Thursday, 8 December 2022

 Clothes women wanted to wear: a new exhibition explores how Carla Zampatti saw her designs as a tracker of feminism

Carla Zampatti middriff top and pants, 1971. Photograph: Warwick Lawson
Peter McNeil, University of Technology Sydney

The late Carla Zampatti is celebrated in a splendid retrospective Zampatti Powerhouse at the Powerhouse Museum. Planned well before the fashion designer’s untimely death last year, the unveiling of her legacy will be bittersweet to her many fans.

Zampatti is often referred to as “Carla” by friends and those who worked for her, rather than her brand name, Carla Zampatti. Here, the simple name “Zampatti” removes the emphasis from Zampatti as designer to a simpler assertion: businesswoman, mother, philanthropist-entrepreneur.

It is a move as deft and elegant as the rest of the exhibition choices.

In one of the best-looking fashion exhibition designs Australia has seen, creative director Tony Assness serves up a dynamic vision of clothes punctuated by a vibrant red (one of Zampatti’s favourite design choices) that encourages excitement and discovery. Clothes are arranged by themes – jumpsuit, jungle, graphic, blouson, power – rather than date.

Curator Roger Leong leverages his years of experience to do a relatively new thing for Australian museums: tell the stories of clothes through the stories of women who wore them.

‘Animal’ group with close-up of beaded ‘Carla’ cape, 2016 . Zampatti Powerhouse exhibition. Photograph by Zan Wimberley.

A migrant story

Zampatti’s story is an Australian migrant story. Born Maria Zampatti in Italy in 1938 (not 1942, as is often believed), she did not meet her father, who had migrated to Fremantle, until she was 11.

In Australia, she was forced to change her name to Mary. It was claimed the other kids could not pronounce Maria. She did not finish school. When she moved to Sydney in her late 20s, she reinvented herself as Carla.

The fashion business started on a kitchen table in 1965 under the label ZamPAtti. By 1970, Carla had bought out her business partner husband, and was sole owner of Carla Zampatti Pty Ltd.

Zampatti flourished in fashion. She had a finger on the pulse, was in the right place at the right time, and knew a more glamorous role was possible for a fashion designer than the industry “rag trader”.

Zampatti Powerhouse exhibition. Photograph by Zan Wimberley.

In the 1970s, the markets suggested that the ultra-expensive haute couture was about to disappear, to be replaced by informal ranges created by a new type of designer often called a “stylist”. It was the decade of flower power, retro dressing and ethnic borrowings.

Until the 1960s, fashion had been dominated by the rise of haute couture and the “dictator-designer” system – mainly men who determined hem lengths and silhouettes for women. But in 1973, the French body governing high fashion added a new layer of designers, créateurs (literally “creators” or designers), who produced only ready-to-wear.

In 1972 Zampatti opened her first Sydney boutique, inspired by informal shops she had seen in St Tropez. Zampatti offered women bright jumpsuits, art deco looks and peasant-inspired ease.

Model promoting the Carla Zampatti Ford Laser and Ford Meteor, 1987. Photo courtesy of the Carla Zampatti archives

She aimed to provide women clothes they wanted to wear. She draped the cloth and colours on herself. Like many women designers historically, she was alert to how her clothes made women customers look and feel. Zampatti remained the fit model for the whole range and would not produce anything in which she did not look and feel well.

Zampatti saw her “clothes as a tracker of feminism”.

The 1980s cemented Zampatti’s rise to prominence. She became a household name, even designing a car for women. In this time, personal expression became more important than unified looks dictated by designers. Zampatti’s Australian designing coincided with a new development in Italy: the stylisti. Small, focused family businesses alert to the zeitgeist and understanding quality flourished. It was an approach that emphasised quality and glamour.

Zampatti identified talent. She employed well-known couturier Beril Jents on the shop floor after she had fallen on hard times. She then employed Jents to improve the cut of her designs.

Zampatti continued to embrace the services of stylists and other designers including Romance was Born, whom she recognised could take her work to the next level.

