Sydney Morning Herald Column

‘Difficult Pleasures’ in Berlin

February 10, 2017
Installation view. Photo: Matthias Kolb, Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts Berlin

Am Kupfergraben 10 is a modern four-storey building in the historic heart of Berlin. An imposing structure in reinforced concrete and glass, designed by British architect David Chipperfield, it looks out across the River Spree to the Museum Island and the Lustgarten. With high ceilings, gleaming white walls and large windows with adjustable light levels, … More

Philippe Parreno

February 2, 2017
Image courtesy of Australian Centre for the Moving Image

There’s something fascinating about Philippe Parreno, but it’s not necessarily the art. It’s his mind. Having sat through two-and-a-half hours of short, oblique films at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, I came away feeling amazed by the kind of mind that could devise such a strange, obscure spectacle. Perhaps “spectacle” is the wrong … More

Tatsuo Miyajima

January 27, 2017
Tatsuo Miyajima, Pile Up Life No. 2, 2009/2016, installation view, Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect with Everything, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2016, waterproof LED, IC, fibre-reinforced plastics, electric wire, transformer, image courtesy and © the artist, photograph: Alex Davies

Tatsuo Miyajima is the kind of artist who stands out, even in the largest of exhibitions. My first glimpse of his work came at the 1988 Venice Biennale where his Sea of Time was the most talked-about piece on display. Amidst all the derivative and nondescript stuff that inhabits the specially curated component of the … More

Sappers and Shrapnel

January 13, 2017
detail: Tony Albert, Universal Soldier 2014. Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney. Photo Greg Piper

I’m regretful about Sappers and Shrapnel: Contemporary Art and the Art of the Trenches at the Art Gallery of South Australia – not about the show but about how long it lingered in the queue before I could get down to Adelaide for a viewing. Exhibitions at the AGSA are often of a short duration … More

Bronwyn Oliver

January 6, 2017
Bronwyn Oliver, 'Umbra' 2003, copper, 110 x 110 x 20 cm. Private collection ©Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

All artists are ultimately judged not by their biographies and personalities, but by what they leave behind. It doesn’t matter what sins they might have committed, or what trails of heartbreak and devastation they left in their wake. We might deplore Gauguin’s narcissism and perversity, but it doesn’t mean we think less of his paintings. … More

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