We went this morning to what we’re told these days is even more popular with Australians than the beach or the footie – the art gallery. Specifically, we went to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for the equivalent of a Grand Final, The Archibald Prize. We bought our concession tickets (I’m a senior, my companion a student) and joined the milling crowd. I liked the winning portrait of Tim Minchin (Penny didn’t). I lay on the floor to get a proper look at the distorted figure in The Alternative Ambassadors (which really ought to have been hung at the top of a staircase, or at least had a comfortable cloth on the floor beside it): ‘It’s a baby,’ I said to those who were too restrained to emulate me, ‘or perhaps a foetus.’ ‘A foetus, definitely,’ said a young woman who was flexible enough to have had a proper look without actually lying down.
In the People’s Choice I voted for Apple Yin’s ‘Previous Life‘, a portrait of a Melbourne personality as a beggar on the Silk Road in a past life. I wondered how Robert Hannaford’s magisterial portrait of Malcolm Fraser would have turned out if give a past life treatment? A Renaissance cardinal, perhaps, or a noble prisoner in the Tower of London?
There were lots of lovely things in the Wynne, including some austere Aboriginal works. I liked the winner, and was glad that among all those huge canvases it was the three smallest works that won the Archibald, the Wynne and the watercolour prizes. The Sulman mostly left me bemused, as it often does. If a work of art is supposed to be something you can look at for a long time and over a long period and still find fresh (and I know that’s a big ‘if’), how come a one-note joke won the Sulman? (You understand I speak as one who knows very little about art, and would generally recommend you listen to the brilliant Imants Tillers, this year’s Sulman judge, rather than me, on such matters, but I really don’t get it.)
We walked the length of the city, chatting happily, arguing with John McDonald in his absence, to Haymarket where we had a most satisfactory yum cha in the vast Marigold, apparently in the company of everyone who wasn’t actually at an art gallery.
Easter, the festival of the changing season, and this year also of putting the clocks back, draws to a close. I hope you’ve had a good one too.