contemporary art

In the Balance

October 2, 2010
Andrea Bowers Step It Up Activist, Sand Key Reef, Key West, Florida, Part of North America's Only Remaining Coral Barrier Reef 2009 coloured pencil on paper 56.52 x 76.2 cm

Can an issue be of overwhelming, global importance and not be a great subject for artists? After experiencing In the Balance: Art for a Changing World at the Museum of Contemporary Art, I’m almost inclined to write off the environmental movement as subject matter. This would be unfair, because I’m sure there have been significant … More


Art Setouchi 2010

August 21, 2010
Thomas Eller: The Human Re-entering Nature, Realistic photos of the (artist's) face. 4m high figure

In his book, The Inland Sea, Donald Richie extolls a unique part of Japan in elegiac tones. From one point of view, Richie’s account is a classic of travel writing that is not only a celebration of a disappearing world but a journey of self-discovery. From another, it is a classic of self-indulgence, alleviated by … More


Art Hong Kong 2010

June 6, 2010
Damien Hirst, 'An Inescapable Truth', 2005, glass tank of formaldehyde, dove, human skull

Hong Kong has always understood money but not art. Unlike other business capitals this hyperactive island’s passion for profit has never been translated into a desire for cultural distinction. That held true until art and money became so closely intertwined that the prices paid for contemporary works became more important than the content. When this … More


17th Biennale of Sydney

May 29, 2010
Wang Qingsong, Competition, 2004, c-type print, 170 x 300 cm. Courtesy the artist

But that joke isn’t funny any more, It’s too close to home And it’s too near the bone. (The Smiths) “When he makes a joke,” said Sigmund Freud, “a problem lies concealed.” He was quoting Goethe, who was referring to the aphorist, Lichtenberg, but the sentence has universal relevance. Laughter is a release from tension, … More


17th Biennale of Sydney

May 22, 2010
Yolngu artists from North East Arnhem Land: Miniyawany Yunupingu, Djirrirra Wunungmurra, Wukun Wanambi, Dhurrumuwuy Marika, Buwathay Munyarryun, "Larrakitj," earth pigments on naturally hollowed log

  We are the Folk Song Army, Every one of us cares. We all hate poverty, war, and injustice, Unlike the rest of you squares. (Tom Lehrer)   This may or may not be Sydney’s biggest ever Biennale, but it breaks all records for the length of the title. The Beauty of Distance: Songs of … More


White Rabbit: The Tao of Now

May 8, 2010
Shi Jindian, wire woven motorcycle and sidecar, 2008

There is nothing like the thought of China to make one appreciate life in Australia. Our so-called ‘great population debate’ seems laughable when we put our 22.3 million inhabitants alongside China’s 1.33 billion. We may be duly concerned about the strain that overpopulation puts on the environment, on water resources and infrastructure, but China’s problems … More


Fiona Tan, Jon Lewis & Kate Geraghty

May 1, 2010
Fiona Tan, Disorient (still), 2009.

Fiona Tan is almost the perfect multicultural artist. Born in Indonesia of Australian and Chinese parents, brought up in Melbourne, she now resides in the Netherlands. Last year she was the Dutch representative at the Venice Biennale, where her video, Disorient, was one of the best received exhibits in a largely disappointing show. Would it … More


Hats and James Fardoulys

April 24, 2010
James Fardoulys, The start of Burke and Wills 1860, 1972, Oil on board, 77 x 93cm; 88 x 101.5cm

Lewis Carroll cannot take complete credit for the expression: “as mad as a hatter”. Even before he created the most famous tea party in world literature, hatters had quite a reputation. The mercury compounds used in 19th century hat making induced a range of symptoms including trembling fits and mood swings. It is unlikely that … More


Ron Mueck

February 27, 2010
Ron Mueck, ‘Old Woman in bed’, (detail) 2002

There is no place in the upper echelons of contemporary art for a reasonable person: to be a success one has to be an extremist. There are artists whose work is so sloppy it might have been thrown together the day before an opening, and those with an obsessive eye for detail. Many curators and … More


Olafur Eliasson

February 13, 2010
Olafur Eliasson, 360° room for all colours, 2002, Stainless steel, projection foil, fluorescent lights, wood, control unit 320 cm, 815 cm, Installation view at Musée d’ Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2002

When a show is called Take Your Time, and runs for four full months, there seems to be no great urgency in visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art. So little urgency that I’m always talking to people who missed an MCA exhibition because they thought they might go next week, or perhaps the week after, … More