Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Butt Plug or Christmas Tree?

Vandals have deflated a Paul McCarthy sculpture in an exclusive Paris square after outraged conservative groups said it resembled a giant sex toy. The artist (who was slapped in the face by an outraged passer by) said it was inspired by an anal plug, but it was an abstract work that could also be seen as a Christmas tree. France's minister of culture Fleur Pellering, stepped in saying it was"an inadmissable attack on the freedom of creation" and the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, added "Paris will not yield to the threats of those who attack artistic freedom." However, McCarthy says he doesn't intend to repair or reinstall the art work - perhaps because he is preparing another installation in Paris in a working chocolate factory that hosts contemporary art installations, and where visitors will be able to see Santa Claus holding a smaller butt plug.
Image: Paul McCarthy's Tree in Vendome Square, Paris.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Coming up at Starkwhite

Seung Yul Oh's new exhibition mem mem opens at Starkwhite on Friday 31 October. Elizabeth Caldwell and Cam McCracken, the directors of the co-organising galleries of Oh's survey exhibition MOAMOA, will also be at the opening to launch their new publication on Oh, which includes an interview with Korean curator Sunjung Kim.
Image: two new paintings from Seung Yul Oh's Periphery series

Friday, October 17, 2014

Shanghai's must-see museums: Rockbund Art Museum

Near Shanghai's fabled Bund, you can find Thomas Ou's Rockbund Art Museum housed in a beautifully restored 1933 Art Deco building that was at one time home to the Royal Asiatic Society. The Rockbund is a comparatively small, but innovative space with a impressive record of shows with artists and curators such as Cai Guo-Qiang, Zheng Fanshi, Paola Pivi, Hou Hanru and Fumio Nanjo among others.

The Rockbund is currently showing Ugo Rondinone's Breathe, Walk, Die, an installation staged over five of the gallery's floors. The walls are painted floor to ceiling with colours that move from cool to warm in tandem with the coloured filters on the windows. Each floor has circular canvases of blurred concentric colours, all combining to form a backdrop for 40 impassive clowns doing nothing. It's a beautiful, but disturbing piece -  the best show in town, in the smallest museum space, and proof (in a ciiy known for its massive museums) that bigger isn't always better.
Images: Ugo Rondinone's Breathe, Walk, Die at Shanghai's Rockbund Art Museum

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Shanghai's must-see art museums: Power Station of Art

The Power Station of Art is another must-see art museum in Shanghai - an old coal-fired plant converted into a 41,000 square metre contemporary art museum at a cost of US64 million. Unlike the city's raft of new privately-funded museums, the Power Station of Art is China's first state-funded art museum, allowing it to take on a wider brief, including hosting the Shanghai Biennale, which opens on 22 November.

Most of the museum is currently dedicated to an exhibition by Cai Guo-Qiang, one of China's most celebrated artists. The Ninth Wave is a spectacular show with a message reminding viewers of their relationship with an increasingly precarious environment and with nature, a connection that Cai views as being a casualty of China's economic miracle and becoming an industrial factory to the world.

The show kicked off with fireworks released from a barge on Huangpu River, which required temporary halting of boat traffic on the busy river, and begins in the main downstairs hall with the signature work in the show - a dilapidated Chinese fishing boat filled with sick animals - lions, wolves, camels, monkeys, gazelles, pandas and zebras.

On the second floor is a nearly 100 foot long panoramic painting The Bund Without Us, depicting Shanghai's riverfront reclaimed by nature and rendered in his signature medium of gunpowder ignited on paper. Nearby is Head On, an installation of 99 wolves leaping en masse into a glass wall, which takes viewers to one of the most spectacular works in the show - Silent Ink. Cai excavated a large depression in the concrete floor of one of the upstairs spaces and filled it with thousands of gallons of black ink used for traditional calligraphy. An overhead nozzle shoots ink into the pool, which is surrounded by the concrete rubble and bent steel reinforcing, all piled up to take on the appearance of mountains in a classical landscape painting.

The show ends on a dark note in the former power plant's towering chimney stack, which once pumped toxic fumes into the atmosphere. Inside, Cai has installed Air of Heaven, a children's swing with three demented looking babies, silently swinging back and forth.

The Ninth Wave shows Cai's ability push the boundaries of political art in a culture where it can be a risky practice. And the Power Station of Art's commitment to contemporary art practice and working alongside artists like Cai Guo-Qiang places it in the lineup of Shanghai's must-see art museums.
Images: Cai Guo-Qiang's fireworks on the Huangpu River (top) and installation views of The Ninth Wave at the Power Station of Art

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Shanghai's must-see art museums

China is going through a museum boom, which some observers say is outstripping the country's museum practice. Positioned as flagship stores of culture, the new museums are often criticised for their poorly presented exhibits, aimless curating and ineffectual public outreach. But China also has a growing number of world-class museums and galleries - nowhere more so than in Shanghai, a city of 25 million people and one clearly set on becoming China's cultural centre.

