2017 Archibald Prize 

I am now en route to Boston for the International Symposium on the History of Anaesthesia. While in the States I will be visiting as many museums as possible in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC! In other words, prepare yourself for numerous blog posts and, of course, lots of photographs. 

Before heading off, I spent the weekend in Sydney. Luckily, I was here for the final day of the 2017 Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. For those not aware, the Archibald Prize is an annual art event held in Sydney. It is named after Jules Archibald, the founding editor of The Bulletin magazine. He had a passion for art and on his death in 1919, left money to fund a major portrait painting competition. The prize is huge – $100 000! There are also prizes for People’s Choice, voted by visitors, and the Packing Room Prize, which is awarded by staff of the Gallery who install the exhibition. 


This is the first time I have seen the Archibald Prize and I had very high expectations. This is due to a variety of reasons including the hype surrounding the Prize and the prize money involved. I’m going to divide this post into two sections – where I believe it met these expectations and where it fell a little short. I should say here that I did not download the mobile guide. 

Positives 

I was very impressed with the layout of the exhibition. There was a slight bottle neck issue at the beginning, with crowds being funnelled into a small room. Once you made it through here, however, it was spacious and the works were not crowded together. This allowed for the display to not be overwhelming and it encouraged me to look more closely at each individual work.


I also found that the balance was consistent throughout the exhibition. Incredibly colourful pieces were not all in the same room allowing for some breathing space. What struck me was the size of some of the artworks. I must admit I knew very little about entry requirements, but, some of the paintings were massive. This must have been difficult to curate! Yet, like I said, it was just so beautifully balanced and aesthetically incredible. Each time I walked into a new space, this feeling was just continuously confirmed. 

Another positive for me was the inclusion of children in the exhibition. There were labels for children (also a negative but I’ll get to that later) and, my personal favourite, a space dedicated to fun interaction. There were three large frames mounted on a wall and children/adults could stand behind the wall, move into a frame and have their photo taken. The idea being that your portrait was now part of the Archibald. 


Running the length of a wall that separated these frames from the entrance to the Archibald, were the Young Archie finalist entries. Children can submit portraits they have created and have these displayed as part of the major exhibition. They were so lovely to see and I was absolutely in awe of the children’s creativity! 


Overall, I had a lovely time looking through the entries of both adults and children admiring how they had captured various personalities. 

Negatives 

There was one major disappointment with the display – the labels. I know it was the final day, however, most of the labels I saw were grubby and/or peeling off the wall. It was not a good look. The information they contained was very interesting and it was a shame to see them peeling away. 

On the topic of labels I have two more comments. The children’s labels were placed so high on the wall – just below eye level for adults. I can’t imagine young kids being able to see that high, let alone answer the questions. Maybe this was a way of encouraging parents to interact with their children by reading the labels to them? Who knows, but, it stood out to me. I did see there was a children’s trail available which may have been amazing. 


Finally, the labels indicating the winners looked identical to the artwork labels. They were really hard to find as they blended in with everything else. No wonder I saw so many people ask the guards and staff where the winners were located inside the space. It would have been nice to see some colour or just something different to help them stand out. 


Of course, like always, this is just my personal opinion and I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have any other or opposing thoughts! 

I am very glad I got to experience the 2017 Archibald Prize. I think the fact it was busy did not detract from the exhibition, but enhanced it. Hearing what people had to say regarding the winners was actually quite fun. Many agreed with the choices, however, some were disappointed and it was interesting to hear why. It was an exhibition designed to make you feel quite comfortable and, therefore, I was quite happy to wonder around feeling no pressure from the crowds and enjoying the artworks. 

The Wynne and Sulman Prizes were also on display, however, I wanted to just focus on the Archibald. 

Below are some more images of the artwork on display. Enjoy! 

Peter Sheets, Lisa Wilkinson AM, Packing Room Prize Winner

Madeleine Winch, Facing the Canvas

Mitch Cairns, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Winner of the 2017 Archibald Prize

Marc Etherington, Paul (Paul Williams in his studio)

Yvette Coppersmith, Professor Gillian Triggs

Anh Do, JC

Samford Village Heritage Trail

Before I begin this blog post I must be entirely honest. When we visited Samford Village today, located 30 mins outside Brisbane, we were visiting for one reason – the Harry Potter Store of Requirements. It was literally a magical place.

