Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tracking the paths of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island art and its relationship with colonial and post-colonial Australia has been under the spotlight over the past few weeks.

Songlines, an exhibition showcasing ancient Aboriginal stories, was postponed indefinitely by the South Australian Museum after a group of traditional owners threatened legal action because it publicises what they say are secret men's stories. The intervention divided the Aboriginal community into camps - those who believe the exhibition is a mortal threat to Aboriginal culture versus those who say it offers a way to preserve knowledge for future generations and advance the understanding of Aboriginal culture.

And in Auckland My Country: Contemporary Art from Black Australia, an exhibition organised by the Queensland Art Gallery|Gallery of Modern Art, is showing at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki. Curated by Bruce McLean (associated with the Wirri/Birri-Gubba community in Queensland), it's an exhibition about Aboriginal art and how it fits into the wider context of Australian art, but it has a darker side - imaging the brutal and sometimes genocidal consequences of Australian colonialism.

My country also features artists like Gordon Hookey who say they are distanced from the traditional  desert painters. "As a blackfella artist I have more in common with whitefella artists than the tradition-oriented artists in the desert or bark painters, simply because I am operating in the discourse [of contemporary art]"' he says. "With urban-based artists, culture is a dynamic and diverse thing that is constantly changing, and we are making art about that change."

Hookey and others in the show belong to the the proppaNOW collective which emerged as a strategy to address the challenge of how their art can be seen as part of the contemporary art scene, rather than being stuck in the box marked Aboriginal.

You can read a review of My Country: Contemporary Art from Black Australia here.
Image: Michael Cook, Civilised #13, 2012

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Daniel Boyd wins Bulgari Art Award for a painting referencing Australia's little known history of slavery

Daniel Boyd has won this year's $80,000 Bulgari Art Award for a painting that makes subtle reference to the little known history of slavery in Australia and the bleak realities of colonialism.

The painting is of an idyllic scene from drawn from an old photograph of Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. The island was home to Boyd's great great grandfather before he and many other Pacific islanders were brought as slaves to work in sugar cane fields of Queensland. Boyd says his ancestor was later forced to leave the country under the introduction of the White Australia policy.

Judged by Wayne Tunnicliffe, head curator of Australian art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the award includes a $50,000 cash prize and a $30,000 residency in Italy.

Boyd follows in the footsteps of Michael Zavros and Jon Cattalan, previous winners of the Bulgari Art Award which was launched in 2012.
Image: Daniel Boyd with his prize-winning painting Untitled 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stamp of approval for homoerotic artist Tom of FInland

Finland has issued three daring stamps of images by Tom of Finland, the legendary artist whose portraits of vast-shouldered men in leather, denim and knee-high boot is said to have influenced figures including Robert Mapplethorpe and Freddie Mercury.

The images aren't the most explicit of the artist's work, but even so they push philatelic boundaries. While it's not unusual for stamps to depict gay heros, Dean Shepherd, editor of Gibbons Stamp Monthly says he has never seen homoerotic art on stamps. "There was a bit of a storm in the early 1930's when the Spanish Postal Authority approved some stamps featuring Goya's The Nude Maja - a woman reclining naked. The US government apparently barred and returned any mail that bore it."

Matt Hill, editor of Stamp and Coin Mart also says it's a bold move. "Stamps represent a country, and are the most public of media, so they rarely feature strongly sexual subjects."
Image: Finnish stamps using imagery by Tom of Finland

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Working the space between art and fashion

As Australian designers at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week vie for the attention of international buyers from fashion retailers, the designers of Romance Was Born, Anna Plunket and Luke Sales, have opted to show their new collection as an exhibition staged with Perth-based artist Rebecca Baumann. This link takes you to a video of the collaborators talking about their project, which opens tonight at Sydney's Carriageworks.
Image: installation view of Romance Was Born and Rebecca Baumann: Reflected Glory 

Public Smog will save the earth

As public awareness of climate change grows, Amy Balkin's Public Smog project highlights the need to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Public Smog is a series of attempts to create a clean air park in the atmosphere. Actions to create the park have included purchasing and withholding emissions from regulated greenhouse gas markets in Southern California and in the European Union, and an attempt to submit the Earth's atmosphere for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Public Smog also offers an array of compelling images that expand the limited repertoire currently used to highlight the effects of climate change - for instance, striking images of skylines with silhouetted buildings and geometric white gaps suggesting clarity and possibility in an otherwise smoggy landscape. Other Public Smog images show serene skyscapes of blues overlaid with phrases such as 'public mog is no substitute for direct action' and 'public smog will save the earth'.

