River of Fundament: Inside the World of Matthew Barney

A documentary produced by Lucy Rees Art

I was commissioned by MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) to produce an artist documentary on Matthew Barney on the occasion of his major solo exhibition 'River of Fundament' at the museum (22.11.2014 - 13.4.2015). 

'River of Fundament' is a sprawling, ambitious interpretation of Norman Mailer's masterpiece 'Ancient Evenings'. It is one of Barney's most challenging projects to date comprising a 6-hour symphonic film by Barney and Jonathan Bepler as well as an exhibition of around 90 sculptures, drawings and photographs. Unlike its previous incarnation at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, here the artist drew from the museum's rare collection of Egyptian antiquities. 

Taking cue from a cinéma vérité style, the documentary takes us behind the scenes to reveal Barney's working process as he discusses topics such as archetypes, mythology and the American vernacular, how the film is a significant departure from his previous works, his foray into traditional casting techniques, and how he responded to Mona's Eygptian collection.  

The exhibition is currently showing at LA Moca and is on view until 18 January 2016. 

Read the full transcript here.

Special thanks to the team at Matthew Barney Studio, New York. 

Collection + at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation

Director Gene Sherman discusses the philanthropic foundation’s beginnings, and shares the motivation behind the new exhibition series “Collection +”

Sopheap Pich,  Cocoon 2 , 2011, Rattan, wire, burlap, beeswax with pigment. Collection: Gene & Brian Sherman. Photo: Brett Boardman 2013

Sopheap Pich, Cocoon 2, 2011, Rattan, wire, burlap, beeswax with pigment. Collection: Gene & Brian Sherman. Photo: Brett Boardman 2013

Lucy Rees: In 2008 you founded the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation — an organization dedicated to supporting and exhibiting contemporary art from Australia, the Asia Pacific region and the Middle East. Since then you have shown artists such as Ai Weiwei, Fiona Tan, Charwei Tsai, Yang Fudong, Dinh Q. Lee, Tokukin Yoshioka and SANAA. How did you first become involved with contemporary Asian art?

Gene Sherman: I was trained as an academic specializing in early 20th-century French literature. Our arrival in Sydney from South Africa in 1976 coincided with then Prime Minister Keating’s decision to position Australia within the context of the Asia Pacific region — as opposed to constantly reaffirming ties with Great Britain. After I completed my doctorate I decided to open a gallery (Sherman Galleries) and focus on the contemporary art of this region. Since then I have visited Japan alone 46 times. Frequent trips to Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and China were part of my annual routine in addition to intensive research in the newly burgeoning contemporary art scenes in India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and Turkey.

Chiharu Shiota,  Dialogue with absence (installation view),  2010. Pumps, tripods, dress, tubes, coloured electrical cables, glass test tubes, red liquid, dimensions variable. Collection: Gene & Brian Sherman, Sydney. Exhibition: 3 May - 8 June 2013. 

Chiharu Shiota, Dialogue with absence (installation view), 2010. Pumps, tripods, dress, tubes, coloured electrical cables, glass test tubes, red liquid, dimensions variable. Collection: Gene & Brian Sherman, Sydney. Exhibition: 3 May - 8 June 2013. 

LR: For your new “Collection+” exhibition series, an artist is selected from some 800 works in your private collection. A curatorium then searches nationally and internationally for significant related works to exhibit. The first artist in the series was Chiharu Shiota, and currently showing is an exhibition by the major Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich (October 4 – December 14). How did the idea of drawing upon your own collection come about?

GS: When first formulating SCAF’s vision I made the decision to totally exclude the Gene & Brian Sherman personal collection from the program. Most privately funded publicly accessible foundations rely solely — or significantly — on rotating exhibitions of work from the founders’ collections. I wanted to commission new work, to offer artists new, exciting and generously funded opportunities. This vision remains. However, organizations need to evolve. I came up simultaneously with the idea of two series: “Fugitive Structures” — a series of built pavilions in the Foundation’s Zen Garden; and “Collection +”. The focus remains, as always, on the artist. However, in this suite of shows the collectors sit side by side with the artist as cultural recipients and innovators in their own right.

Fugitive Structures SCAF Lucy Rees

LR: Can you tell us about your next project?

GS: The second “Fugitive Structures” launches SCAF’s 2014 program with a slightly modified brief. Selected architect(s) were asked to design work that could be produced via 3-D printing technology and robotic fabrication. Our second project for 2014 is titled “Home” and incorporates two major installations by two Taiwanese artists. 


