Institutional Radicals: Co-examining Curatorial Visions and Art Histories in Australia

By Joanna Mendelssohn and Catherine De Lorenzo.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The formal histories of Australian art and design have most
commonly been discussed through books, journal articles and,
to a lesser extent, conference papers. However a close
examination of the field reveals that those art historians
who have most effectively changed perceptions of Australia's
visual and material history, expanded their vision by
curating exhibitions. This process has been most obvious
since the early 1970s when the significant cultural changes
of the first year of the Whitlam Labor government led to a
flowering of curatorial expertise. The cultural turn that
included significant new funding for the arts and a
quickening of demands for Aboriginal land rights, are taken
as the starting point for examining different trends in
Australian exhibition practice, including the importance of
regional curators working outside the major state and
national art museums, the recognition of Aboriginal art as
contemporary practice, and refreshingly different historical
This paper examines the idea that shifting cultural mores
were addressed in curatorial visions rather than in academic
art history, and that a refinement of these early curatorial
insights has driven Australian art scholarship for more than
a generation.

Keywords: Australian Art and Design Historiography, Curatorial Studies, Australian Art and Design History, Australian Studies, 1970s, Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Art Exhibitions

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp.153-164. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 615.547KB).

Joanna Mendelssohn

Associate Professor, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Paddington, NSW, Australia

Joanna Mendelssohn is an Associate Professor at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. She has written studies of Australian artists Sydney Long, Lionel Lindsay, Norman Lindsay, the Lindsay family, George Gittoes, Richard and Pat Larter, and is currently investigating connections between German expressionist traditions and Australian art. She is one of the instigators of the digital research project, Her award winning art criticism has been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Bulletin, and The Independent Monthly. She has also written extensively for arts publications including Artlink, Art and Australia and Art Monthly.

Dr. Catherine De Lorenzo

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Built Environment, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia

An art historian, Dr De Lorenzo has two fields of expertise. The first is in Australian photographic history particularly with regards to the representation of Indigenous issues and the exchange of photographs between Australia and European collectors, the latter a project she has examined in part with Dr Deborah van der Plaat. The second is the integration of contemporary Australian public art within its designed, physical, and social settings, the latter currently the basis of a small research project with Dr Nancy Marshall. She continues to serve on public art selection committees and a municipal cultural advisory committee for public art, and on the Editorial Board of Design and Art of Australia Online (DAAO), History of Photography and as an Editorial Advisor to Visual Studies.


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