The people who are supposed to “have way” with art writing – the professionals – sometimes get a bit confused too, and perhaps none more confused than Peter Hill. Oh no, you’re saying, not the beleaguered SMH art critic again, leave him alone! But just take a look at this excerpt from two weekends ago when Hill was discussing the legacy of Situationism in his better-late-than-never “review’ of Primavera:
“The Situationist International was a powerful influence on the striking students in Paris 1968; their use of café tables as barricades was classic detournement. Nine years later. The Situationists formed the black-clad honour guard at the birth of the punk rock movement. The all round nihilism of both groups was underscored by the suicides of first, Sid Vicious and later Guy Debord.”
Would someone please explain to Hill that the connection between Punk and Situationism is tenuous at best, and really nothing more than self-aggrandisement on the part of Malcom McLaren? There’s probably little we can do about that, but Sid Vicious had nothing to do with it and died of an accidental overdose in February 1979 while Debord killed himself in November 1994. A wave of suicides separated by 15 years? How nihilistic. Let’s not get too het up about that, it’s probably just Hill filling up word count – who cares if it’s right or wrong.
The indefatigable Edmund Capon was the subject of cover story at the SMH’s The Sydney Magazine last week. Being more famous for refusing interviews than giving them, we made extra sure that we bought the newspaper to read the super glossy supplement. It turned out however, to be a bit of a damp squib when Steve Meacham got very little out of Capon and had to rely on quotes from people who seemed more interested in backhanded compliments than real tributes to their so-called “friend”. Here’s an excerpt where art dealer Giuseppi Eskenazi and old Victoria and Albert museum colleague Somers Cox discuss Capon’s tenure as director of the Art Gallery of NSW:
“Eskenazi was astounded his friend had been offered the job, and advised him against accepting. “Quite frankly, I didn’t think it was a job he could do, or one he was suited for,” he says. “He could have made his name as an international scholar. Some of his books are quite brilliant. As it has turned out, he’s been an excellent director. He turned from a scholar to a fundraiser. I don’t know how he did that.’ Somers Cox, however, felt Capon realised he would end up a frustrated man if he stayed at the V & A. “Australia suits him. He enjoys being a big fish, playing with the politicians who make a difference. He has more direct power in Sydney than he would ever have had in London.”
He could never have made it in London!
The most interesting thing to come out of the profile was a list of four art works Capon would buy for the AGNSW with unlimited funds, a list that was topped by a Cy Twombly triptych, a painting by Paul Cezanne and any drawing or study by Raphael. His number two choice was Bill Viola’s Five Angels for The Millennium, a video installation work that Capon described as “by far the most powerful, convincing and brilliant of this (newish) genre.” That’s why Capon has been in charge for so long – on the one hand he’s a classicist, while on the other has impeccable taste for the new.
While on the subject of the AGNSW, did you know that the gallery’s Art After Hours is “pick up central”? Apparently it is so, according to gossip columnist Holly Byrnes, whose piece The New Art of Romance in The Sun Herald’s S blew the lid on the hot, steamy and salacious world of contemporary art:
“The next time someone offers to show you their etchings, count yourself in the Carrie Bradshaw class of dating: all very new school, in an old fashioned way. Just as the Sex And The City singleton found her latest love, Aleksandr Petrovsky, by hanging around an art gallery, Sydney’s solo warriors have recently found exhibitions and art auctions a happy hunting ground.
“At first glance the Art Gallery of NSW may not appear a hotbed for your next hot date, but by all accounts the Art After Hours program runs every Wednesday night is pick-up Central. The AGNSWs young members society, Contempo, also boasts some of the best opportunities to socialise in a sophisticated setting, but with the kind of reckless abandon that comes from all that artistic fervour.”
Yeah, we knew the young members at Contempo were everything we were looking for, but what about the Museum of Contemporary Art? As readers of The Art Life pointed out, the conservators there are “dreamy”…
“Across town at the Museum of Contemporary Art, I’m told you need to know what you’re looking for. Not the artwork, mind, but the types of blokes you want to meet, which can range from the serious artiste (easily identified by his paint-flecked Blundstone boots) to a few banker boys, who are keeping up appearances as corporate sponsors of various exhibitions, but happy to be typecast as shrewd intellectuals. And just as niche galleries proffer the talents of the obscure, there are also niche social types to appraise as well.”