Exhibition: Carsten Höller, Golden Mirror Carousel

Belgian artist Carsten Höller's life-size 'Golden Mirror Carousel' re-imagines the physical and mental experience of both the traditional fairground and the museum space. Installed in the Federation Court of the National Gallery of Victoria, the carousel is made entirely of gold mirrors, rotating only once every few minutes. 

Holler said of the work: "The mirror reflects the surroundings and the movement means that what is reflected is constantly changing. If you are sitting inside it you see that it is reflecting itself. It’s as though you could suddenly be able to look around the corner – like a periscope into different viewpoints you wouldn’t normally have access to. The word ‘reflection’ also has a double meaning because it produces a very meditative state. One of the very reasons I do the carousel is to reflect upon the idea that the museum has become an amusement park." 

A short video I produced of the work installed: 

'Golden Mirror Carousel' is supported by the Loti & Victor Smorgon Fund and is presented by Melbourne Festival and National Gallery of Victoria, with the assistance of Gagosian, New York.

Exhibition: Charwei Tsai 'We Came Whirling Out of Nothingness'

On a recent trip to Taipei for the 2014 Taipei Biennial, I attended the opening night of Taiwanese-artist Charwei Tsai's new exhibition 'We Came Whirling Out of Nothingness' at Tina Keng Gallery in the Neihu District. 

Comprising videos, installations, photographs, and the artist’s curatorial art journal Lovely Daze, this solo exhibition stems from the artist's fascination with Sufism, and especially the spirals and circles produced by the spinning of the dervishes during the ritual dance of the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony. According to the 13th-century Persian poet and mystic Jalaluddin Rumi, the dancing dervishes represent the planets revolving around the sun.

The exhibition includes a new ephemeral installation of large burning spiral-shaped pieces of incense, Spiral Incense Mantra (2014), with the heart sutra carefully written around it, the three-channel video projection Lanyu: Three Stories (2012), and two photographs from the series “Lanyu” (2012). 

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue that surveys the artist’s practice since 2005, with an essay by Mami Kataoka, Chief Curator of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan, and an interview with Tsai by artist, curator, and writer Heman Chong. 

Charwei Tsai was born in Taipei (1980) and currently lives and works in Taipei and Paris.

Read more about the artist here.

News: Matthew Barney's River of Fundament comes to Hobart

Critically acclaimed American artist Matthew Barney's magnum opus 'River of Fundament' is a radical reinvention of Norman Mailer’s novel Ancient Evenings, a story of regeneration and rebirth, set in three major American cities – Los Angeles, Detroit and New York. The 5 + hour work is a collaboration between Barney and the composer Jonathan Bepler that combines traditional modes of narrative cinema with filmed live performances and sculpture. Following the project’s inauguration at Munich's Haus der Kunst earlier this year, the exhibition at MONA is Matthew Barney’s Australian debut in a singular national venue.

At a media lunch yesterday, David Walsh told us the story of how he first came across Barney's work with curator Nicole Duhring at Gladstone Gallery in New York, explaining that never before had an artwork moved him in this way. 

The exhibition at MONA will include sculptures, drawings, and Egyptian antiquities from David Walsh's collection, a number of which were selected by Barney himself on his visit to the museum in June this year. 

In a rare event, David Walsh and Matthew Barney will be giving a public talk at Hobart’s Odeon Theatre on November 22.

matthew barney lucy rees art

MONA is transformed into the Southdale Shopping Centre

The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has been transformed into a shopping mall. The deceptive makeover includes advertising billboards, a blood donation centre, Starbucks, tourist information office and fully functioning community centre. While MONA’s founder David Walsh hesitated to confirm it early on, the elaborate and politically charged trompe l’oeil is the brainchild of Swiss-artist Christoph Büchel who is known for his large-scale, walk-through instal­lations that transform their settings.  With no media or publicity in the lead up, I am told by one of the curators that the artist was interested in the international fame and recognition of MONA as a brand, and questioned whether people would visit the museum regardless of what was presented.

(c) Lucy Rees 

(c) Lucy Rees 

With the art world press excited by transparency in festival sponsorship - particularly in the wake of the sponsorship controversy at the 19th Biennale of Sydney - why did the museum try to conceal the artist’s identity?

