12 March - 26 April 2009
If the scale, scope and sheer audacity of Haunch of Venison’s launch exhibition at 6 Burlington Gardens is any measure of things, the only myth being touted today is that the world is at the point of global economic collapse. Crisis? What crisis?
Taking over the 21,500 square foot gallery that previously housed the Museum of Mankind, Mythologies is both a breath-taking homage to the history of the building and a stunning ‘up yours’ to the suggestion that the contemporary art world is in dire straits.
Incorporating new and historical works from over 40 internationally recognised artists including Bill Viola, Sophie Calle, Ed and Nancy Kienholz, Jannis Kounellis and Damien Hirst, Mythologies is a dizzying and mostly successful attempt to explore notions of the uncanny, the curious, the mysterious and the anthropological as a means for elucidating some of the more fascinating social and cultural mores of the world at large.
Envisioned as a giant cabinet of curiosities, the exhibition is, as claimed, ‘a labyrinthine journey of discovery’ that begins with the tactile wall-mounted works of Anita Dube and Hew Locke in the Entrance Hall. Yes, there is an entrance hall. Works by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov and Carlos Amorales can also be found on the ground floor but it is the ephemeral, delicate shadow work of Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Wall of Shame (2005-2009) that is the most striking. White painted acid-etched brass shapes, shot with a light projector, cast dancing shadows of disturbing, anxious vignettes and creatures that tremble against the white wall. Simon Patterson’s nearby eponymous text painting Charles Darwin (2007) seems glib and by comparison and not a fair representation of his skill or his wit.
Ascending the sweeping staircase there are another seven large gallery spaces on the upper floor, each loosely afforded its own curatorial or thematic concept – Belief, Memento Mori, History and Magic, Material Culture and (Un)natural Histories. Galleries 4 and 9, featuring respectively a new installation by Kounellis and Christian Boltanski’s Theatre d’ombres (1986) are the only rooms bereft of a conceit but the all-room encompassing works really speak for themselves. Kounellis’s untitled installation features folded rows of second-hand suits framed by empty shoes and wrought with a subtle sense of sadness and nostalgia, it speaks to the passages of time and the imprint of the now absent. Boltanski’s famous shadow puppet work, with its carnivalesque parade of character, reminiscent of a macabre sideshow alley, appears to mock the universality of death and the fleetingness of life.
Highlights of the upstairs galleries include Guy Tillim’s black-and-white portraits of Mai-Mai rebel soldiers dressed in their magical camouflage. In capturing both the humanness and soulfulness of his subjects, Tillim rescues them from what might otherwise be a straightforward ethnographic study. And overtaking two large walls in a separate room is the subversive but visually stunning installation of Ed and Nancy Kienholz, 76 J.C.s Led the Big Charade (1993-94). With various images and kitsch replica icons of Christ mounted on 76 cross-shaped handles from children’s toy wagons, this well-known work by the Keinholz’s explores ideas about the abuses of spirituality and some of the inherent problems with organised religion.
Mythologies is an overwhelming experience, both for the art on display and the sheer grandeur of the building. The semantics of museum versus commercial gallery experience are articulated but far from resolved as visitors wander the rooms speaking in the sorts of hushed, reverential tones usually reserved for the National Gallery. Still. Art is still art is still art, whatever the context, and it will be interesting to witness the development and reception of Haunch of Venison’s exhibition program going forward, given their intention to continue a focus on both historically significant and recently commissioned works from the gallery stable along with lesser known emerging artists. There is no doubt that the purchasing of Haunch of Venison by Christie’s International in 2007 has enabled much of this activity, not least of all the move to Burlington Gardens, but whether or not the blurring of museum and commercial gallery experiences and expectations will upset the purists who like to know when they’re being sold something, Mythologies marks an ambitious and considered development for the gallery and makes for a provocative and most worthwhile encounter for the visitor.
