27 February 2007


Last weekend's Cuba St Carnival lived up to its potential of being hot, sultry, well catered on the food and music fronts (2 thumbs up Scopa) and, well, Cuban. Highlights? Many. Lowlights: where was the visual art?


The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is actually 4.5 hours drive from Wellington, not 3.5 as stated earlier. Although given the right car, enough coffee, and a 2.30am departure time, I'm reasonably confident it could be done in under 3.5 hours.

By way of apology, and in an effort to restore your faith in the accuracy of claims made on the internet, I offer an image by Tom Kreisler, as reproduced for an invitation to a New Years Eve party at the Lesley Kreisler Gallery some years ago. We tried to hire a bouncy castle to inflate in the gallery, but somebody had already booked the only one available in New Plymouth.

22 February 2007

Free New Zealand Art

A complete set of Free New Zealand Art prints arrived in the office today, almost two years after the show at Artspace. I'm not sure how they got here or where from, but it's been extremely interesting watching them get devoured by the generally art-unaware office members. Dane Mitchell's Bubble Wrap seems to be the crowd favourite.

Consequently the standard of office decoration has gone up considerably in the last couple of hours. I also like to think the works will promote greater understanding, enjoyment, and contemplation of contemporary art...

Len Lye, Kylie Minogue, the Red Cross, and a broken thermostat.

Peter Peryer's recent post on the launch of the friends of Len Lye and New Plymouth's impending Len Lye centre, reminded me of a brief association I had with the Regent and neighbouring Red Cross Buildings that are likely to be demolished to make way from the Centre.

Several years ago, returning from taking Australian artist Kathy Temin to the airport, following the installation of her great work My Kylie Collection, my car decided to overheat in a fairly dramatic (and later expensive) fashion. As I was living 20 minutes drive out of town at the time, this presented something of a commuting problem.

My first solution was to seek alternate accommodation for the 3+ weeks the car took to be fixed. A chance encounter with the owner of the Regent and Red Cross buildings later that day resulted in a guided tour of some of the empty office space in the Red Cross Building - immediately behind the Regent Building pictured by Peter. The upstairs comprised of a number of small office spaces, lavishly wood pannelled, with a modernist-lite stairwell, and lots of potential. While the showering and kitchen facilites were shared, I think it would have worked well. I even rushed off and designed a contempoary stand-alone living unit/island, incorporating bed, lounge, dining, kitchen and wardrobe, that would sit within the space and not intrude on those beautiful wood-pannelled walls. Pictured above.

As it turned out I was able to borrow a car from my sister for a while, and bike to work on occasion, removing the need for inner city living, but the Red Cross building still has a very fond place in my heart. While I recognise a need for Len Lye to be presented in a dedicated contemporary space, it seems a shame to lose more great buildings from our past, in a city that doesn't have a particularly strong record of protecting it's old architecture.

21 February 2007

Coming soon to a gallery 3.5 hours drive from you

The long awaited show of late New Plymouth artist Tom Kreisler's work, and a rather impressive associated public programme, open next weekend at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. For several months I had a Govett-Brewster customer survey 'edited' by Tom pinned to my noticeboard. I think I gave it to his widow when I got to know her some months later, after buying three Simon Morris works on paper from her gallery. I keep meaning to get those works framed, but haven't yet found the best way of presenting them.

19 February 2007

The choice of a new generation

Coming soon to the Mighty Mighty: Ping Pong Country: interactive art installation meets table tennis in an event strangely perfect for the Wellington art world. Nice work Goethe Institut.

15 February 2007

Entertain and enlighten

In the summer of 1947 a group of aspiring artists in Pittsburgh frequented a gallery called The Outline every Sunday evening for a series of informal events aimed to broaden exposure to the arts and above all entertain. Events included showing experimental film, drawing, meeting visiting artists, critics and curators, and on one occasion viewing their first real Picasso (allegedly 'borrowed' from a New York institution). A couple of people in this group went on to be become fairly prominent artists – Philip Pearlstein and Andy Warhol.

A little closer to home, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth has been holding a monthly event named after the Gallery's founding patron Monica Brewster (nee Govett) since around 2001. Titled the Monica Brewster Club, it's by-line is "entertaining speakers, contemporary art, excellent food and fine wine in the ambience of the Gallery". This takes place in the gallery's theatre, and has featured an astounding range of speakers from right across the creative industries. For $10 you get beer, wine, cheese, and enlightenment from iconic figures such as Marti Friedlander, Dorenda Britton, Miranda Harcourt, Howard Grieves etc. A lot of great people have been regular attendees at these events, including a few great artists, though it's still too soon to determine if the MBC will have a similar impact on anyone as viewing his first avant-garde films had on Andy Warhol.