After purchasing everything Hufflepuff we could find, we decided to walk around the Village. There was this one building that had a sign out the front with an old photograph, some information, and a number. Intrigued, I walked across to the information centre in John Scott park to find out more. Here I was given a Samford Village Heritage Trail brochure. It is a very detailed brochure containing thirteen places of interest and a museum.

I was very impressed with the brochure. It starts with the history of Indigenous occupation in the area. A respectful way to begin the brochure yet I was unsure where this history had been sourced and whether there was any collaboration with Indigenous groups in the area. It also ended very abruptly and I was interested to know if there was any continuing Indigenous presence.

We tried our best to visit all thirteen locations. They can all be reached on foot and are located on either Main Street or Station Road. I am just going to cover the sites that we did visit. At the end of the post, I will list the other locations.

1. John Scott Park

The brochure contains some wonderful heritage photographs credited to both individuals and the Samford Historical Museum Collection. It is clear that there was a lot of community involvement that went into producing this tour. John Scott park was absolutely thriving when we visited. There were families celebrating birthdays and dogs running around. It was a really beautiful park and so great to see it is still heavily used by the community. In the middle of the park was a large stage which was part of the old Rotary Station.

Originally, the park was part of the railway station and yards. In 1955, after the railway station had closed, a petition was sent to the Pine Rivers Council to transform the land into a public park. After meeting with the State Government, the decision was made to create a recreational and sports reserve. From what we could see, this use has continued today.

2. Samford Valley Hotel

A place which I imagine has amazing Chicken Schnitzel. The Hotel was the first licensed premises in the area built on the land that once had the village’s first bakery. It has survived numerous name changes and numerous changes in ownership. There is a beautiful kerosene lamp at the front that was once turned on by a switch at the bar to welcome patrons in.

3. English Scottish and Australian Bank

This is the first building we saw with the sign out the front. It is a very cute little building that has an interesting story attached. On October 11, 1948, members of staff were held up at gunpoint by robbers. They were placed and sealed in an airtight vault. A nearby resident, Estelle Nelson, thought something strange was going on at the bank so alerted police. After witness statements were collected, they managed to find and arrest those involved.

The bank eventually merged with ANZ in 1970 and moved to a different building.

4. Samford Farmers’ Hall

When driving into the Village, this building was hard to miss. It is huge and painted a very sweet lilac colour. It is a fun building too, that was used for dance parties and community events. Opening in 1918, it replaced the old and much smaller community centre. Since the railway line was bringing in people all the time, the decision was made to have a venue that would hold cultural events as well as parties and dinners. It would have been pretty magnificent during this time.

Today, it is still used as a community centre with businesses able to rent out parts of the building.

5. Cash Avenue

Today Cash Avenue is just a normal looking street. It was, however, where the train line ran through the Village. The train not only provided Samford Village with trade opportunities, but allowed city residents to visit the country village and “fill their lungs with Samford Valley country air.”

6. RSL Memorial Park

Where ANZAC services were and continued to be held every year on 25 April. Right at the back of the park is the century-old schoolmaster’s house from Samford State School that was moved and renovated in 2006.

We finished the tour there as it was getting blisteringly hot and the air conditioning in our car was so tempting. Considering the old buildings in Samford Village really do stand out amongst the rest, it was a nice way to see the town from this historical perspective. Might as well add some history to your morning or afternoon stroll!

Other locations:

1. Samford District Historical Museum

2. Samford Railway Station and Goods Yard

3. Williamson’s Butcher Shop

4. Samford Garage

5. Samford Public Hall

6. Weise’s General Store and Post Office

7. Samford Rural Fire Brigade

Tastes Like Sunshine – Museum of Brisbane

My plan was to see Tastes Like Sunshine later this month, however, an opportunity arose today. After 100% Brisbane, I was expecting a lot from the new exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane. While the exhibition was not to the same standard, it was still enjoyable and included some wonderful information and artworks. I am going to provide an overview of the exhibition then delve into a couple of different aspects.

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According to their website, the exhibition seeks to explore the “flavoursome” side of Brisbane, revealing an evolving food story. This story is told through contemporary art, personal stories, historical documents, and images. Slavery, Indigenous culture, immigration, history of food markets, and food production in Queensland were all addressed within the space. On top of this, issues of environmental degredation and the treatment of animals were also tackled. Needless to say, this exhibition had a huge amount of content to display.

