Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /clientdata/zeus-dynamic-1/j/o/johnmcdonald.net.au/www/index.php:1) in /clientdata/zeus-dynamic-1/j/o/johnmcdonald.net.au/www/wp-config.php on line 53
Sydney Morning Herald Column | John McDonald

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Dreams Come True

January 29, 2011

Was there ever a worse title for a show than Dreams Come True? It’s not just “cheesey”, to use a favourite expression of Tim Burton, it’s craven. In his role as a Hollywood über-director, Burton is still making films for Disney Studios but this is how he described his years as an in-house animation artist: … More


Justin O’Brien

January 22, 2011

Thinking of Justin O’Brien my memory flies back to a day in Rome when I was taking “Justin’s tour” with his old friend and fellow expatriate, Jeffrey Smart. As we approached the church of Sant’Agostino, which contains works by Caravaggio and Raphael, we were met with a blast of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue. A funeral … More


Gustave Moreau

January 15, 2011

In Hollywood’s version of the past the critics were always hostile and blinkered, while the misunderstood genius struggled for a recognition that it is now given freely. We’d like to believe that a great artist is always ahead of his or her time, making work for future generations, but this romantic idea rarely survives close … More


21st Century

January 8, 2011

In 1942 Peggy Guggenheim opened her Art of this Century gallery in New York, designed by the Austrian architect, Frederick Kiesler. The gallery’s Abstract Room featured paintings suspended in mid-air. A Surrealist Room had concave walls, from which pictures were cantilevered on wooden joints made from sawn-off baseball bats. In a Kinetic Room the viewer … More


Peggy Guggenheim

January 1, 2011

Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979) was one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated art collectors but she belonged to a relatively “poor” branch of an illustrious family. Her grandfather, Simon, had arrived in the United States in 1847 as a penniless Jewish migrant from Switzerland. So astutely did those early Guggenheims manage their affairs that by World … More


James Guppy

December 18, 2010

This has been a forgettable year for the commercial galleries. Not only are sales down, even attendances have been disappointing. It is as though people don’t trust themselves to visit galleries in case they are tempted to spend money. Art dealing, after all, is a glorified form of retail, and the economists are telling us … More


The First Emperor

December 11, 2010

For two thousand years the safest place for China’s cultural heritage has been underground. The Chinese may be proud of having the world’s oldest civilisation but they have also been the greatest destroyers and iconoclasts. In China the present has frequently been at war with the past, as the ruler of the day attempted to … More


White Rabbit: The Big Bang

December 4, 2010

As a squad of entombed warriors takes up temporary residence at the Art Gallery of NSW this may be an opportune time to look at the state of Chinese art two thousand years down the track. White Rabbit, the Neilson family’s privately funded museum of contemporary Chinese art, is currently holding its third exhibition. Like … More


Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life

November 27, 2010

Annie Leibovitz’s career reads like one long cautionary tale on the fickleness of fame – a condition the poet, Rilke, famously described as “the sum of all misunderstandings”. As the world’s leading photographer of celebrities she has become a celebrity in her own right. This is the main reason her exhibition at the Museum of … More


Euan Macleod & Garry Shead

November 20, 2010

You may not have noticed any banners in the streets or sixteen-page colour supplements, but November is Euan Macleod Month. This popular New Zealand-born artist is the subject of a survey exhibition called Surface Tension, at the S.H.Ervin Gallery, and a new Piper Press monograph by fellow kiwi, Gregory O’Brien. Accordingly, the month is filling … More