Will appalling iPhone photos of the MONA launch keep you satisfied until I get me to a decent computer?

24 01 2011

Well, a good friend has appraised me of the means to upload iPhone photos to WordPress without access to a reasonable computer and internet connection. These are, however, the worst yet in my ongoing, embarrassing, series of phone photos. Worst of all, to protect the innocent (not that there were too many naïfs present), I’m leaving out the incriminating photos. What happens in Hobart, stays in Hobart. Sorry. But because I feel an obligation to give you a peek, here is a selection of the best of the worst pictures from David Walsh’s MONA launch (if you’re reading this David, apologies for presenting such a weak visual representation of your ridiculously brilliant pad. And, thanks for the party. Any leftovers to spare?). I hope that your pain may be assuaged by the reassurance that I will post a thorough response to what was an extraordinary and thought-provoking experience as soon as I drag myself back to civilisation.

1: The truly astounding feat that is the interior of the Nonda Katsalidis designed building. The engineer deserves the build-y equivalent of the Nobel Prize.











2. An anonymous couple contemplating Mat Collishaw’s Bullet Hole in MONA’s ‘Sex and Death’ gallery.

3. Anselm Kiefer’s SternenFall/Shevirath Ha Kelim. I entered the room in which it’s displayed as the sun was setting over the Derwent River. Shafts of light shone in beams through a cathedral-like window and played across the surface of Kiefer’s spectral work – surprisingly visible even in this terrible photo. A highlight. Pardon the pun.

4. Erwin Wurm’s Fat Car. Because it’s delicious. As put so eloquently by Pat Brassington, “I just wanted to stick my fingers in it”. I heartily agree.

5. Last, but not least, a display of deceased cuddly animals, and a slab of jamon. The seriously good stuff. It (the jamon) was being sliced and served fresh in great abundance and with great care in buttery, wafer-thin slices by a masterful chef personage all night. It was good. Very good.


Oh, Deer. Haunch of Venison to close Berlin branch; Blain and Southern on the up and up

3 11 2010

Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you, but it appears that Christie’s grand venture into the wonderful world of retail contemporary art via its 2007 acquisition of Haunch of Venison has gone a wee bit sour. According to The Art Newspaper, the gallery is closing its Berlin branch which opened with much fanfare in 2007. Director Matt Carey-Williams attempts to turn the frown upside down, and constructs a marvellous example of art-world spin, saying “Berlin is one of the most energetic and exciting art cities, but it doesn’t have that community of collecting.” For that, read: “it’s not me, it’s you”; or: “Ich bin Berliner”, if by that you mean: “I like to look. Buy? Not so much”.

I attribute less credit for the contraction to Berlin’s reluctance to acquire Haunch’s pricey offerings than I do to Christie’s sudden and, in the light of the GFC, ill-timed proliferation of Haunches across the globe. But the principal cause is sure to be the defection of founding directors, Harry Blain and Graham Southern, who established the gallery and then sold it to Christie’s and remained in the business until June this year. It was almost inevitable that their move would gut the business, and that many of the gallery’s artists would leave with them. Following in their wake would be the moneyed collectors who form interdependent relationships with their favoured dealers. Sure enough, according to The Evening Standard, up to eleven of Haunch’s superstars have hitched their wagons to Blain and Southern’s gravy train, including Bill Viola, Rachel Howard and Anton Henning. Haunch has been working to fill the void with new recruits, amongst them Patricia Piccinini, who currently has a show running at the New York campus.

As for Blain and Southern, it appears that all is rosy in their particular corner of the art world. The dealers launched an eponymous gallery, Blain Southern, in London in October with an exhibition featuring new work by yBa alumni, Mat Collishaw, who also followed the dealers from Haunch when they jumped ship. The dealers also don’t appear to share Carey-Williams’ opinion about German art collectors’ frugality – they’ve announced plans to open a branch in Berlin in the near future. Blain is also keeping himself busy on the other side of the Atlantic, forming a partnership with former Sotheby’s vice chairman, Emmanuel Di Donna. Their gallery, Blain Di Donna, is going to begin trading in uptown New York in mid-November… Blains popping up all over. The Manhattan gallery will concentrate on selling Impressionist, Modern and second-hand contemporary works sourced in the secondary market. Blain Southern will focus on representing living artists. Interesting that the very savvy Blain has chosen to base his secondary market dealership in New York. Could that have anything to do with the fact that London charges sellers of second-hand artworks a resale royalty, whereas New York has yet to bring in this charge, making New York up to 4% more attractive as a place to sell secondary-market works of art?

Haunch of Venison Sautéed and Stuffed? Founding Directors of Christie’s Commercial Gallery Venture Head for Greener Pastures.

4 06 2010

Much to the annoyance of contemporary art dealers everywhere, in 2007 auction leviathan Christie’s acquired the suitably obscurely-named London gallery, Haunch of Venison (in answer to the inevitable question, it was so named because the building in which it first took up residence is located in the wonderfully named, ‘Haunch of Venison Yard’). The gallery was launched in 2002 under the tender ministrations of  Harry Blain and Graham Southern, who was head of Christie’s contemporary art department in London until 2001, and established in the premises formerly occupied by retired über-dealer, Anthony d’Offay. Its sale to Christie’s caused no end of consternation amongst dealers, because in the then-buoyant marketplace of the mid-ish ‘naughties, there seemed to be a considerable potential for conflict of interest in a circumstance where an auction house that was aggressively promoting its contemporary art auctions also owned a large commercial contemporary art business. How would Christie’s manage to maintain a disinterested outlook if, for example, it was selling a major work by one of the artists represented by its commercial gallery?

So Haunch of Venison flourished and expanded. It now has premises in Manhattan, Zürich and Berlin, in addition to the London gallery, and represents a stable of commercially stable artists including Dan Flavin, Bill Viola and James Rosenquist, and the requisite headline-grabbing enfant-terribles, including yBa alumni Mat Collishaw, and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (who, quite coincidentally, featured in my last post about his latest installation in Melbourne’s Fed Square). The current exhibition at Haunch of Venison’s Berlin campus is a collaboration between Michael Joo and Damien Hirst, featuring a couple of Hirst’s emblematic sectioned and formaldehyde-sodden beasties, a pill cabinet, a fly painting, and one of his super-sized human anatomical models.

But could Christie’s great pipe-dream be coming to an end? The Wall Street Journal has reported that, as of 31 August this year, Blain and Southern will be leaving Haunch of Venison to “pursue new projects”. Although there is much brave talk of future directions and evolution, in the world of commercial art dealers, cachet and power resides in the hands of individuals rather than institutions. Personal relationships with artists and collectors are paramount, and the simultaneous departure of Blain and Southern is sure to carve quite a chunk out of the Haunch’s client base.

(image: http://www.aubreyallen.co.uk)