Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Opening of the "new" MCA - 28 March

So the new MCA is ready to open, although not that you can tell from the outside. I don't really like the boxy exterior. But then I guess I am little disappointed they didn't run with my idea for a Big Lamington. Tonight was the big opening party and yours truly was there to scuff the polished concrete floors for the first time ....
First impressions are that it is a pretty good space. The layout seems a little clumsy in places but it is obviously bigger and better than what they had before, although it's no MONA. Opening night was a bit of a hoot, quite a few punters all glammed up and even a few contemporary artists milling about (Danie Mellor, Richard Bell, Shaun Gladwell and Nell). The art on show includes selections from their permanent collection (some standouts here include the Daniel Boyd pirate, a Gordon Bennett work Dismay, Displace etc, and a big Richard Bell piece) and a show called Marking Time (which didn't really grab me although I did like Katie Paterson's light bulbs). The big highlight is a movie called the Clock by Christian Marclay (who is himself represented in the Big Lamington collection courtesy of the 1996 Peter Norton edition). I've been aware of this work for a while (good NY Times article here) and it was apparently the star of the show at the last Venice Biennale (Christian won the Gold Lion for Best Artist work there). The movie itself works as a real clock. Each minute in the 24 hour movie features a film clip that has a clock or watch in it somewhere with the actual time in it, for example if you are sitting in the MCA at 6.50pm you will see a clip from a movie where it is 6.50pm. It is quite addictive, in a pop culture 'recognize that movie' way. I sat through about 30 minutes and picked a number of references, favourites being a couple of James Bond clips (2 x On Her Majesty's Secret Service), Hitchcock's Notorious, Cocktail and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (all these are between 6.50pm and 7.30pm).

Points - 3 to Christian Marclay for the Clock. Really addictive, having seen 30 minutes so far I will need to come back for more - apparently all the James Bond's are in there somewhere. 2 points to Esme Timbury for the shell slippers from the permanent collection, they look great en masse (and if I am not mistaken you can get yourself a pair from the gift shop at the SH Ervin gallery) and 1 point to Gordon Bennett. There is also a kids space in the new MCA and my junior art critics will be around soon to check it out sooner rather than later.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Laith McGregor at Sullivan + Strumpf - 15 March

It is Art Month so that means some sponsored art bars. That means a lot of friends actually volunteering to come out to the galleries with me. I toured out to Zetland this evening with a couple of the usual suspects to check out the Laith McGregor show "Unpronounceable" (sorry, "Ohne Titel", which I gather is foreign for "untitled") ...

I usually associate being at a gallery at night with an opening. However, this show was in its last few days and everything had sold. A good result for the gallery but probably a wasted merchandising opportunity, especially seeing Laith's prices are still quite affordable for the younger collector. I really prefer Laith's drawings to his paintings so spent a bit of time upstairs where the star of the show was this ping pong table that had a very large scale drawing attached. Apparently it was a years worth of doodling. It still had the service lines mostly showing although it would've been a tough call in some spots. At $26k it is expensive for a ping pong table but probably cheap for the size of the art work. I did hear that it doesn't play too well as the glass isn't fully attached (maybe the next generation table will have improved playability). I quite liked This is the End but really missed the biro beards from his last show. Of the paintings I think Drunken Boat was the pick here, he does do smoke quite well and at last, some beards! All in all a good show and a great night.

Points - 3 for the Ping Pong table. 2 for the Drunken Boat and 1 for the Golden Pide. That last one isn't a work but a former local of mine in Surry Hills. Pascale swung the Alfa round here for a cheeky kebab on the way home to soak up all that free beer courtesy of Audi (and no that is not a paid reference, we haven't sold out ... yet)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hobart Gallery crawl - 7 March

With a couple of more days in Hobart and my MONA itch well and truly scratched I decided to do a little recce on the gallery scene in Hobart. With about 90 minutes of personal time with the family napping / resting / watching playschool back at the hotel I had better get cracking ...

First up was Betts Gallery. Chosen as it was the only place I had heard of before hitting town. They were just photographing the Tricky Walsh show Science Fictions when I arrived. This is on until 31 March and is a pretty interesting collection of works which follows some imagined crystal powered engines. There are some smaller works on paper, balsa models and some other random sculptures as well as some very trippy and colourful skateboard deck sized gouache works on paper. I liked all the cross references between the works. I especially like that the gallery puts the prices on the website as the room sheet wasn't ready at the time and I was in a hurry.

Next on the list was 146 Artspace. This is the non profit gallery run by the Tasmanian government's art body. Their current show is We were never modern by Megan Perkins. Megan's show is inspired by Tasmania's natural heritage. It is all very victorian scientific display with old drawers full of curios and feather installations. I quite liked it. This space also runs a neat little artbikes rental scheme. If the weather was a bit nicer and if I actually enjoyed riding a bike around an unfamiliar city when I had a perfectly good rental car I may have taken up their offer. However, their map was just the ticket and the helpful attendant even assisted my itinerary by selecting the one gallery I should see if I only had room for one more.