The actual space containing the exhibition was not large at all. It took us around 30 minutes to walk from one end to the other – and this included stopping to read the labels. I am going to highlight a few of my favourite things about the exhibition.

  • The Wallpaper

On first entering the space, you see this absolutely incredible wallpaper designed by artist Elizabeth Willing.

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The title of the work is Strawberry Thief (after William Morris). The foods included in the wallpaper are local Indigenous foods – macadamia nut, bunya nut, lilly pilly, finger lime, and Moreton Bay bug. The work, therefore, merges this European heritage with local Indigenous knowledge/culture. It’s a striking way to start the exhibition considering it’s pasted on four massive walls. Also, it has a strong message – Brisbane’s food history is layered with different cultures who have all contributed to what we eat today.

  • Untitled (toasted marshmellows)

Near the entrance is this very unusal looking artwork.

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After reading the label, I thought surely these are fake. They are not. These are the actual skins of marshmellows that have been toasted. It is bizarre and I love it. One of those fantastic pieces of art that you have to see up close to really believe it is what the label says.

  • Produce Cartons

Sean Rafferty created this colourful wall of produce cartons.

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Similar to the wallpaper, it is aesthetically amazing. Also, there is a lovely story behind the installation. Rafferty was commissioned by the Museum of Brisbane to produce two artworks for the exhibition. After talking to farmers, wholesalers, and distributors at Brisbane’s Rocklea markets, he developed this idea of sharing the produce of Queensland through the carton boxes that carry it from farm to market. It is a great snapshot at the types of food that are grown and distributed in this State.

On display next to the boxes is a historical map of Roma Street food markets. It is lovely to see this historical document juxtaposed with the contemporary art installation.

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  • South Sea Islanders and Sugar Cane

Towards the back of the exhibition is the story of the South Sea Islanders ’employed’ by plantation owners in Queensland as a source of cheap labour. Between 1863 and 1904, it is estimated that approximately 62 000 South Sea Islanders came to Queensland. Some were coerced or forced to work on the sugar plantations in a practice known as ‘blackbirding’. By 1901, most were deported. Those who continued to live in Queensland were formally recognised in 2000 as a distinct community group that has contributed to the development of Queensland.

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  • Food Futures

Right at the end of the exhibition is a space called Food Futures. This space looks at the impact of growing food on the environment and how the future of food in Brisbane may evolve further. In this space there are three interactive touch screens that allow you to answer 12 questions and discover if your inner self is a carnivore, vegetarian, vegan, plus two other options I can’t remember. Once you have your answer, you can take a sticker with your result. It is fun and it makes you think – what more could you want.

Overall, the exhibition is a nice mix of history and art, shedding some light on the history of food in Brisbane. I think what worked best in the exhibition space was the intertwining of historical documents, contemporary art, photographs, and digital technology. The exhibition, however, tried to do too much in a very small space. Unlike 100% Brisbane which was amazingly inclusive, I feel as though this exhibition would have excluded so many from the narrative purely because of its scale. Perhaps if it was more focused on the food of the region as shown through contemporary art it may have reached its aim a little more successfully. It was an exhibition that bit off a bit more than it could chew – pun absolutely intended.

Regardless, it was a lovely visit to the museum. I even saw some of the new Easton Pearson collection that, intended or not, suited the exhibition themes. For example, there was a lovely top with pineapples printed on the fabric. I really enjoy visiting the Museumo of Brisbane so no doubt I will return shortly to write another review!

Over the Hill – Gladstone Heritage Walking Tour

In October 2016, I attended the ICOMOS & National Trusts of Australia Conference in Melbourne. One of the many talks that really hit a nerve was on the topic of heritage and significance statements. The speaker was trying to push the point that a building is never frozen in time. Rather, it changes, it adapts, and it gains new significance. When I moved to Gladstone I found the brochure (pictured above) and was intrigued as to this heritage walking tour of the city centre. After walking Goondoon Street this morning and seeing all the buildings and their decals on the footpath, I believe this tour is achieving that balance between exploring a building’s past, yet cementing it in the present.

The walking tour took me about 45 minutes. This is because I kept stopping to take photographs and read the brochure that contains information on each of the ten buildings. I am absolutely amazed and thrilled by the fact that Gladstone has kept quite a few of its heritage buildings and has even listed some on the Queensland Heritage Register. The following post will look at each building individually, commenting on its past and its present. It should also be noted that the art decals were produced by an incredible local aritst, Geoffrey Head. They are stuck on the footpath outside each of the buildings allowing people walking by to stop and read some history.