Carla Zampatti preparing models for Spring - Summer 2010 show. Photo courtesy of Prudence Upton

The stories of clothes

Worn equally by politicians and their circles on the right and the left, Zampatti injected more than power dressing into women’s wardrobes. She inspired a sense that women wore the clothes, not the clothes them.

In this exhibition we are given many examples, from Linda Burney’s red pantsuit worn for her parliamentary portrait to a gown worn by Jennifer Morrison to the White House.

Zampatti Powerhouse exhibition. Photograph by Zan Wimberley.

The exhibition viewer can turn from serried ranks of brilliantly styled mannequins and enter large “listening pods”, screening brilliantly edited videos in the manner of artist Bill Viola. The women, who include Dame Quentin Bryce and Ita Buttrose, discuss the creative mind of Zampatti or reflect on their own Zampatti wardrobe. They are amongst the best such “talking heads” I have seen in a museum.

Like many designers, Zampatti was not that interested in her own past. She did not keep substantial archives and records, which is a testament to the skills demonstrated by the museum in bringing us this show.

Zampatti never turned her back on her personal story, but she was a futurist, one who looked forward rather than backward.

Zampatti Powerhouse is at the Powerhouse Ultimo, Sydney, Australia until June 11 2023.The Conversation

Peter McNeil, Distinguished Professor of Design History, UTS, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished with permission from The Conversation.

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Thursday, 1 December 2022

Exploring the Man Behind the Myth: Fashion Designer Alexander McQueen

Stella Tennant wore Alexander McQueen's dramatic design for the first look of his It's a Jungle Out There collection, Autumn-Winter 1997-98. Face veil by Sarah Harmarnee. Photograph: Robert Fairer 

Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria has a major new exhibition, Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse, opening next week. This is the first Australian show to explore the work of the avant-garde British fashion designer. His creations from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the NGV Collection are juxtaposed with artworks showing his inspirations and influences, reports Antonio Visconti 

McQueen in happier days, backstage
at his Pantheon as Lecum collection, 
Autumn-Winter 2004-05. 
Photograph: Robert Fairer
Alexander McQueen was one of the most avant-garde fashion designers of the late twentieth century, celebrated for his conceptual and technical virtuosity. 

Both shocking and critically acclaimed, his work mixed superlative tailoring with his startling explorations of art and culture. His brilliant career was cut tragically short by his suicide in 2010 when he was 40 years old. 

The new exhibition, organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) with the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), is unique to Australia. It includes 60 garments and accessories drawn from LACMA, plus 50 designs by McQueen from the NGV Collection.

The show aims to provide deeper insights into how McQueen worked by looking at 70 historical artworks including painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts and works on paper and how these references influenced his designs. 

"Juxtaposing Alexander McQueen’s designs with artworks in a wide range of media opens up a new perspective on his process and artistic legacy. We are thrilled to share this groundbreaking exhibition with Australian audiences," said Michael Govan, director and chief executive officer of LACMA.

Both shocking and critically acclaimed, McQueen's collections mixed marvelous tailoring with his explorations of ideas and art

The evocative Widows of Culloden 
collection Autumn-Winter 2006-07.
Photograph: Robert Fairer
Models: Hana Soukupova, 
Daria Werbowy, Gemma Ward
& Raquel Zimmerman
The artworks alongside McQueen's designs evoke his creativity and the way he tells stories with each collection. The show features examples of the designer’s earliest and most acclaimed collections, including the controversial Highland Rape, Autumn-Winter 1995–96 and the poetic The Widows of Culloden, Autumn-Winter 2006–07. 

Both take inspiration from McQueen’s Scottish ancestry. Other highlights from the show, include Deliverance Spring-Summer 2004 as well as his final complete collection, Plato’s Atlantis Spring-Summer 2010. 

"Alexander McQueen is beloved for his boundary-pushing and highly conceptual designs that set him apart from his contemporaries," explains Tony Ellwood, director of the NGV. 

"With meticulous craftmanship and an intellectual rigour seldom seen on the runways before or since, he created a new vocabulary for fashion design that still resonates today."

