Category: Exhibition Reviews

Reviews of exhibitions in Melbourne and around Australia. If you are interested in providing a review please contact Katrina Grant webmaster@melbourneartnetwork We prefer that you send a proposal before writing or submitting the full review.

Letter from North America | The Reopening of the Yale Center for British Art – Felicity Harley-McGowan

After a sixteen-month closure, the Yale Center for British Art reopened to the Yale University community on the afternoon of Monday May 9. The excitement was palpable. People of all ages from all quarters of the university wove their way from bottom to top to bottom of the building – students, staff, faculty, donors, all transfixed and enthused by the space, and what they discovered in that space. It was a kind of viewer utopia I had not experienced before: strangers smiled and spoke to each other, people audibly admired and made remarks to each other as they marvelled at the return to life of a much loved building and its collection. Since opening to the public on May 11, the response to the renovation of the building and rehang of the collection has been resoundingly positive. The interior space…

Exhibition Review | Whistler’s Mother | NGV International

The National Gallery of Victoria’s latest loan exhibition is based around a single painting by James McNeil Whistler – his Arrangement in grey and black no. 1 of 1871, popularly known as the Portrait of the artist’s mother, or just ‘Whistler’s Mother’. Compared to the just-closed Warhol/Wei Wei summer blockbuster, this is a small, intimate exhibition. The painting is on loan from the Musée d’Orsay and the exhibition is filled out with etchings, prints, paintings, furniture and decorative arts from the NGV’s permanent collection. The exhibition sets this single painting into a fresh context, one that enriches our understanding of Whistler and allows us to see works from the NGV collection in a new light. I find it impossible to really talk about this exhibition without first dealing with the language being used to promote it. We are told (in the marketing…

Exhibition Review | Lurid Beauty: Surrealism and its Echoes | Katrina Grant

Lurid Beauty: Surrealism and its Echoes NGV Australia, Federation Square. The exhibition closes on the 31st January 2016. “Surrealism is a word that is applied to those forms of creative art which are evolved, not from the conscious mind, but from the deeper recesses of the subconscious. The theory of Surrealism is based upon a belief that the logical mind, with its prescribed formulas of thought, is incapable of expressing the entire range of human experience and aspiration. To express such a range, the complete mechanism of the human mind must be utilised.” James Gleeson This description by James Gleeson is from his essay published in Art & Australia in 1940 ‘What is Surrealism’, which explained the principals and rationale driving the new movement. It is on display in the first room of the NGV’s current Lurid Beauty exhibition (alongside books,…

Exhibition Review | An Illumination: the Rothschild Prayer Book & other works from the Kerry Stokes Collection c.1280-1685| Ian Potter Museum of Art

An Illumination: the Rothschild Prayer Book & other works from the Kerry Stokes Collection c.1280-1685 until Sunday 15th November 2015 It is always interesting to get a glimpse of a private collection and in this small but well-curated exhibition we are able to view a selection of art from the collection of Kerry Stokes. The objects on display are mostly religious in subject and have been chosen by curator (and leading expert on illuminated manuscripts) Margaret Manion to complement the display of the Rothschild Prayer Book, which Stokes bought in 2014. The exhibition is displayed across several galleries at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at Melbourne University. The galleries are dimly lit for this exhibition, the dark setting and carefully spot lit (no annoying glare on paintings) makes for an intimate and contemplative viewing experience, which suits the religious…

Review | Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at the NGV | Katrina Grant

Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at the National Gallery of Victoria International until the 8th November 2015. We enter the exhibition face-to-face with Catherine the Great in a portrait by Swedish artist Alexander Roslin. The Empress was not altogether impressed by the portrait, declaring that Roslin had made her look like ‘a Swedish cook, coarse and simple.’ Despite Catherine’s reservations, the portrait (which shows the Empress in ‘Slavonic’ dress, fastened with a diamond buckle and pointing toward a bust of Peter the Great) proved to be a successful representation and was copied numerous times. The painting is flanked by two busts of the philosophes Voltaire and Diderot by the little-known French sculptor Marie-Anne Collot. On some level, both men had an almost personal friendship with Catherine. In one letter, Voltaire complimented her as an ‘enlightened despot’…