I arrived at MONA on Saturday afternoon after a busy morning between all the DARK MOFO events, and did not anticipate the tempo to slow upon entering their largest exhibition space – the museum itself. After walking across the already unassuming entrance via a tennis court, I stood confused. What was formerly the cloakroom and ticket desk is now a Tasmanian Tourist information Centre - complete with brochures for Bruny Island Adventure cruises and a rack of cotton Tasmania T-shirts.

Entering, iPod in hand, I looked up to a billboard usually reserved as museum map and am given directions to Max Brenner, a nightclub, and a Victoria’s Secret store. A sign reads ‘Southdale Shopping Centre Coming Soon’ attached to a stand giving away free oranges. It is well known that the museum was privately built and is generously funded entirely by David Walsh. I overhear a few visitors wondering whether the museum might be in need of support through these big-name sponsors.

After passing underneath a series of large banners advertising L’Oreal to Hugo Boss, I reach the entrance of a community centre ‘C’MONA’ that has been dropped into the hunkered down museum space.  Beside C’MONA sits a dreary office set-up complete with photocopy machine, fake plants, brown noticeboard pinned and staff roster. Inside the centre is a suicide prevention information area, children’s playground, and a fully functioning St Vincent de Paul charity shop. The staff member is telling visitors that everything is for sale and encourages us to have a look around. I buy a postcard for 20 cents. There are two young girls sifting through the racks of vintage dresses and I start to wonder who is in on this. 

On a white board there is a handwritten message stating ‘Today: Free workshop, Slab Clay tile making from 10am – 2pm.’ I join an elderly couple that are already half way through their designs. The man has carved a wonky star in the wet clay and asks me to pass him the rolling pin to fix his mistake.

With all the real paraphernalia, signage, extreme attention to detail, and tight lipped staff, visitors seem to forget they are in an art museum and begin to participate without thought. I talk to a Vinnies staffer about it. “It's been a really interesting experience for us watching people come in and act like they are in the shop” he says.

I take a break and sit on the sofa upstairs next to a day care centre nook. There is the familiar green Starbucks logo on the cafe wall. “Is it an actual Starbucks?” a teenager asks his companion, “there is only one drink size here… Starbucks normally has more than one size...” The conversation peters off and they don’t give it any more thought. 

The key to all this seems to lie within the pages of a publication titled ‘Land of David’ that is for sale outside the bookstore. What purports to be a biography of David Walsh is filled with an assortment of texts beginning with an essay on the Southdale Shopping Centre that was designed by Victor Gruen in 1956. It was the first enclosed shopping mall in the United States, intended to be a fully fledged community. Gruen also coined the term the ‘Gruen transfer’ referencing the dazed wandering that supermarkets can stimulate. In a similar project, the artist transformed the former site of his gallery Hauser and Wirth in London’s Piccadilly from May 13 – July 30, 2011 where he installed a working community centre complete with counselling rooms and a charity shop

Büchel, like Walsh, is interested in pushing boundaries and challenging the role of the art museum and by absenting himself the point is strengthened. While working together the pair have encountered an ideological clash, made public yesterday.

While the venture is incredibly risky, potentially even hindering visitor numbers, MONA’s commitment to challenging art projects that continue to break museological rules should be applauded.  

C'MONA, Museum of Old and New Art, June - November 2014.  

This story was first published on ARTAND Australia's website. 

News : Richard Serra's Qatari Desert Sculptures


Richard Serra's 'East-West/West-East' in Qatar. 

Richard Serra's 'East-West/West-East' in Qatar. 

American sculptor Richard Serra was commissioned to produce a site-specific standing-plate work for the desert in the Brouq Nature Reserve, near Zekreet in western Qatar. The artist has been visiting the region for the past 12 years, and while initally not interested in creating a work in the desert, he agreed to take a look after Sheikha Mayassa, Chairperson of the country's Museums Authority suggested he build something in the landscape. The site at Zekreet (about an hour’s drive from the capital, Doha) has a ground plane, and then an elevation of about 16 metres – like two elevation planes within one field.

Consisting of four steel plates measured by their relation to the topography, “East-West/West-East” was officially launched on April 11. The plates span more than one kilometres in length through a natural corridor formed by gypsum plateaus.  Made of smooth steel and already beginning to rust as is trademark of Serra’s later works, the sculptures seem as though they have existed there for centuries. Despite the great distance that the plates span, all four can be seen from either end of the sculpture.

