Art

Australian Galleries opened in Melbourne in June 1956. One year later, Andy Warhol established Andy Warhol Enterprises in New York. Warhol’s art of making money became an art form in itself, with the artist elaborating that ‘good business is the best art’. Gallerists Anne and Tam Purves would have agreed. This husband-and-wife team took selling art seriously and introduced a professionalism unlike anything that had existed in Melbourne. Their new modern enterprise occupied a converted front section of their Derby Street paper-pattern factory in the working-class suburb of Collingwood. While the couple had no experience in art dealership or gallery management, they were confident that the arts were ready for something different. Anne, accomplished in commercial design, had considerable artistic aspirations, while Tam merely transferred his well-established business acumen across the factory threshold into their smart new premises. As with any business venture, timing was important, and they capitalised on the leverage that the 1956 Olympic Games brought to Melbourne.

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Amid all the hoopla surrounding the centenary in 2019 of the Bauhaus – naturally more pronounced in Germany – it is gratifying to see such a fine Australian publication dealing with the international influence of this short-lived, revolutionary art and design teaching institute. Bauhaus Diaspora and Beyond – written by Philip Goad, Ann Stephen, Andrew McNamara, Harriet Edquist, and Isabel Wünsche – explores the Bauhaus and its influence in Australia.

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Melburnians are rightly proud of the great painting by Giambattista Tiepolo in the National Gallery of Victoria, The Banquet of Cleopatra. Now restored to its prominent position in the gallery, it will continue to attract admiration from generations of visitors, though we should hope that its neighbouring masterpiece, Sebastiano Ricci’s The Finding of Moses, is not overlooked when connoisseurs gather beside the Tiepolo. Jaynie Anderson’s handsome book is a whole-hearted and scholarly homage to Tiepolo in general, and to this picture in particular.

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The importance of reverie

Mary Eagle
Thursday, 07 November 2019

The traits women are encouraged to develop nowadays, such as outwardness, attitude, assertiveness, and professionalism, did not characterise Grace Cossington Smith (1892–1984). Family snapshots showed the young woman with tousled hair, guileless face, and buck-toothed smile: a neat-figured, long-skirted Edwardian tomboy after the style of Australian heroines in novels by Ethel Turner and Mary Grant Bruce. The older woman in family photographs still had the tomboy grin; conversely, when she showed a public face, the mouth was closed and the eyes steady behind glasses.

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When invited by Morry Schwartz, Anna’s husband and proprietor of Schwartz Publishing, which owns Black Inc., to write an account of the Anna Schwartz Gallery (ASG), Doug Hall initially declined but changed his mind after realising that it would enable him to write with a fresh perspective, having returned to Melbourne after twenty years as director of Queensland Art Gallery. The result, Present Tense: Anna Schwartz Gallery and thirty-five years of contemporary Australian art – which takes its title from the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007), Think with the Senses – Feel with the Mind: Art in the Present Tense, curated by Robert Storr – is a periphrastic straddling of art history, social history, and biography, inclined to reminiscence over analysis.

Featuring eighty-nine chapters of varying length, the text mostly provides overviews of the artists represented by ASG, set within a chronicle of Anna Schwartz’s evolution as a gallerist. This broad narration is interspersed with chapters on a few key late-twentieth-century art dealers – sometimes to narrate artist defections to ASG – as well as state museum redesigns, biennales, and even a chapter on Anna’s wardrobe.

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Bernard Smith gave us Australian art. Before him, the subject was not part of our cultural discourse. We knew and could place the work of Michelangelo and Monet but not that of Eugene von Guérard, Tom Roberts or Grace Cossington Smith.

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Giotto’s frescoes invite us to ponder the nature of what we instinctively, conveniently, but not very satisfactorily call realism. Compared to the work of his predecessors, these images have a new kind of material presence. Bodies become solid, take on mass and volume, and occupy space ...

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The story of art could be framed as a narrative of tension between the boundless creative imagination of artists and the practical limitations – including instability, scarcity, even toxicity – of their materials. As master paint-maker David Coles explains in this wonderful book ...

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This well-illustrated volume documents through its analysis of art exhibitions the massive rise of Australia’s art gallery attendances over a period of more than forty years. Before the late 1960s, only a few hundred thousand people visited Australian galleries each year ...

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Having crossed the bustling Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the visitor soon encounters a small piazza with a shaded entrance to the church of Santa Felicita and gladly enters the cool grey stone interior. On the right, behind an iron gate, a painting of Christ’s Deposition 1526–28 illuminates a side chapel, beaming colours of ...

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