Friday, October 21, 2016


Blue Poles by Jackson Pollock is on exhibition in London and there’s no sign of Giambattista Tiepolo at the Australian National Gallery, but Colin McCahon was there. Victory over death 2, controversially gifted to Australia in 1978, was in display accompanied by two Constantin Brancusi Bird in space sculptures, a black one and a white one. They are later versions of similar works made by Brancusi in 1923 and refused entry by US Customs in 1928 because they were not considered to be art and were therefore subject to duty. A court case sorted that out. As the ANG is more like a turbine hall than a regular museum, McCahon’s work (and everything else from three painting by Agnes Martin to a terrific Anselm Kiefer) is diminished when hung low on the immensely high walls. That aside, the Australians have never doubted its importance. The ANG’s first director James Molllison considered McCahon to be Australasia’s most important artist and the NGA’s current catalogue entry refers to Victory over death 2 as ‘one of the treasures of the collection’.