Saturday, March 26, 2011

Brooke Fitzsimons and Melinda Harper @ Tim Olsen - 26 March

My main problem with Art Month in Sydney is that they have all these events stacked in one month and I can barely get to any - doesn't anyone else have a hectic job and a bagful of kids? I missed all the artist talks in Paddo this weekend, my one art outing on Saturday was to Tim Olsen to see the new shows by Brooke Fitzsimons and Melinda Harper. I was there just before Brooke's talk (I had to go vote!) so could only interpret the show based on the little blurb up front. Brooke's current practice is to collect printed images as references with she paints and then she builds colour up over them with thin glazes of oil paint "until an intense luminosity is achieved" ... the original images "become evanescent". Which roughly translated means they are mostly one colour with what looks like stains on them. I did like the idea though, and they were right down the fairway of what I consider emerging artist pricing (aka affordable). Points for the pricing strategy, ranging from $1,250 to $9,500 with about a third under $3,000, a third around the $4 - 5,000 and the balance north of $6,000. It worked - lots of red dots here.
My heuristic of the least successful artist getting the upstairs treatment was called into question by Melinda Harper's show . The prices for these colourful works (which kind of reminded me of a bag of spilt lollies, see above) were a little higher but there were still some affordable options for those jonesing for a Harper. The smaller (under 50cm x 50cm) silk, thread and paint on embroidery works were selling for sub $2,000. The bigger oil on linen or canvas works started at $12,000 and went to $19,500. I can't really tell you which one I liked best as they are all called "Untitled". To me this really calls into question her commitment to contemporary art practice as naming a work is often the piece of art in itself!

Points, 3 for Brooke's 'Dip' (pictured top), 2 for 'Corner' and 1 point for Melinda's small embroidery works, #2 is probably the untitled I would've taken.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Auction @ Menzies - 24 March

I was interested to see how the secondary market was doing so it was off to Menzies to check it out. On the menu were predominantly 'modern australian' works (50's to 90s) with a handful of contemporary pieces from this century. Fresh in my mind was the following quote of a collector profiled in the March issue of Monocle ... "I research a lot, I go to fairs. I don't go to auctions because I don't buy secondhand. I buy directly from the galleries or the artists." Ouch! I'd have to keep my paddle on my lap.

This would be pretty easy as the only thing I was contemplating bidding on was a Daniel Boyd (King No Beard from 2006 - pictured left, the youngest work they had all night) although I was also interested to see how some of the contemporary artists would fare. I arrived at about lot 30 and they were going slooooow. Interesting crowd although not many under 40. The big sale was a bidding war for the Brett Whitely that graced the cover of the catalogue, eventually being knocked down for $1.56 million. It was a huge piece and admittedly quite stunning but imagine what you could get for that - hey Tim Olsen, I'll take all your shows from now till Chrissy, wrap 'em! The guy next to me got in a bidding war for a Ray Crooke (probably the only older work I would have wanted, and then only because I have a tiki bar to decorate ...) and he just missed out at $33k.

The interesting stuff was towards the back of the night. Alistair McIntyre was one of the first I recognized. There was a little bit of interest and this piece (The Ultimate Challenge from 2004) was knocked down for $4,000. Next was the Daniel Boyd. I was hoping there wouldn't be any bidders as I was only really interested getting a steal. But a couple of interested parties soon pushed it to $11k where it started to slow down and increase in $100 increments. One of the parties was the underbidder from the Whitely, amazingly he didn't win! I mean, bidding $1.5m for Brett and then not putting in another couple of hundred to get Daniel's King? Anyway $12,600 was the winning bid. But that is actually $15,120 with the 22% buyers premium and a little less than $11,000 for the seller - there's the auction house vig for you. Last lot I paid attention to was an early Darren Sylvester piece that was passed in at $7,500 for a set of 4 photos from 1999. It was an interesting night but it did confirm that it wasn't really my scene. A pity as auctions can be quite entertaining and I used to love going to Phillips De Pury when I lived in New York (but they have more of a reputation for auctioning fairly new work). If there is anything that really takes my fancy it will be absentee all the way.

