Stocking Stuffers Part 2

Art Life , Stuff Dec 16, 2011 2 Comments

In part 2, Sharne Wolff rounds up the best of the best from Barcelona, London, Byron and Sydney to down town Hobart…

1. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (Book)

I began last summer by reading this book. It’s an observant story disguised as a fun read by the American comedian, actor, banjo player and sometime scriptwriter and novelist Steve Martin. I love the way Martin gets into the head of his charming and manipulative protagonist Lacey Yeager – via the narrator, infatuated arts writer, Daniel Franks. The story follows the New York art world during the boom and bust years between 1993 and 2009. It references art history and NY art heavies – but the characters are universal. I think I met some of them this year.

2. The Slap (TV show)

It was marketed by the ABC with the question ‘Whose side are you on?’ I’m on the side that loved watching the psychological tsunami the author unleashed after the boulder was dropped into the backyard fishpond. I’d already read the book, but I might not have watched the series if I didn’t see Jennifer Byrne’s interview with the generous Christos Tsiolkas a few days before the first episode. The cast, story and design were all great. And I still can’t get the chorus of that ‘Jungle’ song by Emma Louise out of my head.

3. Ben Quilty and Nick Mitzevich in conversation at Tweed River Art Gallery (Chat)

Susi Muddiman (Director at TRG) brought the artist and current Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia together a few months ago to discuss the life and times of Margaret Olley, while Quilty’s Archibald prize-winning painting was on display at the Gallery. It was a warm, fabulous, fitting and funny tribute to one of Australia’s most loved artists.

4. Fundacio Joan Miro in Barcelona & Miro at the Tate Modern, London (Art)

Some readers may know I spent three months in Spain and Europe this year. Most of the time was spent walking through the Spanish countryside and I became fascinated with the life of the Spanish artist, Joan Miro. Miro spent his early years growing up in Catalunya, he experimented with surrealism (some examples seen at Brisbane’s GOMA during Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams exhibition) and was still painting in the latter part of the 20th century when he died at 90. Particularly dazzling were two works in the Tate show The Hope of a Condemned Man (1973) completed when Miro was almost eighty, and ‘Burnt Canvases’ (1974). In the latter series the artist painted and then slashed, stamped on and burnt his paintings in anguish and protest at Franco’s brutal regime, and in the name of freedom for his beloved Spain.

5. Namajira (Play and Exhibition)

A few months ago Northern Rivers Performing Arts brought Scott Rankin and Wayne Blair’s award-winning play and it’s cast of engaging actors and artists to the NSW north coast (together with an exhibition of art by Ngurratjuta Many Hands Art Centre in Alice Springs & the Hermannsberg Potters). It’s a cleverly written, funny and entertaining play that doesn’t preach, nor hide its message.

6. The Painting of Modern Life by TJ Clark (Book)

Rex Butler at the University of Queensland introduced me to this book in his lively series of lectures. It’s a book ‘about art and Paris’. If you thought Manet’s ‘Olympia’ was a painting of a nude girl with a flower in her hair, TJ Clark will convince you otherwise.

7.Mad Bastards at Byron Bay Dendy + Live Performance by The Pigram Brothers & Alex Lloyd (Film and Music)

This movie directed by Brendan Fletcher with a cast of previously unknown actors was probably my favourite of 2011. Topped off with a live performance after the movie by Alex Lloyd and the Pigram Brothers it made for a grand night out.

8. Virginia Trioli & Tracey Emin (TV Interview)

Unfortunately this interview on ABC’s Artscape was the closest I came to the YBA’s show (‘Saatchi Gallery in Adelaide: British Art Now’) at the Art Gallery of South Australia. The interview was insightful and honest.

9. DMC’s Funeral Songs on Facebook & at MONA, Hobart (Art + Music Project)

Some might have seen Daniel Mudie Cunningham’s daily video uploads of ‘Funeral Songs’ on Facebook. A bittersweet project for the artist and the audience, ‘Funeral Songs’ had its debut in 2007 when Cunningham asked friends, family, artists and art workers what song they would like played at their funeral. The current anthology of 565 songs, together with the artist performing the 2012 video version of his favourite song, ‘Proud Mary’ (side by side with the original) will be launched at MONA FOMA (Hobart) in January. As part of the project Cunningham has ongoing plans to film himself for the project every 5 years. “At some point I will die – I’m unsettled by the fact that I will never know which video will be the last one.”

10. Exhibitions (Art).

Unfortunately I didn’t make it to every State but I’ve lost count of the exhibitions I’ve seen in 2011. Putting aside numerous reviews written for The Art Life and many others I viewed overseas, here’s a list of shows (I know I’m cheating on the 10 things) that resonated for me:

Dinh Q Lee Erasure at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (Sydney)

Arcadia’ (Group show – Kezia Geddes, curator) and ‘Thank You for the Days: My Teenage Years’ (Group show – Djon Mundine, curator) both at Lismore Regional Gallery

Gwyn Hanssen PigottNew Work’ at Philip Bacon Gallery (Brisbane)

Guan Wei Play on the Beach’ at Martin Browne Contemporary (Sydney)

Mari HirataWild Soles’ at Lorraine Pilgrim/Retrospect Galleries Queensland (Broadbeach)

Michael CookUninhabited’ at Andrew Baker Art Dealer (Brisbane)

Land Sea and Sky: Contemporary Art of the Torres Strait Islands’ (GOMA), Brisbane

Hobie PorterFull Circle’ at Art House Gallery (Sydney)

John OlsenLake Eyre: Ruminations on an Empty Landscape’ at Tim Olsen Gallery (Sydney)

Marian Drew at the 3rd biennal des images du monde, musee du quai Branly, Paris (Online) by Michael Reid (Sydney)

Nicholas FollandDomestic Distractions’ at Ryan Renshaw Gallery (Brisbane)

Liu Zhuoquan at Jan Murphy Gallery (Brisbane)

Of course, I can’t miss the big guns – Picasso ‘Masterpieces from Musée National Picasso’ at the Art Gallery of NSW, Matisse ‘Drawing Life’ at GOMA and ‘Mad Square’ at AGNSW and the entire Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Bilbao, Spain.

So, after all that my thanks must go to… Andrew and The Art Life for publishing my rants; my trusty and lowly paid editor and apostrophe policeman (Dave); the artists who generously gave their time for interviews; the gallerists and staff at the many galleries I visited for their time and assistance; and to Mark Zuckerberg for occasionally helping to cut out the middle man. For the love of art I’m not really sure why I’m doing this – it’s meant hours of driving, loads of research and plenty of burning the midnight oil for ‘deadlines’ that don’t exist – but it has been a lot of fun.

Finally… thanks to my TAL readers in 2011. I hope you have a happy, peaceful and safe holiday season and look forward to doing it all over again next year, with a few new things thrown in to the mix. I also want to take the opportunity to send my best wishes for a Very Happy Christmas to both of you.

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Sharne Wolff


  1. Pingback: Stocking Stuffers – my top 10 ‘great art things’ of 2011… « Wolff.

  2. Carrie Miller

    As one of your Art Life readers, I just wanted to say thanks to you, Sharne, for all your posts this year. I hope you get a well-deserved pay rise for all your hard work.

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