Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bugatti and More: On now at Melbourne's NGV International

I enjoyed visiting both NGV venues this afternoon: I highly recommend the Bugatti show at NGV International! All exhibitions currently on are free so there's no excuse for any art and design loving Melbournian, not to make the time to see both this and the other shows.

Bugatti: Carlo Rembrandt Ettore Jean features Rembrandt's lively, evocative animal bronzes; an automobile each by Carlo and Jean; unique, unusual and beautifully crafted furniture by Carlo. As far as talent goes they were world class - it's remarkable to have so much creatively and ability in one family. I think my favourite piece would be Carlo's assymetrical, throne seat which is part of the NGV collection. There's a touch of steam punk about that and some of his other pieces.

The Satirical Eye: comedy and critique from Hogarth to Daumier, a must for anyone who appreciates vintage satire and etching. Features a number of prints by Goya from his series Los Caprichos.

The cricket and the dragon: Animals in Asian Art
is aimed at getting children interested in art so be prepared to squat and crouch a lot in order to see most of this show properly. Other than that small grumble and inconvenience for the rest of us, there are some superb examples of Asian craftsmanship and artistic technique. The poster critter - literally - for this exhibition is a copper alloy, life sized rat holding a chestnut. He's gorgeous, I want him! There's a lifelike crab also made in copper alloy and Japanese but a slightly later period and not apparently by the same artist.

Don't miss the smallest pieces tucked away behind tiny windows, inset in a graphic panel between each of the main showcases. Some of the best stuff is there. Exquisitely carved Japanese netsuke*, and finely glazed snuff bottles will make that awkward stooping worth your while!

One of the netsuke on display is very similar to one in the V&A collection*. Perhaps this is a traditional depiction of quails or perhaps one inspired the other.This one is cuter, rounder and sweeter. Their eyes are shinier [grabby hands].

Magnifying glasses are there to encourage kids to appreciate the details but for those of us who are long sighted I expect they could come in handy for some of those tiny pieces!

Remaking Fashion was okay but not my cup of tea and held nothing that really excited me. I continue to be frustrated by the recessed showcases and lack of visibility they afford. Fashion isn't designed to be viewed from one specific angle but 360 degrees. The strategic use of mirrors perhaps, and an extra freestanding showcase would help.

*I've always sought this type of carving out every since seeing my first netsuke at the Victoria and Albert museum in London back in 1997. I love how compact, detailed, and full of character they can be.

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