Australian art abroad

The paradoxical neglect of Australian art abroad

by Patrick McCaughey

 

Twenty years ago, when I was at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, I heard of an Arthur Boyd exhibition in SoHo. Recklessly, without seeing the show, I urged my American friends to see one of Australia’s foremost contemporary painters. The gallery, unknown to me, turned out to be small and unimpressive. There were five or six late paintings, including one of those large, multi-figured bathers, with that disconcerting quality of Boyd at the end of his career, both slapdash and commercial at the same moment. ‘So this is what contemporary Australian painting looks like?’ my companion asked ironically, just within the bounds of good manners.

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Patrick McCaughey

Patrick McCaughey

Patrick McCaughey is former Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford Connecticut, and the Yale Center for British Art. His most recent book is Strange Country: Why Australian Painting Matters (2014). His other works include Voyage and Landfall: The Art of Jan Senbergs (2006). He also edited Bert & Ned: The Correspondence of Albert Tucker and Sidney Nolan (2006). He writes regularly for the Times Literary Supplement and Australian Book Review. He lives and works on the banks of the Quinnipiac River in New Haven.

Published in June 2011 no. 332