National Gallery of Australia

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Hyper Real

January 25, 2018

Hyper Real at the National Gallery of Australia is one of those exhibitions that must have seemed like a great idea at the time. Realism may appear to be the most obvious approach to making art, but it has been the exception rather than the rule throughout different cultures and epochs. The Seated Scribe of … More


Defying Empire

August 9, 2017

During the Howard years we were constantly hearing about the Culture Wars – a term borrowed from the United States, pertaining to the battle between conservative and liberal values. In Australia the conflict became fixated on whether this continent had been taken by force from its original inhabitants, and what reparations were due. It was … More


Versailles

February 17, 2017

In Roberto Rossellini’s film of 1966, The Taking of Power by Louis XIV, there is a scene in which the King appears in an outrageous red outfit, all frills and flounces, designed to his own specifications. He explains that with this clownish costume he is setting a dress code to keep his nobles poor, and … More


Tom Roberts

December 10, 2015

After a winter or two of discontent the National Gallery of Australia is once again open for business. It’s not that one hasn’t been able to visit this renowned institution, it’s just that nobody seemed to be doing so. With a scandal over looted Indian art, and a James Turrell show that ran for no … More


What Betty Knew

April 11, 2015

Betty Churcher (1931-2015) knew that if you wanted the best loans for an international exhibition you had to get the museum directors of the world to go along with the journey. This required an initial charm offensive followed by a persuasive argument about the nature of the show you were proposing. It couldn’t be a … More


James Turrell: A Retrospective

February 7, 2015

Light is the crucial element for almost every great painter, from Caravaggio to Turner to Monet. Manipulating paint on canvas to convincingly reproduce the effects of sunshine or darkness is a skill that separates the master from the amateur. In Australian art one thinks of the blaze of light in Streeton’s early paintings, or the … More


Lee Lee-nam & Robert Motherwell

September 13, 2014

French art historian, Daniel Arasse, hopes an audience might be able to stand in front of one masterpiece for at least five minutes. It doesn’t sound a big ask, but spend time in a gallery and watch how long people linger in front of even the most famous works of art. Five minutes would be … More


Arthur Boyd: An Active Witness

June 28, 2014

Arthur Boyd (1920-99) was one of Australian art’s leading painters and one of its greatest mysteries. In the preface to her comprehensive biography, published in 2007, Darleen Bungey quotes Boyd’s youngest daughter, Polly, who calls her father “an enigma, probably one of the most secret people on earth.” This also acts as a disclaimer for … More


Gold and the Incas

January 18, 2014

It may be the stuff of popular culture but whenever I think of the Incas, Aztecs or Mayans the first images that spring to mind are from Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto (2006). This drama of native American life in the days before the Spanish conquest may be one of the most brutal and disturbing movies ever … More


2013: The Best & Worst of the Visual Arts

January 6, 2014

My best art experience of the year happened on the other side of the planet, in a retrospective celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Edvard Munch. The show, divided between the National Gallery and the Munch Museum in Olso, revealed an unrelenting intensity of vision. It featured the most complete collection of paintings … More


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