Sunday, May 22, 2011

New contemporary galleries at the AGNSW - 22 May

Opening weekend and I thought I'd brave the crowd with one of my junior art critics in tow for a late Sunday morning stroll. The new galleries are apparently the old storage rooms and occupy the 2nd basement level. You can get there by the stairs, the escalators or even the elevator and by the time we left we had used all three. What were the initial impressions?

Well we arrived via elevator which is not the grandest entrance you can make. I think grand is what they were trying to design for the escalator arrival but I think the art at the staircase is much better. Here you are greeted by Ugo Rondinone's 'clockwork for oracles' which is a collection of framed coloured mirrors and a large Richard Prince cowboy (just so happens this is my favourite Richard Prince and I have it as my computer background, I saw this image auctioned at Phillips in NY back in 2005 when it set the record for most expensive contemporary photography; for a little bit of banking trivia the mirror image of this photo is in Patrick Bateman's apartment in American Pyscho!). I didn't think much of the Christo works. I know he wrapped Little Bay back in the day (before I was even born) but I probably got my fill from him when he did the Gates in Central Park (which I did like). Likewise I was really disappointed with the Jeff Koons stuff on show. I know he does banality but most of his work here (small puppy, mixed rocker, bronze basketball) actually deserved to be in the gift shop rather than the gallery. I have seen much, much better Koons than this. Probably a similar sentiment to the large Thomas Struth photos. The Sol LeWitt works, by contrast, were genuine drawcards. The big room dedicated to his Wall Drawings was very memorable. We were drawn towards the Tony Cragg sculpture which kind of reminded my daughter of a Christmas tree and really liked the Shaun Gladwell video work - approach to mundi mundi, is this on youtube yet? Other works that caught the eye were the Donald Judd sculpture (maybe I liked this as I do need a new set of shelves) and some of the photos of Rosemary Laing (who I recognised from somebody else's collection).

All in all a promising space although the collection, mostly the collection of a single benefactor, is a little mixed - some strong pieces and some ordinary pieces by a mix of household names and others not so well known. I am sure we will be back to check this out again. One other funny thing is that the AGNSW has developed their own character, Pertinos, to lead the kids tours. Mine was absolutely terrified of this crazy green lady and our own tour was designed to avoid any room with them. Maybe next time.

The points today are from my daughter, and I am pretty happy with the allocation so won't even edit - 3 for Richard Prince, great to know that Sydney has a really iconic one of his works. 2 to Tony Cragg's Spyrogyro and 1 for Shaun Gladwell's video - gee we hope he doesn't fall off. Also an honorable mention to the AGNSW gift shop which has helpfully done postcards of the nice stuff.

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