1 Goondoon Street

Then: The Port Curtis Aquatic Club

Now: Gladstone Yacht Club

The Port Curtis Aquatic Club was established in 1941. Its aim was to grow the sport of sailing in Gladstone. This building was the club house, finished in March 1959. The building’s floors were made from Calliope River gum trees, donated after a cyclone hit the area in 1949. In the mid-1970s, the building became the Gladstone Yacht Club – a very popular venue during the annual Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race. It is now listed on the Queensland Heritage Register. Side note: they also do an amazing chicken schnitzel – speaking from personal experience.

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4 Goondoon Street

Then: Private Residence and Metropolitan Hotel

Now: Phone Repair Business

Originally the location of a private residence, this area of land once was home to the Metropolitan Hotel. According to first licensee, Samuel Evans, “it [was] a quiet retreat [with] moderate charges.” Unfortunately the building burned down in 1910. Although fire fighters were quick to the blaze, the age of the building and lack of water supply meant it was destroyed. Mr Golding, who was a member of the volunteer fire brigade, purchased the land building five houses. This is one of the surviving houses.

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7 Goondoon Street

Then: Gladstone Town Hall and Returned Services League Clubhouse

Now: For Sale

One of the area’s oldest buildings, this was the original Town Hall of Gladstone. When the new hall was built in 1934, it became the Returned Services League or RSL. The foundation stone was laid on 28 November 1868. It served as the civic chamber for a total of 64 years! It then became the RSL, which unfortunately closed in 2003. Its future is pending so I will be watching this space closely. A beautiful building with so much history and intrigue. For example, coins of the realm and a copy of the earliest Gladstone Observer are said to be built into the walls, however, have never been found.

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14 Goondoon Street

Then: Private Residence (?)

Now: Law Offices

This house has been restored to as close to its original appearance as possible giving it the nickname “Grandma’s House”. More research is currently underway as to its original function.

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33 Goondoon Street

Then: Post Office

Now: Real Estate Offices

My second favourite building on the tour was the town’s first post office built in 1932. The original post office, however, was located in another area and was built in 1854. This building was a purpose-designed post office for the Commonwealth Postmaster General. What makes this building particularly significant is that only seven of the ‘twin porch’ post offices were ever built in Queensland. This is the only one with a clock tower. It was eventually sold to private businesses in 1997. A truly magnificant building.

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40 Goondoon Street

Then: Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Ltd Offices, Flats, Restaurant, and Law Offices

Now: Gladstone Ports Corporation Offices

This building has a long and interesting history. Originally built for the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Ltd in 1911, it was sold in the early 1960s to Mr M. A. Busteed, a local businessman. The building became a group of flats called “Kullaroo House” – meaning ‘road that leads to water’ in a local Indigenous language. In the 1970s, it became offices for a law firm. Next it was a restaurant in the 1980s before being sold in 1993 to the Gladstone Port Authority, now Gladstone Ports Corpration.

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79 Goondoon Street

Then: Grand Hotel

Now: Grand Hotel

A building that has held the same business since 1898, the Grant Hotel once contained seventeen bedrooms, one sitting room, two bathrooms, one bar and a parlour room. Its purpose was to accommodate passengers moving to and from North Queensland for work. Although not all of the building is original, the widow’s walk right on top has remained intact. The rest of the building has been restored after a substantially damaging fire in 1993.

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98 Goondoon Street

Then: Patrick’s Jewellers

Now: Patrick’s Jewellers

There is quite a horrific theme here of fire destroying buildings and this one is no exception. The first building opened in 1911 containing Patrick’s jewellers, owned and operated by Colin Patrick. A fire destroyed the original building in 1938, causing the Patrick family, who lived above, to flee with only their pyjamas on their backs. A new premises was eventually built and Patrick re-opened his jewellers. This store has been passed from generation to generation. The current owner, Noel, is the third generation of Patrick to run the store.

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114 Goondoon Street

Then: Commonwealth Bank Branch

Now: Private Business

This building was purchased for approximately $1, 000 (in today’s money) to build a branch for the Commonwealth Bank opening in 1927. It is a substantial two-storey “Spanish style” building that held the bank until 1972. It is now owned by a private business.

