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Sydney Morning Herald Column

John Berger

May 28, 2020

Art criticism today occupies one of the lower branches on the tree of literature. Most of the writing that passes under that label consists of snippets of recycled press releases, empty jargon, servile puffs and received opinions. The genre is so debased that artists, dealers and curators have begun to see reviews as advertisements. Anything […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Art and Propaganda

May 21, 2020

“All art is propaganda…” wrote George Orwell. “On the other hand, not all propaganda is art.” He was talking about Charles Dickens, but I thought of this line when watching the new Netflix series, Hollywood, which sets out to overturn the racist and homophobic attitudes of the movie business in the late 1940s. As “art” […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column


May 15, 2020

A successful artist needs more than talent. There has to be a taste – perhaps a need – for solitude. The movies portray artists as great Bohemians who carouse in bars and cafés, have fierce arguments about art and embark on passionate, doomed love affairs, but this is only what they do in their spare […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

After the Black Death

May 7, 2020

It may be a symptom of morbid curiosity but the coronavirus lockdown has generated a new interest in novels such as Albert Camus’s The Plague, and movies such as Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion. Both are speculative fictions that draw on our knowledge of the causes and behaviour of an epidemic. It’s commonplace to talk about all […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Venus Betrayed: Édouard Vuillard

April 30, 2020

At the end of the Modernist era it became increasingly taboo to interpret an artist’s work in relation to his or her biography. Only the formal qualities of a piece were deemed relevant, with information about the artist’s life being mere gossip. The irony of course is that there are now numerous biographies and memoirs […]


Sydney Morning Herald Column June 5, 2020

Some Mysterious Process

When an art museum celebrates 50 years of its own collecting with an exhibition called Some Mysterious Process, it doesn’t suggest a highly developed sense of irony. One might imagine such a show would stress the insights and knowledge of the curators, the strategic planning involved in tracking and purchasing key works. To say it’s […]

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