Newsletter 300

Published August 20, 2019
Just the same today.. only more so

I’m in New York doing my preliminaries for the National Gallery of Victoria’s summer show on Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The cult of both artists remains incredibly strong, with imagery and merchandise on display over the city – on T-shirts, baseball caps, shoes, socks, jackets and tote bags. On Madison Avenue I walked past a woman wearing Keith Haring lyotards and matching sports bra! It seems that some artists never die, they just become brands and logos.

The Guggenheim has a show based around Basquiat’s small painting, Defacement, made after the death of a young street artist, Michael Stewart, in 1983. Stewart was brutalised by police officers who were subsequently acquitted of all wrong-doing. It caused outrage among the artists of New York at the time, but it’s a scenario that has since been repeated with depressing regularity across the USA.

The Metropolitan, by contrast, had a show devoted to the concept of Camp – notably camp fashion. It was a fascinating exercise, but it made me feel like I’d eaten too many sweets.

One exhibition that was packing ‘em in was a Leonard Cohen tribute at the Jewish Museum. The highlight was a huge reel of concert footage that stretched across 40 years or more of the singer’s life. With a few notable exceptions, the art installations were pretty oblique.

As I managed to miss last week’s deadline, this week’s art column is still the one on Barbara McKay and Hadyn Wilson. To keep the show on the road I’ve posted a blog that discusses the 2019 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in Darwin, and segues into a rave about the art coming out of Yirrkala, which is probably the most dynamic indigenous art community at present. To see just how dynamic, look no further than Djambawa Marawili’s Journey to America, which won the NATSIAA. It’s the world’s first bark painting that incorporates a picture of the Statue of Liberty.

The film under review is the much-anticipated Once Upon a Time… in America, by the talented but perverse Quentin Tarantino. I liked this movie more than any of the director’s work since Jackie Brown(1997), but it still has a few moments it would be unpleasant to watch again. If Donald Trump’s rhetoric seems to be encouraging violence, one wonders what Tarantino’s penchant for comical brutality is doing to aspiring fllmmakers. He just can’t help himself. If he remade Mary Poppins he’d have the Julie Andrews character chasing the kids with a chainsaw.