The exhibition also features commissioned headpieces by Los Angeles-based artist and designer Michael Schmidt, as well as garments originally owned by McQueen’s muses Isabella Blow and Annabelle Neilson. 

Planned around four themes, the exhibition shows McQueen’s work across different phases of his career. The three collections inspired by mythological and religious belief systems, are grouped together and illustrate his visual references taken from a plethora of cultures and art movements. Another section looks at collections with dramatic narratives that reimagine past historical events.

The artworks alongside McQueen's designs evoke his creativity and the way he tells stories with each collection

McQueen's brutalist Horn of Plenty
collection,Autumn-Winter 2009-10.
Photograph: Robert Fairer
Model; Kamila Filpcikova
Several explore his own family history, such as Salem, 1692, Autumn-Winter 2007–08, which describe McQueen’s antecedents in colonial Massachusetts including a woman who was one of the first to be executed in the Salem witch trials. 

The Widows of Culloden, Autumn-Winter 2006–07, was an interpretation of the designer's Scottish heritage and the brutality of the British in Scotland during the 1746 Battle of Culloden.

Closer to his own home, an ancient elm in the garden of McQueen’s Sussex home, inspired a story written by his friend and muse Annabelle Neilson. 

This led to his combining British and Indian history with punk references for the whimsical The Girl Who Lived in the Tree collection, Autumn-Winter 2008.

McQueen was fascinated by both the fragility of existence along with the possibility of regeneration.  The Horn of Plenty collection, Autumn-Winter 2009–10, was a critique of mass consumerism, which McQueen emphasized by recycling his own archive and famous silhouettes from fashion history. 

The Dance of the Twisted Bull, Spring-Summer 2002, portrayed bullfighting as a metaphor for brutality and beauty, while Deliverance, Spring-Summer 2004, presented an allegorical “dance to the death” inspired by the film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? McQueen's last complete collection, called Plato’s Atlantis, Spring-Summer 2010, imagined a world consumed by the ocean.

McQueen was fascinated by both the fragility of existence along with the possibility of regeneration

An exquisitely cut and embroidered
creation from McQueen's Girl who 
lived in a Tree collection,
Autumn-Winter 2008-09
Photograph: Robert Fairer
Model: Danielle Hamm
The savagery and sense of power he managed to create in his works, expressed even in McQueen's earliest designs, include the show's garments from the NGV collection: Banshee, Autumn-Winter 1994, Highland Rape, Autumn-Winter 1995–1996, and The Hunger, Spring-Summer 1996. 

One of the most interesting aspects of the show is the examination of McQueen's innovative and technical mastery in tailoring. 

He was very skilled at constructing his designs and experimented with new fabrics and technologies, such as laser-cutting and digital printing. 

By contrasting works from different periods of McQueen's career, the exhibition highlights his formative years as an apprentice Savile Row tailor and his later metamorphosis into a sophisticated fashion designer capable of expressing complex ideas through his peerlessly fluid drapery.

 Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse runs from 11 December 2022 – 16 April 2023 at NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne.


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Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Adele Wears Custom Schiaparelli for her First Performance at Las Vegas' Famed Colosseum

Adele at her debut show at the Colosseum in Las Vegas, wearing a specially designed Schiaparelli gown.
BRITISH SINGER ADELE performed for the first time in Las Vegas this week at Caesar's Palace Colosseum to rapturous audiences. Her soaring vocals and the show's startling special effects drew gasps from the 4,000 strong crowd. 

The shows, called Weekends with Adele, launched her residency at the famed locale which hosted Celine Dion's long reign. Adele's residency will run for five months until March next year and will include a New Year's Eve performance. 

For the opening shows, she wore a soigné haute couture Schiaparelli gown, designed by the Paris-based fashion maison's artistic director, Daniel Roseberry. The black silk velvet, column-shaped creation with an elegant bateau neckline was enhanced with a drop-waist satin sash, fastened with a gold, jewelled buckle glistening with pavé crystals. 

