Exhibition dates: 31st October 2008 – 22nd February 2009
Opening: October 30th 2008
A very social and lively crowd gathered at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square on the evening of 30th October to celebrate the life and work of the Australian social photographer Rennie Ellis.
After opening comments by the NGV Director Dr Gerard Vaughan there was a funny and erudite speech by Phillip Adams AO who had flown down from Sydney to open the exhibition. The crowd enjoyed the anecdotes about his relationship with Rennie and said he thought that dying was a good career move on Rennie’s behalf and that he would have loved the fact that he had a retrospective at the NGV. Adams observed that Ellis used to be everywhere, at every party and opening, using his astute eye to record and never to judge. Applause all round for a life well lived.
On entering the exhibition space viewers were treated to a simple but effective installation of his work, with overtones of the 1970’s – 1980s interior decor with yellow and white circle graphics and hanging fabric chandelier. The curatorial staff at the NGV (notably Susan van Wyk) have chosen over 200 works from an archive of over half a million images for the exhibition in a process that has taken over two and a half years.
As an immigrant arriving in Australia in 1986 I remember 397 Club that used to be at 397 Swanston Street. After every other place had closed this club attracted people from every walk of life: pimps, prostitutes, drag queens, faggots, lesbians, straights and druggies. Rennie was probably there recording the scene. We were there just for a good time. It was fun and this is what Ellis’ photography is. Not burdened by overarching conceptual ideas Ellis recorded what he saw insightfully, balancing social commentary and spatial organization in the construction of his images. The image Girls’ Night Out, Prahran 1980 is a pearler with the look on the woman’s face and neatly encapsulates the magic of his image making.
Dr Marcus Bunyan
Opening of the exhibition No standing only dancing by Rennie Ellis at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia October 30th 2008. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Corner of Russell and Flinders Streets, Melbourne
10am – 5pm