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144 Goondoon Street

Then: Town Hall and Municipal Chambers

Now: Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum

No bias here at all, but this is my favourite building of the lot. It was designed by Rockhampton architect Roy Chipps and built during the Great Depression to generate jobs and income for struggling families. It was opened on 15 September 1934. It operated as the Town Hall and Municipal Chambers. It also held the World War I Honour Board that was wheeled out every ANZAC Day for the ceremony. While the board still remains, the ceremony is now held in ANZAC Park. It was also a place of great entertainment with weekly movies, dances, parties, flower shows, weddings, and even held a children’s library. It was closed and eventually turned into the Art Gallery and Museum in 1985. This Art Deco building is absolutely stunning and I am grateful every single day that I can go through these doors into a hub of cultural and community activity.

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This was such a wonderful way to spend my Sunday morning. It was also a great introduction to the heritage we have in the city centre!

Rockhampton Art Gallery

Greetings from the beautiful city of Gladstone! This is my third week working at the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum. My first couple of weeks have been nothing but incredible. I have learned everything from hanging artworks to lighting exhibitions. I have also guided three educaiton programs learning so much about the State Heritage Listed Town Hall and Council Chambers. I still have to pinch myself when I walk through the doors of the Art Deco building. I am unbelievably grateful to have been given this opportunity and I cannot wait to see how the role evolves over time.

On the topic of regional museums, last weekend I went on a road trip to Rockhampton. Located approximately 108 km from Gladstone, Rocky (affectionate nickname) is the fourth largest regional city in Queensland. There are quite a few heritage sites and museums in and around the city so watch this space for more Rockhampton-themed blog posts.

For my first time in the city, I decided to visit the Art Gallery. It’s right in the city centre, near the Fitzroy River. I wasn’t visiting to see a specific exhibition, I was more interested in seeing the venue and how they curated their exhibition spaces. Currently on show is: Coming into Fashion: A Century of Photography at Condé Nast.

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According to the website, the exhibition is to celebrate some of the most iconic fashion images ever snapped. These have come from archives in New York, Milan, and Paris. While I absolutely adore fashion, fashion photography isn’t something I’d go out of my way to see. Considering it was a $10 admission fee just to see the exhibition, I have to admit I did hesitate.

In the end, I went in. The first thing you see when you enter the space is the introductory panel that is white writing on a black background. It was a strain to read, however, it was well lit. Right at the end of the panel, the text states that the exhibition is divded across two galleries – the one in Rockhampton and the one in Mackay. I was slightly nervous at this stage wondering how much exactly I would see and what I was missing.

You then enter a large room that has photographs and text divided by decades. For example, there was Recognition and Renewal – the 1980s to 2000s. These thematic panels were incredibly in-depth going through the history of Condé Nast and highlighting specific significant developments along the way.

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I spent more time admiring the textiles in the middle of the space. They were positioned well, allowing visitors to view each piece of clothing from all angles. I appreciated being able to see the reverse of the garment which is not always the case in textile exhibitions.

Then things got a little confusing. There were two ways to go, back out the door you came in (obviously not the way) or through a little door at the back of the room that wasn’t obviously a connection between exhibition spaces. On approaching the door, I saw a small sign indicating it was, in fact, the correct way. Through the door, you walk down a corridor, past the staff offices. I felt as though I had accidentally walked into a “staff only” area.

In saying this, it was nicely designed in that the wall opposite the offices displayed a chronology of cameras from some of the earliest to one’s used today. At the end of this space was a small cafe and a children’s play area which I thought was a real highlight. Having a play area and cafe away from the main exhibition, but, between the two rooms made the exhibition feel larger than it actually was. It is a pretty nifty way to extend an exhibition experience.

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After walking through yet another door, I was in the final room of the exhibition. Considering it looked at ealier decades from the 1910s to the 1980s, it was definitely more enjoyable than the first room. The textiles in the middle were, again, the highlight. Especially this beautiful tartan dress!

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After walking around this room, I walked out the door expecting more to the exhibition. As I soon discovered, however, it was the end. Although small, the exhibition was well curated and it was very interesting to see how they were displayed and fixed to the wall.

I will say that the Gallery had a gift shop filled with treasures. I purchased a Guerilla Girls car air freshner (“to eliminate the smell of patriarchy”) and a doll wearing a mondrian dress. The latter is a handmade art piece and so cute I couldn’t resist.