Adele's signature glamourous look will be highlighted by wearing black gowns for each weekend she performs, but with different details and hues. Some twenty looks were specially created for her by a range of designers from Loewe and Louis Vuitton to Nina Ricci and Paco Rabanne. ~ Jeanne-Marie Cilento

Schiaparelli's artistic director, Daniel Roseberry, drew a first conceptual sketch for Adele's gown. 

The designer's final drawing shows the crystal and gold belt buckle and the long sweep of black silk velvet.


Adele said she felt very nervous doing the shows, but she had the audience enraptured during her two performances. 

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Tuesday, 15 November 2022

More than a story of treasures: revisiting Tutankhamun’s tomb 100 years after its discovery

Howard Carter, Ahmed Gerigar and King Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus, opened three years after the tomb was discovered, in 1925. 
Anna M. Kotarba-Morley, Flinders University

On November 4 1922, a young Egyptian “water boy” on an archaeological dig is said to have accidentally stumbled on a stone that turned out to be the top of a flight of steps cut into the limestone bedrock.

The stairs led to one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries in history and the only almost intact funerary assemblage of a pharaoh – the Tutankhamun’s tomb.

A century after this discovery, it’s worth revisiting the story of Tutankhamun’s tomb and how it eventually became a symbol for Egyptian nationalism.

The ‘child king’

Tutankhamun is often referred to as a “child king” and the “most famous and least important” of the pharaohs; he was almost unknown to history before the tomb’s discovery.

The son of one of the most controversial pharaohs in history – the champion of monotheism, Akhenaten – Tutankhamun ascended the throne around age six or so. After a rather uneventful reign of restoring temples and bringing Egypt out from a period of political and religious turmoil, he died sometime between the age of 17 and 19.

The discovery of his tomb full of magnificent and unique objects is more than a story of treasures. This is also a tale of the “roaring 20s” in the Middle Eastern version: a story of a quintessential embrace of class, privilege and colonialism juxtaposed against struggle for political freedom and building of new national identity.

Archaeology 100 years ago was very different.

None of the three male protagonists behind the discovery – Howard Carter (the lead British excavator), Lord Carnarvon (the man behind the money), and Ahmed Gerigar (the Egyptian foreman) – were formally trained as archaeologists.

Despite this, Carter is now almost always referred to as an archaeologist, but Gerigar almost never is – further entrenching colonial narratives.

But Carter’s three-decade-long excavation experience, draughtsman’s talent and his meticulousness, allied with the photographic aptitude of Harry Burton of Metropolitan Museum and the skills of the Egyptian excavators assured Tutenkhamun’s tomb – the only discovery of its type and arguably one of the most important archaeological finds ever – was recorded in a systematic and “modern” way.

Howard Carter examines Tutankhamun’s tomb. 

The painter who became an archaeologist

Howard Carter was a young painter who fell in love with Egyptian antiquities while following his father, also a painter, into the houses of London’s elite to add drawings of pets to his father’s portraits.

In 1891, age 17, Carter was recommended as an illustrator to archaeologist Percy Newberry, and joined him at a dig in Egypt at Beni Hassan tombs. From this first trip to his death in 1939, Carter spent his life mostly in Egypt with short trips back to London to deal in antiquities, including those allegedly stolen from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

After Beni Hassan, Carter became an illustrator for one of the fathers of Egyptology, William Flinders Petrie in Tell el-Amarna, the capital of Tut’s father Akhenaten.

Carter then worked in Deir el-Bahari, the funerary temple of queen pharaoh Hatshepsut, located right on the other side of the limestone ravine known as the Valley of the Kings.

It is here, on the western bank of the Nile I also trace some of my humble early experiences in Egyptology.

Walking at dawn from our base at the Metropolitan Museum house in Deir, which Carter frequented, to the temple, I followed in his footsteps and mused on how lucky he was when the “water boy” stumbled upon a staircase to the tomb.

Lord Carnavon and Howard Carter at the entrance to the tomb in 1922. 

That year, 1922, was supposed to be the last season after seven fruitless years of digging in the Valley in search of Tutankhamun’s elusive resting place.

After clearing the staircase, Carter found the doorway sealed with cartouches – the hieroglyphs which enclose a royal name. He ordered the staircase to be refilled, and sent a telegram to Carnarvon, who arrived from England two-and-a-half weeks later.

