Sydney Morning Herald Column

Pipilotti Rist: Sip My Ocean

December 8, 2017
Pipilotti Rist, tripping without drugs

“I will always be grateful to popular culture,” Pipilotti Rist told an interviewer in 2001. As a recent video clip by Beyoncé shows, popular culture should also be grateful to her. Pipilotti Rist: Sip my Ocean, at the Museum of Contemporary Art reveals the many and various ways this remarkable Swiss multi-media artist embraces popular … More


Rembrandt & the Dutch Golden Age

December 2, 2017
The star attraction: Vermeer's 'Woman reading a letter' (c.1663)

“There is one work by Vermeer, the undoubted superstar, and six by Rembrandt, including two from the NGV’s permanent collection. Three portraits by Frans Hals give some indication of this artist’s remarkable flair and dash. After that, it is a pot-pourri of genres and tendencies…” No, I’m not writing about Rembrandt & the Dutch Golden … More


The Unflinching Gaze

November 24, 2017
George Platt Lynes, 'Blanchard Kennedy' (1936)

In the entire history of Australian regional galleries there has never been a show like The Unflinching Gaze: Photo Media & the Male Figure. Retiring director, Richard Perram, has decided to go out on a high note with a exhibition that has been years in preparation. Despite the double entendre in the title Perram doesn’t … More


Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium

November 17, 2017
Robert Mapplethorpe, 'Self-Portrait' (1985)

It may be the acid test of political correctness but it should be possible to dislike Robert Mapplethorpe’s work without being viewed as homophobic. Mapplethorpe often said he didn’t wish to be known as a “gay artist”, but he is such an icon for the LGBT community it’s virtually impossible to dissociate his work from … More


Gerhard Richter

November 10, 2017
Gerhard Richter, Ema (nude on a staircase) the 1992 photoprint

For decades Gerhard Richter has been one of the world’s most successful living artists, with work in museums and leading private collections all over the planet. The current record price for one of his paintings stands at US$46 million. Now comes the the biggest test of a long and distinguished career: Can he make it … More


Tarnanthi 2017

November 2, 2017
The Kulata Juta project

Constitutional recognition for indigenous Australians is another one of those issues the government would prefer not to think about. Its proponents say it’s a matter of basic human rights but this term has been so weirdly politicised in recent years there are people who interpret a call for rights as opening the door to anarchy. … More


Sculpture by the Sea 2017

October 27, 2017
David Ball's 'Orb' took out the big prize

Sculpture by the Sea is 21 years old and everyone is invited to the party. From the moment the show opened last week the walk from Bondi to Tamarama was crowded with sightseers, school groups, and tourists speaking a confusion of languages worthy of the Tower of Babel. Cameras and mobile phones were clicking relentlessly. … More


Anri Sala: The Last Resort

October 20, 2017
Anri Sala, drum beats over Sydney Harbour

Historians can never agree about the so-called “Age of Enlightenment”. The narrow definition has it beginning with the death of Louis XIV in 1715 and ending with the French Revolution in 1789. The long version begins somewhere in the late 1600s and fizzles out in 1815 with Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. As the dates are … More


The House of Dior

October 13, 2017
Dior installation. John Galliano's Look 22 suit is second from the left

Christian Dior was never one to boast about his achievements but he had very clear ideas about the importance of fashion. “I have always seen my profession as a kind of struggle against all that is depressing and mediocre in our age,” he once said. It’s a statement any couturier would be happy to own. … More


White Rabbit: Ritual Spirit

October 6, 2017
Peng Hung-Chih, 'Farfur the Martyr' (2009)

Last week I was in China meeting artists from each end of the contemporary art spectrum. In Suzhou I saw a breathtaking show of brush-and-ink painting by Li Huayi (b.1948) an artist who has divided his life between China and San Francisco. In Shanghai I visited Xu Zhen (b.1977), one of the most successful artists … More