Art Gallery of South Australia

Tarnanthi 2017

November 2, 2017
The Kulata Juta project

Constitutional recognition for indigenous Australians is another one of those issues the government would prefer not to think about. Its proponents say it’s a matter of basic human rights but this term has been so weirdly politicised in recent years there are people who interpret a call for rights as opening the door to anarchy. … More


Versus Rodin

March 24, 2017
Installation view Versus Rodin: bodies across space and time, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2017

For public art museums these are dark times. As costs keep escalating and governments grow reluctant to provide necessary funds it becomes ever more urgent to work out what audiences actually want. Then comes the difficult balancing act between revenue-raisers and those shows that are part of a gallery’s wider responsibilities to our history and … 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


Tarnanthi

January 7, 2016
Yvonne Koolmatrie, Ngarrindjeri people, South Australia, Shrimp scoop, 2015, spiny-headed sedge (Cyperus gymnocaulos); Acquisition through TARNANTHI | Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art supported by BHP Billiton 2015, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Courtesy the artist and Aboriginal & Pacific Art, Sydney, photo: Jenni Carter.

“In the Kaurna language of the Adelaide Plains,” writes curator, Nici Cumston, “Tarnanthi means ‘to rise, come forth, spring up or appear’. It heralds the animation of new ideas and new beginnings such as the rising sun, a universal metaphor across cultures for the agency of imagination.” Tarnanthi is the title of new Festival of … More


Treasure Ships

July 25, 2015
Portugal, Salver 1520–40, silver gilt, 46.5 cm (diameter). 
National Museum Machado de Castro, Coimbra

Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices may be the most fascinating exhibition to be seen at an Australian public gallery this year. The bad news, from a purely local perspective, is that it will be shown only in Adelaide and Perth. It is the brainchild of James Bennett, Curator of Asian Art at … More


Fashion Icons

December 13, 2014
Dolce and Gabbana, Spring-Summer 2007 from the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Photo: Jean Tholance - Les Arts Décoratifs

“We invent nothing,” said Christian Dior, the man who revolutionised fashion in the twentieth century, “we always start from something that has come before.” This refreshing admission seems an appropriate place to begin discussing the round of fashion shows dominating Australia’s art museums this summer. The essential exhibition is Fashion Icons: Masterpieces from the Collection … More


Dark Heart: 2014 Adelaide Biennial

March 15, 2014
Alexander Seton, Soloist, 2012. Bianco carrara marble, 95 x 75 x 70cm. Photo: Per Ericson. Courtesy: the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney

Before heading south for this year’s Adelaide Biennial I saw Opera Australia’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Pushkin’s famous character is the archetypal ‘dark heart’. Onegin humiliates the young Tatiana, who has confessed her love for him. He plays a nasty joke on his best friend, and keeps going long after he should have stopped. … More


Turner From the Tate

February 23, 2013
J.M.W. Turner, Sun Setting over a Lake Date c.1840, Oil paint on canvas,911 x 1226 mm

According to J.M.W. Turner, the secret of being a great artist was “damn’d hard work.” This is difficult to argue against, especially when said by a painter whose pictures came to define the Romantic era – that time when artists stopped being seen as tradesmen and aspired to the role of individual genius. Yet Turner … More


Succès de Scandale in Adelaide

February 22, 2013
Berlinde De Bruyckere, Belgium, born 1964, We are all flesh, 2011 12,  >> Ghent, epoxy, iron, horse skin, steal, 750.0 x 175.0 x 150.0 cm, Art Gallery of South Australia

Letters to The Adelaide Advertiser: “I am absolutely apalled and disgusted how this sculpture can be classed as ‘art’.” “I, for one, will not be going to see this outrageous monstrosity.” “The picture of a horse hanging, with no head, displayed as art was disgusting. I will never again visit the Art Gallery if they … More


J.M.W. Turner: A Preview

February 2, 2013
J. M. W. Turner, The Fall of an Avalanche in the Grisons, 1810, Oil on canvas, 902 x 1200 mm

“Soapsuds and whitewash,” they said. “Portraits of nothing and very like.” In the manner of the Biblical prophet, not without honour, but in his own country, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) spent his entire career being insulted and derided by British commentators. Although we think of him today as the greatest of all British artists, … More