Eileen Chanin

In the 1970s, before Malcolm Fraser (ahead of his time) tightened security and made most of the place a no-go zone, Australia House – a regular embassy – also functioned as an informal social amenity for visiting Australians. There was a howling disjunction between ...

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Ken Whisson: As If by Glenn Barkley and Lesley Harding

by
July–August 2012, no. 343

This catalogue accompanies the current exhibition of Ken Whisson’s work at Melbourne’s Heide Museum and, later, at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition and catalogue are a joint exercise by MCA curator Glenn Barkley and Heide’s Lesley Harding. As with most exhibition catalogues, it offers an artist’s statement; a Foreword (by MCA director, Elizabeth Anne Macgregor); a 10,000-word curatorial essay; a list of works; biographical notes, listing Whisson’s exhibitions and the collections that represent his work; a Bibliography, detailing references to Whisson; and Acknowledgments. All of the works in the exhibition are reproduced in thumbnail illustrations, and more than sixty paintings and twenty drawings are reproduced in larger colour plates. Also featured is an interview that Whisson gave to Sydney-based artist (and friend) Joe Frost in 2009. All this comes in a modestly sized catalogue that has been crisply designed by Liz Cox.

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This is the first major biography of Australia’s greatest book collector, David Scott Mitchell, whose peerless Australian and Pacific collection established the Mitchell Library. Mitchell was born in 1836, in Sydney. He rarely left the city and never ventured beyond New South Wales. Living on inherited wealth, he devoted his life to collecting 40,000 printed works, as well as manuscripts, maps, and pictures. On his death in 1907, Mitchell bequeathed his collection to the Public (now State) Library of New South Wales with a £70,000 endowment to fund additions. It was arguably Australia’s greatest cultural bequest. Mitchell himself has always been an enigma. Although he collected the documentary history of our nation, he preserved very little to illuminate his own life, beliefs, and motivation.

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