Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Melbourne corporate art - 23 November

One of the interesting aspects of being an investment banker that I have been able to visit offices all over the world. Sometimes they are memorable spaces (such as Presidio in San Francisco) and sometimes they are not (think any hotel conference room).  This last week I have been down in Melbourne working on a deal that saw me snooping around the executive floor of a large listed corporate down in the docklands precinct.  So what did they have on the walls?

The room I spent most of the time in was dominated by the Elizabeth Nakamarra work (pictured above) called Water Dreaming.  I mostly subscribe to the contemporary (aboriginal) artist Richard Bell's view that aboriginal art is a white persons thing but I did like this piece. 

Unfortunately I wasn't given full run of the floor so only squizzed a couple of other pieces which included a large (and uninspiring but recognizable) Tim Storrier, a medium size John Kelly (he of the expensive cow paintings) and another large aboriginal piece by Greeny Petyarre.  A pair of digital prints by Young Zerunge (aka Hong Kong and Australian artist John Young) caught my eye so I did a little research on him.  He is represented by the Michael Reid gallery in Sydney and actually lists this corporate collection on his resume.  Not so amazing when you consider this resume, of an artist I have only just heard of, runs to 16 pages and can be downloaded in pdf.  Methinks the punters need to be sold a little on this guys importance prior to parting with the scratch required for one of his large colour printouts!

Verdict: nice building and from the glimpses I saw a decent, if fairly safe, corporate collection.  Points: 3 - Elizabeth Nakamarra; 2 - Young Zerunge; 1 - Greeny.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

FONAS plate auction - 4 November

The Friends of the National Art School (otherwise known as 'FONAS') hold an annual fundraiser where they get established and emerging artists, NAS alumni and other prominent Australians to decorate plates that are then auctioned off. This was my first plate auction and the collector in me was jonesing to add a plate to the big lamington collection.

The auction was held in the cell block theatre, a wonderful old sandstone building on the NAS campus. Scattered around the walls were about 150 plates. 10 plates expected to make the most were to be auctioned live with the remained going by silent auction at lists around the room.

There was some spirited bidding on the live lots with most going for $2,000+. The pick for me was the Reg Mombassa, famous for his mambo illustrations. Other big names that the punters were after were Euan MacLeod, Peter Godwin and Elisabeth Cummings. I would've bought a Norman Hetherington but my ceiling was $500 and he made $800. Norman who you ask? Well you would've realised if you saw the plate - a big Mr Squiggle. Norman (the man behind, or above, the puppet that introduced every Australian child of my generation to drawing) is an NAS alum and contributes a plate every year - maybe I need to up my budget for 2011!

It was a real mixed bag for the balance. I liked the Octopus by Jan King, the Bison by Sophie Hopmeier and didn't mind the plates by Kim Spooner. However, my pick was the doughnut plate by Madeleine Hayes - she was in the postgrad show we just saw having just completed her honours year in ceramics. It was the only plate that had gone beyond painting and had added some sculptural elements. Less dishwasher friendly but more memorable. A heated silent bidding war erupted on this plate but yours truly won the day by deploying standard eBay practice (sniping in at the last minute) and by being willing to pay $320 which was at the higher end of the silent lots with some going for around $100 which was the minimum bid.

It took a while for everyone to pay up and the MBA in me thought the processing could have been better organised but once my credit card had been processed I was able to walk away with my plate that very night. A good night out, FONAS - pencil me in for 2011.

Points: 3 - Reg Mombassa, if I was prepared to drop $2k you would have been mine; 2 - Madeleine Hayes, obviously I thought hers was the pick of the bunch; 1 - Mr Squiggle! When is the ABC going to put this out on dvd? Seriously, I need to educate my children on these key cultural matters ...

White Rabbit visit - 4 November

White Rabbit is a privately owned space, named presumably for the owners affinity for South Sydney rugby league given its location in an old factory in Chippendale.

This houses the contemporary chinese art collection of the Neilsen family who made heaps of scratch in funds management. The gallery staff tell you that the founder has been collecting chinese art for over 10 years. I believe this is meant to impress. Well this visitor has kicked the bricks in moganshu lane (probably the main shanghai contemporary gallery precinct) back in 2005 and picked up a healthy scepticism of this next big thing back then. Sure there is some decent art but the branding of it is definitely 'Chinese', and China as a country is certainly rising but does that mean the art is getting more important? I think that if there were a billion Fijians and they were running a huge trade surplus with the rest of the world then spaces like White Rabbit would be full of tapa cloth and tribal carvings. Anyhoo, on to the show ...

