MPRG Nick Cave 2002

(photo: Arkley section of ‘Nick Cave: The Good Son’, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, 2002 [photo: MPRG])

Works by Arkley continued to appear in group shows, notably Nick Cave (1999), the centrepiece of a major exhibition devoted to the musician, curated by Rodney James at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery (see installation photo above).

Arkley’s second major collaborative work with Juan Davila, Icon Interior (1994-2001) [3/M], completed by Davila in 2001, was first shown publicly at the Drill Hall Gallery in Canberra, in February. The work was well received, but provoked a certain amount of critical anxiety (see discussion under general comments regarding 1994).

Sales of Arkley at auction increased somewhat in 2002, the major examples offered being Still Life Petunias 1987 and Hedge on Street Corner 1988, both from the BP Collection (auctioned by Sotheby’s in September). However, the main market activity centred around two dealer shows early in the year, at Metro 5, and Gould’s Sydney gallery, both devoted entirely to works by or attributed to Arkley. While both exhibitions included a number of important and well-documented paintings, e.g.Psychedelic Head (1990) and A Freeway Painting (Exit) 1994, they also included others that appear to lack convincing credentials; only works included in the present catalogue are listed below.

In February, in conjunction with the Metro 5 exhibition, Edwina Preston (author of a new biography of Arkley), and Ashley Crawford (co-author of Spray, re-issued at the end of 2001 in a revised edition) both spoke about the artist’s work. Preston also opened the Gould show in Sydney in March, when her book was launched. Preston’s biography probed the artist’s personal life, but its scope was limited by relatively meagre research (due in part to Arkley’s widow’s reasonable decision not to participate so soon after his death). The result is a book that, while providing some interesting insights, is frequently gossipy in tone, often relying on inadequately identified sources and partial opinion.[1]

2002 Exhibitions

Howard Arkley: Exhibition and Sale of 40 Paintings’, Metro 5 Gallery, Melbourne, 6-24 Feb.2002 (a check-list with prices and a catalogue, including reproductions of some works, were published; cat.nos. 18-39 were actually works on paper); works included in the present catalogue are listed below (some identifications remain uncertain):

‘Howard Arkley & Juan Davila: Icon Interior’, Drill Hall Gallery, ANU, Canberra, 7 Feb.-10 March 2002

‘Howard Arkley’, Gould Contemporary, Sydney, 16 March-14 April 2002 (the detailed catalogue includes reproductions of all works shown); works included in the present catalogue as follows:

‘Genesis’, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Yarra Valley, Vic., 24 April – 25 Aug.2002

‘Nick Cave: the Good Son’, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, 6 Aug.-15 Sept.2002 [installation photo reproduced here]

‘Sublime: 25 Years of the Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art’, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 2 Oct.-24 Nov.2002 (then touring nationally; catalogue on file)

‘Good Vibrations: the Legacy of Op Art in Australia’, MOMA at Heide, 5 Oct.-24 Nov.2002 (exh.cat.: see Stanhope 2002)

Monash University Collection: Four Decades of Collecting, MUMA, Oct.-Dec.2002

‘Suburban Echo’, McClelland Gallery, Langwarrin, 20 Oct.-8 Dec.2002 [2]

NGV Australia, from Nov.2002 (opening hang of contemporary collection)

[1] For reviews of Preston’s book, see Morrell (2002) and Simmonds (2002); the Age published an extract (7 Feb.2002). Another 2002 publication also explored Arkley’s biography, from a different tack: John Gregory’s essay in a Meanjin special issue on biography emphasised the artist’s imaginative rather than everyday life, using his ‘visual diaries’ as the principal source.
[2] For details regarding this group exhibition, curated by Robert Lindsay, I am grateful to Penny Teale, McClelland Gallery curator and collection manager, who regrets the lack of a catalogue or installation photos (email correspondence May 2009); she notes that the works by Arkley were shown courtesy of Gould Galleries.