Cover image of the review
Ben Quilty, Sonny. Images Courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries. Photo: Andrew Curtis

Ben Quilty: Sonny

23 Mar 2024
Tolarno Galleries 17 Feb - 20 Apr 2024

“What a perfect encapsulation of everything wrong with the Australian art world’s response to an unfolding settler-colonial gen0cide.” Thus Mitch Cumming, artist, poet, and founding co-director of KNULP, Sydney. His comment—with 221 likes when I see it—is posted below Tolarno Galleries’ third and final exhibition announcement for “Sonny” on Instagram from 18 February (programmed to end today, it has now been extended through 20 April). In the video the exhibiting artist, Ben Quilty, is seen painting the name of its title onto the wall of Gallery 2. “One painting of Sonny for every little child killed in the October 7 attack by Hamas,” Quilty is quoted saying in the exhibition’s email announcement, which was then qualified in Kerrie O’Brien’s article for The Age on 15 February: “I made one work for every (Israeli) child who was killed or kidnapped (on October 7).” (At some point Tolarno decided to hide the existing comments on the post and disabled any new ones from being added to the maelstrom, probably for the best.) Sonny is a three-year-old child whose parents are friends of the artist. Somewhat inexplicably, Nick Drake’s narcoleptic banger “Pink Moon”—the title song of the LP first released in 1972—has been chosen to accompany the video. Is this some kind of elaborate dog-whistle? To whom, I wonder?

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