it will be a bio pic. When you add Leto (who has just come off playing The Joker in Suicide Squad) to Terence Winter (who is adapting the book and is well known for his work on The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and The Wolf of Wall Street) we can probably expect something a long way North of standard. Still, as Warhol said himself, ‘Art is what you can get away with.’

Images: top, sorry Jared. Bottom left to right, Guy Pearce, David Bowie and Jared Harris

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Inside out

It’s not often that Te Papa pauses from telling ‘our story’ to let the world beyond these shores creep in. Simon Denny has certainly thrown open a window up on the fifth floor. Te Papa’s bold purchase of a chunk of Secret Power, Denny’s contribution to the last Venice Biennale, has just been installed and it is wrapped in an antipodean version of the Marciana Library in St Mark’s Square. Drawing on his colonisation last year of the Venice airport, Denny has transformed the floor and walls of the Te Papa exhibition space. They’re covered in an enormous colour photograph of the Marciana Library complete with its famous murals, ornate mouldings and arched windows, but inverted. The idea of being upside down at the bottom of the planet is a perspective NZers understand all too well, but this time our point of view is radically modified. By shining light on the evil darkness of the spy world Denny reminds us how inextricably attached we are to the rest of the world, whichever way up we like to think we are.

Image: Simon Denny’s Secret Power installed at Te Papa

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Memory palace

When Christchurch Art Gallery director Jenny Harper decides to leave a legacy, she doesn’t muck about. She set about delivering five mega purchases to Christchurch, and she’s almost there. She has just announced that the Gallery is to commission work number four: a wall work by the 84-year old British artist Bridget Riley. And there’s a personal Harper link. Her Masters thesis Product and response: the art of Bridget Riley presented at the Courtald Institute in London in 1982. But wait there’s more. The purchases kicked off with Michael Parekowhai’s On first looking into Chapman’s Homer. The link to Harper for this one is Venice. She was Commissioner in 2011, the year Parekowhai exhibited this work as part of his presentation at the Venice Biennale. It’s the same Venetian link to Bill Culbert and the purchase of his installation Bebop. Hard to find a link to UK artist Martin Creed who contributed the neon Everything is going to be alright, apart from Harper’s obviously high regard for UK based artists, but the fifth and final purchase will certainly deliver the goods. Word is that it will be by Ron Mueck another UK based artist who happened to give Christchurch Art Gallery and Harper as its director the largest ever audience for a single exhibition back in 2010.  

Image: Bridget Riley photographed the year Jenny Harper completed her PhD thesis Product and response: the art of Bridget Riley

Monday, September 19, 2016

One day at the Philip Johnson Foundation

Chair: Exciting news Yayoi Kusama has agreed to put spots all over Phil’s Glasshouse

New Trustee: That’s a terrible thing to do.

C: Why? They did it at the City Gallery in Wellington

NT: But that’s not an architectural masterpiece of international importance

C: Isn’t it? Are you sure?

NT: Positive

C: Anyone else got any problems with dotting up the GH?

So that is what they did

Images: top, not the City Gallery and bottom the City Gallery

Friday, September 16, 2016

Walt to Walters

With apologies to Dick Frizzell (and Gordon Walters).

Images: top left, Mickey Mouse Club Mousketeer’s Ears Hat designed by Roy Williams c.1955 and right, Wendy Maruyama’s Mickey Mackintosh chair 1988. Bottom, Gordon Walters Study for an Auckland Art Gallery poster 1982 (detail). (and thanks for kicking this off K)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Praise be

OTN is beyond thrilled to announce the exhibition of its acclaimed website and outstanding publication Tiny Furniture. This remarkable once in a lifetime opportunity to be immersed in the thrilling spectacle of John Parker’s exquisite theatrical set models has been made possible by the partnership of a master ceramicist and theatrical wizard, the renowned art museum Te Uru and the award winning blog OTN. No one will be left unmoved by this extraordinary experience which has been described by leading commentators as ‘outstanding’, ‘unforgettable’, heart-stopping’ …ok that’ll do it.

Image: two extraordinarily evocative views of the hauntingly powerful exhibition

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The ups and downs of Michael Parekowhai

September has sure been an up and down month for Michael Parekowhai in Auckland. Out at the end of Queens Wharf, the plastic-sheathed form of his house is swarming with builders busy on what must be the biggest public sculpture in the country. And then across the street in Britomart, Parekowhai’s installation The Story of a New Zealand Forest is being taken down in preparation for major rail redevelopment. Public sculpture, can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

Images: top, installation of Michael Parekowhai’s public sculpture on Queens Wharf and bottom, The story of a New Zealand Forest before and after

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

No show

OK, so it wasn’t the most original idea in the world, but Te Papa always said it was going to tell us our stories, the stories of Our Place. It then went on to spend many millions of dollars in purchasing items that would help that story telling. Most recently there’s the $1.5 million it paid for View of Mt Egmont, Taranaki, New Zealand, taken from New Plymouth, with Maoris driving off settlers’ cattle painted in 1861 by William Strutt.  All this means that when Toss Woollaston’s painting Poet by the sea (1959) came to market in the Tim and Sherrah Francis auction, it seemed a natural fit for Te Papa.