 As well as this desert commission, the artist has two shows opening in Doha: a retrospective  offering a complete view of Serra’s almost fifty years of practice at the QMA Gallery, and a new work ‘Passage of Time’ taking up  the whole 5,000 square metres of the Al Riwaq exhibition space on the Corniche.

 Serra elaborates on his desert commission to The Independent:

Before, there was no way of discerning where anything was in relation to where you were, because you had no point of reference. What that piece does is give you a point of reference in relationship to a line, and your upstanding relationship to a vertical plane and infinity, and a perspectival relationship to a context – and pulls that context together. It makes it graspable. That’s actually a place out there now, and there certainly wasn’t one before. We did that simply by putting up four plates.
— Richard Serra

 While public art is new in Doha, what is important to Serra is not necessarily knowing about art, but the experience of the viewer. The work is but one in a growing public art landscape, aiming to put the Qatari capital on he map as a cultural centre and to broaden global perceptions of Islamic culture. It follows the 2013 unveiling of Damien Hirst’s ‘The Miraclous Journey’ and joins a collection of other important works installed throughout the country incuding ‘Maman’ by Louise Bourgeois, Calligraffiti project by eL Seed, and Serra’s tower ‘7’ – built on a on a specially constructed pier next to IM Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art.

Richard Serra, Passage of Time, 2013

Richard Serra, Passage of Time, 2013

Richard Serra's '7'. Photo: Lucy Rees, Doha, Qatar, 2012. 

Richard Serra's '7'. Photo: Lucy Rees, Doha, Qatar, 2012. 

You can read more about the Richard Serra exhibitions and projects here

Read about my visit to Qatar in 2011 on the blog here 

Watch this fantastic video below documenting the conception and installation of Richard Serra's '7' in 2011. 

Exhibition : Romance was Born and Rebecca Baumann: Reflected Glory


On April 9, Sydney-based fashion label Romance Was Born unveiled their first exhibition in collaboration with Perth-based visual artist Rebecca Baumann. Showcasing the fashion duo’s latest collection, this large-scale installation at Carriageworks combine's Baumann’s brilliant use of colour and light with the signature style of Romance Was Born. 

Don't miss them in conversation at Carriageworks this Saturday at 3pm! Bookings are recommended: www.carriageworks.com.au 

News: You Imagine What You Desire : 19th Biennale of Sydney


John Stezaker , Mask XCV, 2010 , collage , 25.4 x 19.7 cm . Courtesy the artist and The Approach, London.

John Stezaker , Mask XCV, 2010 , collage , 25.4 x 19.7 cm . Courtesy the artist and The Approach, London.

An interview with Juliana Engberg, artistic director of this year’s edition of the Sydney Biennale (March 21 – June 9, 2014). 

 LR: The title is taken from a quote by George Bernard Shaw: “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will".

JE: I think this is the fundamental basis of art. Artists imagine what they desire. Depending on the kind of artist, they will either imagine a social principle or idea, or a world they want to see, or they might go to an imaginary place. I don’t believe art should be dry; even something more politically shaped can have elements of poetry in it, elements of seduction. I think when people come across art they actually want to feel something — that something has physically changed in your body. 

John Stezaker ,  Mask XCV , 2010 , collage , 25.4 x 19.7 cm . Courtesy the artist and The Approach, London.

John Stezaker , Mask XCV, 2010 , collage , 25.4 x 19.7 cm . Courtesy the artist and The Approach, London.

LR: You have said you are a spatial curator. Tell me about your treatment of the venues.

JE: I think of art and space in simultaneous movement. It’s not about going to find art that you like and then retrofitting it to the space. Each of the venues will have a character: the AGNSW is a hunkered down, low and dark space — I feel it has an earth/fire element to it. I am using works that speak more to social politics, an interrelationship between culture as a history and culture as a future. The MCA is a lighter space near the water; especially with the new renovations it now has cleaner lines. It is an air/water space. It goes more to the psychological, surreal, luminal qualities — flightiness and an evocative character that is a little bit intangible. 

Yael Bartana, inferno, 2013, photo montage, Courtesy the artist. Cockatoo Island. 

Yael Bartana, inferno, 2013, photo montage, Courtesy the artist. Cockatoo Island. 

LR: And what about Cockatoo Island

JE: I want it to be like a happy anarchy. Being a former shipyard, it has this history of labor and hardship. It will be boisterous. It’s so huge that it requires quite a bit of art for it to make sense and for it to be enough of an experience for the audience. But there is only so much you can do — you can’t put precious museum works out there. It’s raw, rough, and the scale can be daunting. I want people to have a real adventure, going out on boat, and to give some narrative around the context of an island — which can be a utopia or a dystopia. I want to use those ready metaphors. 

