A visit to Adelaide

I was recently in Adelaide, where I visited the Art Gallery of South Australia, Carrick Hill and two historic artist studios. I was aware that I was coincidently continuing my research into art crimes as I was visiting the scene of some historic art thefts, photographing windows, and retrospectively casing the joints.

A painting by Paul Gauguin that was stolen in a robbery from Carrick Hill

The Art Gallery of South Australia the gallery’s collection has been wholly rehung in a vast improvement from the traditional hanging I remember seeing on my last visit over a decade ago. Indigenous artists repainting the white colonial arches, paintings hung on patterned wallpaper, items juxtaposed, works placed high and low. The binaries of European and non-European art and historical and contemporary are ignored to give thematic coherence and more for the eye to find.

In contrast, the “2022 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Free/State” (at the Art Gallery of SA) was hung in the now traditional manner for contemporary art. Basically, one work or artist per room. This safe approach applied to its curation, which was fun enough without anything new. There was a diversity of contemporary Australian artists, from Abdul-Rahman Abdullah to Reko Rennie. It was also good to see the work of the former Melbourne street artist known as Miso, now doing contemporary art under her name Stanislava Pinchuk.

Stanislava Pinchuk, The Wine Dark Sea, 2021

I had been warned about the cafe at the Art Gallery of South Australia by a random lady on a bus, but I ignored her warning about my loss. If you fail to fill a coffee order, you fail as a cafe.

Carrick Hill, the former home of Australian ultra-rich couple Bill and Ursula Haywood now open to the public. The mock-Tudor house is a Frankenstein creation bringing to life parts from a demolished English manor. The odd contemporary sculptures have since been added to the estate’s expansive gardens but not enough to call it a sculpture park. The wealthy art collectors were purchasing safe options. Their tastes were conservative and uninspired but expensive. A Turner, a Gauguin, several works by Augustus Johns, about ten busts by Jacob Epstein and other works of English, French and Australian artists. The Gauguin and a Boudin were stolen in a break-in just after the house was open to the public but were fortunately recovered shortly after.

In a bucolic setting out of the city, just outside the town of Hahndorf, are the historic studios of Hans Heysen and his daughter Nora Heysen. The landscape, even some of the same trees from his paintings, can still be seen close by. There are very few historic artist’s studios open to the public in Australia; the other is Brett Whitely’s studio in Sydney. Historic artist’s studios are an opportunity to see the artist’s actual materials, tools, brushes, palettes, easel, collection of art books, and even some incomplete works. Again a few contemporary sculptures have since been added to the rural property but not sufficient to call it a sculpture park.

The nearby Hahndorf Academy had a couple of art exhibitions by some contemporary artists, some historical exhibits and a couple more drawings by Hans Heysen. Heysen had donated more pictures to them, but they had been stolen in a break-in decades ago, uninsured and never seen again. Except for their frames which were found discarded in someone’s backyard on the way to the airport.

I would have liked to have seen the Samstag Museum of Art at UniSA but ran out of time on my brief visit to Adelaide.

detail from Marguerite Derricourt, A Day Out, 1999, Rundle Mall, Adelaide

About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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