On November 26 Carter made a “tiny breach in the top left-hand corner” of the doorway.

Carnarvon asked, “Can you see anything?” and Carter replied with his famous line: “Yes, wonderful things!”

Opening the burial shrine in 1924, photographed by Howard Carter.

Across 3,000 years, about 300 pharaohs ruled ancient Egypt. All royal tombs had been broken into by thieves.

The spectacular find of Tut’s tomb was also not a fully intact discovery. The tomb had been looted twice in antiquity, and Carter estimated that a considerable amount of jewellery was stolen. But it is the only surviving almost complete funerary assemblage.

Consisting of over 5,000 objects, only 30% have been studied so far.

A story of its time

Following Egyptian independence on February 28 1922 and the establishment of an independent Kingdom of Egypt, the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb became an optimistic symbol for Egyptian nationalists.

After the initial documentation, the official opening of the tomb in early 1924 coincided with the inauguration of Egypt’s first elected parliament.

Despite the new independence, colonial attitudes continued. Lord Carnarvon sold the rights to the story of the discovery of Tut’s tomb to the London Times for a significant sum.

Arthur Mace and Alfred Lucas working on the conservation of a chariot from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Given the delay of a couple of weeks with sending photos on the ship from Cairo to London, Egyptian newspapers and readers were only able to follow the unfolding discovery from reading delayed British press. This caused a lot of resentment among the newly independent Egyptians, especially the middle classes.

Nevertheless, the discovery was very significant for nation building and new national post-colonial identity.

Taha Hussein, a notable Egyptian philosopher of the time, coined a notion of “pharaonism”. This unified national identity was supposed to transcend religious and ethnic differences between Arab, Muslim, Coptic and Jewish Egyptians.

It remains a tool of propaganda to this day – notably with a parade of 22 mummies moving to a new national museum and a lavish re-opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum soon, where much of the treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb can be found today.The Conversation

Anna M. Kotarba-Morley, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Flinders University


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Monday, 31 October 2022

 The rise and rise of Harry Styles: how did the former boyband member become the biggest name in pop?

Lillie Eiger/ Sony
Liz Giuffre, University of Technology Sydney

You’ve probably heard the name Harry Styles. He is the current “real big thing” in popular music.

But how did a former boy band star become such a huge musician and award-winning artist in his own right – and does he deserve all the breathless praise?

The hype began in 2010 as a member of mega group One Direction. Paul McCartney gave them his blessing as they clearly tapped into The Beatles legacy.

On a break since 2016, One Direction is still breaking records online. Their 2015 music video Drag Me Down recently passed one billion views on YouTube – seven years after its release.

Since going solo, Styles has wowed audiences as a fashion icon and performer, releasing his third solo album, Harry’s House, this week.

Styles’ latest single, As It Was, is already a world record holder for daily streams across multiple platforms, debuting in its first week with 43.8 million plays.

As a solo artist, he has won a swag of international awards, including Grammys, Brits and ARIAs.

His 2019 album, Fine Line, debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and is the most recent album to make it to Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

While Styles has groups of young female fans who have followed him since One Direction, his current fan base is much broader, brought together by the community and mood built through his music.

Substance as well as style

Styles’, um, style has been likened to iconic musician David Bowie in terms of gender and genre fluidity. NPR describes him as “dressed in the finery of rock’s legacies”. GQ called him “one of the best dressed men in the world” with “elegance and bold choices”.

Harry Styles at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards, winning the award for best pop solo performance for his song Watermelon Sugar. Chris Pizzello/ AP

In 1970, Bowie appeared on the cover of his album The Man Who Sold the World in a “man dress”. In 2020, Styles wore a tailor-made lace Gucci gown on the cover of Vogue.

The nature of his public profile means there has been intense scrutiny about his personal life. Styles has been repeatedly asked about his sexual orientation. His response has been to call these questions “outdated”.

In responding in this way he provides strong leadership for the young mainstream. He is essentially saying no one should need to justify or explain who they love.