We visited some of Shanghai's museums (old and new) during a recent visit and we'll post short pieces on them over the next few days.

The first in our suite of must-see art museums in Shanghai is the Yuz Museum, the 9000 square metre building on Shanghai's West Bund Cultural Corridor that was converted from an airport hanger by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. Established by Chinese-Indonesian collector Budi Tek, the Yuz Museum opened this year with Myth/History, an exhibition of works drawn from Tek's collection and curated by Wu Hung, the founder and director of the Centre for the Art of East Asia at the University of Chicago. The show includes an impressive array of large-scale works in the 3000 square meter main exhibition hall, including Maurizio Cattelan's Untitled (Olive Tree), Xu Bing's Tobacco Project, Adel Abdessemed's Telle mere tel fils and Peng Yu's Freedom, and the flanking 6000 square meters of spaces contain paintings, photographs and sculptures that are integral to the evolution of Chinese contemporary art.

The Yuz Museum has all the hallmarks of a great private art museum: it backed by a billionaire art collector (resources are unlikely to pose a challenge), it is housed in a gigantic architect-designed and retro-fitted building, it is supported by a great private collection and, perhaps most significantly, the Yuz has a clearly articulated vision and demonstrated commitment to staging well-curated exhibitions.

You can read an ArtAsiaPacific review of Myth/History here.
Images:  Maurizio Cattelan's Untitled (Olive Tree) and Abdessemed's Telle mere tel fils at the Yuz Museum

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Co-curator Gregory Burke talks about La Biennale de Montreal

La Biennale de Montreal L'avenir (looking forward) opens next week and runs to 4 January 2015. In a recent interview with Art Review, co-curator Gregory Burke (a former director of New Zealand's Govett-Brewster Art Gallery) talks about the theme of the biennale and how it will be articulated. Read more...
Image: Emmanuelle Leonard, Postcard from Bexhill-on-Sea (video still), 2014

Gish Prize to fund Maya Lin's ongoing environmental project

One of the world's richest art prizes, the USD300,000 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, is being awarded to artist Maya Lin. Now in its 21st year, the Prize is given annually to "a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind's enjoyment and understanding of life."

Best known for her Vietnam War Memorial, Lin has gone on to make work about the environment. She says the award will help her continue with her ongoing project What is Missing?, which combines art and science to increase awareness about the loss of biodiversity and natural habitats.
Image: Maya Lin's A Fold in the Field at The Farm, Kaipara, New Zealand

Monday, October 13, 2014

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (CNZM) 1943-2014

After a long and distinguished career as a curator, historian and teacher, Jonathan Mane-Wheoki passed away on friday.

Mane-Wheoki is best known in visual arts circles as a powerful advocate for contemporary Maori art, at various times holding positions as Dean of Music and Fine Art at Canterbury University, Head of the School of Fine Arts and the University of Auckland and head of Visual Culture at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. But he was also a highly respected architectural and cultural historian, valued for his ability to contribute to the work of arts organisations with a wider brief, such as the Arts Foundation of New Zealand where he served as a member of the Foundation's College of Governors. He made a difference and will be sorely missed.

A Requiem Mass will be held for Jonathan at Auckland's Cathedral of the Holy Trinity on Saturday from 10:30 am to 12:30pm, after which he will be taken to his marae in the Hokiangia for burial.
Image; Jonathan Mane-Wheoki with Colin McCahon's Parihaka Triptych

Upstairs at Starkwhite

Upstairs we showing a sampler of Billy Apple's work which includes Billy Apple Bleaching with Lady Clairol Instant Crème Whip November 1962 and a suite of his transaction works.
Image: Billy Apple, IOU 

This week at Starkwhite

Rebecca Baumann's Once more with feeling continues at Starkwhite this week through to 25 October. You can read an exhibition review here.
Image: Rebecca Baumann's Once more with feeling (2014), installation view, Starkwhite

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hayward show lights up the Auckland Art Gallery

If last night's opening is anything to go by, the Auckland Art Gallery has a must-see exhibition to end the year with. The gallery's reception space was jammed with people poised to flow into the Light Show after the speeches were over.

Organised by the Hayward Gallery, the exhibition features light-based art by leading international artists including Olafur Eliasson, Dan Flavin, Jenny Holzer, Ann Veronica Janssens and James Turrell and runs at the Gallery to 8 February 2015.
Image: Carlos Cruz-Diez's Chromosaturation

Auction house withdraws forgeries when told they were fakes

Two forged Monet paintings were withdrawn from auction in Auckland this week - not because they were forgeries, but rather because they were fake forgeries. Promoted as paintings by the legendary forger Elmyr de Hory, they proved to be rip-offs painted by the London bookmaker Ken Talbort who claimed to own more than 400 de Hory works.

