Art Gallery of NSW

AGNSW: A new hang

June 23, 2012
Screen shot 2012-07-06 at 6.06.32 PM

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
Rupert Bunny - "Pastoral", circa 1893, oil on canvas, 142 x 251cm

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
Edmund Capon in 1978

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
Rudolph Schlichter, Tingel tangel

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
David Aspden untitled

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
Locust Jones, News of the world

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
Photo: Nick Moir, SMH

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


The Poetry of Drawing

July 15, 2011
Edward Robert Hughes (1851-1914) ‘Oh, what’s that in the hollow, so pale, I quake to follow?’ ‘Oh, that’s a thin dead body, which waits the eternal term.’, 1893, Watercolour with gum and scratching-out on paper, Royal Watercolour Society

Britain’s historic love of the written word has tended to overshadow all other cultural expressions. Shakespeare or Charles Dickens may be universally admired, but try to name a notable British composer for the period from the death of Henry Purcell in 1695, to the rise of Edward Elgar, (b. 1857). The visual arts have been … More


A fine new space for a somewhat muddled collection

May 18, 2011
Photo: Edwina Pickles

First impressions of the new galleries devoted to the John Kaldor Family Collection are all good. This vast, clean, well-lighted space is an ideal environment for showing large works of contemporary art. More


The 2011 Archibald Prize

April 16, 2011
Ben Quilty, Margaret Olley, oil on linen, 170 x 150cm

It’s appropriate the Archibald Prize should coincide with Easter, because the Trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW have repented of their sins of last year and asked to be forgiven. Not in so many words, of course. They have simply chosen a better, more credible exhibition and tried to put the horrors of 2010 … More