Sunday, April 3, 2011

New acquisitions - Ben Lord's "Humaliwo Chambers"

There is one set of editions we are very fond of here at Big Lamington HQ - the Peter Norton Christmas Project. Now if you haven't heard of it there is some great background reading here. The quick story is that art aficionado and billionaire Peter Norton (heard of Norton antivirus for your computer?) has publised an annual art edition to celebrate the holiday season which he then sends to his closest 2,000 mates. Now try as we might Big Lamington isn't yet on Peter's Chrissie card list but, shock horror, some of the recipients have taken to flogging his present on eBay. I learnt about the whole story back in 2005 in an interesting New York times article (here) and have been collecting them ever since, mostly on eBay but even the Moma store has a few spares for certain years. Now the last couple of years I have been buying them off an art insider that works at an unnamed US museum so had been a little concerned that it was March and it had been radio silence from my contact. Turns out the 2010 gift was running a little late. The identity of the artist is a secret each year so I was really interested to see who it was ...

LA artist Ben Lord has done the 2010 project. Called the "Humaliwo Chambers" it has been described as a meditation on 10,000 years of California history. The gift includes three print portfolios of an imagined archeologic dig in Malibu (Humaliwo being the native American indian name from which Malibu is derived). The prints are doubles and come with a rather large stereoscopic viewer so you can appreciate them in a kind of low res 3D (Harvey Norman eat you heart out). Now interestingly, the artist has kept a couple of AP's which he is trying to sell on his website for USD $500, which with the rampant Aussie Dollar is not a bad deal (although you don't get Peter's cool chrissie card and extra little gift). Alternatively you can keep your eyes peeled on eBay where I have seen one come up already.

Why would someone want to buy another persons Christmas presents? Well, in my opinion this does qualify as museum quality art (although I won't say which museum!), and when you have all the editions up to 2009 it is pretty hard to avoid signing up for 2010 (or future projects for that matter). Collecting the annual project has been a great way to learn about new artists and get a really good survey of contemporary art over the last two decades. The Norton project has been graced by a couple of reasonably big names (usually early in their careers) such as Yasumasa Morimura (1995), Kara Walker (1997), Vik Muniz (1999), Takashi Murakami (2000) and Yinka Shonibare (2002) to name a few. My top picks from the past have been Yinka Shonibare, who did a dollhouse which was an exact replica of his house in London and the furniture all used his trademark dutch wax cloth (we have two, one for the kids to play with and one just for looking!). The Morimura piece was another favourite - a fan with a photo of him emulating Marilyn Monroe (coincidentally that picture is also on page 527 of this months art & australia magazine).

Points: 3 to Peter, as without a Norton it would be hard to have a Norton Project - a real inspiration and I hope to do my own Christmas edition one day (so I can send one to you!) 2 to Ben for a really involved project - I did feel like a kid on Christmas day as I opened my box and set up the prints in the viewer. And 1 point for all those that decide to 'regift' by selling - I wouldn't have been able to get to know about this without you.

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