Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 4 Artist Run Spaces
Log 4 Artist Run Spaces

Wellington Roundup
Jim Speers


It's all been rush rush here, in a high-toned kind of way. The import side of the business is booming. I've been told we need to see this kind of thing. Makes me feel part of the world all right. So, sucking up to history, where to start? Having undergone all manner of face lifts over the summer the City Gallery caused a mass of borrowing of suits for the opening of the Sale, sorry, Show of the Century, a survey drawing on the last hundred years of really expensive stuff, borrowed from the Stedelijk in Amsterdam. Not a bad event really. Having applied an uncharacteristic vigour to expunging the freeloaders, the crowd spent the evening in a tight lapel-rubbing mass in the foyer, (significant people have a lot of significant things to talk about). I felt a palpable sense of relief. This certainly wasn't, at least tonight, "Our Place," all was right with the world once more and things were as they should be again, no children, or folk from the suburbs, it was our place, and catered too!

Occasionally couples would band together and peel off in order to identify famous artists. Apparently this identification game is a skill the Director is still developing, having said this her dictatorial reorganisation of the show as it came out of its crates appeared to make sense just fine, so there you go. It's an entertaining walk for sure. Early contenders for the main draw are the pair of Malevich's which provide an aesthetic focus to pull the mind around for hours, achieving this with a complete absence of dexterity, almost designed as a psychodice rock for future comers to founder on. Upstairs the century moves into the late 60s and things start firing in the corner with a Stella, a large, pinstriped, shaped canvas followed by a Ryman and a Marden that remain as evidence of a point when modernist bulk had a pragmatic character as separate from its future brutalised transmission. If you like it you like it.

It's inescapably a male history but possibly, contained within the degree and continuity of this directness, is an admission that there are other types of records. All of a sudden I feel like I've been caught defending the creative potential of John Grisham when a rear guard action in support of Motley Crue would have been eminently more credible.

Meanwhile back at the big house, our nation's treasure store, The Dream Collectors, (I almost called it buried treasure, my mistake), slips mercifully from view. Apart from watching interactively-trained children key paintings and steal bits off sculptures it's really not much chop. For real entertainment I like to replay the P R speech about it being the most significant exhibition in New Zealand's cultural history. This goes in the same box as the often repeated and several times inflated statistics on just how large the new building's dedicated art display area is (three times the surface area of the moon squared by the country's cultural destiny, at last report).

As the bird flies, past a bi-plane and down a couple of levels, some cultural heat was generated by the Pictura Britannica show. Having popped along a couple of times I can cheerfully pass on the good news to the upset religious fraternity, there was no one there to be cast asunder or however these things go. Virgin in a condom, I know, I know, it's serious, but as far as stoushes go this is a welter weight fight. Some folk bravely stepped up just looking for it, saying "If it's offensive then you're ignorant," (get thee to a varsity), and, most entertainingly, tried to explain to Catholics the difference between an image and an object. I kind of figured those folks had been chewing over that conundrum at various levels for a good few hundred years. Free speech and all that but it was a pretty dull little item to be using it up on, damn small statue to drag a condom over too.

Jim Speers
Winter 1998



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room