David Claerbout,  The Quiet Shore , 2011 , single-channel black and white, silent video projection, 36:32 minutes  Courtesy the artist; Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, London and New York; Yvon Lambert, Paris; and Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Belgium   © David Claerbout 

David Claerbout, The Quiet Shore, 2011 , single-channel black and white, silent video projection, 36:32 minutes Courtesy the artist; Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, London and New York; Yvon Lambert, Paris; and Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Belgium © David Claerbout 

LR: How does your knowledge of the Australian art scene work for you? 

JE: I don’t know if it’s detrimental or not but it does mean it’s slightly easier for me to activate something quickly, especially considering the biennale is now set for March instead of June 2014. I have an intimate knowledge of the venues, partners and sponsors. When curators come from overseas they tend be captivated by the place and want the opportunity to travel to the center and come to grips with indigenous artists, and that’s good, but I think it has been to the detriment of other local contemporary practices in urban areas. It’s a bit sad that some generations of Australian contemporary artists haven’t been present. 

Douglas Gordon , Phantom, 2011  stage, screen, a black Steinway piano, a burned Steinway piano, one monitor, dimensions variable. Courtesy Studio lost but found and Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris.  Rufus Wainwright, ALL DAYS ARE NIGHTS: SONGS FOR LULU used courtesy Decca Label Group. Photograph: Studio lost but found and Katharina Kiebacker, VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 

Douglas Gordon , Phantom, 2011  stage, screen, a black Steinway piano, a burned Steinway piano, one monitor, dimensions variable. Courtesy Studio lost but found and Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris.  Rufus Wainwright, ALL DAYS ARE NIGHTS: SONGS FOR LULU used courtesy Decca Label Group. Photograph: Studio lost but found and Katharina Kiebacker, VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 

LR: Is there a curator or biennale model that speaks to you? 

JE: It would be Harald Szeemann’s Venice Biennales in 1999 and 2001. I think he was a very generous curator who loved artists and people. He was a romantic at heart, even though some of the work he admired during his career was more conceptual. I think Harald’s approach is similar to my own. 

Krisztina Erdei ,  Antiglamour series 64 , 2011 , photograph, 50 x 70 cm. Courtesy the artist and Godot Galéria, Budapest

Krisztina Erdei , Antiglamour series 64, 2011 , photograph, 50 x 70 cm. Courtesy the artist and Godot Galéria, Budapest

Juliana Engberg is a curator, writer, publisher and designer, and is currently the Artistic Director of ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne). 

Juliana has been travelling the world researching and meeting with artists. You can read her blog about the experience here

The Biennale of Sydney runs from 21 March - 19 June, 2014 at the following locations:

Museum of Contemporary Art

Art Gallery of NSW

Cockatoo Island



Around the City

Exhibition : Erwin Wurm's Crap Head

An exhibition at Anna Schwartz Gallery 

Erwin Wurm (b. 1954) lives and works in Vienna and in Limberg/Lower Austria

Known for his uniquely humorous approach to formalism, Erwin Wurm first attracted attention during the 1990s with his "One-Minute Sculptures". Visitors would themselves become the sculptures by following the artist's written and partly pictorial instructions, taking up absurd poses often involving everyday objects.

In his three-dimensional works he uses wood, styrofoam, resin, paint, ceramics and textiles. Humour permeates, yet his practice is also underpinned by a fierce critique of consumer society and contemporary culture.

The artist’s recent exhibitions include The Artist Who Swallowed the World, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland (2008); Narrow Mist, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2010); Liquid Reality, Kunstmuseum Bonn (2010); Wear Me Out, Middleheimmuseum, Antwerpen, Belgium (2011); Beauty Business, Bass Museum of Art, Miami (2011), Dallas Contemporary, Texas (2012); Am I A House, CAC Malaga, Spain (2012); and Erwin Wurm- Good Boy, Museum of Contemporary Art, Krakow, Poland (2013). In 2011, Erwin Wurm’s “Narrow House” was installed at the Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti as part of Glasstress 2011, a collateral event of the 54th Venice Biennale. 

Crap Head runs at Anna Schwarz Gallery, Carriageworks from 22 February until 17 May 2014.

