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Sydney Morning Herald Column

Fairy Tales in Art and Film

February 24, 2024

Most fairy tales were written for adults. When Charles Perrault (1628-1703) was compiling the stories we know today as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Puss in Boots, the very idea of “childhood” was relatively new. Or so we understand from French historian, Philippe Ariès, whose influential book Centuries of Childhood (1960), has dominated our […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

In Our Time: Four Decades of Art from China and Beyond. The Geoff Raby Collection

February 17, 2024

Many who have lived and worked in China over the past 30 years, have stories about the painting they could have bought for a few hundred dollars that is now worth hundreds of thousands. Geoff Raby, who was Australia’s ambassador to China from 2007-2011, had more opportunities than most, inhabiting a social circle that extended […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

NGV Triennial 3

February 10, 2024

Over the past decade I’ve had so many positive things to say about the National Gallery of Victoria that I get accused of favouritism. My response to such charges is very simple: Put in the work and reap the rewards. The NGV owes its success to a busy, dynamic exhibitions program and an unwavering focus […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Ann Thomson & Ian Gentle

February 3, 2024

Reaching the age of 90 and remaining young is reason enough for us to celebrate Ann Thomson, but for Terence Maloon, curator of the artist’s survey at the S.H. Ervin Gallery, it’s not just a sentimental occasion. He argues forcefully that Thomson’s work “has never stood still, never lost its momentum or intensity, and has […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Tacita Dean

January 26, 2024

It’s odd to think Tacita Dean was once lumped in with that motley group known as the YBAs – or Young British Artists. She had the mixed fortune of emerging at the same time as such headline-seekers as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, and the Chapman Brothers, who saw notoreity as the superhighway to success in […]


Sydney Morning Herald Column March 2, 2024

White Rabbit: A Blueprint for Ruins

On a first visit to Suzhou, years ago, I was looking forward to seeing this city of historic canals and gardens. Arriving at night, I wasn’t prepared for the long approach to the CBD, down a boulevard lined with massive buildings, or the skyscrapers that dominated the skyline. I wasn’t prepared, but I should have […]

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Film Reviews


March 1, 2024

When I have to choose between two new releases the crucial consideration is often which movie has the best chance of reaching a wide audience. I thought initially that Ethan Coen’s Drive Away Dolls would be a bigger crowd pleaser than Mani Haghighi’s Subtraction, but after watching both features, I’m not so sure. At their […]

Film Reviews

The Zone of Interest

February 23, 2024

There’s no end to gruelling films about the Holocaust, but there may be limits as to how many we can endure. One could argue that in a world in which so many idiots think it’s sexy to be a Nazi, there can’t be enough reminders of the horrors of the Third Reich, but those who […]

Film Reviews

Fallen Leaves

February 16, 2024

You’ll have to wait until the credits roll to hear Fallen Leaves sung in Finnish, but like all Aki Kaurismäki films, there’s no shortage of music along the way. This bittersweet story about two ordinary people who find each other, in the most hesitant fashion, is one of Kaurismäki’s typical working-class fables. If you’re already […]

Film Reviews

Force of Nature: The Dry 2

February 9, 2024

 “Rarely, rarely comest thou, Spirit of Delight!” wrote Shelley, in a remarkable premonition of the Australian film industry. “Wherefore hast thou left me now, Many a day and night?” Australian cinema has reached such an impasse that I go along to each new feature hoping for something worthy and tradesmanlike. Occasionally there appears a film […]

John McDonald

For over thirty years he has been one of Australia’s best-known critics. He writes a weekly art column for the Sydney Morning Herald, a weekly film column for the Australian Financial Review, and contributes to a wide range of local and international publications.


Jeffrey Smart, ‘The Bather, Bondi’ (1962)

June 16, 2023

JEFFREY SMART (1921-2013) The Bather, Bondi 1962 oil on board 49.0 x 72.0 cm signed lower left: JEFFREY SMART Provenance: South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne, 1962 Jean Parker (formerly Ramsey), Melbourne Estate of the above Amanda Addams Auctions, Melbourne, 13 April 2008, lot 285 Private collection, Melbourne Exhibited: Jeffrey Smart, South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne,11-24 November 1962, cat.7 […]


John Olsen, ‘Lake Alexandrina and Dirt Roads’ (1997-98)

JOHN OLSEN Lake Alexandrina and Dirt Roads 1997-98 oil on canvas 199.0 x 183.0 cm signed and dated lower right: John/ Olsen/ 97-98 signed and inscribed verso: Dirt Roads & Lake John/ Olsen Provenance: Savill Galleries, Sydney Private collection, Melbourne Exhibited: John Olsen: Recent Work 1995-1998, Olsen Carr Art Dealers, Sydney, 7-25 April 1998, cat.13 (illus. […]


Jeffrey Smart: ‘Petrol Station’ (1975)

March 10, 2023

JEFFREY SMART Petrol Station 1975 oil on canvas on board 34.5 x 39.5 cm signed lower left: JEFFREY SMART   Provenance: South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne (label attached verso) Private collection, Melbourne Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 4 November 1981, lot 25 Private collection, Melbourne   Exhibited: (Probably) Jeffrey Smart, South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne, 3 April 1975 (Or) Jeffrey Smart, South […]