Launching today, and co-edited by Megan Dunn and Mark Amery, The Spinoff Art will bring you the big and little stories about contemporary art in New Zealand. Like this one about a small pointy-headed heist.
On a trip to Auckland last week, I heard about an art heist.
It was small but perfectly formed: the art and the heist. The artwork was a painting executed on the head of a pin by the artist Patrick Lundberg. Lundberg is known for subtlety. He produces geometric paintings that run the length of shoelaces and galaxies of prim little painted pins. When studded into white gallery walls his pins become optical fizzbangers that send your glazzies popping. God is in the details and so is Patrick Lundberg.
The story I heard was that one of his tiny painted pins was stolen while on display at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. The pin – one of 24 – was part of Lundberg’s untitled installation in a 2015 group show of contemporary painting Necessary Distraction. Perhaps the gallery attendant was distracted? Whatever the case, someone plucked the pin from the wall. The work is still missing in action today. Perhaps the Lundberg was stolen for its aesthetic panache or maybe it was just an act of random admin? Maybe the pin is now stuck to a corkboard near a water cooler on the third floor of an office block and no one knows they are in the presence of a work of contemporary New Zealand art?
What’s the point? In art – and in life – that’s the big question. It isn’t always easy to answer but it’s often fun to ask. The Spinoff Art is a new section dedicated to asking the big and small questions about New Zealand art and the issues it raises. If you hear a pin drop – and that pin is an artwork – we want to hear about it.
We miss reviews of art exhibitions in mainstream media. We miss reading them and we miss writing them. Where can you read a punchy yet informative and maybe even entertaining review of an exhibition while it is still on? There’s Metro four times a year and a few local papers too like the Otago Daily Times and Art Beat in Christchurch. However, in the North Island, most newspaper reviewing of the visual arts has curdled and died. Yet, the art scene here is livelier than ever. Online, great platforms like The Pantograph Punch specialise in long-form essays about art and culture. But we saw an opportunity at The Spinoff to focus on shorter reviews, interviews, news and hey maybe the occasional heist story too.
And so, thanks to the generous support of Creative New Zealand, Mark Amery and I are gathering a coterie of smart writers across the country to regularly report on art. Caution: the news won’t always be good. Everyone’s a critic and so are we. The good, the bad and the ugly – we’ll look at some of all of it. We’ll publish a wide range of writers writing about a wide range of artists. As co-editors, Mark and I will also challenge one another on our content and preferences. Art is as varied as life and just as contested. Our reviews will aim to give an informed opinion and we know as readers you’ll have your own take too. Let’s agree to disagree if we have to. Contemporary art isn’t always ‘neighbourly’, it’s not always trying to make friends with you or your mum. But then again sometimes it is. Even in 2019, art still has the power to break your heart. Or at least prick your corkboard in all the right places with its crazy, fever dream.
P.S. Lundberg was not the source of this heist story. When approached about the missing artwork he made no comment. However, the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki kindly confirmed that not one but two pins were taken by visitors during the exhibition and subsequently replaced by new ones. Also, the feature photo, courtesy of Arts Diary, is not necessarily one of the artworks stolen from Necessary Distraction.
P.P.S. If you have the stolen Lundberg pins – or any other bright ideas – contact: email@example.com
Megan Dunn is the author of one slender irreverent book, Tinderbox. She has written a miscellany of art reviews, previews, puff & fluff pieces, artist interviews and rogue pieces of creative writing masquerading as art essays. She’s done it all and even liked some of it. There’s more about her at her website, megandunn.org.
Mark Amery has worked as an editor, reviewer and broadcaster since the early ‘90s. A former reviewer and journalist for the Listener and Sunday Star Times, he was a critic at the Dominion Post for 12 years before finally being successfully fired. He edits an arts and media bulletin for The Big Idea, and is an occasional producer and presenter for RNZ’s arts show Standing Room Only.