Today’s sightseeing

Went to the National Gallery of Australia today, in the company of a former art guide. The building itself is rather boxy and industrial, but inside are true treasures.
The main floor gallery is pleasantly disorganized, with Pollocks, Hockneys and Kandinskys cheerfully abutting Rubenses, Tiepolos and Cézannes. The upper floor features an astonishing variety of Australian art, most if not all completely unknown to me. There is a wide range of native art, from European-influenced impressionism and cubism to Aboriginal statuary and masks.
My favorite work was a delightfully subversive installation by Fiona Hall. Representations of trees and plants in hammered tin rose out of what appeared to be sardine cans, half unrolled, as if you’d decided to have a snack but thought bettter of it. The bottom half of the cans contained remarkably poetic (by modern art standards anyway) representations of human body parts, of the type usually kept well-covered in public. On closer inspection, you see the resemblance btween each plant and each body part. I may have to go back just for a postcard of that.
Of course, it wouldn’t ber a proper modern museum without a bit of West-bashing. One of the first works in the main gallery is a white canvas on which is printed in bas-relief “The white man is lazy,vain, arrogant and uncreative” (I can’t remember the exact quote, but I’m sure the artist will not only forgive me but appreciate my attempt to reproduce his sentiment.) How ironic that an hour’s tour of the very building where that work sits proves it precisely wrong on all counts.



  1. roy

    Why are you getting so few responses? This is a very good site and yours was a very good review of an interesting museum.
    “Idiotarian” is such a narrow term for a world chock-a-block with idiots.

  2. John Anderson, RI USA

    Was the “artist” Abo or white? And if not white, was the work anything beyond outlining his hand by spitting paint?

  3. slatts

    Aren’t Fiona Hall’s tins just perfick? Did any of Tom Robert’s works leave an impression? What did you think of the outdoor sculpture area? Have a rip-roarer at the Nelson.

  4. Michael Jennings

    If you are still in Canberra, and want to go to the most ghastly politically correct museum you have ever imagined, go to the (very new) National Museum of Australia. If you want to go to an extremely good museum (about Australia’s military history), the Australian War Memorial is superb.