Art Gallery of South Australia

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My (tentative) final post for Adelaide will focus on the Art Gallery of South Australia. We also visited the South Australian Museum but I’m not sure yet if I want to write about it – watch this space. During our visit to the Gallery, we walked around the permanent exhibition space and visited the two temporary exhibitions on offer – Robert Wilson: Moving Portraits and Archie 100 (100 Years of the Archibald Prize). For each of the three exhibitions, I am going to highlight my favourite works and write a little bit about the layout.

Permanent Exhibition Spaces

The permanent collection of the Gallery is impressive. There are multiple exhibition spaces organised by theme. In all rooms, sculptures are in the middle and the paintings are displayed as a salon-style hang. It did become quite difficult to locate the correct labels for each of the works. The sculptures, in particular, didn’t always have obvious-to-find labels. There were a couple of times when we had to walk around the perimeter of the room just to try and find them. Having the labels off to the side can work well when there isn’t a salon hang, but it did feel a little overwhelming. The following were my favourite sculptures and paintings in the permanent exhibition spaces.

Ricky Swallow – The Exact Dimensions of Staying Behind

No prizes for guessing why I liked this sculpture. It is made from laminated lime wood and is so detailed. It really does convey someone who has been left behind – sitting and waiting for so long. The cloth over the back of the chair looks so light and flowing. It really stands out in the space and invites you to look closer.

Alex Seton – My Concerns will Outlive Yours

I’m going to include the label for this work so I can talk about the accessibility features. On a few labels, there are QR codes you can scan for extra accessibility. You can see this in the photograph above on the side of the plinth. When scanned, you have access to, for example, Auslan services and alt text. Great to see in the space.

I was drawn to this work because I love marble sculptures that don’t look heavy. You can immediately recognise the marble as sculptured to look like a sheet or tarp covering a body. The title of the work is interesting and I wish there were more details available. I interpreted it as concerns being set in stone that will live forever.

Chiharu Shiota – Absence Embodied

I really hope to see Shiota’s work at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane soon. This is such an immersive work. You walk into a room with wool covering the ceiling and walls, all attached to these body parts on the floor. I really enjoy works on this scale.

Thomas Hirschhorn – Twin-subjecter

Not a lot of information available for this work but it is certainly a piece that warrants a second look. Not every day you see life-sized human sculptures covered in nails. Reminds me so much of Hellraiser (classic horror film).


I always enjoy the contemporary work of Kusama. It has a fun interactive element and always seems to demands total focus. For this work, you step into a room with bright yellow walls, floor and ceiling, and large black dots covering all surfaces. In the middle is a mirror. It speaks to the aesthetics of accumulation and obsession.

Robert Wilson: Moving Portraits

This is quite an interesting exhibition showcasing the digital portraits by Robert Wilson. Accompanying these portraits are pieces from the Gallery’s collection that complement the portraits. The complementary works have been so carefully selected and always work well in the exhibition. The layout of the exhibition has nice large gaps between the works and a huge area to walk around so you never feel crowded. However, I will say that it is a bit of a sensory overload with so many sounds competing in the space. Something to be aware of if you’re not ok with lots of loud noise.

Robert Wilson – Lady Gaga: Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière

This digital portrait is of Lady Gaga dressed and posed like Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière. The original portrait was painted by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres in the 19th century at the request of the Rivière family. Caroline died one year after the portrait was painted so Wilson has introduced a single tear running down Gaga’s face. It’s a gorgeous work juxtaposing the old-fashioned clothing and hairstyle with a modern-day celebrity.

Timothy Horn – Gorgonia 5

Next to the portrait is this stunning sculpture by Horn created from nickel-plated bronze and mirrored blown glass. It looks like you are zooming in on some coral and finding giant pearls amongst it. It works so well in the space. Similar to the digital portrait it appears to be juxtaposing the old with the new.

Robert Wilson – Robert Downey Jr, Actor

As soon as I saw this digital work I thought of the painting by Rembrandt titled The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicholas Tulp. It has, in fact, been inspired by this work. Downey Jr’s left arm is a dummy being operated on to show the internal structures of the arm and hand. If you watch the video closely, you can see him breathing and his eyes occasionally opening and closing.

Tim Noble and Sue Webster – The Gamekeeper’s Gibbet

Without a doubt, this is my favourite work in the exhibition. The two stick-like bushes have been created using solid sterling silver gilded in pure gold. When the light hits the sculpture, it creates a shadow on the wall of two faces. Such a beautiful work that is in the same space as a digital portrait of Winona Ryder. Anything selected to complement Winona Ryder is a win in my books.

Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize

When you buy a ticket for either Robert Wilson or the Archibald exhibition the other is automatically included. Similar to the Robert Wilson exhibition, the layout of Archie 100 works well. Big gaps between works and it never felt too crowded despite being very busy. When I saw the Archibald in Sydney a few years ago I wrote a blog post focusing on the dogs of the exhibition. I thought I might as well do the same here. However, very few dogs feature.

Julie Dowling – Sister Girl – Carol Dowling

Julie Dowling was the first Aboriginal woman to have work selected for the Archibald. This piece was displayed in 2001 and depicts her twin sister. She is holding their family dog, Daisy. It combines European portraiture with Aboriginal iconography and symbolism.

Marc Etherington – Me and Granny

This work depicts the artist, Marc Etherington, with his imagined pet dog. He has wanted a whippet for some time now and is keeping a close eye on the animal shelters for one to appear. When the day comes, his son insists they call the dog Granny.

Kate Beynon – Self-Portrait with Guardian Spirits

In this work, the artist, Kate Beynon, has painted a self-portrait with two green lion-dogs. They are there to reference her Staffy-cross Tudo.

Logistical Information

The Art Gallery of South Australia is open Monday – Sunday between 10am and 5pm. The permanent exhibitions are free. Robert Wilson and Archie 100 are paid exhibitions on display until October 3, 2022. For more information on ticket prices follow this link: The Art Gallery is accessible.

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