Entries Tagged 'DÉCOR' ↓

function follows form, sometimes, alas.

Marc Newson fork for Qantas.

Architectural Anomalies 101: was there a moment when

the architect of this UniLodge building in downtown Acton (the west facing wall here photographed at 2.30 on a sunny afternoon) said: “Merde! (he’s from France) We put the sunshades on the wrong way round! Do you think anyone will notice?” (Answer: only the residents. And they’re OK on the other side of the building. And they’re probably OK in France.)

This may have been the same architect who scattered this other kind of ineffectual shading on this other building across the road in the same complex. Clearly the designer does not subscribe to the design aesthetic (or should that now be ethic?) that works to reduce the heat exchange load of a building by designing solar-effective shading. Just provide the politically-correct appearance of same and it will look contemporary enough.

As opposed to the Tax Building in Civic, from the same angle as the first image, which looks good to me in every sense.


Aisha Gaddafi as the mermaid sofa: from The Guardian slideshow: Sergey Ponomarer/AP

what is wrong with this picture?

Read the spin here on ArtDaily. Or just join the dots… Here’s a clue…

P.S. Damien Hirst made a killing in the first days of the last GFC as well…

yet another Fountain, artistically installed, even

If the concept of the Readymade conditions our understanding of the aesthetic challenges posed by the mundane world of commodities within a seemingly infinite cosmos of artefacts, both artistic and otherwise, then surely there is no other art object that so fundamentally challenges our orientation towards every other work of art than the Fountain. No other object presents the viewer with such profound psycho-social and evaluative/critical ambiguities as those initiated by its original manifestation ninety four years ago. In every subsequent manifestation, both in the museumspeak of gallery directors, and in the vernacular, a Fountain is a “destination work”.

Chastened by recent debates on this site, your iconophile has thrown convention to the wind, and in the construction of his latest domestic installation he has adopted uncritically many of the design criteria espoused by his erstwhile friend Ron Radford (to whom we are indebted for the odd turn of phrase). When it comes to a work such as this, nothing is more important than the blend of architectural form and the harmonious experience of function.  Everything must express its proper relation to each other, in its evocation of its historical and contemporary cultural antecedents and environments.

And so in the midst of this post-phenomenological moment, whilesoever the body-to-body paradigm remains the conventional mode of address for the artist-beholder, so it remains the primary consideration for our critical engagement with an art object such as this. These are matters on such a high aesthetic plane that the search for meaning in social or cultural practice allows no room here for distraction, no space for disciplines other than the purely aesthetic and art historical. Whenever a replica or an analogue of The Fountain is installed, every consideration of matters of natural and cultural significance should be weighed and measured. If precedents exist, they must be properly acknowledged.

Prominence is a critical aspect of the placement of such an object, and thus this Fountain has been given a prime position just inside the door, so that it may be displayed to its full advantage as a distinctive and beautiful installation away from other things. The idea is that visitors will encounter and experience the work with a complex sense of the interior/exterior spatial relationship, in circumstances enhanced by natural light and the circulation of air to maintain its unique environmental considerations with respect to the rest of the building. Sensitive to both light and humidity, it took a great deal of consideration to get all the elements correct. The overall aesthetic consideration was to reduce the introduction of alien materials in its display so that The Fountain remains the central point of attention. The final materials surrounding the Fountain are those already embodied in the object and its surroundings, all handled with dignified simplicity.

The process of installation and design engineering set out to create a harmonious context for this great work. The vitrified china (a kind of protoporcelain) body of the Fountain itself is reflected in the ceramic tiles on the walls, which being specially imported from the historic Stoke-on-Trent potteries, reflect the complexity and contradictions of our postcolonial heritage. The stones that make the floor (tumbled grey granite sourced from Byron Bay) are part of the earth and are an ideal material for the space as they serve several purposes. They prevent humidity moving vertically downward, and they hide the unsightly infrastructure below. The stones also fulfilled our requirement for a material and colour that blended with the external surroundings of the building, which are a part of the original palette of the house, and other works within the immediate environment. We have consciously used such materials in the new space to help link the old with the new.

A substantial amount of work has gone into ensuring natural daylight would be the predominant illumination for the Fountain. Blinds on the windows come down if the light levels are too high. Artificial light can be manually adjusted to ensure a correct balance throughout the day. We have gone to a great deal of trouble and expense to achieve this lighting for this great work.

