As I said in my previous post, I am traveling for business over the next few weeks, so my posts may be fewer than normal. Today, I arrived in Brisbane in Queensland Australia for a layover with a day to spend in the city. So, what is an American artist to do for the day in Brisbane. Having never been here before, the answer was simple—go the art museum.
Before the museum, however, I needed to find the art store—since I forgot to pack one very important thing—disposable palette paper. So once I checked into the Hotel, I went straight to the yellow pages. It took me a few minutes to figure out that the proper terminology for looking up an art store in the Australian yellow pages is “Artists Materials”. It took me a couple of more minutes to find one within two blocks of my hotel. So if you are ever stuck for art supplies in Brisbane—go see “Eckersley’s” on 91 Edward Street in downtown. It is a small store, but they have most anything you would need. It is a bit like Plaza Art in Washington—not a discount store—but prices were reasonable and the staff were very helpful.
Once I had my art supplies, it was off to the Art Museum of Queensland. Just across the river from the downtown and easy walking distance, the Art Museum is part of the city’s “cultural center” which includes, the Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, State Library, and a history museum—as well as a performing arts center, etc.
Edward Vuillard, "Le Salon des Hessel", c. 1905
I went to the Art Museum first, and it was well worth the visit. The gem of the visit was the largest Vuillard painting I had ever seen. I never even knew he had painted this large. Most of the Vuillard’s in Washington DC are small paintings—but this one was wall size—at least six feet wide by 2-3 feet tall. It was a real treat to see it. Hanging near the Vuillard, was a Pissaro, Degas, and not far away a nice Sickert (a painting of Whistler’s Studio)—and a nice De Kooning was hanging around the corner.
Beside the European and American art in the museum, the Art Museum has a large collection, as you might expect, of Australian artists. Although, one could easily write off Australian painting as largely an imitation of European and/or American art of the same period—and a lot of it looks that way--it has its own uniqueness worth pondering. Surely, no American or European artist could done the same justice to a painting of Brisbane Harbor in 1880. The last time I was in Australia, I had discovered Tom Roberts, who is perhaps the most famous of Australian artist of the early 20th century—along with Brett Whiteley, who is one of the most famous contemporary artist. This time I dug a bit deeper, and found Arthur Streeton (a contemporary of Roberts) and Charles Conder--these guys could paint.
I finished off my visit with a quick trip to the Museum of Modern Art. That is where I got my second surprise of the day. There was a big retrospective of Howard Arkley’s work. He represented Australia in the 1999 Venice Biennial--and passed away in the same year at a young age. This show totally blew my mind. I don’t think there is any doubt this guy was a genius. The way this guy used line and color and really captured a sense of space and place was incredible. I don’t know if you can get a sense of how good this work is by looking a reproduction or a single work. But, seeing 50 of his paintings in one place was a revelation. If you are in Brisbane anytime soon—you have to see this show. To me this is a must see show--a sleeping giant--but only around until Sept. 16. I don’t paint this way myself, but this show made me want to.
So there you go--what to do if you are an American artist in Brisbane for the day. Go to the museum.
All the best, sixtyminuteartist.