National Gallery of Australia

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Fiona Hall for Venice

December 5, 2013

For more than 20 years Fiona Hall has been the obvious, dead-set, undeniable first choice to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale. It is a testimony to the acumen of our arts bureaucracy that in 2015 she will become the first artist to occupy a newly-built pavilion. Any other country might have rushed her into … More


Australia at the Royal Academy

September 28, 2013

Australia at the Royal Academy of Arts in London has echoes of Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster movie of 2010. Like that overblown, incoherent concoction, the one-word title of the RA show suggests this is all you will ever need to know about Australian art. It presents itself as a definitive statement. Kathleen Soriano, Director of Exhibitions … More


Party time in London

September 21, 2013

For the long-anticipated show of Australian art at the Royal Academy the opening night was always going to be a joyous affair. The problem is that nobody looks at the art at an opening. Having already spent hours inspecting this exhibition I felt like a party pooper when people gushed: “Isn’t it wonderful!?” No, it’s … More


The Dance of Shiva

July 13, 2013

How truly ‘public’ are our public galleries? The recent scandal over the millions of dollars paid by the National Gallery of Australia to the crooked art dealer, Subash Kapoor, has demonstrated a complete lack of transparency in the way our flagship art institution spends the money it receives from taxpapers and wealthy donors. When James … More


Turner From the Tate

February 23, 2013

According to J.M.W. Turner, the secret of being a great artist was “damn’d hard work.” This is difficult to argue against, especially when said by a painter whose pictures came to define the Romantic era – that time when artists stopped being seen as tradesmen and aspired to the role of individual genius. Yet Turner … More


J.M.W. Turner: A Preview

February 2, 2013

“Soapsuds and whitewash,” they said. “Portraits of nothing and very like.” In the manner of the Biblical prophet, not without honour, but in his own country, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) spent his entire career being insulted and derided by British commentators. Although we think of him today as the greatest of all British artists, … More


Angus Nivison: A Survey

January 12, 2013

For those of us who spend their lives going in and out of art galleries there’s nothing better than being surprised. Before entering Angus Nivison’s survey at the S.H. Ervin Gallery I felt entirely familiar with this artist’s work. I’d even written a preface for the catalogue when the exhibition debuted at the Tamworth Regional … More


Toulouse-Lautrec & the Moulin Rouge

January 5, 2013

“The more you see Toulouse-Lautrec the bigger he gets.” Jules Renard   Many will have formed a lasting impression of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), from John Huston’s Hollywood pot-boiler, Moulin Rouge (1952), in which José Ferrer spends the entire film waddling around on his knees, speaking in strings of bons mots. Watching this film again … More


Sydney Long

October 20, 2012

It’s difficult to get too worked up about Sydney Long (1871-1955). He was, at best, an intriguing minor painter known for a few striking images. He was also a curious personality. Like Oscar Wilde, he was almost certainly gay, but married – a not uncommon combination in Sydney, even today. He could be charming or … More


Go Figure! Contemporary Chinese Portraiture

October 13, 2012

There is a simple explanation as to why Chinese contemporary art is so relentlessly satirical: 27 years of ideological rectitude, including that final decade of Mao-induced madness known as the Cultural Revolution. From the time the Communist Party took over in 1949 there was nothing much to laugh about. The workers paradise had been achieved, … More


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