Contrary to conventional curatorial practice, during the early planning stages of his project your iconophile was assisted by an historian and anthropologist, in consultation with plumbers, electricians, tilers and others to ensure that this important work was displayed respectfully and beautifully. Visitors to the installation have unanimously agreed the new Fountain has been displayed with more dignity and more beautifully than ever before.

P.S. (which is an appropriately euphonic acronym, in this instance). As if to prove a point, (de faire un point, ostensiblement, as the ghost of MD reminds us) on this past March 24th this other Fountain appeared in Grange Park, Toronto, just next to the Ontario College of Art and Design. For one night only, alas…


“the stones are part of the earth”

…and they blend with the slate floor. So says the Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Ron Radford, in his justification of the redesign of The Aboriginal Memorial. Well, true, but surely there’s much more to it than that? Loyal readers of Iconophilia will recall that on December 10th last year I published a letter I had written to him two months previously, asking a number of questions about the decision-making and consultative process which had led to the installation of The Aboriginal Memorial in its current guise. This was my original letter:

12th October, 2010

Ron Radford, AM


National Gallery of Australia

GPO Box 1150, Canberra, ACT, 2601

Dear Ron,

May I ask of you a couple of questions? I’m writing a piece on the new installation of The Aboriginal Memorial, and I would like to be sure I have my facts straight.

1. Whose idea was it, and who approved the introduction of the new material as a groundbase for the Memorial?

2. What was the consultation process with the artists and their heirs, at what stage of the design development, and with whom?

3. Has there been a “singing-in” ceremony, as with all the other relocations and rearrangements, (with the exception, I understand, of St Petersburg)? If so, by whom, and when?

Your reply will be much appreciated

With best wishes

Nigel Lendon

In the four months since this letter, there have been many posts and commentary on Iconophilia, and elsewhere. Now a reply has arrived. I reproduce it in full below. There are so many aspects to his account one scarcely knows where to begin. So, for the time being, I leave it to my readers to decide whether it is a satisfactory account of the processes and decisions that have led to the current manifestation of The Aboriginal Memorial.

P.S.If you’re new to this thread on Iconophilia, type Memorial in the search box at the top of the side bar and press Return to go to the other posts and comments on this topic.

P.P.S. Two months ago I first published my original letter, and in frustration, a hypothetical response, here.

is The Aboriginal Memorial a work of art?

On 6th November last year Djon Mundine gave a talk at the National Gallery of Australia about the place of The Aboriginal Memorial in the context of contemporary Indigenous art, following its relocation and redesign in the new wing. One of his key claims was that the historical moment of transition between art museums’ treatment of Aboriginal artefacts as works of art coincided with the recognition of authorship. According to this criterion, Indigenous artefacts in museum collections were recognised as works of art by the act of naming their authors.

In the discussion that followed his talk, one of the members of the audience noted that the 43 artists who created The Aboriginal Memorial were not named, which, by Djon’s criterion, called into question the status of the Memorial as a work of art. Both Djon and the Senior Curator, Francesca Cubillo seemed to agree that this was a problem which should be fixed. Two months later, all that has been changed is the addition of a short wall-text edited from an excellent brochure, written by Susan Jenkins in 1997 (which did name all the artists). The new additional wall-text reads:

The Aboriginal Memorial

The Aboriginal Memorial is an installation of 200 hollow log ceremonial coffins from Central Arnhem Land. The Aboriginal Memorial was created for the National Gallery of Australia in 1988 in response to the Bicentenary of Australia, a celebration of 200 years of European settlement. The path through the Memorial imitates the course of the Glyde River estuary which flows through the Arafura Swamp to the sea. The hollow log coffins are situated broadly according to where the artists’ clans live along the river and its tributaries.

The Aboriginal Memorial was conceived by Djon Mundine, a member of the Bundjalang people of northern New South Wales and at the time art adviser in Ramingining in Central Arnhem Land. Originally Mundine approached a small group of Senior artists including Paddy Dhatangu, George Malibirr, Jimmy Wululu and Dr David Daymirringu. However the project grew to include forty three male and female artists from Ramingining and its surrounds in Central Arnhem Land.

The Aboriginal Memorial with its 200 hollow log coffins – one for each year of European settlement, in the words of Mundine, represents a forest of souls, a war cemetery and the final rites for all indigenous Australians who have been denied a proper burial.

