Sydney Morning Herald Column

David Hockney: Current

December 21, 2016
David Hockney inside the world-premiere exhibition David Hockney: Current at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Photo: Wayne Taylor

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
Korean dish with Japanese
repairs, Ceramic, gold and lacque © Trustees of the
British Museum

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
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian Iran b. 1924 Lightning for Neda 2009 Mirror mosaic, reverse-glass painting, plaster on wood. The artist dedicates this work to the loving memory of her late husband Dr Abolbashar Farmanfarmaian. Purchased 2009. Queensland Art Gallery FoundationCollection: Queensland Art Gallery. Photograph: Mark Sherwood, QAGOMA© The artist

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


December 2, 2016
John Coplans    
'Self-Portrait (frieze no. 2, four panels)' 1994    
12 photographs, black and white, on paper    
61.9 x 80 cm (each); framed panels 198 x 88 cm (each)    
Tate: Presented by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery 2001    
© The John Coplans Trust
image © Tate,  London 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
Collection+: Greg Semu, Earning My Stripes series, 2015, Pigment prints on Hahnemühle Photo Baryta, 100 x 133.4 cm, 
Editions 1/10, Collection: Gene & Brian Sherman, Sydney. Installation view, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, 2016
Photo: silversalt photography

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
View of Contemporary Istanbul 2016. Courtesy-Contemporary Istanbul.

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
Li Shan, Recombinant, (2002-2006). Image courtesy the artist and White Rabbit Collection

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
Lim Soo Ngee, Inscription of the Island, 2016. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum

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
Nicole Larkin, Dynamics in Impermanence. Photo: Clyde Yee

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

Black Mist, Burnt Country

October 21, 2016
Paul Ogier, One tree, 2010, carbon pigment on rag paper.

As we watch an American Presidential campaign descend into crazed conspiracy theories it seems clear that the Age of Information is also the Age of Paranoia. The chief source of fear and loathing is government, now widely viewed as a tool of “dark forces” hell-bent on enslaving the population. This kind of talk has probably … More