contemporary art

Art Basel Hong Kong 2015

March 21, 2015
Art Basel in Hong Kong 2015
Photo by Jessica Hromas/Art Basel 2015

At the Cocktail Reception that followed the Private View of this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong the Swiss luxury brand, Davidoff, was handing out free cigars. It proved a wildly popular giveaway. The entire party, held around the swimming pool of the Grand Hyatt, was wreathed in a fog of cigar smoke. A food queue … More


Shaun Gladwell

March 14, 2015
Shaun Gladwell, Untitled (Wanderer above the sea of fog) (Detail), 2014


Watching the inexorable rise of Shaun Gladwell over the past decade makes me feel like the only teetotaler at a drunken party. After absorbing many hours of video, I still don’t get it. When everyone was gasping about Storm Sequence (2000) – a slow-motion film of Gladwell on a skateboard, I thought it was stupefying. … More


The Artist as Professional

February 28, 2015
Bruce Nauman, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths, 1967

In 1903 Cézanne wrote to his dealer, Ambrose Vollard: “Must art indeed be a priesthood, demanding that the faithful be bound to it body and soul?” Today the question would be greeted with derision. Art in the 21st century is not a spiritual calling, it is a profession. The artist is not motivated by inner … More


2014: The Year in Art

January 10, 2015
Roy Lichtenstein, 'In the Car', 1963.

2014 has brought mixed fortunes for Sydney’s art institutions. The Art Gallery of NSW began with a weak show of American art, and ended with the long-awaited Pop to Popism (until 1 March) – a distinct improvement, but possibly not the hit the Gallery so badly needs. In the meantime there has been a dearth … More


Matthew Barney

December 6, 2014
Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, production still, photo

For a man who has masterminded some of the largest, most outrageous artistic events of all time, Matthew Barney is strangely unassuming. Trim, casually dressed, with pale blue eyes that give nothing away, he pauses to reflect before answering every question. His replies are precise and thoughtful, but never exhaustive. Raised in rural Idaho, Barney … More


Matthew Barney

November 29, 2014
Matthew Barney's 'River of Fundament' (film still).

“If you read Ancient Evenings for the story,” wrote Harold Bloom, in an insightful review of Norman Mailer’s most notorious novel, “you will hang yourself.” Having ground my way through 150 pages of this flawed magnum opus I can see exactly what he means. Mailer spent ten years on a sprawling story of ancient Egypt … More


Pop to Popism

November 15, 2014
Roy Lichtenstein’s In the Car (1963). Photograph: estate of Roy Lichtenstein

“Witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, big business…” all these terms were part of the definition of Pop Art put forward by British artist, Richard Hamilton, in 1957. The manifesto preceded the movement, as the term “Pop Art” wasn’t in general usage until the 1960s. There is no agreement about who invented the name or when the … More


Annette Messager

September 6, 2014
Annette Messager, CHANCE, (2011), black net, wireImage courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris and New York

Annette Messager was born in the French provinces to a family of atheists who took a particular pleasure in the local Catholic church. Her father favoured the architecture, while Annette liked the stained glass windows. This biographical tidbit takes on significance when one considers the nature of Messager’s work, which draws freely on the iconography … More


Mooi Indie

August 30, 2014
'Mooi Indie-Beautiful Indies' Samstag Art Museum Installation View (2014)

Countries in the throes of social change always produce the most exciting contemporary art. This has been true of China for the past two decades, and it is one of the less recognised outcomes of South Korea’s economic miracle. On the other hand, in places like Australia or Scandinavia – well represented in this year’s … More


Melbourne Art Fair 2014

August 23, 2014
Melbourne Art Fair 2014 at the Exhibition Building

Art dealers in Australia have an image problem. Every time a high profile art fraud comes to court, as in the recent case of a dud Albert Tucker painting, there is a mass of lurid publicity. We hear shocking stories about the prevalence of fakes, shady dealers, unreliable auction practices and double-dipping art consultants. It … More