In 1987 the National Gallery of Australia agreed to commission this installation to enable the artists, most of whom were professional painters, sculptors and weavers, to complete the project. The Aboriginal Memorial was initially shown at the Biennale of Sydney in 1988. It was then brought to Canberra where it is now permanently displayed in the National Gallery of Australia.

The Aboriginal Memorial marks a watershed in the history of Australian society. Whilst it is intended as a war memorial, its is also a historical statement, a testimony to the resilience of Indigenous people and culture in the face of great odds, and a legacy for future generations of Australians.

The label remains the same, which itself perpetuates a historical mis-attribution. If you go to the website – here – to find the artists’ locations, clans, names, and stories, you will see that a significant proportion of the work was made by artists who live/lived somewhere other than Ramininging.

Elsewhere, the Gallery claims The Aboriginal Memorial as “one of the most important works of art in the national collection”.

Yet the question remains: does the absence of attribution – the artists’ names on the label which accompanies the work – render ambiguous the status of The Aboriginal Memorial as a work of art?

P.S. As noted in an earlier post, the right of attribution is recognised within Moral Rights legislation in Australia. And see other related confusions at the NGA here.

P.P.S. Links to the thread on this topic may be found here. Or type Memorial in the search box.

P.P.P.S. And for a wider perspective, read Melinda Hinkson (who describes herself – in this instance – as a “disgruntled anthropologist”) on the NGA’s lack of a relational approach to its presentation of Indigenous art. You can download her on-the-button essay from Arena 109 here: For Love and Money.

P.P.P.P.S. You can find the NGA’s own YouTube video here, which in a new description gives a account of funerary practices in the present tense, as if that is the way burial ceremonies still take place. A more nuanced account might say: “In the past…” or “Traditionally…” Otherwise, aren’t we getting a little more ethnographic than the Director might like?

STOP PRESS: 27 June 2011. At last the National Gallery of Australia has taken a step toward remedying the problems outlined above. It has only taken seven months.

But wait! Naming the artists is one thing. But it perpetuates the myth that these are all artists from Ramingining. Ramingining artists and others is the more accurate attribution.

At last the Australian equivalent of Picasso’s Guernica has been recognised by the National Gallery of Australia as the preeminent work of art of the Australian colonial era.

Another P.S.: Let’s see how long it takes to make some corrections? Jimmy Moduk is listed twice, Neville Nanytjawuy is missing.

A final P.S.: In June 2016 I published the following essay: Relational Agency: Rethinking The Aboriginal Memorial. https://emajartjournal.com/2016/06/15/nigel-lendon-relational-agency-rethinking-the-aboriginal-memorial/

The Big Fishtrap

In keeping with the nation’s passion for the tourist art category of Big Things (Banana, Pineapple, Merino, Crayfish, Trout etc.), one of the features of the new wing of the National Gallery of Australia is a very large mandjabu (fishtrap). Because the photography of works of art is prohibited inside the NGA, I can’t show you an image of it. Neither can I show you what’s on the website:

All works and information that appear on [the] NGA website do so with the consent of the artist/s or copyright holder. No image or information displayed may be reproduced, transmitted or copied (other than for the purposes of private research and study) without the NGA’s permission. Contravention is an infringement of Australia’s Copyright Act 1968.

In any case, the only image of the big mandjabu I could find on the site is this partial snap on the NGA’s Flickr photostream here, where works of art from the collection are represented in a much less formal manner.

However this artefact is arguably an exception to this prohibition. That is, if it doesn’t have an author in the manner of other works of art, it’s not really a work of art. This gigantic aluminium artefact is suspended in the vault above the shop entrance and the cloak room. From the little the NGA tells you, its origins and authorship are proving to be somewhat mysterious. When the new extension first opened the label attributed authorship to the folks that made it (Urban Art Project Foundry) with the sub-text that it was “based on” an original dated c.1955 in the collection by an “Unknown Artist”.

Clearly a Foundry is not an Artist. Recently, however, new labels have been affixed to the walls which give the attribution in a different way. The “author” is now an “Unknown MAKER” and it is based on an original fishtrap in the collection, now dated c. 1995. The revised date makes more sense, given that the settlement of Maningrida hardly existed in 1955. Presumably the “original” is this one, acquired in 2006. Or there’s another example in the collection, this time with much better provenance. The replica is not listed in the collection database.  So, if it’s not a work of art, it’s something else, which surely poses other problems for the nation’s premier art museum.