Popular music becomes really powerful when artistic statements lead to action. Styles does this most overtly in the song Treat People With Kindness, which he performs draped in pride flags. This is a clear act that tells LGBTQA+ fans they are welcome.

Of course, Styles is privileged in terms of money, race and gender – and this means he can make art and take risks with less to lose than others.

As Billy Porter reminds us, queer people of colour have been challenging expectations about representation for decades, often as a matter of necessity rather than mere choice.

The personal and communal in action

In addition to fine songwriting, which he does with some regular collaborators, Styles also draws from a diverse pool of influences.

Iconic artist Stevie Nicks referred to him as “the son I never had”. In return, Styles said Nicks’ songs “made you ache, feel on top of the world, make you want to dance, and usually all three at the same time”.

At Coachella in April 2022, he invited Shania Twain to perform with him. Introducing her, he said: “in the car with my mother as a child, this lady taught me to sing”.

The next week he invited Lizzo on stage, and together they performed I Will Survive, a tribute to their shared love of 1970s music.

Collaboration with other artists – particularly artists from different perspectives – shows Styles is open to exploring different territory.

Popular music doesn’t have one “sound” over time - it changes with fashion, technology and culture. Staying relevant means being able to embrace different ways of doing things.

Harry’s House

The cover of Harry Styles new Harry's House
His new album, Harry’s House, shows another evolution in Styles’ musical career.

It builds on his pop music background and travels around between 70s style folk storytelling and various eras of great dance music. Lyrically, it moves from cryptic – “I bring the pop, you bring the cinema” – to explicit – “if you’re getting yourself wet for me, I guess you’re all mine”, mostly drawing praise from music critics.

Popular music matters because it brings people together. Harry Styles, and popular music like his, does this on a mass scale. Whether the Style (sorry) is your taste or not, his value is not only demonstrated in the millions of sales, but in the power of the connections he builds between his fans.The Conversation

Liz Giuffre is a Senior Lecturer in Communication at the University of Technology Sydney

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Monday, 24 October 2022

‘Like walking into a crystal’: our first preview of the Art Gallery of NSW’s new Sydney Modern

Aerial photograph of the Sydney Modern Project construction site, taken on September 7 2022. Photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Craig Willoughby
Joanna Mendelssohn, The University of Melbourne

In 1972, when the Art Gallery of New South Wales opened its first modern building, it was rightly praised for its innovative design.

Architect Andrew Andersons incorporated the latest aspects of museum architecture. The egg crate ceilings were designed to reduce noise for people walking on its marble floors. There were moveable screens that looked like walls and adjustable light levels for fragile art.

But where the building faced Sydney Harbour, Andersons placed a giant window. The intrusion of reality into art connected visitors to the world outside.

It was revolutionary for the time, a marked contrast to the giant granite box of the National Gallery of Victoria, opening in 1968. The Melbourne building had followed the standard model of museum design of eliminating windows to maximise hanging space.

Just over 50 years later, the Sydney Modern expansion under architecture firm SANAA could be described as putting Andersons’ approach on steroids. It will open in December but in recent weeks small groups of visitors have been given preview tours, while installation crews make the finishing touches.

A gallery for Indigenous art

The relationship of Sydney Modern to the older building echoes Andersons’ uncompromising but sympathetic linking of his 1972 construction to the original Grand Courts designed by Walter Liberty Vernon.

The new link between the two buildings includes an installation honouring the history of Country by Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones.

This new building is very aware of its physical and spiritual location. It is dominated by the light from its soaring glass walls. The ground floor entrance feels like walking into a crystal.

In a nod to Andersons’ first glorious window, the Yiribana gallery of Indigenous art has a window facing the harbour so visitors can see where the Gadigal ancestors first witnessed the arrival of convicts in 1788.

The relocation of Yiribana from the basement of the older building is a physical manifestation of the significant shift in Australia’s understanding of its culture.

