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Mike Who?

Forum > Architecture

by william blake

In true Barr fashion you have to guess which foreign city I am in, I will give you a clue its fucking expensive.

I note that while the ‘bash seems to have gone quiet Jim n Mary keep crankin it out, I could not let this piece of nonsense go past unscrutinised though. Even by their own interpretation of the rules there seems to be little or no other relevance  of Stevensons installation at the Arnolfini to NZ fine art other than the dubious fact that he was born in Inglewood. The work does not refer to New Zealand and it was not intended for a New Zealand audience; so what the fuck?

Another manifestation of cultural cringe, elitism or just off the planet?

Nice to have friends to go into bat for you though.

Michael Stevenson

Arnolfini, Bristol
4 out of 5


     Elisabeth Mahoney
    The Guardian, Friday 8 February 2008 10.12 GMT
     Article history

The background to Michael Stevenson's eerily minimalist installation Persepolis 2530 is a historical moment of disastrous, back-firing excess. In 1971, the Shah of Iran staged a week-long party in the ruins of the ancient city of Persepolis, housed in luxury marquees built for the occasion.

It was described as the most lavish party of the past century, and is in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-lasting state banquet. Elizabeth Arden created a new makeup range for the event; Maxim's restaurant in Paris sent 165 chefs to prepare the food. Most audaciously of all, the Shah reset the date in Iran to 2530 as a sign of how far advanced the country was.

Step into Stevenson's installation, though, and the mood couldn't be more different. A rusting, skeletal structure draped with fragments of dusty fabric fills the room. Broken, twisted tubes hang from the frame, and the floor is littered with sand and twigs. The effect is startling in its dysfunctional austerity, as if a weird circus troupe left town long ago but didn't pack up properly.

In side rooms, you find a lavish book about the party, a portrait of the Shah by Andy Warhol and an extract from the film Flames of Persia, narrated by Orson Welles. The book and the film are full of colour and pomp; the Warhol screen print, made several years after the party, is strikingly pale, as if hinting how the Shah's status has ebbed away. These contrasts between then and now, between myth and reality, are what Stevenson productively explores. Unlike the party itself, there is little to look at here. Instead, the exhibition leaves you to tease out connections in a disarmingly empty space, long after the party's over.


Some things you may not know about the Walters Prize:

 The selection panel must be convinced that all finalists have made "an outstanding contribution" to contemporary visual art in New Zealand.

The finalists and winner do not have to be New Zealand born or live in New Zealand.

The selection of a finalist can be made on the basis of a single work within a group exhibition.The work or body of work does not have to have been exhibited in New Zealand.

The final judge who selects the winner of the prize from the finalists can be a New Zealander.

If the work is not created in New Zealand it must be a response to the artist’s experience within New Zealand.

The names of the jury of selectors are kept confidential until the finalists are announced so they can retain their ‘critical independence and freedom to act’.


After being nominated by the jury for the Walters Prize for his work Persepolis 2530 shown at the Arnolfini in Bristol, Berlin-based Michael Stevenson was dumped. While the nomination ‘still stands,’ the Auckland Art Gallery explained that it was unable to realise the work because of ‘accommodation and budgetary constraints’ and that put Stevenson out of the running.

Hang on a minute. As you can see in the current exhibition of the four Walters Prize nominees, two of the other nominated artists were allowed to modify their works and even (in the case of Fiona Connor) to create a new work. Had Stevenson been offered that option he might still be in the running, so why is he out in the cold? The paragraph (you can read it here) explaining the Stevenson situation has been dropped from the Walters Prize page, so maybe the Auckland Art Gallery is hoping the issue will just go away. But it probably wont and Michael Stevenson has turned out to be the loser in the confusion.

So what’s to be done? While it’s too late to invite Stevenson to present a work to the judge, it would probably be fair to arrange for him to meet the judge under the auspices of the Prize to discuss his work or anything else he wanted to. Even better, how about a Stevenson survey show at the Auckland Art Gallery? It might be some compensation for him and it certainly would be for the rest of us.


1 to 7 of 7
1 articles & 212 comments since 30 Nov 2007
william blake
29 articles & 728 comments since 15 Aug 2006
no I came of my own free will...
mr tourette
9 articles & 289 comments since 29 Jan 2009
To be fair though William, the Barrs have a point don't they? If Mike Stevenson had the opportunity to make a new work then it could have been made relevant.

However by allowing the artists to modify their 'outstanding work' this might make the Walter's Prize an invitation only circle jerk.
mr tourette
9 articles & 289 comments since 29 Jan 2009
Quint Baker
29 articles & 724 comments since 20 Jul 2009
i wish you wouldn't swear in front of the kids wil
1 articles & 212 comments since 30 Nov 2007

 now i'm just guessing

1 articles & 212 comments since 30 Nov 2007


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