Review | David Hansen on Danh Vo’s Slip of the Tongue in Venice

Slip of the Tongue, Punta della Dogana, Venice 12 April-31 December 2015 Curated by Danh Vo in collaboration with Caroline Bourgeois Venice: home of Marco Polo; key entrepôt on the Silk Road; the heart of a great and glittering maritime and mercantile empire. For hundreds of years the Most Serene Republic reached out across the Adriatic and the Mediterranean to the Eastern Empire and beyond, trading and plundering; the famous lion of St Mark atop the right-hand column of the Piazzetta, next to the Doge’s Palace, is probably 4th century BC Persian-Hellenistic; the Byzantine water-marble facing of the basilica of San Marco was stripped from Hagia Sophia during the sack of Constantinople at the time of the Fourth Crusade. Yet the city also has an intense historical and cultural specificity: an essentially Græco-Roman and Roman Catholic identity that underpins all its…

Exhibition Review | Medieval Moderns, National Gallery of Victoria | Monique Webber

Medieval Moderns: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood,  NGV International, 11 April – 12 July 2015 The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) burnt brightly and quickly. Forming in 1848, the seven original artists – John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James Collinson, Thomas Woolner, William Michael Rossetti, and Frederic George Stephens – worked cohesively for little more than five years. Only Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti remained directly involved in the movement. While Hunt continued as a largely independent artist, Rossetti later became a driving force in the second generation of the Brotherhood centred around William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Despite the brevity of their activity, the PRB had a profound influence upon the Industrial era. Rejecting the enforced hierarchies of beauty and genre of the Academy, they adopted Ford Madox Brown’s search for humanity and nature in art. Their aim to revitalise…

Exhibition Review | TarraWarra Biennial 2014: Whisper In My Mask | Denise M. Taylor

TarraWarra Biennial 2014 | Whisper In My Mask | AT TWMA until 16th November 2014 Reviewed by Denise M. Taylor Face masks of dough, wire and the Australian flag; portraits of royalty dripping with black paint; veils, dots and paper cut-outs masking memory and identity; videos hinting at masked abuses in Australia’s history—these are a few of the contemporary art works by approximately 20 Australian artists on display at the TarraWarra Museum of Art (TWMA) Biennial 2014 exhibition, ‘Whisper in my Mask’—a clever take on a line from Grace Jones’ 1981 song ‘Art Groupie’: Touch Me in a Picture, Wrap Me in a Cast, Kiss Me in a Sculpture, Whisper in My Mask As Deborah Cheetham AO pointed out in her remarks at the opening of the exhibition on August 15th, the mist that most of us encountered across the…

Exhibition Review | Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino at Palazzo Strozzi and Baccio Bandinelli at The Bargello: an appreciation | Esther Theiler

Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino: Diverging Paths of Mannerism and Baccio Bandinelli, Sculptor and Master (1493-1560) Reviewed by Esther Theiler Palazzo Strozzi and the Bargello have provided not only welcome respite from the heat in Florence this summer but also rewarding opportunities for appraising the threads of influence of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo as they metamorphosed into the style most often characterised as mannerist. The curators at the Palazzo Strozzi have made a considered decision to call this style the “modern manner” rather than mannerism, in accordance, they believe, with sixteenth century usage (even though the English language version of the exhibition still uses ‘mannerism’). Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino: Diverging Paths of Mannerism is the first exhibition since Pontormo and Early Florentine Mannerism (a 1956 exhibition also held at Palazzo Strozzi) to bring together a substantial canon of work…

Exhibition Review | Atua: sacred gods from Polynesia | David Hansen

  This is a ‘pre-print’ version of a review to be published by the University of Hawai’i Press in The Contemporary Pacific (vol. 17 no.1) in early 2015. Atua: sacred gods from Polynesia is on at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra from 23 May – 3 August 2014 As you pass between the split-text panels at the entrance to Atua: sacred gods from Polynesia, your first encounter is with two semi-abstract totemic figures from a ritual sanctuary or marae, carved by contemporary Cook Island artist Eruera Nia. Embedded in a low, square, grey plinth, these silver-weathered woodenarabesques or parentheses are at once descriptive and abstract, hieratic and dynamic, leaping up into vision and consciousness in a manner comparable to that of the Gallery’s modernist masterpiece, Constantin Brancusi’s Birds in Space. Then, as you turn right to enter the exhibition proper, you…

