Tag: National Gallery of Australia


Jeffrey Smart: Sketch for a Portrait

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021 Blog,

When an artist is said to be “traditional and progressive at the same time,” he can only be a great individualist. When this description comes from the director of the National Gallery of Australia, in his foreword to the catalogue of a major Jeffrey Smart exhibition, it suggests a good deal of uncertainty about where […]


The NGA gives itself a birthday present

Monday, September 27th, 2021 Blog,

Lest we forget, the price paid for Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, was $1.3 million in 1973. A world record at the time, it was viewed as one of the keynote extravagances of the Whitlam government. Nevertheless, when the National Gallery of Australia opened in 1982 the painting was a major drawcard. It has since become […]


Botticelli to Van Gogh

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021 Blog,

Why Botticelli? In an exhibition in which the first room includes remarkable paintings by Titian, Tintoretto and Savoldo, Botticelli’s Four scenes from the early life of Saint Zenobius (c.1500) is not exactly a highlight. The painting belongs to a class of decoration called spalliere – a long, horizontal panel that was inserted into a wall […]


Know My Name: A First Look

Thursday, November 19th, 2020 Blog,

If the phrase Know My Name makes you think of the theme song of a James Bond movie, you’re a prime candidate for the National Gallery of Australia’s new survey of Australian women artists, 1900 to the present. You might even draw a twinge of masculine panic from Chris Cornell’s lyric: The odds will betray […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Shock Therapy

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

When he opened his Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart in January 2011, David Walsh warned visitors they would be shocked and offended by what they saw, but the greatest shock proved to be the almost universal enthusiasm of those first day crowds. From Wim Delvoye’s poo-making machine to Greg Taylor’s plaster casts […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Matisse & Picasso

Friday, January 10th, 2020 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

Two boxers circling each other in the ring: a favourite image used to describe the relationship between Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. One wonders if it inspired those notorious promotional photos of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat as boxers in the 1980s. Indeed, it says a great deal about the evolution of the art market […]


Matisse & Picasso: A First Look

Thursday, December 19th, 2019 Blog,

It must have been tempting to call this exhibition Matisse v. Picasso, a bit like Batman v. Superman. The Australian public responds well to healthy competition, as demonstrated by the perennial mania for art prizes. Instead the National Gallery of Australia settled on the more dignified Matisse & Picasso as the title of its summer […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Indonesia: Contemporary Worlds

Thursday, July 11th, 2019 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

When the Reformasi era began in 1998 Indonesian art burst out like a tightly-coiled spring released from its bonds. It wasn’t just artists that rejoiced in their newfound freedom – the entire population was now able to imagine itself as a citizenry of the world rather than subjects of Suharto’s corrupt, oppressive regime. Matters would grow […]


Monet: Lasting Impressions

Thursday, June 20th, 2019 Blog,

“A catastrophe seemed imminent to me,” wrote Louis Leroy in a notorious exhibition review of April, 1874, “and it was reserved for M. Monet to contribute the last straw.” That last straw was a painting called Impression Sunrise, a grey, misty view of a harbour wth the silhouettes of two small boats in the foreground, […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Monet: Impression Sunrise

Friday, June 7th, 2019 Sydney Morning Herald Column,

Most museum exhibitions proceed like a piece of music steadily rising to a crescendo. Viewers trace the growth of an artist’s talent from humble beginnings to eventual triumph. Art movements begin with groups of poor but talented Bohemians scheming in cafés, and end by dominating the museums of the world. That’s pretty much the story […]