Patricia Piccinini

Nick Mitzevic has done a fantastic job as the new(ish) director of the Art Gallery of South Australia. When he was appointed, he stressed that he wanted to bring the gallery back to its glory days by aggressively pursuing major exhibitions and pieces that would attract people back to the gallery. That has culminated in the Saatchi exhibition, which opened this weekend, and is the biggest exhibition of artworks on loan from the Saatchi gallery ever in the southern hemisphere. It is getting some serious exposure, with large articles in our shitty local newspaper (not easy to get covered in that unless you're a footballer) and some large billboards around town. Seriously impressive stuff.

However, this wasn't the first big splash that AGSA made. In my eyes, that came with the acquisition of Patricia Piccinini's piece "Big Mother"

Big Mother

Anyway, Big Mother was added to AGSA's permanent collection with much fanfare. Big banners outside the gallery, that sort of thing. A good start for the new director.

A couple of months ago, however, came a much bigger exhibition of Piccinini's work. This was a large exhibition, and it was fucking fantastic. Perhaps the best exhibition I've ever seen at the gallery.

Piccinini is an Aussie artist who creates hyperrealistic sculptures, that predominantly feature themes of mankind's relationship to animals (including meditations on genetic engineering, our social culture of excluding ourselves from the animal kingdom, and plain old Cronenberg-style body horror). Her pieces can be simultaneously horrifying and sad. And her craft is impeccable. You really have to see her work in the flesh to appreciate the amount of detail. Think Ron Mueck, but with crazy animal human hybrids. It's amazing stuff, and right up my alley.

The Young Family


The Embrace

Furthermore, the marketing push was noticeable. There was posters and Adshel's everywhere, and there were even representatives from the gallery in Rundle Mall (our main shopping precinct) with banners and some of Piccinini's smaller works for people to view while the shopped on a Friday night to try and drum up interest. This might not sound like much, but for Adelaide that's a big promo push. It was great to see the museum not only host a large exhibition of a prominent contemporary artist (which is the sort of thing people would normally have to travel to Melbourne to see), but also actively trying to court the public.

And it seemed to work! I don't have any hard numbers, but I talked with a number of people who saw the exhibition who had not visited the gallery in years, and when I took a visit there were several people who had brought their kids. And their kids were loving it! That's just something you don't usually see at AGSA.

So there's that and now the Saatchi exhibit. The Art Gallery of South Australia is exciting again! Hopefully this is a sign of how things will be for the foreseeable future.

Edit – So I did a little digging, and it turns out this was the most successful contemporary exhibition is the gallery's history. Weekend attendances passed 23,000, and the gallery extended its hours so more people could see it. Brilliant. The source of this info? That shitty local newspaper I mentioned before...
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Rayna said...

You say her work can be horrifying and sad - occasionally, yes. But I think much of it is sweetly whimsical and humorous. And some seems quietly observant...