Sydney Morning Herald Column

Go East: The Gene & Brian Sherman Contemporary Art Collection

July 11, 2015
Zhang Huan, Family Tree, 2000, c-type prints, suite of 9 images, edition 2/3, 227 x 183 cm (framed). Image courtesy: The Gene and Brian Sherman Collection, and Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney. Photo: the artist.

Public galleries have always cultivated good relations with private collectors, but lately those ties have taken on a new importance. This is partly a result of governments wanting to palm off the responsibility for arts funding onto private sources. The logic is perfectly cynical: when spending cuts are required the arts are seen as a … More


William Dobell: Painter in Paradise

July 4, 2015
WILLIAM DOBELL,
'Head of Kuta girl' (1953)
oil on hardboard, 45 x 34 cm.
Private collection

Although he was one of Australia’s best-known artists, William Dobell (1899-1970) was inordinately sensitive to criticism. After the notorious court case over his Archibald Prize win of 1943, Dobell withdrew to his hideaway in Wangi where he suffered from a series of nervous complaints. He broke out in severe dermatitis and at one point lost … More


Marina Abramovic: In Residence

June 27, 2015
Scene from Marina Abramovic: In Residence. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

“Life is too fast,” says Marina Abramovic, “so art has to be slow.” Perhaps fast art is no more nutritious than fast food? You’ll notice the difference when visiting Marina Abramovic: In Residence, the latest Kaldor Public Art Project at Pier 2/3. Upon entering, watches and bags are deposited in a locker. After a series … More


Marina Abramovic: Private Archaeology

June 27, 2015
Artist Portrait with a Candle (detail) © Marina Abramović, Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives

David Walsh never does anything by halves at his Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Within a few years he has transformed Hobart into one of the most desirable cultural tourist destinations in Australia – or just off the coast of Australia, if you take the Tasmanian perspective. The Dark Mofo Festival has drawn … More


White Rabbit: State of Play

June 20, 2015
State of Play exhibition at the White Rabbit Gallery (installation view) (2015)

Certain nations are not renowned for their playfulness. Nicht wahr? Yet this is not the case with the Chinese who found out many years ago the only way to make life bearable is to laugh about it. The Chinese sense of humour is robust and dark. It may have been this way from time immemorial, … More


Light Show

June 13, 2015
David Batchelor Magic Hour, 2004/2007. Installation view Light Show, Hayward Gallery, 2013 © the artist 2015. Photography: Marcus J Leith

Mention the Festival of Light in Sydney nowadays and most people will think of Vivid rather than the Reverend Fred Nile’s wowsers. This is only natural, as Sydney has always embraced hedonism more readily than morality. In seven years, Vivid – a festival devoted to “music, light and ideas” – has established a monumental presence. … More


Michael Parekowhai & Billy Apple

June 6, 2015
PAREKOWHAI, Michael, The English Channel, 2015 Stainless steel. Courtesy: The artist and Michael Lett

When the drive towards Federation began in the late 19th century New Zealanders were actively involved, but by 1901 they had opted out. Their reason – and this is stated on the NZ history website – was that New Zealanders, both Pakeha and Maori, “were of superior stock to their counterparts across the Tasman.” A … More


A Golden Age of China

May 30, 2015
Giuseppe CASTIGLIONE
Italian 1688–1766, worked in China 1714–66. Portrait of Qianlong Emperor in ceremonial court robe Qing dynasty, Qianlong period 1736 coloured inks on silk 238.5 x 179.2 cm (image and sheet). The Palace Museum, Beijing.

Imagine a painting titled: Tony Abbott admiring lotus while playing a zither, and you have glimpsed the cultural chasm that separates our world from that of the Qianlong Emperor. While the rulers of the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911) were careful to surround themselves with symbols of conquest and martial prowess, they were equally assiduous in … More


56th Venice Biennale, 2015

May 16, 2015
Fiona Hall, Tjukurrpa Kumpilitja (Hidden Stories), detail, 2014

“He’s very political.” This is what I heard, more than once, about Okwui Enwezor, the Nigerian-born curator of the 56th Venice Biennale, which goes by the suitably airy title: All the World’s Futures. This need not imply revolutionary credentials because “political” is a word with both macro and micro applications. Put three people in a … More


Head On 2015

May 15, 2015
Sandro Miller, Annie Leibovitz/ Meryl Streep NYC, (1981), 2014

When a show draws a huge crowd to the Town Hall on a rainy Friday night it is testimony to Sydney’s booming interest in photography. The occasion was the opening of Head On, the annual photo festival that has grown to colossal proportions over the past few years. The influx of photographers and fans from … More