Archive for April 25th, 2010

25
Apr
10

Review: ‘Autumn Masterpieces: Highlights from the Permanent Collection’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 19th March – 18th May 2010

Curator: Mark Feary

Featuring Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk by Andrea Fraser (USA) as well as works from the collections of Hany Armanious, Liv Barrett, Polly Borland (UK), Steve Carr (NZ), Lane Cormick, Chantal Faust, Marco Fusinato, Tony Garifalakis, Matthew Griffin, Irene Hanenbergh, Christopher Hanrahan, Hotham Street Ladies, the Kingpins, Paul Knight, Andrew Liversidge, Rob McLeish, Callum Morton, Nat & Ali, Geoff Newton, Martin Parr (UK), Stuart Ringholt, David Rosetzky, Darren Sylvester, Christian Thompson, Lyndal Walker and Caroline Williams.

 

Autumn Masterpieces: Highlights from the Permanent Collection

 

 

Curated by Mark Feary, this is a deliciously ironic exhibition that asks the audience to question the social and political construction of the blockbuster exhibitions regularly held by large museums around Australia; to question the role of the curator in assembling such exhibitions; and to question the cultural value of permanent collections of ‘Masterpieces’. Autumn Masterpieces displays work that is anything but permanent and undermines the process whereby museums construct frameworks for social understanding. The work, displayed in a roped off space on plinths of various heights, in cheap frames and at skew-whiff angles, seems ephemeral and transitory all the more to contradict both main tenants of the title of the exhibition: masterpiece and permanence.

Sitting on plinths that are adorned with plastic gold name plaques emblazoned with the condition of the possibility of the works existence, “From the collection of …” , the untitled works reinforce the conceptual thrust of the exhibition. In one sense the content of the specific images seemed almost irrelevant; in another the collective dialectical argument of the images deconstructs normative interpretations of the masterpiece. ‘Instructions for the Tourist’ and ‘Rules for How to use the playground’ sit next to photographs of dejected clowns; ‘Confusion & Reversals’ sit next to ambiguous photographs of events and actions: people doing ‘normal’ things displayed though Polaroids, newspaper clippings, snapshots, photographs from albums, black and white and colour, framed and in museological glass cases.

The highlight of the exhibition for me was the guffaw inducing DVD Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk (1989) by American artist Andrea Fraser. Where Mark Feary found this post-cultural gem is beyond me but I am so glad he did! I stood transfixed as the narrator/curator takes us on a virtual tour of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, along the way pointing out the magnificence and subliminal beauty of the objects in the museum. She stresses the decorum of the institution, it’s tradition in measured, ordered, dignified arrangements that are fine and simple while addressing a water fountain. Oh the deliciousness! She continues with the exultation of the institution, that is to develop an appreciation of values – true/false, better/worse, right/wrong, what is good for you/what is good for society – standards that should be adopted by a discriminating public, while addressing a broom cupboard. The piece subverts an approach “in which visitors’ individual meanings are only validated by the extent to which they concord with the conclusions intended by exhibition-makers or to which they conform to some predetermined and fixed standard truth.”1 And so it goes in an ever so serious, side-splitting soliloquy, critiquing the functions of art, linking the aspirations of humanity with the highest privileges of wealth and leisure. Wonderful!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Hein, George E. Learning in the Museum. London: Routledge, 1998 quoted in Sandell, Richard. “Reframing conversations,” in Museums, Prejudice and the Reframing of Difference. London and New York: Routledge, p. 179.

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Many thanks to Mark Feary and the CCP for allowing me to use the images in the posting. Please click on the last photographs in the posting for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Autumn Masterpieces: Highlights from the Permanent Collection' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Autumn Masterpieces: Highlights from the Permanent Collection' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Autumn Masterpieces: Highlights from the Permanent Collection' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Autumn Masterpieces: Highlights from the Permanent Collection' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Autumn Masterpieces: Highlights from the Permanent Collection' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Autumn Masterpieces: Highlights from the Permanent Collection at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Courtesy of the collection of Tony Garifalakis

 

Courtesy of the collection of Tony Garifalakis

 

Courtesy of the collection of Irene Hanenbergh

 

Courtesy of the collection of Irene Hanenbergh

 

Courtesy of the collection of Hany Armanious

Courtesy of the collection of Hany Armanious

 

Courtesy of the collection of Hany Armanious

 

Andrea Fraser. 'Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk' 1989

 

Andrea Fraser (American, b. 1965)
Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk
1989
DVD (colour video with sound. 29′)
Courtesy of the artist and Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Friday 11am – 5pm
Saturday and Sunday 12pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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