So off I went to Inflight Gallery. This is an artist run initiative which meant it was the grungiest of the three spaces I visited. Their show, Swing Lo! by Matthew Greaves is also the most out there. The room contains 3 things. A plain brown flag, a bike with a bit of wheel missing, and a continuous loop video of a dude reading a book which the website describes as a "wry ideological hodgepodge". They go further, explaining that "the exhibition examines doctrinairism and intellectual risk through artworks with a deadpan, store bought cool". Wow. I hadn't read this before going so probably didn't fully grasp the artistic intention. The guy on duty did tell me that the brown flag had some anarchist symbolism. Personally I was just excited to see an artist working with some flags. I want to commission my own flag and Matthew just made the shortlist.

Points. 3 for the flag. It was simple and I loved it. 2 for Tricky's show. Hard to pick a favourite but I could see myself getting one of the gouache works, especially as the Tassie government is willing to give every Australian resident a one year interest free loan to buy Tassie art (seriously, a great deal. See here for more on their collect scheme). 1 point to Megan. Loved the feathers and the trays. Overall an interesting cross section of the Hobart gallery scene. I would like to come back.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The pilgrimage to MONA - 5 March

I think if you are reading an Australian art blog then MONA will need no introduction. Gambling millionaire David Walsh's 'secular temple' demands a big journey from the art faithful living on the mainland so the whole team at Big Lamington made the pilgrimage to Tasmania to pay our respects.

Highlights were everywhere, the following is a haphazard selection of mine. If I was a little more diligent with my "O" device I think I could have saved myself some typing and just posted the link to what I saw ...
First up was the Fat Car by Erwin Wurm. My son loved it and we very nearly had our first touching infringement of the day! Next was Daniel Cunningham's funeral song jukebox. It is an interesting work where he got a ton of art world types to list the song they wanted at their funeral. I thought a few participants were taking the piss a little bit (because if Iain Dawson really wants Tina Arena played at his funeral then I need to have a word) but mostly I really appreciated a good listing of contemporary Australian artists. We also got to see Nell's 'Let there be Robe' room (which they started taking down in the afternoon, a little early in my mind). I quite liked Damien Hirst's spin painting, and especially Walsh's thoughts on it courtesy of the gonzo section on the O device. The junior critics appreciated the word waterfall (aka bitfall) a little more than I did, I grant that it is a good spectacle. Then it was feeding time, not for us but for the cloaca's! The kids loved watching the Cloaca Professional eat his lunch and sure enough like clockwork we were back at the appointed time to see it do the business. In fact we enjoyed the first one so much we raced down to see another of the machines do its business as well. While down in the Delvoye area we were also impressed by some of his other work, primarily the delft shovels and his anal kisses (pictured above) which I thought were hilarious.

On the whole I absolutely loved it. Amazing venue, great building, interesting art and an inspiring backstory. This is the 'golden rule' put into practice (the golden rule is one of my favourite sayings: he who has the gold makes the rules). David Walsh himself has called it an adult disneyland and there are subtle and not so subtle references to the house of mouse everywhere. The branding is slick and omnipresent, the merchandise tie-in is pretty good (Moo Brew beers and Moorilla wines etc), you can stay on site in their own cabins and they even have their own transport (in MONA's case catamaran ferries as opposed to Monorails but it is a long trip from Hobart's CBD although I note their mayor would like our old one)). An interstate visitor won't get much change out of $100 once you factor in lunch and a trip to the shop. But I don't begrudge any of this. David needs this little business to pay for itself so he can keep buying stuff to fill it and I was happy to make my contribution. I only had two minor complaints. First was that it could've been a bit more kid friendly (and I don't mean changing any of the exhibits, just some kid friendly meals in the cafe and maybe an art playroom). There are plenty of art lovers of breeding age out there and the art itself is fine for infant consumption in my humble opinion (and there are even journo's on my side). Second was the postcard selection. MONA's enlightened photo policy receives good press but when you say in your visitor guide "Still photography is allowed. No flashes or tripods please. No videos or photographs may be reproduced, distributed, sold or displayed on personal websites without our permission. Buy a postcard." then you'd better have a pretty darn good postcard selection. Now I more than most like to buy postcards of the art I liked from museum visits and the selection here was pretty thin. They even had some postcards from a Wim show in Beijing of art I didn't even see at MONA. Anyhoo, as I said, very minor complaints really. On to the points ...

Points - 3 to David Walsh. The whole experience is very impressive, definitely adds up to more than the sum of its parts. I will be back. 2 to Wim Delvoye, the star of the current show. My kids loved the cloacas and I really liked the shovels and funnily enough bought quite a few of the kiss postcards to send to mates! 1 point to Fiona Hall for the banknotes with leaves (aka 'Further Shore'). Not very sex and death at all but quite a nice piece and one I would happily have on my wall.