Exhibition Review | For Auld Lang Syne: Images of Scottish Australia from First Fleet to Federation – John Weretka

For Auld Lang Syne: Images of Scottish Australia from First Fleet to Federation is on at the Ballarat Art Gallery until the 27th July 2014. Victorian regional galleries are more than pulling their weight when it comes to hosting exhibitions in centres beyond Melbourne, as Genius and Ambition: The Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1768-1918 at the Bendigo Art Gallery has recently proved. Ballarat Art Gallery is playing host to For Auld Lang Syne: Images of Scottish Australia from First Fleet to Federation, curated by Alison Inglis and Patricia Tryon Macdonald. The sheer scale of the exhibition, which surely must make it one of the — if not the — most significant exhibitions of Scotland-related material in Australian history, makes it noteworthy. Spanning four gallery spaces of the Ballarat Art Gallery, the exhibition is co-ordinated under five main subject areas.…

Exhibition Review | Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court | Katrina Grant

Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court, Museo del Prado Reviewed by Katrina Grant The exhibition runs until until 31st August 2014 at the NGV International, St Kilda Rd. This exhibition tells two stories. The first is the story of Italian art from Raphael to Tiepolo and the second is the story of Spanish engagement with Italian art over this period. The exhibition highlights the close artistic relationship between Italy and Spain in the Early Modern period. It includes paintings that were directly commissioned by the Spanish Royal family from such artists as Titian, as well as works collected a century or more after they were painted, such as the Holy Family by Raphael. There are also works by artists who travelled to Spain to undertake commissions in various royal residences. And, of course, there are paintings by a number of…

Exhibition Review | Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice | David Packwood

Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice David Packwood Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice is on at the National Gallery, London, 2014 until the 15th June 2014. It was written,  then, on my page in the Book of Fate that at two in the afternoon of the sixth day of June in the year 2014 that I, along with a friend, should attend an exhibition of Paolo Veronese for the first time within the hallowed halls of the London, National Gallery. “Veronese” is no longer just a name to me, or a reproduction in a book, or a digital image floating on a computer screen. In this exhibition I begin to grasp the man behind the banquets, the purveyor of large altarpieces, the manufacturer of political allegories- the man who unwittingly gave birth to a school in which the best pupil was…

Exhibition Review | Genius and Ambition. The Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1768–1918 | David R. Marshall

Genius and Ambition. The Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1768–1918 David R. Marshall   At the Bendigo Art Gallery 2 March–9 June 2014. (Closes 9 June; an exhibition of antique sculpture from the British Museum follows on 2 August.) The regional galleries have some interesting exhibitions on at the moment. At the Ballarat Art Gallery is Auld Lang Syne while at Bendigo, with only a few days to run, is Genius and Ambition, which consists largely of works from the Royal Academy, London and is an exhibition generated by Bendigo and the only Australian venue. Following the success of its fashion shows, especially Grace Kelly, the Bendigo Gallery has stimulated an arts-led tourism industry serving day-trippers from Melbourne who come by car, train or chartered bus. Bendigo has a lot of offer in this respect. Its architectural charms are considerable,…

Exhibition Review | Rome: Piranesi’s Vision | Katrina Grant

Rome: Piranesi’s Vision Katrina Grant  State Library of Victoria, 22nd February until 22nd June 2014. Free exhibition. ‘When I first saw the remains of the ancient buildings of Rome lying as they do in cultivated fields or in gardens and wasting away under the ravages of time, or being destroyed by greedy owners who sell them as materials for modern buildings, I determined to preserve them for ever by means of my engravings’ – Giovanni Battista Piranesi Piranesi wrote this in his preface to the Antichità romane and it is just one of his many statements that declare his dedication to Rome. His views of Rome stand as a record of the past glories of Ancient Rome, each engraving carefully labelled so that we can identify the fragments of ruined monuments. They also record aspects of the Early Modern city of Rome that…