It was our first visit to the newly-renovated Museum of Contemporary Art, and we were impressed. By and large.
I confess that we usually go to the MCA and other modern art institutions more in hope than in expectation. We feel we ought to take an interest in cutting-edge contemporary art, though more often than not we emerge baffled rather than entertained. ‘What did you think?’ we ask each other. ‘Oh, sort of interesting. Um, different.’ And that’s all we have to say about it. Perhaps that says more about us than about the art.
There are a couple of well-worn trends from visual artists these days, at least those blessed with a lot of time or big enough budgets. One is to take a recognisable object and make an oversized version of it. A three-storey high desklamp, say, or a paper clip the size of a football field. Such things will get noticed.
A variation on this is to take something relatively simple but make lots of it. Cover a large carpark with a million painted plastic drinking cups, for instance, and you’ve made a statement about the environment and throwaway society. And probably annoyed the local shopping centre too.
There are a few examples of this latter approach in the Biennale of Sydney at the MCA.
Thai artist Pinaree Sanpitak has folded dozens of winged paper boxes and suspended them from the ceiling, along with a number of glass balloons.
Chinese artist Liu Zouquan has taken hundreds of bottles and somehow (this is clever) painted them from the inside in patterns that suggest snakeskin.
Whatever you may think of the art (and as you can gather much of it slightly underwhelmed us), the new work on the building has effectively opened it up and made the most of its wonderful position looking out on the ferries coming and going at Circular Quay.
The view from the terrace cafe on the 4th floor is as good a photo opportunity of the Opera House as you will find anywhere.
Sydney Biennale finishes on September 16th. Entry to the MCA and its permanent collection is free.