Today I had a moment to quickly visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and their new Primavera exhibition. I am trying to visit more art galleries this year. This is primarily because I would like to expand my knowledge of how their exhibitions are designed. As I only had thirty minutes, I decided to focus on one of the two rooms displaying Primavera artwork. For those who have visited, or plan on visiting, it is the room immediately to the right of the cloakroom.
My first question was, what is Primavera? I am not very tuned into the world of art so this was the first time I had even heard of such an exhibition. To my surprise, Primavera is one of the longest running exhibitions in the country! Essentially, it is an exhibition held yearly at the MCA showcasing artwork by early career artists. One condition is that artists must be aged 35 years or younger to have their work displayed. From such exhibitions, the MCA has acquired over 230 artworks. As it is Primavera’s 25th anniversary, the MCA decided to reflect on the meaning of the exhibition and display some highlight works.
First things first, the introduction panel was very informative and provided a great snapshot of what was on display. The artworks are grouped thematically focusing on transformation, time, and history.
The layout of the exhibition was, to me, very effective. The artworks are displayed inside a huge room. Considering only a few are on display, it was amazing that they seemed to fill the room. There was obviously a lot of care taken with the placement of the artworks and deciding how they would all work together in the shared space. As there is plenty of room to move around, I hardly noticed the other people and felt as though I was in a relaxed environment. I strongly dislike being jostled around and hurried along when I’m trying to look at something in a museum.
At the very back of the exhibition space was a feature wall. Well, it was actually an artwork by Agatha Gothe-Snape titled Emotional Wall with Everything Else. The whole wall has been divided into five sections, each painted in a different colour to represent the Lüscher colour test. In 1947, Dr Max Lüscher created the concept that you could measure an individual’s psychological state through their response to specific colours. Why the words “everything else” are painted on the navy wall is to allow visitors the chance to stop and reflect. Considering the other walls are painted a neutral creamy white colour, the artwork stood out and worked very well within the space.
My eyes were, however, immediately drawn to the artwork Native Gold by Danie Mellor. It was shimmering at the back of the exhibition space enticing visitors inside. On reading the object label, the significance of the piece comes to life. It is a commentary on ideas of authenticity and Indigenous identity in Australia. According to the lable, the gold represents the wealth of nineteenth-century Australia juxtaposed against the fact that it was of no use to Indigenous Australians. The animals are indeed real and had been taxidermied!
After exploring the far end of the exhibition space, I was very fortunate to hear about one of the artworks from a gallery officer. It made a huge difference to my experience – in a good way. I heard about how the artist, Rebecca Baumann, had lived in Berlin and was interested in the train locations and times flicking over on the screen. This has been combined with an experiment to see how many different colour combinations can arise from combining the three primary colours. What has resulted is a grid of 100 flip-clocks. Instead of numbers, each card is painted one of the primary-mixed colours. In a 24-hour cycle all of the discs flip over creating a randomly generated colour grid.
These were my favourite artworks in the exhibition space. Not only because they were aesthetically interesting, but also, because I found their stories and context to be engaging.
This is a major breakthrough for me. I have not had this kind of experience in a contemporary art gallery since visiting the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Although just one room, it provided a perfect quick getaway from the crowds at Circular Quay. Thirty mintues is plenty of time to see the entire Primavera exhibition. Especially if you are just looking to walk around and not go into too much depth reading each artwork label. I do, however, strongly recommend that you read the labels. They weren’t as incomprehensible as so many tend to be in art galleries.
The exhibition will be running until the 19th of March. It is free to enter and also features on the MCA app. I did not spend my time downloading the app and working out how to use it in the space. If you are looking to further engage, or if you have more time, why not see how the digital has been integrated into the exhibition space.