My work is about the drama of the pettiness of existence, whether one approaches it through philosophy or through a diet. In the end we always draw the short straw
— Erwin Wurm
   Crap Head, 2010 Bronze, gold-plated 63 x 30 x 35 cm


Crap Head, 2010
Bronze, gold-plated
63 x 30 x 35 cm

Untitled, 2008
Acrylic, wood, wool
190 x 41 x 28 cm

Jeans pink, 2011
Bronze, paint
155 x 50 x 57 cm

   Untitled (Desperate Philosophers), 2009 Acrylic, cloth, paint 60 x 29 x 14 cm


Untitled (Desperate Philosophers), 2009
Acrylic, cloth, paint
60 x 29 x 14 cm

   Jogging trouser, 2011 Aluminium, paint 105 x 74 x 40 cm


Jogging trouser, 2011
Aluminium, paint
105 x 74 x 40 cm

News : Do Ho Suh's fabric sculptures of his Manhattan apartment

Hong Kong 

For his current exhibition in Hong Kong, Korean artist Do Ho Suh explores the idea of home and memories of personal space by reproducing, in actual scale, objects from his former New York City apartment. The translucent sculptures include full size replicas of his radiator, medicine cabinet, bathtub, refrigerator, stove and toilet .

The exhibition is on view at Lehmann Maupin gallery until 25 January 2014 and coincides with the opening of Suh’s installation 'Home within Home' at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in his native Seoul.

The artist's full scale “homes” of semi-transparent cloth, including the traditional Korean house (hanok) of his childhood and his apartment in New York, explore the fundamental themes of home, family, and tradition.

Do Ho Suh (b. 1962, Seoul, Korea) currently lives and works in London, New York, and Seoul. Suh originally studied oriental painting in Seoul National University before moving to the United States in his 20s to study painting and sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University. 

Suh was named WSJ. Magazine's 2013 Innovator of the Year in Art. His recent solo exhibitions include Home within Home within Home within Home within Home, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea (2013); Do Ho Suh: Perfect Home, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan (2012-2013); In Between, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, Japan (2012); Fallen Star, Stuart Collection, University of San Diego, California (2012); and Home within Home, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea (2012). 


Do Ho Suh talks about his Staircase III installed at the Tate Modern, 2011.

Exhibition : Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth

QAGOMA, Brisbane

Heritage, 2013. 99 life-sized replicas of animals, water, sand, drip mechanism. Dimensions variable. Photo: Lucy Rees 

Heritage, 2013. 99 life-sized replicas of animals, water, sand, drip mechanism. Dimensions variable. Photo: Lucy Rees 

Installation view of the exhibition. Photo: Lucy Rees

Installation view of the exhibition. Photo: Lucy Rees

Head On, 2006. 

Head On, 2006. 

Cai Guo-Qiang. Photo: Lucy Rees 

Cai Guo-Qiang. Photo: Lucy Rees 

The title "Falling Back to Earth", was inspired by fourth-century poet Tao Yuanming's prose poem, Ah, Homeward Bound I Go! 

The exhibition is made up of three major installations. The concept for Heritage, 2013  was conceived during a research trip to Stradbroke Island in 2011. The artwork, which has been purchased by the museum, features 99 life-size animals drinking by a lake. The animals were created at a studio in Fujian Province under the guidance of Cai. To create the watering hole,  the museum excavated hundreds of cubic metres of concrete, steel and soil from the building's foundations. 

In 2011 Cai also visited the Lamington National Park in South East Queensland. The work in the main gallery, Eucalyptus, 2013 consists of a 30-metre long spotted gum tree suspended in mid air. 

Head On, 2006, features 99 wolves running into a glass pane. Commissioned for the Deutsche Bank Collection the work references the tumultuous history of Berlin. The work was in part inspired by Cai's thinking about the Berlin Wall and his view that barriers still existed within Berlin despite German reunification in 1990. We are told that the glass pane is the same height as the Berlin Wall. 

Cai has a long association with the Queensland Art Gallery, creating works for its second and third Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in 1996 and 1999. 

I was in awe of all the stunning natural scenery. Only later I realised that it was as if Queensland was one of the last paradises on earth. It implied the earth was in deep trouble
— Cai Guo-Qiang

Over the past 25 years, Cai Guo-Qiang has held solo exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York. Following recent exhibitions in Qatar, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro and Venice,  ‘Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth’ at the QAGOMA is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Australia. 

The exhibition runs from 23 November 2013 – 11 May 2014. 