- Nov 23, 2018 Artist texts: Clare Thackway Nov 23, 2018
- Oct 29, 2018 Announcement of Churchill Fellowship 2018 Oct 29, 2018
- Sep 30, 2018 Frida Kahlo at the Victoria & Albert Museum Sep 30, 2018
- Sep 7, 2018 Elizabeth Willing profile for Art Collector magazine Sep 7, 2018
- Aug 2, 2018 Beyond Community Engagement: Transforming Dialogues in Art, Education and the Cultural Sphere Aug 2, 2018
- Jun 21, 2018 Spotlight on MCA Young Guides Jun 21, 2018
- Jul 26, 2017 Te Tuhi Talks Jul 26, 2017
- Apr 2, 2017 New role: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia Apr 2, 2017
- Jan 19, 2017 Louise Paramor profile for Art Collector magazine, issue 78 Jan 19, 2017
- Dec 1, 2016 Craft Council UK – Make:Shift conference, Manchester, 10-11 Nov, 2016 Dec 1, 2016
- Oct 30, 2016 Alison Croggon on the arts funding crisis and the importance of criticism Oct 30, 2016
- Apr 27, 2016 Lottie Consalvo: mid-fall, Alaska Projects Apr 27, 2016
- Mar 18, 2016 20th Biennale of Sydney: The future is here it's just not evenly distributed Mar 18, 2016
- Nov 22, 2015 Celeste Boursier-Mougenot at the NGV Nov 22, 2015
- Sep 22, 2015 Educating People Like Us Sep 22, 2015
- Aug 2, 2015 What It Means to be Me, Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo, 26 July 2015 Aug 2, 2015
- Jul 12, 2015 More Marina Magic Jul 12, 2015
- Jul 12, 2015 Art Collector cover story Jul 12, 2015
- Jun 25, 2015 Lessons learnt: Kaldor regional progress report Jun 25, 2015
- May 5, 2015 Kaldor pilots regional engagement project May 5, 2015
- Aug 21, 2014 Melbourne Art Fair 2014 Aug 21, 2014
- Jun 24, 2014 Fresh Faces Symposium: Art Gallery of New South Wales Jun 24, 2014
- May 24, 2014 REVIEW: Sleepers Awake, MCA C3West Project, Bungaribee May 24, 2014
- Feb 20, 2014 Kevin Chin profile for Art Collector magazine Feb 20, 2014
- Feb 9, 2014 Artlink review: 21st Century Portraits Feb 9, 2014
- Jan 12, 2014 REVIEW: Christian Boltanski, Chance, Carriageworks Jan 12, 2014
- Sep 20, 2013 The problem with 'Australia' Sep 20, 2013
- Sep 4, 2013 Margate: An away day and a visit to Turner Contemporary Sep 4, 2013
- Jul 28, 2013 A round-up: Miles Aldridge, Somerset House; Katharina Fritsch, Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square; Michael Landy, ‘Saints Alive’, National Gallery Jul 28, 2013
- Jul 21, 2013 Peckham weekends Jul 21, 2013
- Jul 11, 2013 Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik Jul 11, 2013
- Jun 4, 2013 St Paul-de-Vence Jun 4, 2013
- May 30, 2013 A visit to Paul Cezanne's studio May 30, 2013
- Oct 30, 2012 REVIEW: dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel, Germany Oct 30, 2012
- Oct 28, 2012 Tino Sehgal, These Associations, Tate Modern, London Oct 28, 2012
- Aug 4, 2012 Jeremy Deller, Sacrilege, Burgess Park, London Aug 4, 2012
- Apr 14, 2012 REVIEW: Martin Creed, Sketch Nightclub, London Apr 14, 2012
- Jul 19, 2010 Christian Boltanski, Les archives du coeur, Serpentine Gallery, London Jul 19, 2010
- Jul 9, 2010 REVIEW: 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces, Victoria & Albert Museum, London Jul 9, 2010
- Jul 5, 2010 REVIEW: EXPOSED: Voyeurism, Surveillance & the Camera, Tate Modern, London Jul 5, 2010
- Jun 21, 2010 REVIEW: Sean Scully New Work, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London Jun 21, 2010
- Jun 14, 2010 Yinka Shonibare MBE, “Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle”, Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square Jun 14, 2010
- May 20, 2010 REVIEW: Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Barbican Centre, London May 20, 2010
- May 16, 2010 REVIEW: Decode: Digital Design Sensation, Victoria & Albert Museum, London May 16, 2010
- May 9, 2010 REVIEW: Olafur Eliasson: Take Your Time, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney May 9, 2010
- Sep 17, 2008 REVIEW: Suzanne Treister, ALCHEMY, Annely Juda Fine Art Sep 17, 2008