The Poet by the sea is a knotted array of cultural aspirations. Its subject is Charles Brasch, acknowledged as the cultural big cheese of the 1950s (poet, friend, editor, collector, high-minded fan). The painter is Woollaston who at this time carried the burden of finding the soul of NZ. The collectors were Tim and Sherrah Francis who were committed to the importance of a distinctively NZ culture and history. And to cap it off, Peter Simpson’s recent book Bloomsbury South describes the story in detail (with photographs). It’s a heavy-duty painting showing real cultural dynamics at play. It could hardly be more central to the National Collection and the story of NZ art.

But as we all know, Te Papa didn’t even make an appearance at the auction and made not a single purchase. Te Papa didn’t lose out to some deep-pocketed Auckland art fanatic at the auction either; it simply decided that it wasn’t worth the effort. Something’s afoot, especially when you remember that Te Papa spent $700,000 at the Paris Family auction in 2012 and hasn’t been shy to spend big bucks. Let’s recall:

Colin McCahon, A painting for Uncle Frank, 1980, purchased in 2000 for $2 million
Colin McCahon, Walk (series C), 1973, purchased in 2004 for $2.75 million
John Webber, Poetua, 1785, purchased in 2010 for $1.97 million
Michael Parekowhai, He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river, 2011, purchased in 2012 for $1.3 million

In the very active Te Papa rumor mill it’s claimed that the institution’s collecting policy for art is shifting. Buying back to fill out the collection is out. Buying forward to prioritise the contemporary is in.  Can this be true? The last four curatorial hires all specialise in earlier work. Smart move Te Papa. Crazy times ahead.

All this would certainly help to explain why Te Papa wasn’t at the Francis auction to pick up high quality works by both neglected and well-known artists. Our top ten of these would be:

Philip Trusstum Pale blue square $9,000
Douglas MacDairmid Portrait of Akbar Tyabi $6,250
M T Woollaston Poet by the sea (A Portrait of Charles Brasch) $80,000
Richard Killeen Rot $9,500
Ross Ritchie After Ingres $10,600
Adele Younghusband Still life with candle and vase of flowers $9,250
Charles Tole A map of the Auckland province $5,600
H Linley Richardson Self portrait $2,500
Robert Ellis City $4,000
Dennis Knight-Turner Untitled $9,000


Image: Poet by the sea (a portrait of Charles Brasch) in the Te Papa storage racks (#notgoingtohappen)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Spam

unvarnished facts, reckless guesswork, insinuations and possible inventions that have arrived at overthenet.blog@gmail.com. the smart money is settling on ron mueck for the final of the christchurch art gallery’s five big sculptures project • the nz organising team are gearing up for crowd control management for lisa reihana’s opening next year at the venice biennale (#dreamon) • in more venice news, it has been floated that uk celeb chef peter gordon, partner of venice commissioner carruthers, is going to man a pop-up food stall near the nz venue • misal adnan yıldız is tipped to be off to join a project with serpentine’s huo when his term is up at artspace in may next year • wellington enjoys a mini-renaissance with rohan wealleans and andrew beck both now working out of the city • te papa is threatening to move its art exhibitions down a floor or two (#believeitwhenweseeit) •  it’s recently been confirmed that weta is definitely making a big bug show for te papa as predicted by otn in a spam five months ago • any missed details, indignant denials or additions gratefully received, and any that makes us laugh out loud richly rewarded.

Friday, September 09, 2016

One day in the Mayor’s office

Mayor: I’m lovin’ the way Hamilton keeps putting up statues of stuff. Soldjers, cattle, naval commanders, all sorts of shit.

Councillor: Indeed. It is becoming the bronze capital of New Zealand.

M: I want us to get in on some of that bronze action. We need a big local name to celebrate, someone we can bronze up and put in a park somewhere.

C: Turn Kurow into one of those cultural capital things?

M: That’s the spirit. Who’ve we got, famous-wise?

C: There’s that Wilson family who had the kid that won New Zealand has Talent.

M: drugs.

C: I’ve got it. McAwsome!

M: Ritchie? Oh, I don’t know. He’s a big fellah … take a lot of bronze … expensive..

C: Not if we use the lost wax process.

M: True enough.

