Category: Reviews

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

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

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 that ‘nude males’ as a subject was a genuinely under-examined topic. With seven new curators who had recently joined the…

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

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 quite some time, in fact. Well, that long-anticipated exhibition has finally made it onto the newly and smartly plastered, sky-blue…

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

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 arms out-stretched reminiscent of Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North, rides along double white lines on an outback bitumen road,…

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

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 of pure, bright colour onto white-primed or bare canvases. Impressionist compositions were similarly innovative, drawing on the novel influences of…

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

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. Although officially the cyclists’ lobby seemed to have won, and the passage is now open to traffic, it remains closed…

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

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.

Exhibition Review┃Master of Stillness: Jeffrey Smart, Paintings 1940-2011. Reviewed by Chris van Rompaey

Master of Stillness: Jeffrey Smart, Paintings 1940-2011 Chris van Rompaey Jeffrey Smart’s work has long been notable for its hard-edged representation of urban wastelands in a manner that is at once poetically resonant and uncompromisingly classical. A recent retrospective, originally shown at two Adelaide venues and subsequently, in part, at the TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, will be remembered as a fitting tribute to the career of this major Australian artist. Curated by Barry Pearce, the exhibition was split between the formative work of Smart’s Adelaide years and that of the five plus decades following his move to Sydney. It is the latter period, from 1955 to 2011 and encompassing his time in Sydney, Rome and Tuscany, that formed the focus of the TarraWarra exhibition. The tripartite division of the gallery space lent itself seamlessly to a structure which emphasised…

Review | Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania. Reviewed by Anna Drummond

The Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania’s much-hyped art museum of sex and death, has just turned two. Built to house the personal collection of gambling millionaire David Walsh, MONA was opened to much fanfare and speculation in 2011. Two years on, has the gallery grown into a contrary toddler peddling the smutty and macabre, or a robust and confident youth cementing its place in the Australian cultural landscape?

Exhibition Review | Louise Bourgeois and Australia. Reviewed by Anthony White

There are many reasons to celebrate the work of Louise Bourgeois at this particular time and in this specific place. Her powerfully moving works have cemented her place in the canon of significant twentieth and twenty-first century artists, not least of all in Australia because of the strong affinities between the artist’s work and that of several painters and sculptors working in this country.

Exhibition Review | The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death and Disaster. Reviewed by Katrina Grant

The ‘Four Horsemen’ exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria draws together a rich, varied and evocative selection of images of death: the horseman crushing rich and poor alike beneath the hooves of his skeletal horse; the shadowy figure stalking the young and the beautiful; the horrors of war; the terrors of the final Apocalypse.

Exhibition Review | J.W. Power: Abstraction – Création Paris 1934. Reviewed by Sheridan Palmer

 J.W. Power: Abstraction – Création Paris 1934 Reviewed by Sheridan Palmer J.W. Power: Abstraction – Création Paris 1934, Sydney University Art Gallery, open now until January 26th, 2013. On the fiftieth anniversary of the J. W. Power bequest to the University of Sydney, an exhibition and catalogue produced by the University Art Gallery and Power Institute revives Power the artist, who in Australia has until now been largely eclipsed by his philanthropy. The Power Bequest, at the time close to £2,000,000, was initially announced in 1961 and was intended to support the study of the Fine Arts and in particular the understanding of contemporary art. It came with a remarkable archive including Power’s papers — now held at the National Library of Australia — and some 1170 of Power’s own works of art. These range from his more juvenile Edwardian studies executed…

Exhibition Review | Sydney Long: The Spirit of the Land. Reviewed by Caroline Jordan.

Sydney Long: The Spirit of the Land Reviewed by Caroline Jordan Only at the National Gallery of Australia, 17 August—11 November, 2012, with a catalogue by Anne Gray and Roger Butler. Exhibition is closed but the website and image galleries are still available on the NGA website here. Sydney Long is one of the painters I like to visit when I go to Sydney. The AGNSW holds some of his iconic works: the pale-skinned boys river bathing in By Tranquil Waters (1894) (Fig. 1), the nymphs and satyrs gambolling in the Austral twilight in Pan (1898) (Fig. 2), an Aboriginal maiden playing a pipe to a flock of magpies in The Music Lesson (1904) (Fig. 3), and the swirling decorative panel Fantasy (Fig. 4). Add to this Brisbane’s blithe nymph leading on a flock of brolgas in Spirit of the Plains…

Exhibition Review | Radiance: The Neo-Impressionists. Reviewed by David R. Marshall

Radiance. The Neo-Impressionists Reviewed by David R. Marshall Radiance: The Neo-Impressionists. National Gallery of Victoria, 16 November 2012 – 17 March 2013 Impressionism was killed by theory, the theory that gave the Neo-impressionists their identity. Neo-Impressionist theory picked up on Impressionism’s naturalism and acute observation of outdoor light effects (coloured shadows and so forth) and married them to contemporary colour theory. The result was a pseudo-scientific artistic practice that proved to have interesting artistic possibilities wholly at odds with the theory that underpinned it. The science was the idea of optical mixing of colours and the theory of complementary contrasts. These were set out by in a book published forty years earlier by Michele-Eugène Chevreul, who had been director of the Gobelins tapestry works. Optical mixing derived from the practice of tapestry workers of twisting differently coloured threads together to…

Exhibition Review | The Masters of Chaos / Les Maîtres du Desordre. Reviewed by Victoria Hobday.

The Masters of Chaos / Les Maîtres du Desordre Review by Victoria Hobday The Masters of Chaos / Les Maîtres du Desordre at Quai Branly, Paris, 11 April — 29 July 2012 Europe is engulfed in financial chaos and existential crisis, so this is the perfect time for an exhibition about controlling chaos by appealing to the gods — all of them. Quai Branly opened in 2006 and is the central ethnographic museum in Paris. Apart from an extensive permanent collection it has a temporary exhibition program that is worth exploring when in Paris. The major Spring exhibition this year is Les Maîtres du Desordre (The Masters of Chaos), curated by Jean Loisy, the new director of the revamped Palais de Tokyo. Loisy worked closely with co-curator Sandra Adam-Couralet and anthropologist and curator Bertrand Hell to produce this dense and well-structured exhibition. Loisy…