It comes from Thames & Hudson, one of the most respected art book publishers in the world, so Susie Hodge’s WHY YOUR FIVE YEAR OLD COULD NOT HAVE DONE THAT: MODERN ART EXPLAINED ($29.99) escapes accusations of dumbing down. Author and art historian Hodge acknowledges the wariness and scepticism many feel towards modern art and seeks to ease it by taking 100 key but frequently derided works and explaining in lay terms the ideas and aesthetic values behind them. Wonderfully, each entry contains a short breakout box that takes the book’s title literally: for the work on the cover, Lucio Fontana’s Spatial Concept ‘Waiting’ (1960), “The slash of a knife across a canvas looks easily achievable, and Fontana never said it was a difficult technique. However, a child would not do it for the same reasons as Fontana. With one decisive slash, he aimed to explore underlying notions of space and infinity, as well as the limitations of art and its ultimately perishable nature. He said, ‘Artworks cannot last forever … where man ends, infinity begins.’” Once Hodge has you on top of things, you might like to venture forth with a copy to hand of Warwick Henderson’s BEHIND THE CANVAS: AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE NEW ZEALAND ART MARKET (New Holland, $45). Writer and gallery owner Henderson hopes his book – which is peppered with reproduced works, and covers such themes as building a collection, art investment, finding a bargain, fakes, forgeries and flops, taking care of artwork and selling – “may encourage potential collectors to not just get to the start line, but take those first tentative steps over it, and into the intriguing, exciting and rewarding world of art collecting”. Assuming Christmas hasn’t completely cleaned you out.
This summer, as every summer, there is no shortage of bland musical offerings doing the circuit (no names, no shame), but if you’re after a bit more edge, energy and entertainment than, well, you know who, you could do a lot worse than the GYPSY FEVER! tour, featuring Wellington-based Balkan brass band Niko Ne Zna (promoting debut album Renegade Brass Bandits) and Berlin-based DJ Balkanetic. The Free House, Nelson, January 10; Marahau Park Cafe, Marahau, January 11; Mussel Inn, Takaka, January 12; Festival of Lights, New Plymouth, January 18 (no DJ Balkanetic); Chicks, Port Chalmers, January 26 (no Niko Ne Zna); San Francisco Bath House, Wellington, February 8; Kings Arms, Auckland, February 22; Leigh Sawmill, Leigh, February 23.
Incorporating drama, dance, acrobatics, film, music and design, CROSSROADS is a multidisciplinary, multicultural performance from the Mixit Refugee Youth Arts Project, featuring refugees and migrants from Burundi, Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Fiji, Palestine, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Tonga, as well as youngsters from local communities, who together will “bring to life their personal stories of journeys, boundaries crossed and new territories entered”. Silo Park, Auckland, January 12 and 13.
At Auckland’s Pah Homestead, EION STEVENS: A COLLECTION 1980-2012 (until February 3) features 32 years of Sir James Wallace’s holdings from a painter who describes himself as “an easily diverted conservative, wrestling with a startled improviser”. If you hurry, you can also catch GREGORY BENNETT: THE DIGITAL MULTITUDE (until January 13), 3D animated video works featuring digitally created colonies and their occupants, for which Bennett acknowledges as one influence the choreography of Busby Berkeley.
It’s not quite Alan Gibbs’s Farm, but SCULPTURE @ MIRANDA is an annual exhibition amid orchards and gardens and could make a welcome diversion for anyone on the road from Auckland to the Coromandel (or vice versa) this summer, or indeed a day trip in its own right. Included this year are works by Michael Smither, Warren Viscoe and Fatu Feu‘u. Miranda Organic Orchards, Miranda, until February 3.