NGV Ian Potter, Federation Square, closes 15 July.
I had decided that it was too late to blog about this exhibition, as it closes on 15 July. However, I notice that the Monthly is publicizing its review of it today, so I’ll jump in right at the end.
The exhibition is in two parts. The first, on the ground floor, displays documents, paintings and artefacts relating to British colonization in Australia. The second, located upstairs, features contemporary indigenous artists’ responses to that colonization, both over 200 years ago and in an ongoing sense.
It seemed strange that it should be an art gallery that displayed the ground floor exhibition, and it was not clear whether articles were included for their artistic or historic merit. In many ways, the display would have been better placed within a museum. It took me some time to work out the order of the exhibition. It was only when I happened to look up, right at the roof level (probably 3 metres up) that there was a sign indicating that the display was grouped by colony (i.e. Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Queensland etc), arranged chronologically by date of colonization. This is just one example of the way that the mounting of this exhibition annoyed me, and detracted from my enjoyment. Whole panels of works arranged along a large wall had only one small sign, to the extreme right or left, and you had to go back and count to figure out which work you were interested in. For objects in glass cases, the placement of lighting above the cases rendered the the contents completely invisible. The mechanics of an exhibition should be invisible, but that was certainly not the case here.
Even though I am fascinated by historical documents and artefacts, I far preferred the art exhibition upstairs, which was much more straightforward in its intent. They were thoughtful, provocative works that spoke to the material downstairs. The exhibition is worth seeing, but for the upstairs gallery, not the confused display downstairs.