Installation view of the Yiribana Gallery featuring (left to right) Ronnie Tjampitjinpa ‘Tingari fire dreaming at Wilkinkarra’ 2008, Willy Tjungurrayi ‘Tingari story’ 1986, Yhonnie Scarce ‘Death zephyr’ 2017 (top), Rusty Peters ‘Waterbrain’ 2002 and Vernon Ah Kee ‘Unwritten #9’ 2008. Photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Jenni Carter

In 1958, the gallery’s deputy director Tony Tuckson facilitated collector and surgeon Stuart Scougall’s gift of Tiwi Pukumani grave posts. For the first time Indigenous work was shown as art and not anthropological artefact.

In 1972 there was a temporary exhibit of Yirrkala bark paintings and figures, but this was soon replaced with another temporary exhibition.

In late 1973, funding from the arts programs associated with the opening of the Sydney Opera House enabled a permanent installation of Melanesian art, another gift from Scougall. It was accompanied by what the trustees thought would be a temporary exhibition of Aboriginal art.

Tuckson died while the exhibition was being installed and it remained on view, in a dark little space at the bottom of the gallery’s marble stairs, until about 1980.

In 1983, Djon Mundine curated a temporary exhibition of bark paintings and the following year was appointed as part-time curator, but there was little official interest in Aboriginal art by the gallery.

The big shift came in 1991 when Hetti Perkins curated another temporary exhibition, this time of previously little-known Aboriginal women artists.

Perkins’ achievement was especially appreciated by Mollie Gowing, one of the volunteer guides.

Starting in 1992, Gowing collaborated with Perkins to privately fund the gallery’s major collection of contemporary Indigenous art.

In 1994, on the initiative of then NSW Minister for the Arts Peter Collins, the gallery opened Yiribana, its first permanent dedicated exhibition space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

This basement had previously been the offices and working area for the public programs department and was not an especially sympathetic space for art. It was well over a decade before Indigenous art began to be integrated into other exhibits of Australian art.

Installation view of the Yiribana Gallery featuring (left) Ned Grant, Fred Grant, Patju Presley, Lawrence Pennington and Simon Hogan ‘Wati Kutjara’ 2019 and (right) Richard Bell, Emory Douglas ‘We can be heroes’ 2014. Photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Jenni Carter

The relocation of Yiribana to Sydney Modern can be seen as the gallery’s affirmation of the importance of Indigenous cultures to any understanding of what Australia may be.

Cultural exchange

In 1972 when the newly opened gallery wanted to show its best art to the world, the main gallery was dominated by art from the United States. All eyes were drawn to Morris Louis’ Ayin.

That same space now has work by Sol LeWitt in visual conversation with Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Gloria Tamerre Petyarre.

Sol LeWitt ‘Wall drawing #955, Loopy Doopy (red and purple)’ 2000 in the John Kaldor Family Hall at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, first drawn by Paolo Arao, Nicole Awai, Hidemi Nomura, Jean Shin, Frankie Woodruff at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 2000; current installation drawn by Kit Bylett, Andrew Colbert, Troy Donaghy, Szymon Dorabialski, Gabriel Hurier, Rachel Levine, Owen Lewis, Nadia Odlum, Tim Silver, Alexis Wildman at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, August 2022. © Estate of Sol LeWitt

The integration of Australian art with art from the rest of the world is a reflection of historic reality. Last century was a time of mass travel and cultural exchange, when many national barriers were breached, especially in the arts.

Sydney Modern, combined with the reconfiguring of the 20th century exhibits in the older building, is a quiet repudiation of that cultural cringe which persists in seeing Australian culture as some kind of backwater.

Although most of Sydney Modern is filled with light, its most surprising space is buried in dark.

During the second world war, when the navy fleet needed to refuel at Garden Island, the Australian government secretly built a giant underground fuel storage tank, its true depth hidden below the water line.

Now a spiral staircase leads the visitor to the Tank, a magical space of oil-stained columns and echoing sounds. Right now it is empty, but within weeks the Argentine-Peruvian artist, Adrián Villar Rojas will begin to create a new work, The End of Imagination.

The Tank space in the new building at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Jenni Carter

There are two meanings to the title. One suggests imagination is now dead. However, by being placed at the core of such an inspirational space it seems Rojas may be suggesting a culmination of imagination, a questioning of what imagination may be in these days of the Anthropocene.