Given this evolving ambiguity, I went to the Urban Art Projects site, where you will find plenty of images, plus some words of explanation from the Director, Ron Radford, who tells us:

The fish trap is based on a 1950s Maningrida fish trap and UAP have been able to interpret and enlarge the original woven piece into a stunning 12 metre long intricate metal work. The fish trap is a feature work in the atrium and the shadow pattern it produces is almost as beautiful as the work itself.

By UAP’s own account, the work was “curated by the NGA”. You can even watch its time-lapse construction on YouTube here. Fascinating.

The question remains, who is the author of this feature work? It seems almost inconceivable that if the original fishtrap from Maningrida was made in circa 1995 it could lose the attribution of the artist who made it. Whatever the circumstances of the acquisition of the original, with a little research the problem of authorship could have been easily solved, surely, and permissions for a named (or attributed) replica negotiated. However when you go to the UAP site (but not the NGA site) you find that it was produced in collaboration with the Maningrida artist George Ganyjbala:

The Maningrida fish trap is an important sculptural commission and presents a contemporary interpretation of a traditional woven fish trap from the Maningrida Aboriginal community in Australia’s Northern Territory. Works of art from Maningrida carry a strong reputation and are represented in collections nationally and internationally. UAP’s design team travelled to the Northern Territory to work with George Ganyjbala, Maningrida elder and skilled fish trap maker and his family.

So while there was a UAP “design team” who “interpreted” the “original” in collaboration with George Ganyjbala, the author of the original remains unknown. Who would know?  Maningrida Arts and Culture is one of the most professional art centres in the country, which has paved the way in the attribution of artefacts other than paintings and sculptures as the work of individual artists. In the nineties there were several well-known artists who made mandjabu, among other things, for sale at MAC. As do a number of contemporary artists today. However, surprisingly, MAC is not mentioned anywhere in this thread.

If research, discussion, permission, or commission with the the original artist (or their heirs) was a part of the process of curation, why are they not named or attributed by the NGA? In the absence of such a curatorial process, is it the NGA that is the “author” of this “feature work”, by default? Whose idea was it? Who had carriage of its production? So long as the replica’s authorship remains unresolved, or unrecognised, so does its ambiguous status as a work of art. Not. Which means, among other things, I should have been allowed to photograph it.

And finally.


homage (of a kind)

You would expect, wouldn’t you, that a tag in an Art School toilet would reflect the high ambient standards of  aesthetic consideration. And so, when artists like Cy Twombly command god-like respect amongst art students, it’s inevitable some of the material qualities of his art were bound to spill over. As sometimes happens in such contexts.

No so in Russia, according to Robert Bonnett

And so the 2011 challenge will be: The Iconophilia R. Mutt Award for toilet tags with art historical references.

is there such a thing as curatorial IP?

Do curators have “rights” which supersede an artist’s Intellectual Property rights?  It’s one thing to criticise a curator’s thesis, or the complex decisions that are made in order to mount an exhibition or hang a collection. And sure, of course there is a particular mode of creativity involved in the curatorial process. But are these activities defensible as a higher form of Intellectual Property over that which is embodied in works of art? Some curatorial practices seem to assume this is the case. To open the question for critical debate, here is Iconophilia’s list of the eleven common ways in which curators may interfere with the Intellectual Property inherent in a work of art. As we witnessed in 2010, curators may/do:

1. redesign integral elements of a work of art

2. rearrange the elements of a work of art

3. frame it in a way that’s inconsistent with its original manifestation

4. hang it on a wall that’s painted in a dominating colour

5. locate it amongst competing architectural forms (for example, hang flat art on a curved wall)

6. exhibit the work in dynamic lighting conditions

7. subject the work to intense spotlighting

8. exhibit a work of art without giving attribution to the artist(s) (names)

9. vary the orientation of a work of art

10. ignore the artist’s instructions

11. use fragments of artworks as logotypes

Iconophilia seeks readers’ contributions of examples of the ways in which public institutions interfere with the integrity of works of art. If you wish to contribute to the Iconophilia database of the following kinds of curatorial actions which appear to infringe the integrity of a work of art which is currently on public display in a museum or art gallery, please download this pdf checklist.