contemporary art

Venice Biennale 2017 – Viva Arte Viva

May 19, 2017
Damien Hirst played the role of Godzilla in this year's Biennale

Ask people to name the most romantic city in the world, and Venice is usually at the top of the list – but there are dissenters. D.H. Lawrence said Venice was green, slippery and abhorrent, and he didn’t even have to contend with the crowds in the Giardini and Arsenale during the opening days of … More


Magic Mike: Michael Zavros

May 5, 2017
Michael Zavros, Phoebe is dead/McQueen (2010),

Any artist who paints with the quasi-photographic precision of Michael Zavros will always find admirers. After being subjected to more than a century of Modernist de-skilling the public is still turned to putty by virtuoso displays of technique, preferring the artist who can “really paint” to the one whose genius has to be explained by … More


Danny Goldberg …or the perils of philanthropy

May 5, 2017
Picture by Nic Walker

Danny Goldberg is the only Australian to appear in Artnews’s annual list of the world’s top 200 collectors of contemporary art. His modern harbourside home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is crowded with works by figures such as David Hammons, Rudolf Stingel, Urs Fischer, Danh Vo, and other high-priced superstars you’ve probably never heard of. The … More


White Rabbit: The Dark Matters

April 29, 2017
Tang Nannan, Billenium Waves (2015)

Contemporary culture puts a premium on instant gratification but ancient Chinese thinkers found the greatest value in the contemplation of eternal things. This was brought home to me by Tang Nannan’s Dao-inspired, wide-screen video, Billenium Waves (2015) at the White Rabbit Gallery. It’s nothing more than a four-minute close-up of waves lapping under a dark … More


The National

April 8, 2017
Khadim Ali's The Arrival of Demons at the MCA

One wonders if The National: New Australian Art is intended as a subtle riposte to the National Gallery of Victoria’s Melbourne Now of 2013-14. “No navel gazing here in Sydney – we’re bringing you art from all over the country.” The NGV’s bright idea may have been predicated on Melburnian self-esteem but final attendances topped … More


John Olsen: The You Beaut Country

October 7, 2016
John Olsen, 'Where the bee sucks, there suck I' (1984-86)

John Olsen has always been larger-than-life – a quality that has fostered both adulation and irritation. In the 1950s when he was still searching for a direction, Olsen did some thinking about the nature of art. “If it’s not a game there’s something wrong,” he concluded. According to his biographer, Darleen Bungey, this would become … More


John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea

October 6, 2016
A still showing the beauty of John Akomfrah's Vertigo Sea. Photo: John Akomfrah

John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea is the flagship piece in a suite of exhibitions at the UNSW Galleries called Troubled Waters. The entire ensemble includes a 26-minute, 5-channel installation by Georgia Wallace-Crabbe called The Earth and the Elements; and a multimedia exhibition called River Journey, featuring work by Janet Laurence, Andrew Belletty, Nici Cumpston, Bonita Ely … More


Telling Tales

July 1, 2016
Shirley Purdie, Daaloony (Green Plum Buchanania Obovata) from the series Goowoolem Gijam – Gija plants, 2013-16, ochre on canvas, 72 parts: 45 × 45 cm each, image courtesy the artist and Warmun Art Centre © the artist/Licensed by Viscopy 2016, photograph: Jessica Maurer

At the 1986 Adelaide Festival I attended a couple of evenings with American actor, Spalding Gray, who sat on a bare stage and delivered monologues. It sounds like a recipe for boredom but Gray’s performances were spell-binding – a revelation as to the power of simple, unadulterated story-telling. In tribal cultures the role of story-telling … More


Cindy Sherman

June 23, 2016
Cindy Sherman, UNTITLED #470. 2008

Some leading artists come across as would-be pop stars or super salesmen. There are those like Marina Abramovic, who are charm personified; others, such as Matthew Barney, immersed in their work to the point of distraction. Cindy Sherman is a study in normality. Small of stature, still fresh-faced at 62, put her in a group … More


Head On 2016

May 6, 2016
Daniella Zalcman's Signs of Your Identity @ Festival Hub Central

Sydney loves grand, all-encompassing events, and Head On has become one of the most eagerly awaited festivals in the cultural calendar. This year’s show is distributed among 60 public and private venues spread throughout the city, the suburbs, and other parts of the state. Twenty major international photographers will be participating in talks and workshops … More