The work is not yet made. As with the rest of the art that will fill this magical space, we will have to wait and see.The Conversation

Joanna Mendelssohn is an Honorary (Senior Fellow) School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. Editor in Chief, Design and Art of Australia Online, The University of Melbourne


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Friday, 14 October 2022

Sandra Bullock's Arcadian Adobe Hacienda

The hacienda is at the heart of the 37-hectare estate surrounded by gardens and orchards. 





American Oscar-winning actor Sandra Bullock's idyllic rambling estate in San Diego is surrounded by orchards of olive, avocado and citrus trees. At the heart of the rolling hills is a handsome adobe hacienda opening on to flower-filled gardens. Before the estate is sold, we take a look inside. Alessandro de la Valle reports

The high-ceilinged main bedroom suite
has French doors to the pool and gardens
THE WHITE-WASHED HACIENDA sits atop a hill and has a 360-degree views of the undulating landscape stretching out to the mountainous horizon. 

Located in a rural community north of San Diego, surrounded by evocative hiking trails, this bucolic locale has long been home to film stars from Hollywood's heyday, from Fred Astaire to Mae West and John Wayne.

This is not the only substantial property Sandra Bullock owns, she has invested the wealth she has earned as a film actor into buying real estate across the United States. She has bought and sold homes in Los Angeles, New York and Austin. She bought this San Diego estate for $2.75 million in 2009 and has now listed it for $6 million. 

"I have an expensive hobby: buying homes, redoing them, tearing them down and building them up the way they want to be built. I want to be an architect," said the actor. And this hacienda has been completely renovated. Originally built in 1990, it is now filled with light throughout with floor-to-ceiling windows and bright white walls. The high-beamed ceilings give a great sense of space and French doors open most rooms on to the beautiful gardens. 

The house is encircled by hundreds of trees including an organic avocado orchard along with the numerous fruit trees planted around the estate. At the centre of the grounds is an iron-gated central courtyard with a fountain and a beehive. Also housed amid the leafy greenery is a charming three-bedroom guesthouse with a spa, its own gazebo and views overlooking the fragrant gardens.

This bucolic locale has long been home to the film stars of Hollywood's heyday, from Fred Astaire to Mae West and John Wayne


The country-style kitchen has soapstone
 benches, marble surrounds 
and white-oak floors
The main bedroom suite is luxurious in an understated way with an adobe fireplace, living area with rustic leather chairs and doors opening out on to the pool. 

There are another four large bedrooms, each with their own ensuite and French doors leading on to the home's broad verandas. A comfortable library has another big open fireplace and plenty of places to relax and read.

The kitchen has been specially designed in pale soapstone and Italian marble along with a striking inlaid mosaic above the enormous black-enamel and brass range. The wooden floors and beamed ceilings add a country aesthetic. 

The sunny, heated saltwater pool has an outdoor entertaining area with a gas outdoor fireplace, a big-screen TV, and a pool room. The house includes environmentally friendly elements such as solar panels for heating and an electric car charging station.

The hacienda is filled with light throughout with high-beamed ceilings and French doors opening on to broad verandas

The central courtyard has a stone fountain
and is ringed by the hacienda's verandas
Named one of Time’s 100 most influential people, Bullock has starred in movie blockbusters, including comedies, dramas and action thrillers. 

Dubbed 'America's sweetheart,' the versatile actor has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and took home the Oscar for Best Actress for the football classic The Blind Side. 

In both 2010 and 2014, she was the world’s highest-paid actress. She has starred in over 50 films, many of them great commercial successes, including Speed, Miss Congeniality, and Ocean’s 8. Today, she also works as a producer and her company, Fortis Films, has produced several of her star vehicles as well as other projects for television and streaming channels. 

The living room has beamed ceilings, another open fireplace and French doors on to the veranda and pool

One of the guest bedrooms overlooks the extensive gardens and opens on to a terrace. 

The heated, salt-water pool has a panoramic view out across to the hacienda's orchards and out to the hills stretching to the horizon. 

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