In advance of a broken column

Art Life , Op-ed Nov 26, 2010 1 Comment

Nigel Lendon casts an eye over the spiffy new entrance of the National Gallery of Australia…

Do architects have a sense of humour? They must have. Yet when an architect puns, it’s a private joke at the public expense. When is a column not a column? When it’s a pun, stupid. The primary architectural feature of the National Gallery of Australia’s new facelift is this singular column. Judging by my photograph of their photograph, above, the purpose is to assert its status as an icon, signifying the character of the new building. There’s certainly nothing like it in the old building – although admittedly the Nolans are now shown in a new gallery shaped like a spa-bath. Now let’s think this through. Like a temple, a proper museum needs columns to signal its entrance, right? Maybe we can make do with just one column? That appears to support nothing? Except maybe a plastic dome? Get it?

Here’s the approach…

There’s no word in the architectural lexicon for a thing like this. So maybe this virtual column can be interpreted as both an oh-so-cautious nod towards postmodernism, while at the same time it reinforces the sphere and dome theme, to the left and right of the entrance, and inside as well. The problem is, like much of postmodernity, it’s a one-liner. So every time you swing by, you’ll be reminded of the same visual pun thing.

But wait! There’s more… Just beside the front door there’s a broken column, a modest little neocubist artefact, reminiscent of the style of the late Mari Funaki, but with no apparent attribution. It stands on a base inscribed to commemorate the opening of the new galleries. It’s about life-size, and it leans as if it wants to have a rest against the glass wall. In its ambiguous anonymity it carries a certain mysterious status. As an artefact without the authority of an author, it somehow suggests a subversive purpose, loitering with intent, seemingly condemned never to reach the status of a work of art… Perhaps there is a prize for guessing its identity?

Methinks someone’s lost control of their signifiers…

This post originally appeared on Iconophilia. Thanks to Nigel Lendon for permission to repost it here…

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One Comments

  1. Bec


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