This link takes you to an article on Public Smog and interview with Amy Balkin.

Monday, April 14, 2014

IPCC climate change report: slashing carbon emissions is affordable

Catastrophic climate change can be averted without sacrificing living standards according to a UN report, which concludes that the transformation required to a world of clean energy is eminently affordable. The report, produced by 1,250 international experts and approved by 194 governments, dismisses fears that slashing carbon emissions would wreck the world economy. Read more...
Image: solar power plant in the Nevada desert

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Final day for Layla Rudneva-Mackay's Blue Squares, Purple Pairs

Layla-Rudneva Mackay's Starkwhite exhibition Blue squares, purple pairs closes today at 3pm
Image: Layla Rudneva-Mackay, Still life and sleepless nights (detail), oil on canvas, 400 x 310mm

Friday, April 11, 2014

Seung Yul Oh's MOAMOA on the move

Seung Yul Oh's exhibition MOAMOA closes at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery (DPAG) on 29 April and then travels to the City Gallery Wellington (CGW) where it runs from 31 May to 24 August. Curated by Aaron Kreisler and Aaron Lister, MOAMOA has been organised as a joint venture between the DPAG and CGW. You can read a review of the show here.
Image: Seung Yul Oh's Pokpo

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jens Hoffmann's new book on the most influential exhibitions of contemporary art

Show Time: The 50 Most influential Exhibitions of Contemporary Art is a new book by Jens Hoffmann covering a period in which "the art world has become globalised, the international biennale has emerged as the ultimate exhibition format of our time and the curator [has become] an all-important arbiter of global art trends and tastes."

Hoffmann has delivered events like the 9th Shanghai Biennale (2012-2013), the 12th Istanbul Biennale (2011) and the first Berlin Biennale (1998) and remains an advocate for the notion of curator-as-artist. "Curating has become a creative act in its own right," he says. Read more...
Image: Cover of Show Time: The 50 Most Influential Exhibitions of Contemporary Art published and distributed by DAP

The seriously playful work of making art

Rebecca Baumann's Automated Colour Field (Variation IV) is currently showing in Burster Flipper Wobbler Dripper Spinner Stacker Shaker Maker at the Christchurch Art Gallery's ArtBox. Curated by Justin Paton, the exhibition explores the shape-shifting, experimental and seriously playful work of making art, You can see Baumann's work in action here.
Image: Detail from one of Rebecca Baumann's automated colour fields

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Artspace announces new director

Adan Yildiz has been appointed director of Auckland's Artspace, replacing Caterina Riva who steps down at the end of May. Originally from Turkey, Yildiz is currently artistic director of the Kunstlerhaus Stuttgart and in 2013 he was one of the curatorial collaborators for the 13th Istanbul Biennale for curator Fulya Erdemci.
Image: Adan Yildiz

A prize-winning image

Sydney-based artist Shaun Galdwell has picked up the $25,000 prize for the 2014 Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award for his work The Flying Dutchman in Blue (Coogee 2).  This year's award was judged by Natasha Bullock, curator of contemporary art a the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Image: Sean Gladwell's The Flying Dutchman in Blue (Coogee 2

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New York's new commissioner of cultural affairs

Tom Finkelpearl, the president and director of Queens Museum, is scheduled to be named as New York's commissioner of cultural affairs by mayor Bill de Blasio, putting him in charge of the city's $156m budget.

The New York Times says the appointment is in keeping with the new administration's emphasis on the disenfranchised. In his 13 years at Queens Finkelpearl hired community organisers to professionalise outreach efforts and emphasised the diversity of the local immigrant population. And his institution's recently completed $68m rennovation was largely aimed at making the museum more inviting and connected to the neighbourhood. Read more...
Image: Tom Finkelpearl

Artspace launches new benefactor programme

Auckland's Artspace launches a new benefactor programme tonight, along with works to be sold to assist with the fundraising drive. Martin Basher's The Pleasure of Leisure is one of the works that will be sold on the night. For more information contact

At the launch the Board will also announce the appointment of a new director to replace outgoing director Caterina Riva.
Image: Martin Basher, The Pleasure of Leisure, 2013, screenprint with spraypaint and 18k gold leaf, 69 x 49cm

Monday, April 7, 2014

This week at Starkwhite

Layla-Rudneva Mackay's Blue squares, purple pairs continues at Starkwhite to 12 April.
Image: Layla Rudneva-Mackay, Pink peach jubes and glass jar, oil on canvas, 400 x 345mm

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Songlines exhibition sparks aboriginal culture wars

A exhibition showcasing ancient aboriginal stories has been postponed indefinitely after a group of traditional owners threatened legal action. Although the South Australian Museum consulted widely with community leaders across the region about mapping the songlines of Aboriginal Australia, a group of male elders from the Anangu language group has expressed outrage at the publicising of what they say are secret men's stories. The group includes Yami Lester a revered elder who presided over the handback of Uluru to traditional elders nearly 30 years ago.

