Exhibition Proposal for Art & Curatorship Unit (MMHS, Sydney Uni)

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    Art & Curatorship ARHT6914 Assignment 2: Exhibition Proposal

    Unit Coordinator: Dr. Louise Marshall

    By Antony Skinner St. ID. 198446648

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    Proposal (Introduction or What):

    Sydney Harbour is a proposal for a temporary exhibition consisting primarily of

    works from the Australian art collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales

    (AGNSW). It starts with the work of Conrad Martens and ends with Lloyd Rees.

    Bonyhandy notes, that Sydney Harbour was one of Martens principal subjects,

    depicting its size and beauty as well as civic progress and his style changed with time

    from topographical details to Romantic influences playing with chiaroscuro,

    reflecting the influence of Turner.1 Colonial art had two subjects: views and portraits,

    which were typical of any provincial society and art as information was a

    distinguishing characteristic of provincial art in NSW.2 Later in the nineteenth

    century Sydney had two attractions for artists: The AGNSW as a patron and secondly

    the natural beauty of Sydney Harbour, with its mild climate and brilliant sunshine.3

    Thus it drew the former Heidelberg artists and other Impressionists to its shores.

    Radford notes that by WWI Sydney had become the largest and fastest growing city

    in Australia. It was seen as more progressive in art and in everything else: the

    massive engineering of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the late 1920s symbolised

    the citys embrace of progress and modernity.4 So the phases of the Bridges

    construction and completion were popular subjects during Modernism. The women

    Modernists were unconventional: Preston rejected the domination of landscape

    naturalism in favour of stylised portrayals;5 while Cossington Smith preferred still

    lifes, interiors, figurative works, or city and industrial subjects;6 while Wakelin and

    others focused on suburban landscapes.7 Pearce observes that for artists like: Condor,

    Roberts, Streeton, Preston, Cossington Smith, and others depicting Sydney Harbour in

    around the AGNSW provided them with a synergy of place, institutional patronage

    and creative moment in the lives of these artists which is unmatched.8

    1 Tim Bonyhandy, The Colonial Image: Australian Painting: 1800-1880, Australian National Gallery, 1987, Sydney, Ellsyd Press, p. 40. 2 Joan Kerr, Views, Visages, Invisibility: Themes in the Art of Colonial NSW, in Patricia McDonald and Barry Pearce, The Artist and the Patron: Aspects of Colonial Art in New South Wales, AGNSW, Beagle Press, 1988, p. 15. 3 Jane Clark and Bridget Whitelaw, Golden Summers: Heidelberg and Beyond, ICCA, Griffin Press, 1986, p. 150. 4 Ron Radford, Ocean to Outback: Australian Landscape Painting 1850-1950, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2007, p. 36. 5 Deborah Edwards and Denise Mimmocchi, (Eds), Sydney Moderns: Art for a New World, AGNSW, Thames & Hudson, Melbourne, 2013, p. 218. 6 Ron Radford, Ocean to Outback: Australian Landscape Painting 1850-1950, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2007, p. 36. 7 Ron Radford, Ocean to Outback: Australian Landscape Painting 1850-1950, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2007, p. 37. 8 Barry Pearce, 100 Moments in Australian Painting, University of NSW Press, Sydney, 2014, p. 4.

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    Exhibition Concept (Rationale or Why):

    Obrist posits that Art is all about looking and that curators are enablers, opening

    visitors eyes to the joys of looking at art.9 It is showing and also as Storr states, it is

    telling where the exhibition acts as a space where ideas are visually phrased and a

    mere display of canonical works does not inform visitors of the subtexts of the

    objects.10 So Sydney Harbour tells a pictorial story of its perception in the eyes of

    local and non-local artists and the changes they observed as it changed over time.

