Art Gallery of NSW

2013: The Best & Worst of the Visual Arts

January 6, 2014
Installation piece: Xu Zhen's In Just a Blink of an Eye, in the 27th Kaldor Art Project 13 Rooms. Photo: Janie Barrett

My best art experience of the year happened on the other side of the planet, in a retrospective celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Edvard Munch. The show, divided between the National Gallery and the Munch Museum in Olso, revealed an unrelenting intensity of vision. It featured the most complete collection of paintings … More


America: Painting a Nation

November 23, 2013
Henry Inman
No-Tin (Wind), a Chippewa Chief 1832–1833
oil on canvas, 77.5 x 65.4 cm
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Gift of the 2008 Collectors Committee
M.2008.58
Photo: Museum Associates/LACMA

“Thus in the beginning,” wrote the philosopher, John Locke in 1689, “all the world was America.” He was referring to a primitive state of social organisation being rapidly improved by British colonialism. Nowadays Locke’s words seem just as true, but it is because America has colonised the rest of the world. For much of the … More


Renaissance to Goya

September 21, 2013
Francisco de Goya, For having Jewish ancestry, c1808–14, Brush drawing in brown ink and wash, 20.5 × 14.2 cm

Illustrious artists such as Velásquez, Zurbarán, Ribera, Tiepolo and Goya are advertised on a sign at the entrance to Renaissance to Goya at the Art Gallery of NSW. Unfortunately they are hidden in a long roll call of names that will be largely unknown to the general public. Not many Australian art lovers are hanging … More


Sydney Moderns

July 20, 2013
Herbert Badham, 'George Street, Sydney', 1934

When an artist calls a work A Painted Picture of the Universe it means he’s thinking big. It’s rather a grand title for a small abstraction, even if it did take Roy De Maistre 14 years to complete this cosmological fantasy. De Maistre (1894-1968) is one of the central figures in Sydney Moderns: Art for … More


Anne Landa Award 2013: The Space Between Us

June 29, 2013
Angelica Mesiti, Citizens Band, 2012 (detail)

There must be a name for the sense of anxiety generated by an exhibition of new media art. Neomediaphobia? It’s a bit cumbersome. Even if the syndrome has yet to be titled its effects are very real. Having just taken twenty people into an exhibition of Contemporary Norwegian Video Art in Oslo, I’m in a … More


The Archibald Prize 2013: A Review

March 23, 2013
Alexander McKenzie, Toni Collette, oil on linen, 244 x 197 cm

This column comes from Japan, where like a character in a horror story pursued by an implacable nemesis, I’m writing about… the Archibald Prize! This venerable portrait competition is an Australian institution that is simply incomprehensible to the rest of the world. To outsiders the popularity of the prize, and of portraiture in general, is … More


The Archibald Prize 2013: A Comment

March 22, 2013
Del Kathryn Barton, hugo, watercolour, gouache and acrylic on canvas, 200 x 180 cm

This year’s Archibald throws up one nagging question: “What’s that animal Hugo Weaving is holding?” Perhaps it’s something the special effects crew from the Matrix movies dreamt up. According to the news reports, Del Kathryn Barton, says the indefinable creature “demonstrates facets of the actor’s personality” – an explanation that raises more questions than it … More


The Art Gallery of NSW: The Master Plan Revealed

March 6, 2013
Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 1.00.48 PM

Mention a “Master Plan” and people start thinking about Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies. Yesterday that role was shared between Steven Lowy, President of Trustees, and Director, Michael Brand, as they unveiled their wicked new vision for the Art Gallery of NSW. Lowy gave us the bad news about the existing gallery – … More


Francis Bacon

November 24, 2012
Francis Bacon, A study for a figure at the base of a crucifixion, c1943–44, oil and pastel on board, 94 × 74 cm, Courtesy Murderme

I love the dregs. Francis Bacon. If Francis Bacon had a theme song, it might be the Kinks’ I’m Not Like Everybody Else. Yet by his own reckoning, Bacon’s perverse, hedonistic lifestyle – with its heavy drinking, gambling and sadomasochistic sex – should not be considered the key to his painting. In a 1975 book … More


Kamisaka Sekka & Hiroshige

July 21, 2012
Kamisaka Sekka (1866-1942), Flowers and plants of the four seasons 1920-25, pair of six folding screens, ink, colour and gold on silk, 82.3x244.8cm

Art in Japan has been through all the same upheavals as art in the west, but no other country has managed to retain so much of its own distinctive character. The defining characteristics include a respect for tradition that shines through even in a critical or satirical mode; a love of beauty and craftsmanship; and … More