Art Gallery of New South Wales

The Western, colonial, patriarchal hegemony having eroded somewhat in recent years, the purposes and methods of art and of museum management and curatorship are undergoing fundamental change. Formerly unchallenged Anglophone-transatlantic canons and practices have been undermined by broader international perspectives, by the impact of digital technologies, and by the politics of identity – in ethnicity and nation, gender and sexuality.

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Matisse: Life and spirit

Art Gallery of New South Wales
by
07 December 2021

This exhibition, alive with colour, is a gift to our grey summer. The Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) was already crowded at 10.30am on the first Sunday; our umbrellas were bagged, our raincoats cloaked. Matisse: Life and spirit, drawn mainly from the exceptional holdings of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, is the first dedicated Matisse exhibition in Australia for twenty-six years. The Gallery carefully says this is the ‘largest collection of work by Matisse to be seen in Sydney’, but that understates the appeal of this lovely exhibition. It offers an incisive, intelligent, and thorough introduction to Matisse that is essential viewing; its generosity and subtlety will repay multiple visits. (I wish I were a kid again, could see Matisse for the first time.)

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Arthur Streeton in retrospect

Art Gallery of New South Wales
by
17 December 2020

The purpose of a retrospective exhibition is to reconsider, to come to fresh insights. Streeton, now at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, is the largest exhibition of the painter’s works since his 1931 lifetime retrospective, which was also at AGNSW (the current offering is only twenty works shy of that show’s massive total of 170). It’s a feast, one that enables us to reassess the great man’s art. And like all good retrospectives, it questions older certainties.

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Single-name status is granted to very few. In Australian art, ‘Daniel’ has always been Daniel Thomas: curator, museum director, walking memory, standard-setter (and inveterate corrector of errors), passionate lover of art, friend of Australian artists. His life’s work has been establishing the understanding of Australian art in our art museums, and his influence is incalculable. The late Andrew Sayers rightly described Thomas as ‘the single most influential curator in creating a shape for the history of Australian art’, but as editors Hannah Fink and Steven Miller observe, ‘Daniel is everywhere and nowhere: the greatest authority, hiding in the detail of someone’s else’s footnote, and in the judgements that have made the canon of Australian art.’

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Rainbows and bad losers

The mood outside the State Library of Victoria on 15 November 2017 was exultant – once the precarious line from Canberra had been restored and the ABS’s expatiatory chief statistician, David Kalisch, finally announced that ...

For an Australian collector to have amassed one substantial and internationally recognised collection of Victorian art during the late twentieth century is unusual. Having parted with the first and replaced it with a second, amassed in the twenty-first, is extraordinary. But then John Schaeffer ...

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The Mondrians in Paths to Abstraction 1867–1917, Terence Maloon’s beautiful, refined exhibition held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from June to September this year, and the Gauguins in Ron Radford’s more spectacular Masterpieces from Paris that closed at the National Gallery in April, were drawcards. We last saw a group of Mondrians in 1961; Gauguin had never been properly seen in Australia. The exhibitions and the related books together amounted to a superb and very up-to-date two-part lesson in the history of modernism.

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Rupert Bunny: Artist in Paris by by Deborah Edwards, with Denise Mimmocchi, David Thomas and Anne Gérard

by
November 2010, no. 326

For those who saw the recent Rupert Bunny retrospective in Sydney, Melbourne, or Adelaide, where there were accompanying lecture programs, an informative audio guide, a lively children’s guide, and frilly knickers and parasols afterwards in the gallery shop, Rupert Bunny: Artist in Paris is a fine record of the exhibition. If you missed the show, this book provides a very good ‘virtual tour’, with works grouped both chronologically and thematically, all exhibits reproduced, plus full-page details of the artist’s fin-de-siècle beauties, decorative idylls and poetic mythological subjects. It is also a great deal more.

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If Australian art has sometimes been perceived as wanting in style and opulence, recent art museum exhibitions and monographs examining the art and artists of the Edwardian era tell another story and reveal that there is abundant glamour in Australian art. The Edwardians (2004) and George W. Lambert Retrospective (2007) – both from the National Gallery of Australia – and Bertram Mackennal (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2007) have succeeded in presenting Australian art in the grand manner from this most extravagant period.

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Ten days in Australia in July brought a remarkable round of studio visits plus an exhibition of new Australian painting, Phenomena, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Painting has had a hard time of it lately. Michael Wardell, curator of Phenomena, goes further: ‘throughout the twentieth century, painting has been under threat,’ claims the slightly melodramatic opening sentence of his otherwise modest and useful catalogue. The claim became even more of a reach at the AGNSW where, on the floor below Phenomena, you could see the pictures from the Orangerie with superb Cézannes, Picassos, Soutines and Rousseaus. None of them looked particularly threatened to me.

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