This autumn, art and design-lovers are spoiled for choice with blockbuster shows and other incredible things to see and do.
Melbourne's best art shows
Last year, the National Gallery of Victoria unveiled the first in its series of annual Architecture Commissions: a huge, sail-like structure made from hand-folded pieces of pink polypropylene. Designed by Melbourne-based John Wardle Architects, the piece was chosen in an open competition, where the winning design would live in the NGV’s Grollo Equiset garden for six months as a hub for talks, workshops and live music performances. The semi-permanent structure was a hit with locals and tourists alike, becoming a popular summer picnic spot (not to mention a favourite on Instagram). The second Architecture Commission has been unveiled, and it’s even more unusual than its forebear. Titled Haven’t you always wanted…?, the work is a surreal take on the suburban car wash by Melbourne-based M@ STUDIO Architects. Why a car wash? Art doesn’t always pay much attention to the urban fringe. In Haven’t you always wanted…? M@ STUDIO Architects draws our attention to a structure that has become a symbol of suburbia – and of all that is ordinary, pedestrian and functional – and shifts our perception. You’ll find it past the NGV’s waterwall, past Lee Mingwei’s Moving Garden and through to the back of the entrance hall. Stepping outside, you find yourself drawn to a 23 metre-long rectangular structure: striking and surreal in pink, white and silver. Five ‘car bays’ are divided by walls made from cricket netting. Each bay is preceded by a stretch of bright pink astroturf. Unlike a real car
First it was a highlight at last year's Dark MOFO in Hobart, then it came to ensnare Sydney Festival-goers in January this year. Finally, Melburnians will have the chance to encounter House of Mirrors as it makes its way to the Bendigo Art Gallery in April. House of Mirrors is a confusing, claustrophobic labyrinth of endless mirrors that made its debut as part of MONA's Dark MOFO in 2016. Made from 40 tonnes of steel and 15 tonnes of mirrored glass, the installation – created by Melbourne artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney – is designed in such a way that visitors can often see others in the maze, but not themselves, and the other way around. Several steps in, it becomes impossible to maintain a sense of direction – and that's when the confusion begins to set in. Here's what Time Out Sydney had to say when they visited House of Mirrors at Sydney Festival: "Navigating this maze of mirrors and optical illusions is especially fun after dark... and the experience is ever more disorienting if you've had a few cocktails beforehand. We were told it's possible to complete the maze in 60 seconds – but where's the fun in that? Our tips are to spend a bit of time playing with the illusions, then to stumble around until you creep yourself or your companions out, before finding your way back out again. In our experience, you haven't truly survived the House of Mirrors until you've jumped out of your skin – spooked by your own reflection." House of Mirrors will be install
The NGV's Friday Nights series is back for another round, and this time they’re pairing a string of gigs to run alongside the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition Van Gogh and the Seasons. Few things go hand-in-hand like music and art, and NGV Friday Nights’ set-up is the best way to take in the latest NGV exhibition while enjoying the best in local and international acts. This season’s line-up kicks off on April 28 with blues singer-songwriter Gemma Ray, with the program also boasting sets by Drones frontman Gareth Liddiard, Youth Group singer Toby Martin, Oregon-based ambient musician Grouper, ‘90s rockers The Fauves, Emma Russack, Ben Salter Band, breakout star from Arnhem Land Gawurra and more. The season will end with a special performance by The Panics on Saturday July 8. NGV Friday Nights includes after-hours entry to the Van Gogh exhibition, local DJs, art talks and access to food and drinks. Click the Dates and Times tab for more details.
You can see the results of degrees in fine arts, sociology and graphic design in the works of Emily Floyd – but even more evident than these, perhaps, is her upbringing in a family whose business was toymaking. Her sculpture installations mix toy-like forms and text to run commentary on contemporary social situations and issues. This new installation comments on the global financial crisis through the lens of Iceland. Individually carved puffins are paired with the names of the businessmen prosecuted by Icelandic government following the collapse of the country's major banks in 2008. "Apparently the policeman who prosecuted them, Ólafur Hauksson, designed his case on a white board. Because I have this interest in design, and because we're so obsessed with Scandinavian design, I was quite interested in this story," says Floyd. "I've been wanting to make this work for a while."
