Monday, 11 January 2010

Idle hours

To the National Portrait Gallery to look at their new building and summer exhibition, Idle Hours.

Fort those of you not in the know, for years the Portrait Gallery was in Old Parliament House, but it has recently moved to new purpose built building. Old Parliament House is now the Museum of Australian Democracy - in my more jaded moments I am prone to think both the acronym and location of the museum singularly appropriate, but that's being cynical.

The Portrait gallery is nothing on the NGA - smaller, dominated by pictures of prominenti past, although there is some light relief in having a portrait of Hilda Spong, not to mention FW Pring, Esq.

Overall it's rather more like a good collection in a country museum, like Bendigo or Ballarat. As well as Pring and Spong, he permanent collection contains the obligatory set of nineteenth century portaits of smug fat white bastards and the odd colourful native, but it does also contain a few better more interesting modern portraits, and is worth a visit for those.

Likewise the summer exhibition. Treasures from the Musee d'Orsay it is not. It is however much less pretentious, smaller, and more intimate, including a truly magnificent Brett Whitely 'Wendy Drunk' a portait by Jude Rae that has almost the same control of light and shade as seen in some early Dutch paintings, and a wonderful massive self portaint by Michael Zavros of himself lying on his back listening to his iPod.

No it's not the NGA. It's a different experience and not a bad way to spend an idle hour or so ...

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