National Gallery of Victoria – International

Here’s a hugely overdue post that makes use of the bullet point’s succinctness!

There are lots of things going on at the NGV International at the moment. I caught three featured exhibitions, and had a brief wander around its permanent collection a couple of weeks ago.

War: The Prints of Otto Dix on until 10.08.2008

  • Wide-eyed and fearful subjects
  • Sketchiness evokes uncertainty and hastiness
  • Resonant of the shock of cultural memory which affects a lot of post-war retrospection, particularly since WWI
  • Man women and vice serve as a metaphor for corruption. This is what the men have to resort to to stay “sane” in this unholy environment.
  • The piece “Soldier raping a nun” – is this a symptom or escapism?
  • Are the soldiers faceless? They are in the shadows, decaying, masked


Body Language: Contemporary Chinese Photography until 18.05.2008

  • Chinese art is not usually my thing, but this has been curated with a clear message that transcends the culture
  • “Shanghai family tree” – words saturate the family’s faces, until they become hidden by/a vessel for their definitions. Their identity is obliterated
  • “Consubstantiality” – effective piece about self-reflexivity

Black in Fashion – Mourning to Night until 31.08.2008

  • Largely English and Japanese designs.
  • Accompanied by a soundtrack with gothic/sexual overtones. From Nick Cave to Wumpscut
  • Black explores the dialectics between futurism and history, the demure and the sexual, humility and temptation
  • Valerie Steele explores the topic further in her book The Black Dress

The permanent collection in this gallery – as with most galleries outside Paris, London, and New York – surprised me. There was a huge amount by artists I respected – Man Ray, Francis Bacon, Magritte, Rothko, Manet, even a No 37 by Reinhardt. I think I underestimate how much work these artists have done, enough to spread their talent further than the “bigwig” art museums of the West. All-in-all a really interesting gallery, with a fantastic cafe to boot.

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