Exhibition : Yoko Ono: War is Over! (if you want it)

MCA, Sydney

Doors and Sky Puddles , 2011. Photo: Lucy Rees  “These are the doors that we opened and closed to go through life,” Ono explained. “There were many doors that blocked us. But we opened them, and we went through. This is the journey to uncurse yourself.” 

Doors and Sky Puddles, 2011. Photo: Lucy Rees

“These are the doors that we opened and closed to go through life,” Ono explained. “There were many doors that blocked us. But we opened them, and we went through. This is the journey to uncurse yourself.” 

Described by her late husband John Lennon as 'the world's most famous unknown artist', Yoko Ono is not so unknown anymore.

Once defined by her relationship to Lennon she is now recognised as an important artist in her own right. 

There have been retrospectives of her work in New York in 1989, in Germany in 2001, the UK in 2008, and in Frankfurt, Krems, Austria, and Bilbao in 2013. She received a Golden Lion Award for lifetime achievement from the Venice Biennale in 2009 and the 2012 Oskar Kokoschka Prize, Austria's highest award for applied contemporary art.

She is a leading figure of Fluxus (a group of international artists who sought to integrate art and everyday life, in the 1960s - 1970s), an explorer of conceptual art and performance art, and an experimental filmmaker and musician. 

Her first Australian retrospective is currently on the MCA Sydney is curated by Rachel Kent. Spanning five decades from the early 1960s to the present, it encompasses her language and instruction texts, sculptures and installations, and films and performances. Many of her works require audience participation from mending and arranging broken crockery, to stamping world maps with 'imagine peace' stamps, to writing personal messages of love to your mother. 

The title of the exhibition references a 1969 campaign by Ono and Lennon who rented public billboards in major cities over the Christmas of 1969 to spread their message of peace and hope. 

MORNING BEAMS , 1996 and  Cleaning Piece - Riverbed , 1996. Photo: Lucy Rees. 

MORNING BEAMS, 1996 and Cleaning Piece - Riverbed, 1996. Photo: Lucy Rees. 

"People think that I'm doing something shocking and ask me if I'm trying to shock people. The most shocking thing to me is that people have war, fight with each other and moreover take it for granted. The kind of thing I'm doing is almost too simple. I'm not interested in being unique or different. Everyone is different. No two persons have the same mouth shape for example, and so without making any effort we're all different. The problem is not how to become different or unique, but how to share an experience, how to be the same almost, how to communicate.

The concept is my work. In the art world, work is shown in a museum and a lot of people or a few people will see it, then if it’s bought by someone, that’s the end of it, or it comes back every once in a while."

 - Yoko Ono 

yoko ono lucy rees art.JPG


Yoko Ono was born in 1933, Tokyo, Japan. She currently lives and works in New York. 

Yoko Ono: War is Over! (if you want it) runs until 23 February 2014. Tickets are available at mca.com.au

News : Kwan Sheung Chi wins Hugo Boss Asia Art

Kwan Sheung Chi was awarded the Hugo Boss Asia Art award on 31 October 2013, presented by the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai. Work by Kwan Sheung Chi was displayed in an exhibition with the other six shortlisted artists - Birdhead (Shanghai), Hsu Chiawei (Taichung), Hu Xiangqian (Beijing), Kwan Sheungchi (Hong Kong), Lee Kit (Hong Kong), Li Liao (Shenzhen), and Li Wei (Beijing) - which opened on 13 September 2013. For this first edition of the prize, artists under 35 years old from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau were eligible. 

The aftermath: Kwan Sheung Chi’s  Water Barrier   (Maotai-Water, 1:999)  (2013) toppled following last Friday’s event. Courtesy the artist

The aftermath: Kwan Sheung Chi’s Water Barrier (Maotai-Water, 1:999) (2013) toppled following last Friday’s event. Courtesy the artist

 In the new work titled ‘Water Barrier’, the artist installed in the exhibition space at the Rockbund Art Museum two 170cm high anti-riot water-filled barriers, inside of which is filled with water and a bottle of Maotai liquor. A video is playing of the artist trying to tip over the barrier, while in front of the barrier is a scroll which reads “Please Tear Down this Wall, Warm Reminder: Beware of People Behind”.

By using an unbalanced mixture of water and Maotai, the most expensive Baijiu on the Chinese market, the artist is trying to both highlight the disparity of status and also create a protective mechanism against outside forces. Making a critical point, viewers were encouraged to push it over at the celebration party on November 1 before drinks were served in the gallery space. 