Points, 3 for Brett (I bet Robin Gibson is wishing he hung on to that one); 2 for the Daniel Boyd and 1 for Ray Crooke.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New acquisitions & collecting @ the MCA - 22 March

Two birds with one stone at the MCA tonight. Main reason for attending was a young ambassador panel on collecting. Whilst waiting for that to kick off we were able to check out some of the MCA's new acquisitions.

So what of these new pieces? Well there is some big stuff (so that is always good, right?), there is some small stuff, and there is some really out there stuff. All boxes ticked for the acquisitions committee. Biggest thing there is probably Juan Davila's multi panel 'History of Australian Painting'. This is visually arresting but the breadth of it probably detracts for me (trying for too much). I have seen (only online) the Davila they have at Mona and I think I'd like it better. Matthew Jones has done a big pile of replica NY Daily News papers from the date of the stonewall riot. Well, it was interesting and (once explained) I could see the political point but as this former NY'er will tell you no one really reads the Daily News ... much better to have chosen the NY Post! I was glad to see Laith McGregor has been purchased (as I'm sure are Sullivan + Strumpf) and noted it was a biro drawing - sorry Laith, even the MCA would prefer the pens to the paint! James Angus' 'Mountains, valleys and caves' also drew my attention. Just goes to show small can work, even in a big cavernous space.

Next up we had the panel. Three really different angles were given. Firstly Oliver Watts gave an academic overview of the development of collecting and the development of the gallery. A really interesting historical perspective. Next up senior MCA curator Rachel Kent spoke of collecting from the institutions perspective, again very interesting but I am always a bit dubious of the whole collecting by committee. I guess I am always concerned when you have people making relatively subjective judgements with other peoples money (& those decisions can have a huge impact on the career of the artist). Next up was James Emmett and Peter Wilson who discussed their own personal collecting. This was also great as they described their personal journey of collecting. They also made the excellent point that it is not about an investment - a point I strongly agree with. I think their collecting choices are probably more valid than the MCA's as despite not being technically qualified they are putting their money where their tastes are.

Mixed set of points today. We'll share the 3 to all the speakers; 2 for James Angus; and 1 for Laith.

artexpress @ AGNSW - 22 March

After Fenella plugged it on art nation I decided to wander over to the AGNSW at lunchtime to check out artexpress - a survey of the best high school art submitted for the HSC. Well it was an interesting collection of stuff. Keen to get a quick crib I asked the security guard who looked like he had been pulling a long shift which pieces he thought were the best. Answer? He didn't really like any of it, although to be fair he said he wasn't really into the arts!! Nice work AGNSW, maybe include a box "interest in the arts, yes; no" on the job form so you can avoid these walking pr nightmares.

It's in the same three rooms that housed the Dobell we visited late last year so interested to see if they kept up the practice of putting the good stuff in room 1. I think so, and two of my favourites, Alexandra Hunt's 'Building a metropolis' and Amy Hamilton's 'it is the link itself which perplexes' were here. An interesting touch that I liked was that the students could list some artists that influenced their practice. Some opted out, some listed artists I have never heard of and some listed a couple that rang a bell. Of the top 5 artists of the last century according to the $12 million shark (I think, Picasso, Pollock, Warhol, Hirst and someone else) no one here was influenced by Warhol, none by Hirst, only one by Pollock and a couple for Picasso. Even two people listed Fiona Hall! Amy was one of those listing Fiona Hall as one of her influences and I could kind of see that. Highlight of the second room was Iva Velevska's 'Personal Blueprint' where she had turfed out the furniture of her living room and then installed blue tarps and painted outlines over it. On closer inspection she had also listed Do-ho Suh as an influence - nice work, he is represented in the Big Lamington collection. Look for some points going to Iva as even in the art world you should always bet on self-interest. Room three had a couple of prize winners (as with the NAS grad show there were at least 5 prizes to go around the ~40 students showing here so a fairly good chance of bagging something). I probably disagreed with the judges and thought Kate Devlin's Illusio was the strongest here.

