Sydney Morning Herald Column

Magic Mike: Michael Zavros

May 5, 2017
Michael Zavros, Phoebe is dead/McQueen (2010),

Any artist who paints with the quasi-photographic precision of Michael Zavros will always find admirers. After being subjected to more than a century of Modernist de-skilling the public is still turned to putty by virtuoso displays of technique, preferring the artist who can “really paint” to the one whose genius has to be explained by … More


White Rabbit: The Dark Matters

April 29, 2017
Tang Nannan, Billenium Waves (2015)

Contemporary culture puts a premium on instant gratification but ancient Chinese thinkers found the greatest value in the contemplation of eternal things. This was brought home to me by Tang Nannan’s Dao-inspired, wide-screen video, Billenium Waves (2015) at the White Rabbit Gallery. It’s nothing more than a four-minute close-up of waves lapping under a dark … More


Adman: Warhol Before Pop

April 21, 2017
Andy does Madison Avenue

In the catalogue for Adman: Warhol Before Pop, at the Art Gallery of NSW, Thomas Sokolowski finds it “astounding that after so many years of exhibitions and publications, critics continue to find value only in Warhol’s early 1960s work.” As a former director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg, and the man behind a … More


Peter Powditch: Coast – A Retrospective

April 14, 2017
Peter Powditch, The Big Towel (1969), Collection, The National Gallery of Victoria

Pop to Popism, held at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2014, was not a show that left glowing memories, but one work has remained lodged in my mind. Peter Powditch’s The Big Towel, which appeared in the Australian section of the exhibition, looked incredibly fresh for a painting made in 1969. Part of its … More


The National

April 8, 2017
Khadim Ali's The Arrival of Demons at the MCA

One wonders if The National: New Australian Art is intended as a subtle riposte to the National Gallery of Victoria’s Melbourne Now of 2013-14. “No navel gazing here in Sydney – we’re bringing you art from all over the country.” The NGV’s bright idea may have been predicated on Melburnian self-esteem but final attendances topped … More


Art Basel Hong Kong 2017

March 31, 2017
Art Basel Hong Kong. Image via Art Basel Hong Kong

Why do art dealers clamber over each other to be included in the big fairs even though they expect to lose money? The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report provides the answer. In 2016 art fairs accounted for an estimated 41% of all dealer sales. As a percentage of the whole this represents … More


Versus Rodin

March 24, 2017
Installation view Versus Rodin: bodies across space and time, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2017

For public art museums these are dark times. As costs keep escalating and governments grow reluctant to provide necessary funds it becomes ever more urgent to work out what audiences actually want. Then comes the difficult balancing act between revenue-raisers and those shows that are part of a gallery’s wider responsibilities to our history and … More


Rayner Hoff

March 17, 2017
Rayner Hoff Life and Art at NAS. Photos Peter Morgan

Ask sculptors to nominate the single greatest work of Australian sculpture and most will opt for The Sacrifice (1934), the centrepiece of the Anzac Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park. It’s the work of Rayner Hoff (1894-1937), an exceptional artist and inspirational teacher, whose legacy is receiving overdue recognition in a two-week exhibition at the National … More


On the Origin of Art

March 10, 2017
Who says your feelings have to make sense, 2016. Image courtesy of MONA.

In 1997 scientist, Steven Pinker, described music as “auditory cheesecake”. His one-liner has been repeated many times since, with variations. It’s a simple extrapolation to say that all art is “cheesecake for the mind”, or as Pinker puts it: “a brew of megadoses of agreeable stimuli which we concocted for the express purpose of pressing … More


Perth Festival Art

March 3, 2017
Joh Akomfrah, Untitled, 2016, C-type print mounted on Dibond, Framed: 101.6 × 152.4 cm / 40 × 60 in
© Smoking Dogs Films;
Courtesy the Artist; Lisson Gallery, London

Back in the 1980s when Adelaide was Australia’s only notable arts festival, it featured a comprehensive visual arts program. Today there are festivals in every major city and in several minor ones, but the visual arts are marginal to proceedings. The exception to the rule is the Perth International Arts Festival. Long-term curator, Margaret Moore, … More