    Therefore it is a group thematic exhibition to display local heritage and history and

    changes in art historical traditions and methods with the representation of the

    landscape both natural and manmade over 100 years. McLean considers exhibitions

    as the soul of a museum experience11, and Sydney Harbour is an exhibition of the

    soul of the city of Sydney as seen through the eyes of some of Australias greatest

    artists, and as McLean cites Greenblatt that, visitors should feel resonance and

    wonder when they look at an exhibition.12 As Kerr declares:

    Sydney Harbour has remained the most popular single signifier of Australia to

    the rest of the world for almost 200 years (although Uluru may now have

    supplanted it). In the nineteenth century the harbour was accepted as a

    sufficient symbol for NSW, far more than any other single site ever

    represented a whole colony. The harbour has always been portrayed in iconic

    splendour.13

    This tradition continued into the twentieth century also, having being called, the most

    beautiful harbour in the world at one point of history and perhaps it still is. Thus the

    aim of Sydney Harbour is hopefully to create resonance and wonder, as an

    exhibition on the subject of this type and scale has not been shown before.

    9 Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Anne d'Harnoncourt on the role of the curator and advice to young curators [excerpt], in, A brief history of curating, [ed. Lionel Bovier], Zurich: JRP / Ringier; Dijon: Les Presses du rel, 2008, p.179. 10 Robert Storr, Show and tell, What makes a great exhibition?, (Ed. Paula Marincola), Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, University of Chicago Press, c2006, pp. 21-23. 11 Kathleen McLean, Museum exhibitions and the dynamics of dialogue, Reinventing the museum: historical and contemporary perspectives on the paradigm shift, (Ed. Gail Anderson), Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, c2004, pp. 193. 12 Kathleen McLean, Museum exhibitions and the dynamics of dialogue, Reinventing the museum: historical and contemporary perspectives on the paradigm shift, (Ed. Gail Anderson), Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, c2004, p. 201. 13 Joan Kerr, Views, Visages, Invisibility: Themes in the Art of Colonial NSW, in Patricia McDonald and Barry Pearce, The Artist and the Patron: Aspects of Colonial Art in New South Wales, AGNSW, Beagle Press, 1988, p. 16.

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    Exhibition Display (Layout (the hang) or How):

    Kruger suggests for a display to be organised museally it should also be displayed

    aesthetically, so the how is as important as the what and the why, and suggests three

    points to consider: everything is subordinate to the object on display; the object is in

    the museum also forms part of its setting; for the visitor, the room and its art

    constitute a single unified experience.14 While Gombrich posits that, not only is each

    object important but the relationships between all the objects in terms of how they are

    displayed with each other.15 Hall provides a useful guide of how to hang an exhibition

    with the following considered here for Sydney Harbour exhibition:

    1. The curatorial order is not strictly historical though it starts with the earliest

    paintings, but it also considers conservation and the most appropriate

    positioning of works in relation to the spaces and each other;

    2. The exhibition is in existing galleries with temporary walls added to separate

    the exhibition from other gallery spaces and provide more hanging space;

    3. Section breaks in the exhibition is provided in the architecture of the gallery

    and by the use of some coloured background walls though this is also for

    aesthetic contrast;

    4. Spacing is important with larger works given more, while smaller works are

    clustered and most works are hung Eyelined;16

    Most of the works have been hung according to their stylistic movement, artist,

    historical period or medium as well as the considerations in point 1., above.

    Curatorial Issues:

    Exhibiting:

    Belcher states, an exhibition is a showing for a purpose, the purpose being to affect

    the viewer in some predetermined way.17 It is a controlled interaction between the

    audience and three-dimensional authentic objects.18 It is created like a sculpture as a

    14 Hermann Kruger, Planning and layout of museums: The central importance of the room, Museum Management and Curatorship, 1984, 3(4), p. 354. 15 Ernst Hans Gombrich, From light into paint, in, Historical and philosophical issues in the conservation of cultural heritage, (Eds. Nicholas Stanley Price, M. Kirby Talley, Jr., Alessandra Melucco Vaccaro). Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, c1996. p. 124. 16 Margaret Hall, Hanging the Exhibition, On Display: a design grammar for museum exhibitions, Lund Humphries, London, 1987, pp. 187-189. 17 Michael Belcher, Exhibition as a medium of communication, Exhibitions in Museums, Edition New ed., Leicester U. P., 1992, p. 37. 18 Ibid.

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    three-dimensional object, which considers mass and space, and is a piece of

    functional design but with specific motives to not only create a mood that will elicit

    emotional responses from the audience, but to also share and tell a pictorial

    narrative.19 As a final consideration to the theoretical basis of an exhibition and issues

    with it, Belcher cites, McLuhan, the medium becomes the message.20

    Audience Engagement:

    New museology requires that the curator and exhibition de