Swiss-Oz Art Expo and Regional Galleries in Australia

Let us tell you about a lovely exhibition coming up at the Bondi Pavilion on Bondi Beach: Swiss-Oz Art Expo, from 4 to 16 March 2008. The show presents creativity and diversity from the Swiss Australian community, supported by the Consulate General of Switzerland and the Swiss Australian Cultural Association. We were delighted to have been asked to help with the artist selection and hang the works.

Over the holiday break, we were thrilled to visit several regional art galleries, with some most unexpected treasures.

The Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery had a fantastic exhibition on Aspendale – the location of the beach houses of William and Mirka Mora as well as John and Sunday Reed where many of the great painters of the 60s gathered. A beautifully curated and interesting show.

The McLelland Sculpture Park is also a must if you happen to make it to the Mornington Peninsula: wonderful sculptures by Australia’s best sculptors in a great outdoor bushland setting, fabulous. They also put on highly interesting indoors shows – don’t miss it.

Of course, when in Melbourne, we always visit the National Gallery of Victoria. The current exhibition ‘Modern Britain 1900 – 1960’ is on until 24 February 2008, comprising 20th century pictures by British masters scattered around Australia and New Zealand. We couldn’t help but find it rather dull, as we probably expected a lot more. The Stanley Spencer pictures were not his best, however there were a few lovely Augustus John portraits, and some interesting little tidbits on artists we hadn’t heard so¬† much about. Overall, it was a very large show picture-wise, but probably lacking in overall quality. We especially felt that to throw all the war art at the end of the show was unnecessary. War art to us is never that compelling and adding to dullness with depression just made it very heavy. Where was the humour – it didn’t look like British artists had much fun. In fact we can see every reason why – given this show – many artists would have emigrated to Australia…

Anyway, enough of slamming ‘Modern Britain’ – if you missed the Sidney Nolan retrospective in Sydney, it’s on in Melbourne from 22 February 2008 for a couple of months and comes highly recommended (even though he of course went on to live in England…)

Another must when you next visit Melbourne is the Heide Museum of Contemporary Art, it’s more than worth it, as it gives you a real sense of the relationships between ardent art supporters John and Sunday Reed and their artist friends, visiting, working and living at Heide. To name just a few: Sidney Nolan, Joy Hester, Albert Tucker, Danila Vassilieff, Sam Atyeo, Charles Blackman, John Perceval. Apart from the art, the architecture and the gardens are extra added highlights (and a great little cafe serving delicious food…)

Other exciting art that we happened upon included the Ballarat Regional Art Gallery, where you can not only see the Eureka flag, but some fabulous early colonial and great 19th century Australian works. Thankfully this was continued on by James Mollison and Ron Radford in building a great 20th century collection. We are not sure if there is any regional gallery in Australia to rival their holdings – let us know…

One thing which is difficult to understand is why Ballarat doesn’t currently have a curator for their collection or future exhibitions. Surely a gallery of this standing needs at least one curator – up the road, Bendigo Art Gallery’s website lists them as having three. Some very impressive works also at Bendigo and also in the contemporary side.

Benalla Regional Art Gallery also needs to be recommended: There has obviously been some vision and foresight and exceptional donating been going on here. Outstanding early works by Eugene von Guerard, Louis Buvelot, W.C. Piguenit complement later works by Arthur Streeton, Clara Southern, Frederick McCubbin and John Peter Russell to name a few. And it doesn’t stop there; gaps are filled throughout the 20th century with works by Tucker, Boyd, Perceval, Blackman, Cossington-Smith, Clarice Beckett, Peter Purves Smith, Dobell and John Brack. Contemporaries such as Brook Andrew, Brett Whiteley and Tim Storrier also feature strongly with significant works.

In other news, we are very happy that the artist Robert Mitchell, on whom we built a website last year, is to be included in an exhibition with the working title ‘Special Forces’ at the National Art School in July in Sydney. More on that later.

Written by

David Hulme

David Hulme is an approved valuer for the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts program and a member of the Art Consulting Association of Australia. David Hulme is also managing director at Banziger Hulme Fine Art Consultants, which is a highly respected art consultancy in Australia and has been in operation for over ten years. David also regularly comments on the Australian and international art market on national radio and in numerous local and national newspapers.

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