contemporary art

White Rabbit: Beyond the Frame

October 8, 2011
Ai Weiwei, Oil Spill, 2006

Back again is Ai Weiwei’s Oil spill (2007) – a series of shiny black porcelain discs that sit flat on the floor, mimicking drops of black gold. In typical fashion, Ai Weiwei takes a substance associated with toxic pollution and transforms it into an aesthetic delicacy. Such ironic turnarounds and dislocations are characteristic of his … More


Unguided Tours

July 8, 2011
David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, The outlands 2011, production still. Courtesy of the artists and BREENSPACE, Sydney

Having just returned from my own travels, I went straight to the Art Gallery of NSW to take another look at Unguided Tours: The Anne Landa Award for video & new media art. This is the fourth installment of this triennial exhibition, named in honour of the late Anne Landa, who was a lot more … More


54th Venice Biennale

June 17, 2011
Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Never has a more glamorous bag accompanied such a tawdry exhibition. A dazzling gold carry-all, advertising Hany Armanious’s installation in the Australian pavilion, was to be seen all over Venice during the vernissage of the 54th Biennale. The only more prominent bag may have been the bright red one with ‘Free Ai Weiwei’ emblazoned in … More


Laverty 2, Newcastle Region Art Gallery

May 28, 2011
William Robinson, The sand ziggurat, Kingscliff (1995) 137.5 x 183.0 cm oil on canvas

All the talk this week has been about the Kaldor collection. This high-profile donation has prompted a massive operation on the belly of the Art Gallery of NSW, with architect, Andrew Andersens, playing a familiar role as the leading cosmetic surgeon of Australian museums. The makeover has transformed a dingy storage area into an elegant, … 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


White Rabbit: The Big Bang

December 4, 2010
Ai Weiwei, A handful of Seeds, White Rabbit Gallery, 2010, ceramic, 500kg

As a squad of entombed warriors takes up temporary residence at the Art Gallery of NSW this may be an opportune time to look at the state of Chinese art two thousand years down the track. White Rabbit, the Neilson family’s privately funded museum of contemporary Chinese art, is currently holding its third exhibition. Like … More


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