Black Julia

Michael Cook's <i>Julia Gillard</i>, 2010.
Michael Cook's Julia Gillard, 2010. 

It is a little over 40 years since Australia's first indigenous senator, Neville Bonner, was appointed - and only two years since Ken Wyatt was the first Aborigine to be elected to the House of Representatives.

''Not quite good enough,'' artist Michael Cook might say - hence his interest in the top job in the land. Cook's photographic series Through My Eyes (just unveiled at La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre in Bendigo, in its first public exhibition in Victoria) represents every Australian prime minister, from Edmund Barton to Julia Gillard, as if they were indigenous.

<i>Untitled #1</i> by Zoe Croggon.
Untitled #1 by Zoe Croggon. 

Overlaying official government portraits with those of indigenous men and women, the project, Cook says, ''asks the viewer to reconsider their view of history from an indigenous perspective … With this series I ask a question. 'What if?' What if our past leaders had a better understanding of Aboriginal culture, what if they could see through Aboriginal eyes? What would the difference be for Aboriginal people in the past, present and future?''


US artist Nick Cave's work <i>Sound Suit</i> being unpacked at Ormond Hall.
US artist Nick Cave's work Sound Suit being unpacked at Ormond Hall. Photo: Justin McManus


It seems that the negative press surrounding Bill Henson's work in certain sections of the media has done nothing to damage his currency in the art world.

In a significant endorsement of his long-standing practice, Bendigo Art Gallery has acquired a suite of 11 works by the celebrated photographer.

It's certainly a big buy by Australian standards and one that gallery director Karen Quinlan has framed as ''an unequalled opportunity to achieve a much deeper understanding'' of Henson's work.

According to the gallery, the acquisition - which will be on view until February 24, 2013 - signals the start of ongoing collaboration between Bendigo, Henson and some as yet unnamed European institutions.



The representation of the body is one of art's most enduring tenets. Young artist Zoe Croggon takes something of a more deconstructive approach to the body in her new series of collages, opening this Thursday at Daine Singer on Flinders Lane.

Referencing her love of dance and performance, Croggon's images - gleaned from sources such as encyclopaedias, old photography manuals and various dance publications - pair fragmented images of the body in motion with various architectural and geometric details and forms.

Croggon frames her work in terms of a formal comparison or ''visual simile'', offsetting bodily gestures with their architectural and spatial environment.


The mere premise of a 1000-year-old, Swastika-emblazoned Buddha statue, carved from a meteor by Tibetan craftsmen and looted by a Nazi ethnologist, is bound to evoke a headline or two.

But according to researchers, not all is as it seems with the statue, which depicts Vaisravana, the Buddhist king of the north. It was auctioned by a private collector in 2007, only to recently go viral as a purported ''buddha from space''.

Experts are now claiming that, while definitely carved from a meteorite, the 24-centimetre statue's Asian derivation is looking increasingly doubtful. Buddhism specialist Achim Bayer has suggested that, on stylistic evidence alone (such as the thickness of the figure's facial hair, shoes, hand position and cut of his trouser), the sculpture in fact appears to be a ''pseudo-Tibetan'' artefact made in Europe sometime between 1910 and 1970.


In what might be interpreted as either an acknowledgment of Australia's growing stature in the contemporary art world or an excuse to do a little market reconnaissance Down Under, heavyweight Berlin art dealer Matthias Arndt has brought a host of his gallery's most high-profile artists for an art pop-up of epic proportions at Ormond Hall, in the former Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind buildings on St Kilda Road (where US artist Nick Cave's work is being unpacked).

Opening to the public tomorrow and running until December 15, the curated show (dubbed Migration) features a host of Europe's biggest names, including Gilbert & George, Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, Olafur Eliasson, Sophie Calle, Julian Rosefeldt and others, as well as a design space featuring objects from the likes of Oscar Niemeyer, Dieter Rams and Franz West.