MOMA at the NGV

The greats of mod­ern art are mak­ing Mel­bourne their home for the win­ter.

Time Out (Melbourne) - - INSIDE - By Maxim Boon

Cézanne, Pi­casso, Dalí and van Gogh mas­ter­pieces land in Mel­bourne

WHICH ART­WORKS SHOULD you ex­hibit when you have the pick of the most sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion of mod­ern mas­ter­pieces in the world? This was the en­vi­able task fac­ing the Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria’s se­nior cu­ra­tor, Mi­randa Wal­lace, as she, along­side coun­ter­parts from New York’s Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, pro­grammed a block­bust­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the gal­leries. More than 200 key works – cherry-picked from MOMA’S 200,000-strong col­lec­tion – will make the 16,000km trek from Mid­town Man­hat­tan, ar­riv­ing on St Kilda Road in June.

“You can very eas­ily feel over­whelmed by the qual­ity of [MOMA’S] col­lec­tion,” Wal­lace ad­mits. “Ob­vi­ously, the cu­ra­tors at MOMA know the works very well, which was cer­tainly help­ful. If I had been given a com­pletely blank slate, it would be tough to know where to stop.” On a brief four-month loan while MOMA un­der­goes build­ing works, the col­lec­tion boasts a roll­call of the most in­flu­en­tial vi­sion­ar­ies of the past 130 years. It’s no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say ev­ery ma­jor artist to have cre­ated work fol­low­ing the pi­o­neer­ing post-im­pres­sion­ism of van Gogh in the 1880s will be found within the NGV’S walls. But the show isn’t merely about daz­zling gallery-go­ers with Pi­cas­sos and Dalís and Rothkos. Wal­lace and her team have crafted the ex­hi­bi­tion to re­veal the so­cial, tech­no­log­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal con­texts that shaped the great artis­tic trends of the 20th cen­tury. Wal­lace ex­plains: “We very de­lib­er­ately avoided group­ing works to­gether by [artis­tic] move­ments. We wanted the col­lec­tion to re­flect this idea of trans­for­ma­tion and change, to show how artists were not only re­spond­ing to the his­tory of art and try­ing to con­trib­ute their own new vi­sion within that, but also how they were re­spond­ing to the ex­ter­nal world and broader cultural con­cerns.” The ‘Ar­ca­dia and the Me­trop­o­lis’ sec­tion that opens the ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plores how the rise of mod­ern cities both fas­ci­nated and frus­trated artists like Cézanne and Gau­guin. The ‘Things as They Are’ sec­tion, the big­gest zone in the ex­hi­bi­tion, ex­am­ines how pop art and min­i­mal­ism in the 1960s and ’70s used rep­re­sen­ta­tive sim­plic­ity to make complex so­cial and po­lit­i­cal com­men­tary. “We def­i­nitely en­cour­age peo­ple to ex­pe­ri­ence and un­der­stand a sin­gle work on its own terms. But we’ve tried to cre­ate a kind of bal­ance be­tween that in­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence and of­fer­ing those con­texts that heighten an un­der­stand­ing of the work and what it rep­re­sents within a broader con­tin­uum.”

In ad­di­tion to show-stop­ping draw­cards – Dalí’s ‘The Per­sis­tence of Mem­ory’, Licht­en­stein’s ‘Drown­ing Girl’, and Warhol’s ‘Marilyn Mon­roe’, to name a few – the show also features works by lesser-known artists, as well as pho­tog­ra­phers, de­sign­ers, ar­chi­tects (in­clud­ing the late Zaha Ha­did) and artists work­ing in new, digital medi­ums. à NGV International, 180 St Kilda Rd, South Bank 3006. 03 8620 2222. www.ngv.vic.gov.au. Daily 10am-5pm. $10-$28. Jun 9-Oct 7.

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