All told an interesting show. Best of all it looked like open season on photography being allowed but even so the whole show is online so you can save the shoe leather on the hike over to the AGNSW. Points this week, 3 to Hamilton; 2 to Velevska and 1 to Hunt. Hopefully some of you will continue with your art.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Grantpirrie editions opening - 17 March

Grantpirrie cleverly hired out a space on Oxford street to launch their first suite of editions - all the better to waylay the punters en route home after work. It worked with me as I doubt I would've detoured via Redfern on a Thursday night with the prospect of rain. Editioning seems to be the flavour of the month over at Grantpirrie - even if the AFR reported today in the saleroom section that one Aussie collector decided to gift his vast collection of editions to the MCA and AGNSW so as to focus on 'unique pieces'. This suite has work from five of the Grantpirrie stable with plans of eventually rolling this program out to cover all their artists. Of the five I was interested to see what Ben Quilty and Michael Zavros had contributed (their website still blocked at the office so it was all first time seeing it when I got there). You can check the rest online (if you aren't blocked!).

Ben's edition of 22 (2 artist proofs included) runs at $3,500 for a set of 6 pretty smallish prints. Now it is not that I am against editions per se, as there are a few in the Big Lamington collection (mainly the Peter Norton christmas non-numbered gifts, more on them later, and a nifty Hirst, D) but this is a pretty pricey way to get on the Quilty train. I guess when his rorschach paintings go for $30k (well over my budget) then this might seem okay. Interesting to see how these sketches play out with the punters. Michael's edition of 55 (5 artist proofs included) was essentially a 45cm square silk scarf. I preferred it to the Quilty on looks alone but size was important (wall space being rare at big lamington HQ). Also let's not forget a budget friendly $400 which is a nice touch given the next most affordable was $1,900 - I mean these are editions right? Aren't they meant to be inexpensive? In this day and age I don't really think there is any real physical limitation in cranking out a few more so these are conscious pricing decisions.

Points: 3 to Zavros (pictured), 2 to Quilty and 1 to the folk at GP for coming up with the idea to do this, just make sure the Cardoso and Bawden are a little cheaper when their turns come!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Paulsen collection tour - 15 March

MCA Board member Lisa Paulsen graciously opened her home to a young ambassador function and yours truly was there to have a good old fashioned squizzy around. It was pretty impressive (both house and collection). The house is chock a block full of interesting pieces with artworks tucked into nearly every nook and cranny, so much so that the family has had a very thick bound guide produced for their own collection. We didn't need to refer to the guide as Lisa took us around for personal tour (which I needed as you don't find many labels on art in private homes).

We started in the main living room where Lisa gave a little talk and even handed out 2 lucky door prizes. Some lucky punter was able to walk away with little piece of art by a recent NAS grad. One of the artists in her collection was in attendance to display this statue of Isaac Newton which turned out to be a remote controlled robot! It was held aloft by helium balloons in the shape of apples, a nice touch and really set the scene for the night. Lisa has a lot of video art, pieces by Susan Norrie and Ms & Mr were on display. Claire Healey and Sean Cordeiro have a nice piece in the lobby, pulp lack, made from old books and ikea shelves - I think I recognised the shelves but didn't say anything as we are using them as intended rather than as art!

Highlight of the collection (and taking pride of place in its own vestibule with no other art around it) was a glass large cabinet by Fiona Hall that was filled bead sculptures inspired by the Sri Lanka jungle - a contemporary curiosity cabinet.

Testament to how much art was around the house was the fact that even the laundry had a nice piece in it (pictured above, a pirate captain cook). I was actually chuffed to half recognise this artist, Daniel Boyd, as he had something similar with a pirate captain arthur phillip in a recent MCA show.

Points: 3 to Fiona Hall, something to rival the Newcastle Chest. 2 to Daniel Boyd, I'd maybe promote this from the laundry to the kitchen! And I liked the green shoes (maybe a little banking reference?) and so give a point to Robert McPherson. And a big vote of thanks to Lisa, inspirational to see a family living with their art.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Arlene Textaqueen at Sullivan + Strumpf - 3rd March

For me, Arlene Textaqueen is the big draw at SSFA, even if she did pull the upstairs room. Arlene's latest show continues her ongoing theme of 'textanudes'. In fact, she has just finished a deck of playing cards (54 nudes, that includes the jokers) based on her nudes from 2003 till now. There were plenty of gallerinas on hand to sell these for $30 a pop - I picked up 3 packs!

