Public Art Online

‘Charge it, point it, zoom it, press it. View it, code it, jam, unlock it. Surf it, scroll it, pose it, click it’, for some of us, Daft Punk’s infamous lyrics underscore how we work, rest and play at home aided by technology. Art adapts, and we face this new normal with optimism and a sense of community, transporting us emotionally and intellectually when physical connection is limited.

We’re thankful that Australia’s institutions and museums have taken public art online with a timely, creative and personal approach via virtual access to collections and exhibitions, digital programs and educational entertainment for kids and parents.

‘Together In Art’ – from the Art Gallery of New South Wales is unique with videos pairing music and art, engaging tutorials from artists Nell, Tony Albert and Ben Quilty, with more to come. Their ‘Art Pocket Exhibition’ is a delight, mini-shows where the curators are obviously having fun – take Coby Edgar’s ‘COVID-19 for Dummies’ which captions works from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection with both hilarity and health in mind, or Hannah Hutchinson’s ‘Working from home’, uniting work from Max Dupain, William Dobell and Aleks Danko among others offering a dog’s perspective on what it’s like when your humans don’t go into the office.

The Vincent Family recreate Jackson Pollock’s Blue poles, 1952, © Pollock-Krasner Foundation ARS/Copyright Agency. Courtesy Karen Vincent and National Gallery of Australia, Australian Capital Territory

Also keeping spirits up, on the Mona – Museum of Old and New Art’s website you’ll find several ‘diary’ entries from David Walsh, with his signature blend of humour and critical analysis he offers theory to complement our understanding of current events. As ever, Mona’s socials are a special gateway. Here we find live-stream events such as Ryoji Ikeda’s ‘Spectra’ and comic vlogs from Kirsha Kaechele (Queen of Mona) practicing some ‘self-care’ day drinking as she upgrades the lawns of the museum to veggie patches.

Also suggesting more than one way to relax creatively, ‘Virtual Insight’ by the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre posts ‘staff picks’ from bushwalks to a fungi survey and printmaking tutorial, virtual exhibitions, studio tours and a peek at de-install time, as well as an array of arty activities for kids and adults to relax and invent.

Naomi Hobson, Road Play “She told mum she was taking me for a ride down the road but she not.” Laine, 2019, digital print, 81 x 110cm. Courtesy the artist

For schools and parents, there are some fantastic free resources being uploaded. You can take a virtual tour of ‘Queen’s Land: Blak Portraiture’ via the Cairns Art Gallery website which is complemented by an education pack. In partnership with NITV, the Australian Centre for Photography presents the work of photojournalist Barbara McGrady as a free educational resource for schools, which evolved from the 2017 show ‘Always will be’, guest-curated by Sandy Edwards. The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has activities from artists, with digital excursions launching in Term 2. They have a number of digital galleries to browse, plus, podcasts, videos and reading. Teachers can arrange a live (and free) virtual excursion, hosted by an educator via video conference with the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) or simply visit the website for a self-guided tour of a recent show such as ‘Marking Time: Indigenous Art from the NGV’ and enrich the experience by viewing a five-part guided tour led by Senior Curator of Indigenous Art, Judith Ryan AM. ‘Drop-by’ drawing with local Melbourne artists such as Minna Gilligan and Kenny Pittock, among others, is friendly and helpful as they share tips and first-person insights inspired by the NGV collection.

Similarly, the National Portrait Gallery launched ‘The Amazing Face’ where participants navigated the collection, heard curatorial and artistic insights to create their own portraits – this paralleled a suite of mini-movies and articles about the symbiosis of photography and current events, for example, Cam Neville’s ‘Firefighters’.

Carriageworks have collated all their new online content into one portal, the ‘Journal’. Here you’ll find new and archived work from artists such as Giselle Stanborough and curators in the form of interviews, performances, essays, films and photography. Also in Sydney, Casula Powerhouse offers a virtual tour of ‘Pulse of the Dragon’ and unique clips from staff including, gardening, and – ghost stories!

Sharing stories is an important part of Shepparton Art Museum’s digital response – they have been uploading artist-led videos and have developed a unique program, the ‘SAM Pen-Pal project’ which facilitates connection between families and residents in their local aged care centres. The Powerhouse Museum’s exhibition ‘Linear’ which is an exploration of the significance of line and lineage within Indigenous narratives and practice – have paired artist biographies and videos from Maree Clarke, Nicole Monks and Bernard Singelton, to name a few, for you to appreciate the unique approaches and stories within the show.

Stelarc’s Reclining Stickman at the 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres. Photograph: Saul Steed/AGSA

The Art Gallery of South Australia screened a special performance from artist Stelarc (we can ‘send commands’ to the robot), whose work ‘Reclining Stickman’ was a celebrated element of the ‘Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres’. The gallery will put new video episodes, podcasts, interviews with artists, and curator talks and tours online weekly and have uploaded a range of ‘Start at Home’ all-ages worksheets with themes and activities inspired by the work of Australian artists such as Ryan Presley, Lindy Lee, Reko Rennie and Lola Greeno.

The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory present artist talks from Therese Ritchie and more, as well as interviews with their team. The Art Gallery of Western Australia also have videos on exhibitions and art history as well as a series from the witty and knowledgeable Hannah Gadsby who chats to us about painters Hilda Rix, Jeffery Smart, and E Phillips Fox.

Alongside recordings of musical performances, the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art have filmed time-lapses of more than 40 works being installed from a range of practices and mediums as well as about 30 artist interviews. ‘Make’ ‘play’ and ‘watch’ describe the art focus kids activities on their site, which criss-cross craft and education.

Of course, there is a wealth of activity on social media – Goulburn Regional Art Gallery are regularly posting behind the scenes content and artist talks on Instagram TV. Also on IG the NGA, NGV and Newcastle Art Gallery are encouraging us to recreate works from their collection using items you have at home (inspired by the Met, Getty and Rijks Museum). Almost every gallery has adopted a hashtag – curate your content by choosing from #homewithQAGOMA #AGWAYourWay #MuseumFromHome #NGVEveryDay #TogetherInArt #PortraitureComesHome to flag a few.

Hats off to the (too many to name here) galleries experimenting with virtual access to presently inaccessible shows, others to look up include Bendigo Art Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia and Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. New initiatives are popping up online every day, so check out Art Almanac’s new ‘Virtual Galleries’ page on our website.