Reviews of books and exhibitions. See the sub-categories ‘Book Reviews’ and ‘Exhibition Reviews’ for more detail.

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

Danh Vo, We the People (detail) (photo Lisa Brice for Artthrob)

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…

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

Tony Garifalakis, The Hills Have Eyes (detail) 2012, fabric collage, 170 x 130 cm. Courtesy of the artist

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…

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

On the left is Rosso Fiorentino, Madonna and Child with Four Saints (Spedalingo Altarpiece), 1518, oil on canvas, 172 x 141.5 cm., Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, and on the right Pontormo, Sacred Conversation (Pucci Altarpiece), 1518, oil on canvas, 221.5 x 189.5 cm., Church of San Michele Visdomini, Florence

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…

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

Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia Stone figure 19th century, Musée du quai Branly, Paris © 2013. Musée du quai Branly photograph: Hughes Dubois/Scala, Florence

  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…

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

Peter Graham, After the Massacre of Glencoe, 1889.

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…

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

Andrea di Lione Italian 1610–1685 Elephants in a circus (Gli Elefanti in un circo) c.1640 oil on canvas 229.0 x 231.0 cm Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (P00091) Spanish Royal Collection

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…

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

Paolo Veronese (1528-1588) 'The Family of Darius before Alexander', 1565-7 Oil on canvas. 236.2 x 474.9 cm © The National Gallery, London

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,…

Exhibition Review | The Treasures of Naples | John Weretka

Fig. 3 Unknown Neapolitan Artist, St John the Baptist, 1695, Museum of the Treasury of S. Gennaro, Naples

Il Tesori di Napoli: I Capolavori del Museo di San Gennaro John Weretka Palazzo Sciarra, Rome 30th October 2013-16 February 2014 (now extended until March) Wowing enthusiastic crowds at the Palazzo Sciarra in Rome is a show entitled Treasures of Naples: Masterworks of the Museum of S. Gennaro. Although compact in size, this show brings together some of the prized objects of the Treasury of S. Gennaro, normally held at the Museum of the Treasury of S. Gennaro in Naples; this is the first time a collection of these objects has been permitted to travel. The opening room of this exhibition swiftly sets up the cultural context of S. Gennaro with Francesco Solimena’s magnificent 1702 painting of S. Gennaro blessing,…

Exhibition Review | ‘America: Painting a Nation’. Reviewed by Diane Kirkby.

Fig. 3 Henry Inman, No-Tin (Wind), a Chippewa Chief, 1832-3 Oil on canvas, Gift of the 2008 Collectors Committee (M.2008.58), Los Angeles County Museum of Art

America: Painting a Nation Diane Kirkby  America: Painting a Nation is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 8th November 2013 – 9th February 2014. At a time when historians are increasingly displacing nation-building as the purpose for knowing the past, it could seem a retrograde step to make this the foundation principle through which to showcase important works of art. Nevertheless, an exhibition organised around the concept of Painting a Nation immediately provokes questions about meaning and definitions that may not have simple answers. Approaching the exhibition as a historian of the United States and its art, I was mindful of the question former Time magazine art critic Robert Hughes asked: ‘What can you learn about America by looking…

Exhibition Review | Masculin/Masculin: L’homme nu dans l’art de 1800 a nos jours. Reviewed by Victoria Hobday.

Fig. 1. Poster, Masculin/Masculin, Paris, Musée d’Orsay.

MAN looks at Men: Masculin/Masculin: L’homme nu dans l’art de 1800 a nos jours (Masculine/Masculine. The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the Present Day) Victoria Hobday Masculin/Masculin: L’homme nu dans l’art de 1800 a nos jours is on at the Musée d’Orsay (24 September 2013—2 January 2014) *Please note that this review includes images of male nudity. In September the Musée d’Orsay opened its autumn and winter exhibition Masculin/Masculin: L’homme nu dans l’art de 1800 á nos jours. This exhibition follows a similar one last year at the Leopold Museum in Vienna, Nackte Manner (Nude Males), which brought together a number of important works from 1800 to the present day. The president of the Musée d’Orsay, Guy Cogeval, decided…

Exhibition Review | ‘Exposing Thomas Clark: a colonial artist in Western Victoria’. Reviewed by David Hansen.