Legendary Memphis photographer William Eggleston has created a whole genre of psychologically ambiguous Americana, much of it centred on apparently mundane bits of his home town. I expected that isolating his portraits from the rest of his work wouldn’t work. How would they fare, without all those existential landscapes and unanswered questions to problematise them? In fact, this show really makes you realise all over again this man’s extraordinary genius and oddness. Two photos in this show, both from the early 1970s, really nail the whole Eggleston thing. The first is a tiny photobooth black-and-white self-portrait. In it, Eggleston seems remote: a fine-boned, bespectacled, Mahleresque face, a foppish college scarf, one of those monied, long-all-over haircuts. The second is a photo of his friend, weirdo Memphis dentist TC Boring. Boring is in the house in which he would later be murdered and incinerated. He is standing naked in a moment of reflection. The bedroom is blood red, with ‘God’ and ‘Tally Ho!’ sprayed on the wall. The colour hums, as though the print itself were struggling to keep Boring alive: it’s terrible, hilarious, disturbing and uncontrived, all at the same time. How did that man take this photo? It’s one thing to imply alienation and dread with a grim motel room or a deserted parking lot. It’s quite another to manage to do so – as Eggleston does here – in a picture of your nephew sitting at home in an armchair. A portrait of the dead blues musician Fred M
Most people feel they know Vincent van Gogh, even if they’ve never stood in front of one of his canvases. Almost anyone shown The Starry Night or any of those very yellow sunflowers will correctly name at least the painter. And they know about the severed ear, plus possibly more biographical details than any other artist. All of which means that Vincent is arguably the most famous painter in history. But do we really even know him? Blockbuster exhibitions aimed at enticing large crowds to pay high ticket prices to see his now-very-expensive and hard-to-borrow paintings don’t necessarily lead to a deeper understanding of poor Vincent and his struggles; they risk degenerating into a macabre cabinet of trophies to a misfit’s torment. The National Gallery of Victoria is hoping that their new show Van Gogh and the Seasons will get more than just a massive vote of sympathy from selfie-seeking fans. Specifically, the NGV want visitors to experience the artist’s “passionate vision of the circle of life within nature: birth, bloom, maturity and death.” With more than 35 paintings on loan to the NGV, the fraught label of “blockbuster” is already being heard, but this certainly isn't a reissue of Vincent’s Greatest Hits. You may not have seen any of them before: there are no portraits of the “mad redhead” himself or anyone else. Over a dozen works on paper are included (Van Gogh was a draftsman as much as a painter) and so are at least 17 works by other lesser-known artists from his c
Yhonnie Scarce only spent a handful of early-childhood years in her birthplace of Woomera, South Australia; but her art has constantly returned to the history of that landscape as a site for nuclear testing and mining. Hollowing Earth reacts to Uranium mining of the earth between Adelaide and Alice Springs, the home of Scarce’s ancestors. Uranium oxide is used as a colouring agent for glass, so the artist has created 50 transparent ‘Uranium glass’ forms, shaped like the Yunala (or ‘bush banana’) that is totemic to her people – but each slightly damaged.
Bill Henson's photography is cinematic and painterly at the same time. The low-lit frames of landscapes and people often feel like they're stills from a scene – part of a greater narrative – while the deployment of chiaroscuro is reminiscent of the 17th century masterworks of Caravaggio. For the NGV's Festival of Photography, Henson is curating an exhibition of 23 works that spans his still lifes of sculpture, his portraits, and his sublime landscapes.
This installation combining art and scientific data was part of the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Paris in 2015. The starting point for EXIT was an idea by French cultural theorist Paul Virilio, who was invited by France's oldest private foundation for contemporary art, the Cartier Foundation, to be part of a 2008 exhibition reflecting on the environmental degradation of the planet. Consequently, Virilio worked with statisticians, scientists, UNESCO, the World Bank and design studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro (behind New York's popular High Line) to create EXIT, which premiered as part of the 2008 exhibition Native Land, Stop Eject. In a video shown within the installation, Virilio explains the inspiration for the project thus: "In 2008, 36 million people were displaced [globally]. The 21st century will be the century of mass migrations: a billion people in the next 50 years is the figure predicted. The whole world situation will be disrupted." EXIT visualises the data of these mass migrations over the last decade or so, as well as exploring specific causes and consequences – such as war, natural disasters and climate change. The installation was updated for the COP21 conference, where it showed at the Palais de Tokyo. The installation is comprised of a 180-degree video installation on which six themed chapters play out, over 45 minutes. You can dip in for a short moment, or stay for the full duration.
This triptych video installation deep dives into the dark history of the 'sea' as a site for human atrocity, animal cruelty and migration. Ghanaian-born artist John Akomfrah has described his practice as a kind of bricolage, because his works combine found footage from various sources with his own staged film creations. In Vertigo Sea, he uses footage shot on the Isle of Skye, the North Atlantic's volcanic Faroe Islands, and coastal Norway. Taking narrative inspiration from Herman Melville’s 19th century novel Moby-Dick and Heathcote Williams’ 1988 poem 'Whale Nation', the film looks at whaling, migration and the slave trade, among other dark maritime moments. Vertigo Sea is showing as part of the ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE festival.