political art

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William Kentridge: That Which We Do Not Remember

October 12, 2018

There is nobody in the upper echelons of contemporary art quite like South Africa’s William Kentridge. There may be artists with more natural talent. There are plenty whose works sell for greater sums. There are artists with a much better feel for colour or texture, or who draw with greater fluency. Kentridge’s works are not … More


Steirischer Herbst 2018

October 4, 2018

In the words of Thomas Bernhard, Austria’s greatest novelist of the late 20th century, the city of Graz was “a nest of Nazis”. In a speech of last year, Georg Friedrich Haas, Austria’s foremost living composer, reeled off a list of Nazis that had remained faithful to the Führer in post-war Graz, including his own … More


Colony

May 4, 2018

If I seem to be constantly writing in praise of the National Gallery of Victoria this isn’t because the grass is always greener interstate. It’s because the NGV has been attending so well to the fundamental business of what a gallery should be doing. Arguably the most important task is to provide a vibrant program … More


Chinese New Year Lunar Lanterns & In Your Dreams

February 23, 2018

Bread and circuses was the classical world’s formula for keeping the population happy. The famous phrase originates in Juvenal’s 10th Satire, when the poet laments that Romans have become so blasé about the political process they are happy to sell their votes for grain handouts and lavish public entertainments. With the NSW Government proposing to … More


Istanbul – The Art of Optimism

October 6, 2017

“We are a thin-skinned country,” admitted Selim Yenel, “We are intolerant.” There was no argument from the international journalists assembled around the table. In the face of successive questions about government censorship and repression, the Undersecretary of the Turkish Ministry for EU Affairs Ambassador provided answers no-one could dispute. Asked about the political persecution of … More


The Public Body.02

August 18, 2017

Our age is one of unprecedented permissiveness and militant puritanism. Pornography of every description is available at the click of a keyboard, small children are sexualised in a manner that would have been inconceivable to our grandparents’ generation. Yet Newton’s third law applies in psychology as well as science: for every action, there is an … 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


Kader Attia

July 1, 2017

If ever an artist were attuned to the temper of our times it is Kader Attia (b.1970). Following a successful showing in Documenta 13 in 2012, this French-Algerian creator of multimedia installations and videos has since become one of the most sought-after artists in the world. The piece that made such a powerful impression was … More


El Anatsui

February 4, 2016

El Anatsui makes one feel there might actually be some substance in the talk of a globalised art world. The idea that artists from places other than Europe and America can be players on the contemporary scene has been around ever since Jean-Hubert Martin’s landmark exhibition, Magiciens de la Terre, held at the Centre Pompidou … More


Gilbert & George

December 4, 2015

In the Victorian era the English were masters of the world, known for imperial glory and the strength of their civil institutions. But what are the English known for today? According to English doctor, Theodore Dalrymple: “for their militant vulgarity, their lack of restraint, their arrogant loudness, their ferocious and determined drunkenness, their antisocial egotism, … More


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