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Art Gallery of NSW | John McDonald

Art Gallery of NSW

Archibald Prize 2016

July 15, 2016

For a severe case of cultural vertigo try spending three weeks in the museums of Europe gazing at portraits by Rembrandt, Rubens and Beckmann, before hurrying back to Sydney for… the Archibald Prize! If travel broadens the mind it’s a positive disadvantage when it comes to appreciating the charms of this great Australian institution. Faced … More


Tang

June 10, 2016

Mention the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) and I think of Robert Van Gulik’s character, Judge Dee – the Sherlock Holmes of ancient China. Di Renjie (c.630-c.700) was a real magistrate of the Tang period but became the fictionalised hero of a series of detective stories set in those times. The inspiration came from a story … More


Biennale of Sydney 2016

March 23, 2016

There’s a lot to like about the 20th Biennale of Sydney, but it isn’t necessarily the art. Curator Stephanie Rosenthal, born in Germany but employed by the Hayward Gallery in London, has proven herself to be one of the most committed of all Biennale directors. Previous incumbents have tended to fly into Australia for quick … More


Biennale of Sydney: First Impressions

March 23, 2016

If the previous Biennale of Sydney gave the impression that artists were selected almost at random, the latest incarnation of Australia’s premier international art exhibition sends out the contrary message. Director, Stephanie Rosenthal, has so many reasons for every part of this show that one is left reeling. The theme this year is The future … More


The Greats

October 30, 2015

Entering The Greats: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland, I felt like a thirsty man in the desert who had stumbled across an oasis. It’s been a very, very long time since the Art Gallery of NSW had an exhibition of such indisputable quality. It is not only the names that are well known, … More


The Greats

October 30, 2015

At the Art Gallery of NSW the dream of a gleaming new building has become so intoxicating that management seems to have forgotten about the humdrum business of exhibitions. This has been slightly frustrating for old-fashioned types like myself who would prefer the gallery to be a place to see art, rather than a glorified urban … More


Julia Margaret Cameron

September 25, 2015

Imagine photographs that “electrify you with delight and startle the world,” and one does not automatically think of Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79). Nevertheless, she was the author of both the photographs and the rave review. Today we are more likely to be startled by Cameron’s brazen self-confidence than by her portraits and ‘literary’ fancies. The … More


The Archibald Prize 2015

July 18, 2015

There was such a hullaballoo about the Packing Room Prize this year one might have thought that former Frenchman, Bruno Grasswill, had won both the Archibald and several versions of the Nobel Prize. In fact, he had won the kiss-of-death award, traditionally given to a picture of a good bloke or a good sort, as … More


Go East: The Gene & Brian Sherman Contemporary Art Collection

July 11, 2015

Public galleries have always cultivated good relations with private collectors, but lately those ties have taken on a new importance. This is partly a result of governments wanting to palm off the responsibility for arts funding onto private sources. The logic is perfectly cynical: when spending cuts are required the arts are seen as a … More


William Delafield Cook (1936-2015)

May 15, 2015

In an article of 1979, Bryan Robertson, a curator who did much to advance the cause of Australian art in London, wrote that William Delafield Cook’s paintings seemed to have “no discernible ‘Australian’ qualities.” Yet Cook, who spent much of his career living and working in Britain, remained devoted to the Australian landscape, never showing … More