White Rabbit is currently hosting their 3rd show, the Big Bang. One of the attendants confided to me that this one is much weaker than the first two. Despite this I liked quite a few things.

I liked the happy balloon men of He Jia but saw a little too much Koons in them, knock offs not being a big issue for the Chinese! I was pleasantly surprised to recognise a piece - Ai Weiwei's sunflower seeds which is creating controversy at the Tate (originally you could walk over them but me thinks people were pocketing souvenirs hence it was closed to public due to "porcelain dust"). White Rabbit have half a ton and Ai told them he would only make 2 tons. Well he made 150 tons for the Tate (over 100 million seeds). An artist lied about editioning? Well I never.

My favourite piece was 'the correct road' by Xu Xiaoguo which references propaganda art that this right winger is particularly fond of. Wang Jiuliang's large scale photos of rubbish dumps around Beijing proved the adage that if you make a photo large enough and hang it in a gallery it will look like art. Same goes for Yang Fudong's black and white photos of a night out in Shanghai. I happened to be passing this when the guided tour was on and the explanation on this work confirmed my suspicions that the backstory was more involved than the composition.

The best photography art (also on a much smaller scale) was the identity series by the Tibetan artist Gonkar Gyatso. I would have happily picked up a postcard of this, if the front desk actually had any postcards from the current show (all available images are from the first 2 shows). For a gallery that wants to enforce a no photography rule they need to lift their game here.

Points: 3 - the space, hats off to the Neilsens for doing this, more Australians that have the means should. I would too if I had the cash (and I hope I'd do as good as these guys). 2 - Xu Xiaoguo, keep up the good work. 1 - the kitschy aprons the gallerinas get to wear. They are black with the red chinese peony fabric trim, just like some boxer shorts I had made for me when travelling in Asia in 2004, saved me 20 clams at the gift store. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Kate Shaw at Sullivan + Strumpf - 2 November

Kate Shaw has her opening on the Thursday night but we managed to sneak in on Tuesday for a look see. Sullivan + Strumpf is one of big lamington's favourite galleries and the Mrs is quite keen on Kate's work so things were looking good.

We had seen a documentary on Kate's landscapes as part of a show on the Wynne prize so were familiar with how she works. Which is to say she does these paint pours on paper, then cuts all these colourful shapes out and makes collage landscapes and then encases them in resin.

Despite being in early there were a few pieces that had sold. Thankfully for me the triptych that the Mrs liked the look of (1/3 of it is pictured on the top left). This was also the top priced item at $11.5k. I liked the look of Canyonlands which was one of the cheaper ones at $1,800 and would have been happy to add Neuron to the collection. This was a mid sized piece that had a tree shape and moon against a sky, the gallery used it on the card that announced the exhibition and again, reasonably priced at $2,200. Other favourites were El Dorado and an intriguing video work.

All in all a solid show and whilst there were some pieces we liked there wasn't one that was an immediate absolute must have for us. That said, we will be putting ourselves on the list for her next show to see if we can't find the right one for us. Keep up the good work Kate. It will be interesting to go back on the weekend to see how the exhibition is selling.

Points: 3 - projected futures, top price and strongest work although we would have been happy to turn it into a diptych by buying the left part. 2 - Glitter Gulch, 1 - Neuron.

National Art School postgrad show - 2 November

So my staycation is not going to plan. It is Tuesday and I am not in the office, two of the kids are in daycare and where am I? Well it is raining so golf is out which means there are a couple of galleries to check out. First up was the postgrad show at the national art school.

If you have never been to NAS you should put it on your list, primarily just for the campus. Located in the old (very old - c. 1840) Darlinghurst Gaol the galleries are all in lovely sandstone jails and cell blocks that have had the bars taken out and the walls painted white. The postgrad show covers students completing their MFA (masters in fine arts) or doing an honours year in their BFA (bachelors). About 40+ students all told exhibiting their work in 3 galleries.

It was great to look at the student's work and compare that to the emerging artists you see at galleries.  It will be interesting to see whether we see some of these students in a few years time as practicing artists in their own rights doing solo shows and the like.

Points: 3 - Criena Court, she is meant to major in painting but her exhibit was a plywood structure about waist height that had a floor and two walls, one with a mirror and one with a black and white print of a minimalist living room. Maybe I just liked the chairs! 2 - Either Todd Fuller or Alex Jackson Wyatt - process of elimination based on where the student said his work was, he was just about to graduate and was working in the cell block section and was good to talk to. 1 - Darlo Gaol, great to be back on a campus.