The fakes were spotted online by de Hory's former personal assistant and sole heir Mark Forgy, who said the irony of the famous faker being copied wasn't lost on him. "The subject of others forging his works came up only one time. We both contemplated that for a moment and laughed at the far-fetched notion," he said.
Image: Monet's In the Woods at Giverny, one of the paintings copied by de Hory and Talbot 

Friday, October 10, 2014

MoMA prepares for huge crowds at Matisse blockbuster

After attracting more than half a million people at the Tate Modern, Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs is about to open at MoMA, where the museum will require Matisse fans to buy tickets allowing them to enter the museum only at a certain time. This policy aimed at regulating huge crowds has only been enacted for two shows in recent years -  the retrospective of filmmaker Tim Burton and Van Gogh and Colours of the Night.
Image: Henri Matisse cut out

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

An essential companion for anyone interested in New Zealand art

Wystan Curnow is New Zealand's longest serving and most important art critic. The Critic's Part brings together a selection of his art writings from 1971 to 2013 and features his long form essays that investigate the stakes for 'high culture' in a 'small province' like New Zealand; major essays on key artists including Len Lye, Colin McCahon and Billy Apple; reports on the contemporary art scene; and catalogue essays and short reviews offering insightful readings of art and artists in all their material and conceptual specificity. Edited by Christina Barton and Robert Leonard, the book is "a map of contemporary theory and practice and a cogent agenda for thinking through the implications and challenges of making art here."

Monday, October 6, 2014

New minister for arts, culture and heritage

Maggie Barry is New Zealand's new Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage, replacing Chris Findlayson who takes on responsibility for New Zealand's spy agencies. Barry is a former news and current affairs reporter, television and radio broadcaster, magazine feature writer for the NZ Listener, and co-producer and presenter of Maggie's Garden Show. She lives with partner Grant Kerr, an art patron/collector of contemporary New Zealand photographer and member of the Arts Council of Creative New Zealand.
Image: Maggie Barry

This week at Starkwhite

Rebecca Baumann's Once more with feeling continues at Starkwhite this week through to 21 October. You can read an exhibition review here.
Image: Rebecca Baumann's Once more with feeling (2014), installation view detail, Starkwhite

Is the museum boom in China delivering LV bags of architecture?

China is experiencing a museum boom of epic proportions. With unlimited capital, rapid land acquisition and a taste for architectural statements, it has become a playground for global architects to design some bizarre and beautiful creations. But some say the rapid development of the sector is delivering museums that have advanced beyond current museum practice. Labelled the 'Louis Vuitton bags of architecture", they are seen as flagship stores of culture by urban planners and city branders with the potential to introduce the Bilbao effect - the rejuvination of a city through museum building.

In a recent interview with Randian, the author of New Museums in China, Clare Jacobsen, talks about the new museums and whether they can become something more than LV bags of architecture. Read more...

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Art as a verb

Art as a Verb opens today at Monash University of Art. Curated by Charlotte Day, Francis E Parker and Patrice Sharkey, the exhibition takes as it's departure point the concept of art as action, presenting projects form the 1990s to the present challenge the traditional role of the artist and the site of the museum. What constitutes the work of an artists? How do the varying roles of artist (an instigator, facilitator, teacher, performer, consumer or visionary)for within broader society? And how does the museum support art forms that function beyond the art object?

Artists in the show include Marina Abramovic, Francis Alys, Billy Apple, John Baldessari, Martin Creed, Peter Fischili & David Weiss, Alicia Frankovich, Paul McCarthy, Rose Nolan, Claus Oldenburg, Ariel Orozco, Mike Parr and Rirkrit Tiravanija.
Image: Billy Apple, PAID: The Artists Has to Live Like Everybody Else, 1987, Herbert Fabrication and Engineering 2003, invoice mounted on PAID offset lithograph, 42 x 29.7cm

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A conversation with Dame Jenny Gibbs about the formation of the Walters Prize

Last week Charles Esche awarded the 2014 Walters Prize to Luke Willis Thompson, the 7th artist to receive the $50,000 award. Along with the other finalists, he also received $5,000 from patron Dayle Mace when this year's lineup was announced.

The Walters Prize is the brainchild of Dame Jenny Gibbs and Erika and Robin Congreve, patrons who bring ideas as well as deep pockets to the arts. In 2010 Jenny Gibbs talked about the Prize and how it has been set up to keep the founders (and other patrons associated with it) at arms length, leaving it to the Auckland Art Gallery to appoint four New Zealand-based selectors to come up with a short list of four and the international judge to select the winner. You can view the video here.
Image: Dame Jenny Gibbs

Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace

Ai Weiwei has staged his latest exhibition at Blenheim Palace, the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough and the house where Winston Churchill was born. The Guardian's Jonathan Jones reflects on why Ai Weiwei would mount a survey of his work at a British stately home where visitors are more likely to come for the Capability Brown gardens or the tea shop, and perhaps not for conceptual art. Read more...
Image: Ai Weiwei's Han Dynasty vase with Coca Cola logo