Māori markings: Tā moko (National Gallery of Australia)

ABR Arts is generously supported by ABR Patrons and Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.
David Hansen Monday, 25 March 2019
Published in ABR Arts

The traditional Western art museum is struggling a bit. Its former role as a repository of national values, as reified and aestheticised in paintings, sculpture, and the decorative arts, is today challenged if not assaulted on multiple fronts: ranging from economic, political, and social globalisation, to digital technology, to commercial popular culture. Increasingly, art museums’ collection displays – and especially their exhibitions and other public programs – are concerned not so much with the presentation of canonical works in diachronic array, but with disruptive transnational and transhistorical discourses. In this they are simply reflecting and responding to the rightful demands of First Nations, of the multiple cultures of immigrant communities and of the social-media generation to have their particular histories, concerns, and beliefs reflected in the public sphere. Hence the contemporary curatorial mashups: identity, experience, and the body rule, ok?

At the National Gallery of Australia, in the dying weeks of an anachronistic Pre-Raphaelite blockbuster, comes a modest but exemplary exhibition which demonstrates that previous and present professional preoccupations and methodologies can coexist harmoniously and productively.

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David Hansen

David Hansen

David Hansen is Associate Professor of Art History & Art Theory at the ANU, and spent twenty-five years as a public art gallery director and curator, in Warrnambool, Mt Gambier, Melbourne and Hobart. Most of his published writing has been associated with this professional context: exhibition and collection catalogues, essays and reviews in journals, magazines and newspapers, and public lectures and speeches. In the inaugural Calibre Prize (2007), he received an Honourable Mention for ‘Death Dance’, an account of the imagery of the early colonial indigenous leader Bungaree (available on ABR’s website). 

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