Overall, I am very glad that I visited the Art Gallery and I can’t wait to see what they offer in the future. I did see a Watercolours and Wine event that had my name all over it.

There is so much to see and do here I cannot wait to explore more! On my list is definitely a few trips to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, swim with turtles and rays at Heron Island, see fossils in the Capricorn Caves and watch koalas sleep in the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens. I am also unbelievably excited to see the new Museum of Brisbane exhibition – Tastes like Sunshine – when I visit Brisbane in late September.

For my next post, however, I am going to tkae you on a journey through the heritage buildings of central Gladstone. I hope to walk the route this weekend!

The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney

The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney is now showing at the Museum of Sydney until November 26, 2017. There is something about furniture and homewares from the 1930s to 1960s that just fills a small void in my life. It’s basically the transformation of furniture from verging on impractical to sleek and beautifully designed. In other words, this movement allowed simple to be magnificent.
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When I heard about this exhibition opening in Sydney I was very intrigued. We must have had some amazing designers around this period, but I’ve never heard their stories. Today was the day to educate myself and admire the men and women who often fled tumultuous circumstances in Europe to practice their craft and realise their designs.

The exhibition is located on Level 2 of the Museum of Sydney. Just before entering the space, there is a large thematic panel with the exhibition title in neon blue. Contained in a glass tube is a chair manufactured by George Karody. As the introductory panel states, modern Australian architecture is so often associated with Harry Seidler. Those that came before him are ignored and marginalised from the story. So already you feel as though it is going to be a different kind of modernist exhibition that tackles new material.

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The exhibition space allows you to select whatever path you wish to take. It is essentially set up to showcase the biographies of early designers and photographs/objects representing their work. The display cases are so perfectly designed to look like 1920s Art Deco pieces. Each designer has their own colour and section of the exhibition. Men and women are represented in the space which was great to see.

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Apart from the biography panels and cases, parts of the exhibition space were re-created rooms from Sydney houses. The furniture was all inspired or created by the designers and told the story of a particular family and their connection to the moderns.

That basically provides a nice overview of the entire exhibition space. See the photographs below for further layout information.

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The rest of the blog will focus on three designers that I found to be most interesting. Also, I’ll briefly discuss one of the house set ups that really caught my eye.

1. Susan Kozma-Orlay

Kozma-Orlay was born in 1913, in Budapest Hungary. After studying in Budapest, Stuttgart, and Vienna, she fled to Australia with her family having survived Nazi occupation. During her illustrious career, Kozma-Orlay worked for companies such as David Jones, designing graphics for their silk and textile patterns. She later moved into furntiure and interior design working closely with Stephen Gergely in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. Her earlier work is now on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

After reading about this amazing journey from Europe to Australia, you are then invited to see some of her designs both in pictorial form and as actual objects. The first image is of a beautiful drinks chest that has wheels attached for easy manouevring. My favourite object, however, was the samples book created for David Jones containing some of her designs.

What worked really well in this space was the use of backlighting to highlight specific images. By creating contrast with lights, the display was more visually appealing and your eyes were drawn to the most significant works.

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2 and 3. Oser and Fombertaux

Hans Oser was born in Austria, arriving in Sydney in 1938. Jean Fombertaux was born in France and arrived in Sydney three years earlier. In Sydney, the two formed a partnership utilising their design skills and producing late-international-style architecture.

Their work included the William Bland Centre on Macquarie Street and the BOAC Travel Centre on Castlereagh Street. The latter was included in the Royal Australian Institute of Architectus in 1971.

I have selected these personalities because the images that accompanied their stories were extremely powerful. In particular, seeing the Star of David added to one of the buildings made me reflect on the broader themes of the exhibition as well as take a moment to consider wider contexts.

They also produced some stunning interiors and the backlit photographs were difficult to miss when first entering the space.

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4. Room with Cocktail Cabinet

It is incredibly difficult to walk past this section of the exhibition and not fall immediately in love with the cocktail cabinet. The work is stunning and it is such a treasure piece of Art Deco. Also the wood is sourced from Queensland so a huge plus there.

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In saying this, there was another room with a great little story attached – the Schwartz House. The room panel explored the story of Laci and Magda Schwartz who emigrated to Sydney from Hungary and had George Reves design their house. This room is an example of their entertaining space where visitors could overlook Sydney Harbour. The story was going so well until the ending. The house was demolished in 2000, seriously heart breaking. All of this amazing modernist design and architecture no longer exists.