The intervention has sparked a fierce debate, dividing the Pitjantjatjara desert people. The Australian says: "No collision in recent decades between the grand designs of of the mainstream world and Aboriginal resistance campaign quite rivals this one for its long-term impact: its controversies dominate the community night-time fires. Senior men in the heartland talk of little else." Read more...
Image: Mike Williams and Yami Lester

Friday, April 4, 2014

IMF report gives a tick for New Zealand's economic performance

A recent IMF report delivers good news for those following trends that will impact on the performance of the New Zealand art market this year. New Zealand's economic expansion is "becoming increasingly embedded and broad based" with growth forecast to be about 3.5% this year. These are the findings of an assessment from the International Monetary Fund, which found the country's economy set to grow with business and consumer confidence strong and commodity prices for exports staying high.

A slow down in growth in China remains the main external risk to what has been termed New Zealand's 'rock star economy', but the IMF does not see it as an imminent threat. When questioned by New Zealand prime minister John Key on whether the wheels could come off the Chinese economy as it moves towards a free market, President Xi Jinping responded confidently. The "invisible hand" (of the free market) would simply be constrained by the "visible hand" (of the Chinese Government) he told Key in Beijing a fortnight ago.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

China's largest private art museum opens in Shanghai

Less than a year after the Long Museum was founded in Pudong by the collector couple Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei, another Long Museum opened last weekend on the other side of the river in the Xuhui Riverside Development Area of Shanghai. Spanning over 33,000 square meters, including 16,000 square meters of exhibition space, it is the largest privately owned museum in China and will also house Dream Centre, the animation culture and entertainment complex scheduled to open in 2017.

China has embarked upon a massive programme of museum development, but the development of projects to drive them (and appointment of curatorial staff) is lagging behind. However, the Long Museum has learned from the experience of other museums and has settled on a curatorial approach to programming. Rather than appointing curators, the museum invites well-known domestic and foreign curators to work with an in-house academic department set up to help them develop their concepts into exhibitions.

In an interview with Randian, Managing Director Huang Jian talks about the Long Museum's operations, collections, exhibitions and educational programmes. Read more...
Image: Shanghai's new Long Museum, exterior and interior

Gavin Hipkins' Leisure Valley opens at ST PAUL ST Gallery

Gavin Hipkins' photographic installation Leisure Valley opens tonight at ST PAUL ST Gallery.

Captured during a visit to Chandrigah in 2013, Hipkins' images play with the utopian desire of modernist planning (the city was designed by a team of architects led by Le Corbusier) and mimic the romantic appreciation of the ruin through capturing aspects of the present day Chandrigah that are in various states of decay. Leisure Valley also includes a new experimental film by Hipkins titled The Port. Read more...
Image: Gavin Hipkins, Leisure Valley (detail), 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Distance Plan

Recently we were introduced to The Distance Plan, a project initiated by a group of visual artists, writers, urban planners, poets, environmental scientists and geographers who produce exhibitions, public forums and publications on the effects of climate change.

In the first publication LA-based artist Amy Howden-Chapman writes: "Distance Plan is not another scribbled utopia, not another modelled future but a diligent diagram of causation between current actions and what is coming. There in the distance, but gradually materializing as it starts to impinge on life today, is climate change. With this issue, diagramming is a disorientating task. Our current actions will have consequences largely outside our life spans. The aim of The Distance Plan is to show how necessary it is to conceptualize the effects of this apparently distant phenomenon."

The publication also contains Questions for my father about climate change, a must-read conversation between Amy Howden-Chapman and her father Professor Ralph Chapman, Director of the Graduate Programme in Environmental Studies at Victoria University, Wellington.
Image: The Distance Plan publication with contributions by Abby Cunnane, Amy Howden-Chapman, Louise Menzies, Ralph Chapman, Amy Balkin, Michael Paludan, Joe Hoyt, Biddy Livesey, Steve Kado, Arini Beautrais and Bjarki Bragason