Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mishaps On The Way To Abstraction.

For most people, the problem with abstract art is exactly that, it's abstract. And I've always thought that in this respect, the role of art galleries and museums was to help educate, if not broaden the minds of those who perceive art as something for the elite. This is especially true for abstract art, which inevitably, a lot of the public dismiss that their four year old kid could make. Unfortunately, the Art Gallery of NSW's latest exhibition, 'Paths to Abstraction', didn't do enough to help people appreciate or understand the much misunderstood art of abstraction.

I'm not saying the AGNSW put on a poor exhibition, because it certainly explores abstraction thoroughly and examines its beginnings and influences from interesting angles. But the lack of clarity on this topic for the general public was disappointing. Whilst the information provided and the audio tour were indeed thorough, it catered to the 20% of attendees who could tell a Kandinsky from a Matisse. The exhibition therefore disregarded the remaining 80% who needed some guidance on how to see value in and appreciate abstract art. They need a general framework to understand why a something like this is valued:

Kasimir Malevich House under construction 1915-1916

If people are forking out $20 for the exhibition ($25 including the audio tour), they expect to leave with some understanding or greater knowledge of abstraction. Of course, the gallery cannot change the way people think or feel about abstract art, but in knowing the general public perceive abstract art differently from themselves, the curators should have considered how to present artworks and information in more a digestible manner.

That said, 'Paths to Abstraction' does contain fine works by major artists, including Monet, Picasso Matisse, Kandinsky and Mondrian, which some may feel compensate for curatorship oversights. I just wished the AGNSW had given more thought into the exhibition, so people don't come out feeling like they spent $20 on something a four year old could make.

WHEN: 26th June - 19th September 2010
WHERE: Art Gallery of NSW, The Domain, Sydney
COSTS: $20 Adults, $15 AGNSW Members/Concession, $55 Family (two adults and up to three children). $5 for audio tour.
LINK: Art Gallery of NSW 'Paths to Abstraction'

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