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Newsletter 277

Published March 9, 2019
Caspar David Friedrich? No, it's Central Park NYC

Well the great week has finally arrived: the website has been redesigned! But before you all start emailing and pointing out various issues, I’m aware there are a lot of teething problems that need to be resolved. I could reel off a long list but it wouldn’t be a very productive use of a newsletter. Instead, I’ll briefly point put the positive changes and get to work on the lingering issues.

The new front page is a lot busier than before, taking one of the most recent postings as a ‘headline’ piece each week. The newsletter is a free subscription, but as many readers told me they didn’t even notice the invitation to subscribe, it has now been placed in the centre of the page where it can hardly be missed. I’m also hoping to archive these newsletters in response to reader requests, but that’s a work in progress. They’re a different form of writing, more of a diary than a considered essay, so many of the topics covered recede quickly into the past.

The film reviews have been given more prominence, also in response to reader interest, although I have to admit that the visual arts remains the core concern. There’s also a special section for the pieces written for the quarterly magazine, Artist Profile, for which I’ve been acting as ‘principal writer’ for the past three issues. The idea is for a cross-pollination between this site and the AP site. For the time being I’ll post contributions to an issue whenever its successor hits the stands.

The other addition is a section for the small Good Weekend gallery column, which has been extraordinarily well read over the past year. It’s a brief take on a single artist exhibition at a commercial gallery, alternating each week between Sydney and Melbourne. There’s a profile of each artist and a focus on prices, which is very different to my usual concerns. It would be silly to pretend that art is not a commercial activity, but the market is at best a problematic guide to quality.

I’ll discuss changes and fixes as they occur in the near future. Matters are complicated this week by the fact that I’m in New York, meeting with Cai Guo-Qiang and with Sandy Rower of the Calder Foundation, in preparation for forthcoming shows at the National Gallery of Victoria. This means I’ve had little time to attend to the website, just when I need to give it a hard look. In NYC I’m trying to view as many exhibitions as I can before heading home. The most fascinating so far was a big survey of Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim. Klint was a pioneering abstract artist from Sweden whose experiments predated Kandinsky’s. Her work has the capacity to force a rewrite of the standard accounts of Modern art.

This week’s art column is not set in New York but in Canberra, at the Drill Hall Gallery – a venue that consistently punches above its weight. The current show looks at the private holdings of Geoff Hassall, one of Sydney’s most dedicated (and discreet) art collectors.

It’s almost always the case that a great private collection is more interesting than a public collection, which feels the need to be objective and representative, even though these quaities are impossble to realise. The private collector can happily follow his or her taste, but what’s most important is to allow that taste to evolve over time. In this respect the Hassall Collection is exemplary.

The movie column is devoted to this year’s Alliance Française French Film Festival, which will be happening all over Australia for the next month. The FFF has become an institution in this country, second only to the annual Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals. It’s been slightly frustrating that many of the most desirable films were not available for preview purposes, but with more than 50 items on the program there’s still plenty to see.

Whether it’s tweaking a web page, running around galleries in a foreign city or trying to work my way through a film festival, all I need is more time. Or perhaps a clone.