September 30, 2013

George Nelson is one of those ingenious designers who managed to infiltrate, almost surreptitiously, our lives. Especially impressive, when you consider that he was more interested in a career as a journalist and theorist than as an industrial designer. After graduating Harvard School of Architecture he traveled throughout Europe, interviewing the Modernists – Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Co – and the profiles and think pieces he published in Architectural Forum magazine totally shaped the nature of mid-Century American design. The chairman of Herman Miller was so impressed that he offered Nelson the top job of Director of Design, and it was under that manufacturer’s aegis that iconic pieces like the Ball clock (1948), the Marshmallow sofa (1956) and the Coconut chair (also 1956) were produced. Targeting mass market and a new breed of post-War affluent consumer, he imbued his designs with a kind of Jetsons, Space Age allure. Unlike the …

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September 27, 2013

It was quite emotional for me, getting up at the crack of dawn yesterday to watch the America’s cup final with my two boys, Samson and Griffin. As those majestic craft glided toward the finish line, we were jumping up and down on the back of the couch in front of the TV – and I had a flashback to the very same scenario, with my dad, when Australia had an unprecedented win back in 1983. Of course, Australia didn’t win the world’s most prestigious yachting event this year. Not technically, anyway. But under Australian captain James Spithill, it was a crew of Australian, New Zealish and English sailors who navigated the American’s craft to victory. Sure, one of the most noble of sports has become a more cynical game today, with teams brought and sold and millions of dollars being poured into legal battles over technicalities. But for my boys, it’s still a marvelous …

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September 23, 2013

Yesterday, I gave a tour of the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair for a group of MCA Young Ambassadors. As I said as the group assembled in the VIP area, I could speak to some of the works on show with knowledge and confidence. To others, I had a much more intuitive reaction. I think both those approaches are legitimate, in fact important. The Young Ambassadors are between 20 and 40 years old, obviously interested in art – and many are beginning to assemble their own collections. What I try to do is open up layers of meaning in a work, be they aesthetic, historical, political, sociological or questions of technique. My goal is to get those light bulbs popping off over people’s heads. Suffice to say, at the Fair there was much food for thought. Here are three of my favourite things…

Brendan Van Hek at Anna Schwartz. If Bruce Nauman is the …

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September 22, 2013

At the Director and Advisory Board cocktail partly, on site at Carriageworks on Friday night, we were all looking so intently to find things wrong about the Fair – from our own experience, or from what we’d heard from exhibitors and public. Surely, we kept repeating, there has to be something wrong with this Fair? The one thing we came up with was: over-attendance. Instead of the predicted 3,000 visitors, 12,000 people attended the opening night event. So, catering was strained, and it was at times a little difficult to circulate. But, thinking about it, I reckon the complaint was less about the experience of being inside the Fair, as much as the experience of getting to it. Sydney-siders being car-obsessed, traffic jams were aggressive, and parking sometimes seemed an illusion. Even those who wisely chose to come by train found that Redfern station was immensely under equipped for the onslaught. What that all …

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September 21, 2013

Day 1 at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, I chose to wear a pair of reissued high-performance Nike circa 87 – from the days when they were more an athletic- than a fashion-accessory. Just as well: I walked much more than a mile in them! First thing I did was head into Bay 20, where Paul Yore’s censored artwork was still being sequestered behind a dense black curtain and a couple of burly security guards. Even my super-Nikes couldn’t wing me past either of these forces of evil. Chances are this work may never be seen by the public, a very sad state of affairs but one that still couldn’t dampen the general fun of the Fair. Opening night’s impression of a super-slick, high-cred operation wasn’t in the least diminished by the light of day. If anything, it was enhanced by being able to see the almost symbiotic interaction of C19th architecture and very contemporary …

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September 20, 2013

Last night’s grand opening of the inaugural Sydney Contemporary Art Fair was an unmitigated success! The buzz could be felt blocks away, as throngs of smartly-dressed collectors descended upon the massive 19th century building, sexy moths to the flame of art. I’ve been to a lot of art fairs, all around the world, and can safely say that this one was pretty terrific. The fit out of the Carriageworks was top-notch – the white trade-fair style booths broken up by chunks of the original industrial architecture and graphic light installations. All the organisers – ownership, management and advisory – were walking around with big smiles on their faces, as were many of the gallerists. Red dots were popping up all over the place – rare, really on an opening night (most collectors prefer to come back and consider the choice they made in the thrill of an opening night). But not really surprising, given the quality of …

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September 17, 2013

The MCA’s 22nd annual Primavera show opened last week and it’s a fantastic sampling of what’s going on in Australian art right now. A capsule group show of Australia-born artists under-35, the Level 1 North Gallery is a hot box of cool ideas. On the left double-height wall, Thomas Jeppe’s X-ray vision renders the internal structure of the MCA building with graphic black lines tracing the transitional struts from old to new. A colourful, decorative element pays homage to Italian architect, Gae Aulenti. Very excellent. Diagonally opposite, Juz Kitson has populated the corner with her kinky memento mori, nets of goat hair, alpaca and various animal hides strung together and enmeshing porcelain and PVC objects in strange, almost totemic ways. I was particularly struck by the very poignant Better Half (2007-2013) series of photographs by Jackson Eaton: firstly a suite of images, an ode to the artist’s departed lover, the woman he never married; …

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