Luckily for my 2011 art budget the cards might have sated my Textaqueen urges. We already have a lovely example of Arlene's work here at Big Lamington HQ and had been thinking about getting another but the red dots quickly went up under my favourites (SSFA artist Alex Seton beat me to the Textaqueen self portrait which is the back of each card). Prices are up a little from last year I think, ranging from $3,000 to $3,900 based I think on relative size. But I still think they are good value as her works are so vibrant and distinctive (although these seemed a little more explicit than her last show).

Opening night is always fun with Arlene and whilst there were no singing girls this year Arlene was reading fortunes from her cards for the punters before getting a few eager beavers to play strip poker. Thankfully I just had my fortune read (past - 3 of hearts; present - 2 of clubs; future - Ace of diamonds) and it was interesting to hear the stories of each artwork and how Arlene thought that might tie in with your own life.

Points - 3 for 'You want to set yourself slow' (pictured); 2 to 'Self portrait in texta's' and 1 to 'As opposite as it gets'. Also top marks for the playing card idea, reminds me of the Norton christmas project, a really nice touch.

Darren Sylvester at Sullivan + Strumpf - 3 March

It is interesting to see how a gallery handles two "solo" shows at once. In SSFA's new space they have one on the ground floor and one upstairs. My working assumption is that the highest profile artist gets the ground floor. This suspicion was confirmed by (a) the relative prices, and (b) the catalogue discrepancy. Darren has been lavished with a glossy 14 page catalogue whilst his colleague upstairs (Arlene Textaqueen, reviewed next) made do with the announcement card.

I liked his photo's, and I get the twist that they are staged but I guess I am not really a photography collector as I am not sure I can come at the prices being asked here. Although I did like the merchandising that SSFA had come up with, there were options for everyone. For a 120x160cm edition of 5 you could buy one framed for $9,900 or one unframed for $8,800. There were even smaller versions, 90x120cm edition of 8, unframed for $4,950 or framed for $5,720. There were some red dots appearing over the course of the night so there are some photo collectors out there. I did like his patches (pictured). Darren has done these mid sized cloth badges that reference the NASA program, they are 41x34cm and look really nice framed against a black backdrop, $1,500 each or $9,900 for the series of 9. They really appealed to the uniform designer in me and I immediately pencilled Darren in for my country rugby league show (something we would love to put on here at Big Lamington).

Points - must go to the patches, and given they are sold individually I will pick my top two: 3 to the flame and 2 for the tall ship. 1 point for 'Hi', it is always hard to go past a pretty girl. Also,a 'highly commended' to Art Month Sydney who had picked SSFA to host 'Art Bar', the beers were flowing freely all night which makes a nice change from the wine & cheese!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Guy Maestri at Tim Olsen Gallery - 2nd March

This was the opening night of the show at Tim Olsen Gallery, so I was all set to hear a few words from Guy but we had a very big deal get approved at work so the team needed a few beers to mark the occassion. Tim was able to save a few glasses of wine on me as by the time I got there I could see the party was ready to move on. Guy himself was grinning like the cheshire cat, one look at the prices on the room sheet and the number of red dots located around the room explained that.

By Tim's estimate there was a tad over $216k worth of art on the walls. I'm not sure what the artist cut is but seeing as how these are all 2011 works that is not a bad return given we are still in March. These are all landscapes from the west and south of NSW with titles like Robertson 7pm (pictured above), Hill End 5pm and even the more generic Southern Highlands II. Not really being that familiar with the area I can't really tell you if there was a strong resemblance. I was a little underwhelmed by the show, even if it is obviously a commercial success. Given Guy won the Archibald in 2009 he has a CV that backs up those prices now, but in a few years time I don't think these particular works are going to be forming the basis of a Guy Maestri retrospective.

Points - hard to really differentiate the art this week, 3 points for Cowra II (I remember a fairly good B&S there!); 2 points for The Turon and 1 point to Tim, given I live probably 200 metres from his shop I am amazed I haven't visited more often (even if only to browse).