19 August 2016

The NGA, Mike Parr and other matters

| Paul Costigan
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The NGA has a special exhibition until 6 November 2016 on the works of Mike Parr. There is no charge (it’s free).

Mike Parr is listed as one of Australia’s pre-eminent artists. The exhibition is staged throughout the whole of the NGA’s temporary exhibition wing – so it has the aura of importance.

On the day I visited, a Saturday because of the free parking, there was a stream of arts people heading into the theatre for a session with Mike Parr. What better time to see the exhibition! So off I went.

I went into this exhibition prepared to have my mind changed on Mike Parr’s work. This did not happen. I still like some of his prints and drawings, some of his photographs but as yet I have not taken to his performances and the videos that are records of his performances.


The artist is seen as a provocative and experimental. I don’t hold that view.

I have come to the conclusion that Mike Parr and his performances represent for many something that they consider to be radical – as many of them would wish to be but are not. For me his art is very much mainstream in a contemporary art sense. I like some but simply do not enjoy – do not engage with the rest.

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There are some wonderful prints in this exhibition – these I enjoyed and walked back again to view for a longer period. There’s a set in the middle room that I would be happy to take home – but they are so big I would have nowhere to hang them. So they are safe – for the moment.

Would I recommend a visit to the NGA to see this exhibition? Definitely – yes.

It is well worth a visit to see art you are not sure about – and besides, once you have seen this exhibition there are many more exhibitions elsewhere in the gallery.

For instance:


You will not be able to see this, but for some reason the NGA had Blue Poles downstairs in a room all by itself. It was a fascinating experience to see it alone with no other artwork to distract you. Blue Poles is looking good. By the time you read this it will on its way to London for a special Pollock exhibition.


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The NGA is not good at marketing what is on besides the special exhibitions that are listed on the website. For instance, they have recently changed over some works in the Australian art galleries. There’s now a wonderful wall of Jeffery Smart’s paintings (above). Such gems of small exhibitions as this should be listed on the gallery site so that people know more about what is on offer – and then people would have even more reasons to visit Canberra and the NGA.



And do not forget the exhibition of Diane Arbus and other photographers upstairs – click here for my former review on this. One of the guards said that this exhibition has been very popular – especially on the weekends.

And here’s a photo just for the fun of it.


People often wander about art galleries while spending time on their phones – doing whatever they do and ignoring the art they are walking past. Usually they are younger – middle aged people. Well who would have thought that an older gent would sit with his back to the NGA’s Mark Rothko (one of my favourites) and play a game on his phone. He was so enthralled that he did not notice me stand beside him for this photograph.

Those older people of today – you never know what they get up to!

Some exhibition info:

Mike Parr: Foreign Looking. Till 6th November 2016 – free entry.

Diane Arbus: American portraits. Upstairs at the National Gallery of Australia – till 30th October 2016. Free entry.



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