Kwan Sheung Chi was awarded ¥300,000 in prize money. 

News : Favela painting

The Favela Painting project started in 2005 when dutch artists Haas&Hahn (Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn) had the idea of creating public artworks in favelas in Rio de Janeiro. After several successful projects, the image of a square painted in a design of radiating colours transformed Rio into "one of the world’s 10 most colourful places", according to CNN. 

 Over the years the Favela Painting Project has grown into a professional organisation, based in the Netherlands. It’s focus is: "mobilising people to transform their own communities into social art works of monumental size, to beautify and inspire, combat prejudice and attract positive attention, while offering opportunity and economic stimulus."



The design for the first project (below) was chosen together with local people. It took two months to realise. The painting has recently been restored completely, after it was faded by the sun and covered in bullet holes from the ongoing war between drug gangs and the police.

Boy with Kite, 2006. Vila Cruzeiro. 

Boy with Kite, 2006. Vila Cruzeiro. 

The below project covered a complete street in Vila Cruzeiro. Giant slabs of concrete protected the hill from mudslides during the rainy season inspired Haas&Hahn to paint it. The Japanese design was made by master tattoo artist Rob Admiraal. It took the team more than 8 months to complete the 7000 square metre design. 

Rio Cruzeiro, 2008. Vila Cruzeiro.

Rio Cruzeiro, 2008. Vila Cruzeiro.

For the colourful buildings below, a group of 25 local youth were trained and hired. In just a little over a month they painted this complete square in the community of Santa Marta. 

Praca Cantao, 2010. Santa Marta 

Praca Cantao, 2010. Santa Marta 

Exhibition : Singapore Biennale 2013 Opens

If the World Changed 

Eko Prawoto,  Wormhole,  2013. Bamboo installation, dimensions variable. Singapore biennale 2013 commission, image courtesy of the artist

Eko Prawoto, Wormhole, 2013. Bamboo installation, dimensions variable. Singapore biennale 2013 commission, image courtesy of the artist

Since its beginning in 2006 the Singapore Biennale has become one of the biggest art events in Southeast Asia. The fourth edition opened on October 27 2013. If The World Changed, the title is an invitation to artists to respond to and reconsider the worlds we live in, and the worlds we want to live in. 

 This year sees a bold new collaborative structure employed: rather than a singe authorial voice, a team of co-curators, made up of 27 art professionals -- each with distinct knowledge of Southeast Asian art practices, have been selected. 

Featuring works by 82 artists and artist collectives from 13 countries, SB2013 has harnessed the diverse energy of the Southeast Asian region. Aiming to push beyond the familiar, the SB2013 features artists who hail not only from major metropolitan areas but also from lesser known regions such as Cambodia and Laos allowing for a diverse range of practices to be seen. 

The Biennale runs from 26 October 2013 to 16 February 2014. 

Bras Basah.Bugis Precinct


On the Ground : Naoshima Island, 2013

An island known for contemporary art located in the Seto Inland Sea in Japan. One of the most magical places I have been to. 

In 1988 Soichiro Fukutake announced that he had a plan to make Naoshima an 'Island of Art'. the scheme was to place works of art and construct museums on the island to make the whole area an exhibition site.  The remnants of old houses that used to be prosperous roughly two hundred years ago were remodelled into exhibition spaces.

The Chichu Art Museum

The Chichu Art Museum (which literally means "art museum in the earth") is a museum built directly into a southern portion of the island of Naoshima. Designed by Japan's most prominent architect Tadao Ando, It exists as part of an ongoing initiative to "rethink the relationship between nature and people" and is one of several arts-related sites on the island. The site features permanent installations by Walter De Maria and James Turrell, as well as painted works in the Water Lilies series by Claude Monet.

Lee Ufan Museum

Opened in time for the 2010 Setouchi Triennale, the Lee Ufan Museum is one of the more recent additions to Naoshima. On display are large installations made of stone, concrete and huge slabs of iron, as well as a number of paintings from earlier in his career. The museum is also designed by Ando. 

Benesse House Museum

Tadao Ando Museum 

A Tadao Ando-designed inner space, framed by unadorned concrete walls, infuses this about 100-year-old traditional wooden house in Honmura with new life. Here, contrasting elements of past/present, wood/concrete, and light/shadow overlap in a microcosm of Ando's architectural style.