Arkley’s classic ‘Pointillist Suburb’ picture Cosy Clinker (1994) sold at the Bonhams auction in April, but few other examples appeared in a generally quiet year for the art market, reflecting a major economic downturn, worldwide.[1]

The pullover made by Arkley and Elizabeth Gower in collaboration in 1977 was included in a witty exhibition deconstructing male fashion, held in conjunction with Melbourne Spring Fashion Week 2008 (see exhibition details listed below). Earlier in the year, John Gregory (2008) investigated the general issue of Arkley’s relationship with fashion, in a paper given at the International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes conference held at RMIT in March.

A major new publication, recording the history of the Ewing and George Paton Gallery at the University of Melbourne (Vivian 2008), was released in August, including reproductions of a number of Arkley’s works exhibited at the George Paton Gallery during the 1980s.In September, a play by young writer Patrick McCarthy, based loosely on Arkley’s life, was produced at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, using a backdrop comprising projected images of Arkley’s paintings.[2] The play, a bravura one-man performance by McCarthy himself, explored the paradoxes of suburbia by juxtaposing a fictionalized Arkley with the story of a young boy whose experience of suburbia turns sour as he grow up. McCarthy’s account largely steered clear of sensationalism, while probing some of the darker themes raised by Arkley’s suburban theme, and dealt playfully with other aspects of his art and life, including the titles of his works. Difficult at times for members of Arkley’s family to watch, the play was nonetheless a serious interpretation by a young man who had not only never met the artist, but, extraordinarily enough, had never even seen original examples of his work until 2008. The play definitely caught something of the appeal Arkley and his art have always had for younger artists and spectators, while (unwittingly, perhaps) adding another layer or two to the ‘Arkley myth’.

At the end of the year, Melbourne gallerist John Buckley staged a significant show in which the ‘popist’ tradition was explored and entended: ‘Neo Pop’, which ran from Dec.2008-Feb2009, included one of the consoles from Arkley’s ‘Sampling’ show of 1998. This show also included works by several younger artists clearly influenced by Arkley, notably Carl Scrase, whose Hallucination (Altered state) (2008) made use of several ‘Nick Cave’ posters from Arkley’s NGVA retrospective in playful but also complex fashion; and Marcel Cousins, whose #50 (2007) uses a black air-brushed line in a way that both recalls but also departs from Arkley’s own practice.[3]

2008 Exhibitions

Monash Uni. Coll. exh. at McClelland 3/08

details of Arkley/s shown uncertain

‘Director’s Choice’, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 12 March-12 April 2008

‘Time and Place: Selected Works from the TWMA collection’, TarraWarra Museum of Art, 12 April – 20 July 2008

‘Order and dissent: Works from the Heide Collection’, Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Bulleen, Melbourne, 1 July 2008-1 March 2009

‘Into the Closet: Objects, garments and creative assessments of male identity’, Carlton Hotel & Studios, 193 Bourke Street, Melbourne, 22 Aug-6 Sept.2008 (curated by Geoff Nees; invitation on file)

‘Neo Pop’, John Buckley Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne (curated by John Buckley):

(see also comments above, on other artists’ works included in this show)

‘Primary Views: Artists curate the Monash University Collection’, Monash University Museum of Art, 3-19 Dec.2008 and 3 Feb.-28 March 2009 (curated by Stephen Bram, Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley, and Juan Davila)

[1] In August, dire warnings about an art market collapse appeared in the press: see e.g. Gabriella Coslovich, ‘Art market going to Brack and ruin’, Age, 28 Aug.2008, p.3.
[2] McCarthy (2008): the play, based on a shorter performance produced in 2007, while the author was still in his final year at secondary school, was produced with cooperation of the Arkley Estate, and incorporated extensive research into the artist’s work and ideas; for an extended review of the play, see Kelada 2008.
[3] For the Buckley show, see http://www.johnbuckley.com.au/exhibitions/group/neopop/index.html, with good reproductions of all works shown.