Sydney Morning Herald Column

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Bronwyn Oliver

January 6, 2017

All artists are ultimately judged not by their biographies and personalities, but by what they leave behind. It doesn’t matter what sins they might have committed, or what trails of heartbreak and devastation they left in their wake. We might deplore Gauguin’s narcissism and perversity, but it doesn’t mean we think less of his paintings. … More


David Hockney: Current

December 21, 2016

In 1988 a London critic described David Hockney as “the lost boy of contemporary painting.” A decade later, another newspaper columnist compared him to the Ancient Mariner, as a garrulous old codger. It’s a measure of Hockney’s elusiveness over the course of a very long, very successful career. There’s some truth in both claims. The … More


A History of the World in 100 Objects

December 16, 2016

Neil MacGregor, former director of both the National Gallery, London, and the British Museum, is rightly viewed as one of the great museum professionals of our times. Combining intelligence, sensitivity and personal modesty with bluff Scottish common sense, MacGregor should be a model for today’s museum directors, as they  struggle with declining attendances and governments … More


GOMA Turns 10

December 9, 2016

After ten fleeting years Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art remains an enormous work-in-progress. GOMA celebrated its birthday last week with the launch of a ‘greatest hits’ exhibition called Sugar Spin; the unveiling of a new public sculpture by Judy Watson; a tribute to leading donor, Tim Fairfax; an indigenous show called Lucent; and a series … More


Nude

December 2, 2016

When Justin Paton, head of International Art at the Art Gallery of NSW says that Nude: Art From the Tate Collection is not a package show, surely he means: “Not just any package show”, or “Not merely a package show”. If the term doesn’t apply to an exhibition in which 122 works out of 126 … More


Greg Semu

November 24, 2016

Adolf Loos, famous Viennese designer and arbiter of taste, said that only criminals and savages adorned themselves with tattoos. Writing in 1928, he singled out the Papuans as representative “savages”, but he might just as easily have chosen the Samoans. In the very same year, Margaret Mead published Coming of Age in Samoa, perhaps the … More


Contemporary Istanbul 2016

November 18, 2016

Istanbul is proud of its historical reputation as a meeting place of cultures. This pride is apparent on the website for the Contemporary Istanbul art fair, which boasts: “As the hope chest of civilisations, Istanbul is the capital of the world…” but insecurities arise before the end of the sentence, with the qualifying clause “…in … More


White Rabbit: Vile Bodies

November 11, 2016

Vile Bodies is a catchy title but there are very few points of comparison between Evelyn Waugh’s novel about the party-going lifestyles of young Londoners in the 1920s, and the current exhibition at the White Rabbit Gallery. In a Chinese context the word “party” takes on an entirely different connotation, and unless you’re on the … More


Singapore Biennale 2016

November 4, 2016

Once a cultural wasteland, Singapore is now so devoted to art it’s almost unnerving. Much of the action still takes place at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), where I found myself one steamy night last week for the launch of the fifth Singapore Biennale – An Atlas of Mirrors. Guests stood on the lawn in … More


Sculpture by the Sea 2016 & Zadok Ben-David

October 28, 2016

Sculpture By the Sea has prospered on the idea that the dramatic landscape of the Bondi foreshores provides a brilliant showcase for art. Last Sunday this view was comprehensively rejected by Mother Nature who had a tantrum and threw everything at the exhibition. There have been years when I’ve trudged between Bondi and Tamarama in … More


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