C: We could get that guy Patterson to do it, he’s a civic sculpture whizz kid.

M: Whatever. First thing we need to sell the idea.

C: We could get a maquette made

M: What, show them a tent?

C: No, not a marquee, a little version of what we’ve got in mind made out of butter or something.

M: You mean a tiny statue of Ritchie we could show people and say ‘look, it’s only small, it won’t cost hardly anything’?

C: Yeah, a conceptual model.

And that is what they did

Thursday, September 08, 2016

To be perfectly Francis

If your faith in contemporary New Zealand art was wavering, last night would have settled your nerves. The Tim and Sherrah Francis collection on sale at Art + Object in Auckland never looked to be anything other than a benchmark for the marriage of serious money with serious art. The first signs were when two Andrew McLeod paintings sold for $36,000 each, and that's the hammer price without commissions. By lot number 48 of the first night's 122 lots, over half a million had gone under the hammer and eight lots later the tally was at $1.5 million. By the end of the evening around (#notthatgoodatadding) $5.5 million dollars worth of art had been knocked down.The big ticket item of the evening was Colin McCahon's eight part painting The Canoe Tainui which sold to a Hamilton collector for $1.35 million making McCahon the top artist at auction (#sorryaboutthatgoldie). Among the big prices were a 1956 koru drawing by Gordon Walters for $66,000, Shane Cotton's He Pukapuka Tuatahi for $252,000 and and Rita Angus's Tree Cutting Hawkes Bay at $255,000. And these prices will all be boosted by commissions. Overall seven paintings sold for over $200,000 and 12 over $100,000.

True to form, Te Papa didn't even bother to show up. This meant of course that it missed out on the opportunity to buy many significant works including Tosswill Woollason's The Poet which obviously belongs in the national collections. Still, the Auckland Art Gallery was there showing that it at least is still an art museum serious about its collections.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Sleeping dogs

Len Lye’s had a rough spin in Wellington. Once famously a blade from Trilogy came loose mid spin and then there is Water Whirler, a sculpture that just refuses to keep on keeping on. Its woes are probably not so surprising when you take a look at its amazingly analogue mechanics as you can do at the moment. The ‘sculpture’ itself has vanished, presumably for repair, but as usual there is no information as to what has happened, how long it will be out of action or if indeed it is a dead duck. Given its unreliable history and the clumsy out of scale podium it has been lumbered with, a quick ok-this-one-didn’t-work acknowledgement and a decent burial might be the humane thing to do.

Images; top, the artwork formally known as Water whirler, bottom, the works.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Uplifting

Once there was a saying in the art museum business, ‘one garden gnome is a garden gnome, 100 is an exhibition.’ No one we know has tested this idea as thoroughly as Campbell Paterson. Back in 2006, while in his last year at art school, he turned on a video camera, lifted his mother for one minute and 47 seconds, put her down and turned off the camera. It was an intriguing gesture, this reverse Pieta, but having done it once a year since then, eleven years later it has become something else altogether. Both Campbell Paterson and his mother have obviously grown older over the time but so too has the technology. The first ten Lifting videos came on DVDs, packed into those thin plastic gem cases, and featuring a new pic of the curtains that have served as the backdrop to each episode of the series. This year it was another shot of the curtains, the same style of gem case (some things never change), but inside the case was a tiny flash drive instead of a DVD.  And of course one flash drive is a flash drive, but another ten …

Monday, September 05, 2016

Move, move, move

It’s spring and thoughts turn to renewal and change. It’s been a while since we looked at the directors of the major public art museums and you do feel there is movement in the air. Jenny Harper has been at the Christchurch Art Gallery for 10 years now and has seen it through some tough times but she must be thinking that now she has a Gold Card, enough is enough. So Christchurch could be up for grabs by the end of the year.

Then there’s the reverberations from the very juicy job that has opened up at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. With Deputy Director Suhanya Raffel off to direct M+ in Hong Kong, a job that will surely attract Rhana Devenport opens up. OK she has only been at the AAG for three years but would she turn down such a major opportunity back in her homeland? The AGNSW is undergoing a mega rebuild and now looks to be a stepping stone to Asia, a region Devenport has shown a strong liking for.

So in the world of supposition, who would fill the Auckland role? Cam McCracken currently at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery is obviously a starter. He’s only been in Dunedin for four years but Dunedin years are a bit longer than Auckland ones, so call it five. Anyway, by now we must be done with having to get Australians to run our country’s most important art museum (#surelytogod).

And let’s not forget smaller institutions with Artspace's director leaving in May next year.

So there’s a lot of potential fun right there especially when you add people like Zara Stanhope, Courtney Johnston, and Blair French into the mix.

OTN caps and large rewards of an indeterminate nature for early news.