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Sydney Morning Herald Column | John McDonald

Sydney Morning Herald Column

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Colours of Impressionism

April 26, 2018

Impressionism is probably the most popular art movement of all time – which would have been a surprise to those who participated in the first ‘Impressionist’ salon of 1874. The group was actually called Le Société anonyme des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs, and included no fewer than 30 artists. The term “Impressionism” was drawn … More


The Lady and the Unicorn

April 20, 2018

Towards the end of Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll stages a furious battle between a lion and a unicorn. The fight is based on an old nursery rhyme, which plays on the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, in which the lion stands for England, the unicorn for Scotland. The lion and … More


Wonderland

April 12, 2018

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the very definition of a classic. On first publication in 1865 it did for children’s books what Don Quixote had done for romances of chivalry: making a mockery of their pompous, moralising tone; using wilful nonsense to expose the unwitting variety. The author, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-98) was an Oxford … More


Art Basel Hong Kong 2018

April 6, 2018

“Oh my God, is that Wolfgang Tillmans? I just saw Jeff Koons! Look! It’s Olafur Eliasson!” In what Art Basel Hong Kong quaintly refers to as its “6th Edition”, the mania for celebrity-spotting reached new heights. I wish I could say these artists are idolised because of the superb quality of their work, but – … More


Sydney Biennale 2018 Part 2

March 30, 2018

Is it only me, or is there something intrinsically boring about art projects that involve community participation? I know there is a strand of thought in contemporary art that loathes the very idea of the master artist or the individual genius, believing every human being should be encouraged to harness his or her innate creativity. … More


Sydney Biennale 2018 Part 1

March 23, 2018

Few artists have dominated a Sydney Biennale as comprehensively as Ai Weiwei with his contributions to this year’s show. It’s partly because hardly any of the 70 chosen artists, or groups of artists, have a public profile in Australia, while Ai is an international art celebrity and media magnet. Two years ago the National Gallery … More


Giorgio de Chirico: Major works from the Collection of Francesco Federico Cerruti

March 16, 2018

Giorgio de Chirico had an irrascible reputation but never lacked self-confidence. Although recognised as one of great modern artists, de Chirico (1888-1978) was a vehement opponent of Modernism. In his eyes, Cézanne, Matisse and Modigliani were no more than “pseudo-artists”, makers of infantile daubs. “Naturally,” he writes in his Memoirs, “in order to see and … More


The 2018 Adelaide Biennial: Divided Worlds

March 9, 2018

It’s a time-honoured tradition that large museum surveys of contemporary art should have titles so vague and all-encompassing as to be effectively meaningless. Yet it may be that with Divided Worlds, Erica Green, the curator of the 2018 Adelaide Biennial, has found a title that actually feels relevant. Two decades into the 21st century the … More


Perth Arts Festival 2018

March 2, 2018

When it comes to rampant development Perth loses nothing in comparison with its eastern counterparts. Amid the new buildings and public works only one thing remains the same: the Art Gallery of Western Australia, which looks just as shabby year after year. Its every mention provokes Olympic-standard eye-rolling in other members of the local arts … More


Chinese New Year Lunar Lanterns & In Your Dreams

February 23, 2018

Bread and circuses was the classical world’s formula for keeping the population happy. The famous phrase originates in Juvenal’s 10th Satire, when the poet laments that Romans have become so blasé about the political process they are happy to sell their votes for grain handouts and lavish public entertainments. With the NSW Government proposing to … More


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