Cover image of the review
Installation view of Know my name, National Gallery of Australia.

Who are You: Australian Portraiture

25 Jun 2022
National Gallery of Victoria | The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia 23 Jun - 1 Aug 2022

Portraiture is in at the moment. Undoubtedly, the most decisive curatorial gesture of the past several years has been the opening wall of women’s portraits and self-portraits that greeted visitors to the recent National Gallery of Australia Know My Name show. Entitled ‘Lineage’, it was a rotating three-part hang over the course of the exhibition, each time showing some sixty works in total, with for example Julie Dowling’s Mary (2001) next to Stella Bowen’s Mary Widney (1927), Ola Cohn’s Peace (1940) next to Fiona Foley’s Badtjala Woman (1994), and Vida Lahey’s Monday Morning (1912) above a shelf of shell necklaces by Dulcie and Lola Greeno (1995–8).

Installation view of Know my name, National Gallery of Australia.

You looked up at its gigantic Salon-style hang and, more than any individual work of art, you saw the whole, the quantitative gesture, the statement that here were sixty women artists, with the implication—because there did not seem to be any criteria as to their selection—that any number of others could be included. The hang was a magnificent work of art in itself, which reminded one as much as anything else of a computer screen that you could scroll down once you’d fed in the search term “Australian woman artist”.

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