Fig. 6 Thomas Clark, 'The Wannon Falls (Proscenium View)', c.1860, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection. Via exhibition website

Exposing Thomas Clark: a colonial artist in Western Victoria David Hansen The exhibition runs at Hamilton Art Gallery 21 September – 17 November 2013 At a small but intensely stimulating symposium hosted by the University of Melbourne in November last year, a variety of curators, scholars and writers met to share experiences, insights and ambitions relating to exhibitions of Australian colonial art. Coffee breaks and plenary sessions were particularly interesting in articulating outstanding desiderata for monographic shows: Mary Morton Allport, Thomas Baines, Ludwig Becker, Louis Buvelot, J. H. Carse, Augustus Earle, S. T. Gill, Thomas Wainewright … . Nobody mentioned Thomas Clark, because everyone at the conference knew that Danny McOwan was already working on that one. Had been for…

Exhibition Review | Australia at the Royal Academy of the Arts. Reviewed by Sheridan Palmer

Fig. 1 Shaun Gladwell Approach to Mundi Mundi, 2007 Production still from two-channel HD video Photo Josh Raymond

Australia Sheridan Palmer The exhibition is on at the Royal Academy of the Arts from 21 September–8 December 2013. Entering the grand Georgian courtyard of Burlington House, flanked by the Society of Antiquaries, the Linnaean Society and the Society of Geographers, a large banner with Sidney Nolan’s iconic 1946 Ned Kelly greets the visitor at the steps of the Royal Academy. It is a foretaste of things to come; Kelly is seen from the back riding off into a sandy, sparse scrub, shotgun in hand, a lone outlaw in black iron armor. Inside the Royal Academy Shaun Gladwell’s video Approach to Mundi Mundi (1997) is projected onto black walls (Fig. 1). A black leather-clad motor cyclist, a dawn rider with…

Exhibition Review | Australian Impressionists in France. Reviewed by Caroline Jordan

Ambrose Patterson, "Le bar, St Jacques, Paris", c.1904, oil on canvas, 48.2 x 59.7cm, Art Gallery of South Australia.

Australian Impressionists in France Caroline Jordan The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) has offered a number of Impressionist blockbusters over 2012-13: Monet’s Garden, Radiance: the Neo-Impressionists and now Australian Impressionists in France. Given its present ubiquity in our state gallery, it is well to remember that when Impressionism debuted in France in the 1870s and 1880s it was considered to be beyond the pale of official patronage. Impressionism offended by rejecting the mythological, classical or historical subject matter of academic painting, replacing it with such unimportant things as dance halls, picnics, cabbage patches, haystacks, stretches of beach and random scenes of the street. Spurning the studio, the Impressionists ventured outdoors to paint direct from the motif, daubing slashes and spots…

Review | The New Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Reviewed by Arnold Witte.

Rijksmuseum. Photo credit: Iwan Baan. Image courtesy of Rijksmuseum

The New Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam In April, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam was reopened to the public, after almost ten years of restoration and rebuilding. What started out in 2004 as a four-year enterprise to liberate the landmark building, built in 1885 by the Dutch Neo-Gothic architect Pierre Cuypers, from its later additions, turned out to be a lengthy and very expensive story of endless delays and complications. This led to heated discussions in the national media on several issues. The Spanish architects of the refurbishment, Cruz y Ortiz, were especially astonished about the debate on the use of the public passage under the museum by cyclists, which complicated the issue of where the entrance to the museum should be located.…

Exhibition Review | Monet’s Garden at the National Gallery of Victoria. Reviewed by David R. Marshall

Unknown Claude Monet outside his house at Giverny 1921 autochrome 18.0 x 24.0 cm Musée d'Orsay, Paris © Patrice Schmidt /musée d'Orsay distribution RMN

The latest NGV exhibition is, again, sourced largely from a secondary French museum (the Musée Marmottan Monet, henceforth MMM). Monet exhibitions have traditionally draw large crowds, and are much loved by gallery directors needing to feed the political machines to which they are beholden that equate numbers with success. But if ‘Monet’ is the brand of brands for art exhibitions, for organisers there is the problem of finding new ways to give a Monet show intellectual credibility and thematic coherence, while marketeers may feel the need to enrich a brand that runs the risk of becoming stale. And, given the economics of international exhibitions in Australia, the bulk of the works need to come from a single source. Hence Monet’s Garden.

‘Monet’s Garden’ is an idea rich in possibilities: it connects cultural tourism (a trip to Giverny) with high-art glorification of artistic genius. While previous NGV exhibitions have emphasised, through videos, places associated with the objects on display (notably the Musée Moreau in the Moreau exhibition and Malmaison with Napoleon), Monet’s Garden takes the place/artwork nexus one step further. I once taught a subject in art history on the history of gardens called Visions of Paradise: Art of the Garden, a title stolen from a picture book by Marina Schinz, and did a week on Monet and Giverny. One of the essay questions was whether Monet was a better gardener than painter. This generated some interesting responses. By asking this question one is forced to look at his Giverny paintings differently: as topographical painting, subordinate to the place represented, rather than a this-is-a-work-of-genius painting. It is quite intriguing, after studying the now well-known colour photos of Monet in his garden nearest the house (e.g. pp. xxiv-xxv of the catalogue) (Fig. 1), to be able to identity what the paintings actually represent. The strength of Impressionism was that it accepted the facts and went from there, so that its underpinning of visual factuality is there if you choose to look. A visit to the waterlily pond at Giverny makes you realise that his Nymphéas paintings are much more realistic than you had thought when you saw them in a gallery (Figs. 3, 14). This helps us to see Monet differently: as the last of the estate topographers, rather than as a wannabee modernist abstractionist.