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Here are some of the other room displays:

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This level of design and the individuals who championed the modernist movement have been thoughtfully remembered in the exhibition space. I just wish more of these Art Deco properties and their interiors remained! For today, seeing the designs and products in a museum will have to do. I can dream that one day I’ll own a house that will be modernist designed from floor to ceiling.

American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times at Penrith Regional Gallery

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To celebrate 100 years since the birth of President John F. Kennedy (JFK), exhibitions are popping up all over America and in other places around the world. I was absolutely not expecting an exhibition at Penrith Regional Art Gallery and Museum. I was shocked to see that they were displaying photographs of Kennedy in an exhibition titled: American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times. Penrith is approximately one hour by train from Sydney CBD. The journey was worth it to see the exhibition.

I was so excited to see how a regional museum tackled his presidency and how they selected to display the photographs. In total, there were four rooms and a small hallway. Each room represented a different theme covering the early years, the presidential campaign, and his time as president. It was in the cutest little house inside the gallery complex. You felt as though you were literally walking into someone’s place. Once inside, the video playing footage of the Kennedy campaign etc, transformed the space entirely.

It was a perfect size for an exhibition. I spent around 45 minutes looking at the display, but, you could easily see it all in only 30 minutes. To start, there is a thematic panel welcoming visitors to the space explaining how Kennedy and the media were inseparable. His presidency really was in this ‘golden age of photojournalism’ (one of the many reasons why I find his presidency so fascinating). You are then informed that the Kennedy family conveyed a new vision of America – one filled with change and opportunity. It was a very interesting way to introduce the exhibition. It conforms to how JFK is regarded today – as the hopeful President who never had the chance to complete one term of his presidency.

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After reading the panel there is no set way to see the photographs. It makes sense to start in the first room on the left that depicts the early years of Kennedy up until his presidential campaign. Now I have seen multitudes of photographs of his presidency. I’ve visited the JFK Library and Museum in Boston a few times and have researched his presidency for many assignments and just out of interest. There were so many photographs I had never seen before which was seriously exciting. I liked how they covered his early life before launching into his thousand days in office. Also, the photographs weren’t just of him. They have made a great effort to select images that also depict the social, cultural, and wider political issues America faced under his presidency. For example, there was a powerful image of the Birmingham Riots.

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The rooms were all curated with such care. The photographs were well positioned and did not clutter the space. Often I feel galleries are too sparse or too cluttered so it was nice to feel a balance. My favourite room was right down the back of the house also on the left. The image of JFK and Robert “Bobby” Kennedy sitting on a bed contemplating everything is one of my favourite images of his presidency. It was used on the book cover for “Brothers” by David Talbot. It is just a stunning photograph capturing the hidden history behind the public face of JFK that eluded to nothing but confidence.

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I also enjoyed the room that looked at the youth of Kennedy including family photographs and photographs of his wedding to Jacqueline Bouvier. There was a small thematic panel exploring the family dynamic of the Kennedy family which is complex, tense, and filled with misfortune.

I also wanted to share a couple of photographs I had never seen before. The first is of Kennedy’s visit to Berlin in June 1963. Mere months before his assassination. The photograph depicts Kennedy at Checkpoint Charlie, looking at the wall with a crowd of East Berliners seen in the background. It would be fantastic to have this image on display at the Kennedy Museum in Berlin!

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Another image I had never seen before was one of JFK sitting in a chair writing something while children crowd around the window outside. It is such a fun photograph and I spent a little while contemplating whether or not it was entirely staged. Clearly the majority of his photographs as President have been staged to conform to a certain image. This one, however, looked more natural than the others.

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Finally, another highlight image was not of JFK himself, but, of the voting booth during the election. You can only see the legs of those inside the booth. Again, this is a quirky image and a great addition to the exhibition space.

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The only real critical thought I had throughout my visit was that occassionaly there were obvious spelling mistakes on the labels. There was one glaring word in the introductory panel that did not fit in the sentence. I did only notice these errors post-visit while I was looking through my photographs.

Overall, I had a great day spending time with the photographs of Kennedy in Penrith. I would highly encourage those with even a slight interest in his presidency to make the journey and see the exhbition for yourself. Out of all the photographic exhibitions of Kennedy I have seen, this one ranks amongst the best. Everything from the location to the video sound permeating the rooms allowed it to be a great tribute to a fascinating President.

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