Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mueck on Show

How delighted was I, when I discovered on a recent visit to Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria, that London-based, Melbourne-born artist Ron Mueck is all for new media; and all for gallery visitors photographing his astonishing sculptures. He's happy for people to take snaps and send them out into the technosphere via facebook, blogs or Twitter - a refreshing stance given that most major galleries still prohibit photography (certainly flash photography), regardless of the fact that they must be losing the battle against tiny modern cameras and cellphones.
Ron Mueck's NGV show is currently breaking all projected visitor records. Viewers are enchanted and enthralled by his realist sculptures and the same thing is sure to happen in Brisbane, when the show moves there in a few weeks' time. And New Zealanders will also get the chance to stand and gaze in awe, when the show comes to Christchurch Art Gallery in October. In preparation for interviewing the gallery's Curator of Australian Art, I had read masses of publicity material on Ron Mueck, seen dozens of images of his works and felt I knew exactly what to expect when I stepped into the show. Suffice to say, I was wrong. No amount of pre-reading prepared me for the emotion impact of the works, their eerie realism, or the degree to which Mueck has captured the essence of humanity in each of them.
Nor was I prepared for the general audience reaction to the works - and being a consummate observer - that's one of the elements of the exhibition I enjoyed the most. While gallery visitors shuffled slowly through the show, I was taking photographs of them taking photographs of the sculptures. I did feel slightly voyueristic at one point and my actions seemed to amuse the security guards but I 'fought bravely on.' I think you could have a very successful second Mueck exhibition - the audience reactions captured in photographs. I wonder if that's ever been done before?
In the meantime, here are a few of my audience photographs for you to browse. And for any New Zealanders checking in, this is one show at Christchurch Art Gallery you won't want to miss - and don't forget to cast your eyes about at the other visitors trying to absorb the uncanny realism of Mueck's works.

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