My point is that there is a tradition here and anecdotal evidence it can deliver good outcomes. For all Wellington's efforts to become the Creative Capital, and good occasional showings from Enjoy and City, there's still a lot of room for more to be happening. So watch this space.

Make it click:
Monica Brewster Club
Upcoming Prospect talks at City Gallery

13 February 2007

One for the...err...ladies

Don Brash is rumoured to be a leading candidate for the upcoming series of Dancing with the Stars.
If he gets the nod I for one will be on the lookout for some hollow performances.

09 February 2007

Prospect by name, prospecting by nature

The buzz of the art blogs this morning is City Gallery's 40% +gst (so effectively 52.5%) cut on artist's multiples. The story was broken by the good folks at Overthenet
(who I must thank for an insightful contribution to the Collectors forum at the National Library yesterday), and Bestofthree has picked up the charge. Of course, I'm assuming it's accurate, despite being on the Internet.

This rather disturbs me on 2 levels: the dealers I know work bloody hard for their cut of the final sale price, in terms of developing the artist's career, the market for their work, getting it into collections etc. They're covering overheads and fixed costs solely from the revenue made on selling art. They don't have a benevolent council to bail out any funding shortfall they might have. They have receivers. I really just don't see the front of house staff at City delivering anywhere near the same level of service or value a dealer does. (the same might be said for the whole secondary market, but I'll leave that debate for another day).

And secondly, they seem to be treating the artist multiples as any other retail product – with a standard cost plus pricing structure. To me this indicates they're positioning the works in the realm of commodity - (Been there done that, got the t-shirt/postcard/artist's multiple) and art just isn't an FMCG, no matter how hard the artist might try to position it as such (think Warhol).

I'm really interested in who will be partaking in the offer of selling multuiples, and I'm keen to know what the artists (and their dealers) think of it.

08 February 2007

Words of advice for young people

A comment that struck me in the National Library's quite good panel discussion on collecting art/photography/books, was a comment made by astute gallerist and photography champion Paul McNamara, which went along the lines of:
"If I wouldn't buy [a work in my collection] if I saw it in a gallery today then I sell it."

In a similar vein, I also like the move by Jim Fraser, who last year sold all 137 works in his rather good contemporary art collection at Webbs. This was, I gather, in order to refocus and rebuild the collection in a totally different direction. In doing so, Jim not only gave us the nicest auction catalogue and range of works I've seen, but demonstrated a serious commitment to the new, and took a very public step into the realm of contemporary art collection in NZ.

So while I think we might be brave enough to edit our small but growing collection some time soon, I think we'll start gently. While a direction is emerging, it's not one I want to move away from just yet.

It's a sign

Forward thinking from the Joneses: this sign appeared last Friday on Vivian Street, which has nicely slowed to a sedate one lane since the motorway bypass/extension/on-ramp was completed. At present the sign goes largely unnoticed, but this will in a couple of months, when the motorway exit is shifted to Vivian street, sending 2-3 lanes back up in the other direction. Nice for the Joneses, not so good for trying to cross Vivian St. Still, can't be any worse than trying to cross Ghuznee St is at the moment.

07 February 2007

Bring me a shrubbery

The unnaturally pleasant weather of late has meant I've been getting stuck into the gardening, the outcome of which is pictured. Sadly all of this was done before a TV programme decreed that investment in garden renovation is seldom recouped in the value of a house. It would seem that my lavish $39 investment in potting mix and plants tipped the return-on-investment matrix over the edge.
Oh well.

05 February 2007

Picton. Oddly influential.

In Picton late last year, I photographed the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck statues on the waterfront, which Over the net have recently highlighted in relation to Ronnie van Hout's Duck and Mouse.

Just up the road from there was a letterbox that reminded me of Paul Hartigan's Temple. In Temple Paul has taken Colin McCahon's letterbox (which he apparently bought at auction) and photographed it from below, which film 101 tells us is positioning it in a position of power, assertiveness or influence, perhaps a sign that New Zealand artists are finally getting the recognition they deserve. The unknown I. Taylor's Picton letterbox, however, was mounted somewhat inconveniently at street level. This might account for the dent in the top.
Left: Letterbox of I. Taylor, Picton
Right: Paul Hartigan, Temple 2006, Signed ultrachrome print
More of Paul's recent work here