Arts / NGA’s summer blockbuster unveiled

Ron Mueck’s “Pregnant Woman” overshadows Dr Vaughan and Jaklyn Babington

“THIS show is going to cause quite a sensation”, the director of the National Gallery of Australia, Gerard Vaughan, predicted as he unveiled the coming summer blockbuster at the gallery, “Hyper Real”.

Overshadowed by sculptor Ron Mueck’s ultra-realistic “Pregnant Woman”, Dr Vaughan and senior curator at the gallery, Jaklyn Babington, introduced a show opening in late October, which is expected to attract visitors from near and far, just as much as with any of the French Impressionists.

Speaking to both the adults and a large crowd of children, who looked admiringly at Mueck’s sculpture, Dr Vaughan used the word “challenging” at least 10 times as he explained how the artistic concept of hyperrealism has been going for some decades. This exhibition of 50 works, by 32 artists—including eight Australians—in sculpture, video, digital art, virtual reality and bio-art, would be “awesome”.

The female nude, he said, was a staple of Western art, but just as the famous portrait of pregnant Demi Moore, taken by Annie Leibovitz for the August 1991 cover of “Vanity Fair”, had shocked the public in its time, so would some of the “unexpected” inclusions in this exhibition, a collaboration between the NGA and curator Otto Letze of the Institute for Cultural Exchange, Germany.

And what did the young people at the gallery this morning think of it?

“It’s really good”, one of them told the director, who later confided to “CityNews” that as a father, he was well aware of the fascination the pregnant female body held for children.

Babington explained to those present how “Hyper Real” would play with perceptions of the real and the virtual. Some of the inclusions would be so lifelike, she said, that patrons might mistake them from real people, while others would take up issues like genetic engineering that would raise many questions for visitors.

Patricia Piccinini’s “Newborn”. 

High on the list of exhibiting artists would be Australia’s Patricia Piccinini, best known in Canberra for the creation The Skywhale during the Centenary of Canberra, but who elsewhere is celebrated for her artistic experiments blending human and animal attributes. According to Babington, an exhibition by Piccinini recently smashed attendance records for a show in Rio de Janeiro.

Shock would be a part of the experience. Marc Quinn’s sculpted self-portrait is filled with litres of his own blood, while Shaun Gladwell’s virtual reality experience would “take us into deep space inside a giant floating human skull”.

AES+F, “Inverso mundus” 2015, HD video installation, ARS New York, MAMM, Anna Schwarz Gallery and Triumph Gallery.

Russian collective AES+F’s 360° video installation is designed to turn the assumed natural order of society on its head and in one installation, Babington, said audience visitors would stand in a mirrored room surrounded by infinite replication of 3D creatures.

Asked whether the exhibition was likely to attract visitors from interstate and the bush, Dr Vaughan said: “we do our research… [and] they will be interested… Hyperrealism is part of a global movement that runs in parallel with photo realism and three of the greatest exponents are Australians.”

The plan, he said, was for the exhibition to ask provoking questions about where the world is going, and by happy chance, the extension of Hyperrealism into moving images and 3D meant it had more in common with sculpture than with painting. It had also given the gallery an opportunity to commission its own first work by Australian artist Sam Jinx.

Besides, it’s been going on for decades, as the exhibition will show.

“Ron Mueck’s work is no longer confronting,” Dr Vaughan said, “but ‘Pregnant Woman’ is incredibly popular with kids.”

Judging by their interest in the sculpture this morning, “Hyper Real” should hit the spot across the generations.

“Hyper Real”, at the National Gallery of Australia, October 20 to February 18. Bookings to ticketek.com

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