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Art Gallery of NSW | John McDonald

Art Gallery of NSW

The Art Gallery of NSW: The Master Plan Revealed

March 6, 2013

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

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

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


AGNSW: A new hang

June 23, 2012

A new hang of a gallery’s permanent collection was once a routine affair, but nowadays it has taken on the status of an event. This is partly because the rising costs of doing exhibitions combined with the dwindling budgets of public galleries have forced all institutions to draw more heavily on the works they already … More


Australian Symbolism

May 19, 2012

There are moments in art history that are fascinating to contemplate but irredeemably minor. This pretty much sums up Australian Symbolism, which plays a supporting role to Impressionist landscape and those paintings of a broadly nationalist persuasion that dominated art in this country in the decades leading up to the First World War. Symbolism in … More


What sort of director does the AGNSW need?

January 21, 2012

As a man walked down the aisle towards his bride-to-be, the best man whispered to him: “You are making the biggest mistake of your life.” Within a few months those words had rung true. Is it too late to stop the Art Gallery of NSW making the same mistake? When Edmund Capon announced last August … More


The Mad Square

September 3, 2011

It happens from time to time that I fail to distinguish a cabaret from a crematorium – Joseph Roth From its traumatic birth, at the end of World War One, the Weimar Republic was an unstable experiment. The historian, Eric Hobsbawm charts its rise and fall in an introductory essay for the catalogue of The … More


David Aspden

August 26, 2011

Like Tom Roberts before him, David Aspden (1935-2005) was born in rural England and arrived in Australia around the age of fifteen. This is a time of life when the biggest part of one’s adult personality is already formed. Roberts, who grew up in the age of Empire, was never quite sure if he was … More


The last days of the Caponian empire

August 9, 2011

What a deathly year it has been for artists! In quick succession we have lost Cy Twombly, Lucian Freud, and now John Hoyland. The latter was especially disturbing, as I had just contributed a catalogue essay to his exhibition with Charles Nodrum in Melbourne. Logically there is nothing surprising about someone dying at a ripe … More


Edmund Capon & his legacy

August 3, 2011

This won’t be the first or last time that someone declares Edmund Capon a hard act to follow. In his thirty-one years as director of the Art Gallery of NSW, Capon has taken a provincial, down-at-heel institution and turned it into a Grade-A showcase for Australian and international art. Yet he leaves at time when … More