Howard Arkley Archive (State Library of Victoria)

In June, this archive (acquired from the Arkley Estate in 2011), was made publicly available as SLV MS 14217 (refer library catalogue), and since augmented by several additional components.

The collection comprises a large proportion of the working material and other studio resources remaining in the artist’s hands at his death, including his Sketchbooks and Visual Diaries, working drawings and stencils, and miscellaneous books, magazines and assorted source material. (Not included are certain private papers, personal photographs, and a significant part of Arkley’s library).

This extensive corpus of material, referred to throughout Arkley Works, provides a rich resource for understanding and exploring the artist’s work in depth (for earlier remarks along these lines, see Gregory 2000 [Eyeline] and 2002 [Meanjin], and Gregory, Carnival, 2006, ch.4). The Library’s acquisition of this collection of diverse and often highly ephemeral material represents a most significant step towards ensuring that it is professionally conserved and made widely accessible for future study and research.

The archive is arranged usefully into 10 groups, as follows; for full details, see the ‘finding aid’ or catalogue prepared by Olga Tsara, Librarian, Heritage Collections, SLV, available as https://findingaids.slv.vic.gov.au/repositories/3/resources/152

  • Series 1: Art Works, including the Mills & Boon books [1.1], doodled ‘interventions’ in other magazines and books, such as Untitled [altered Arp book] (1977?) [3/M] [1.2]; numerous studies and working drawings for individual finished works; and a small group of drawings and prints by other artists including Juan Davila and Peter Tyndall [1.5]
  • Series 2: Sketchbooks: in addition to the 26 books listed in Arkley Works, this includes several additional examples (33 items are listed)
  • Series 3: Visual Diaries: again, there are a few additional items besides those listed in Arkley Works
  • Series 4: Source material, including comic and colouring books, various books and magazines userd for source material (many clipped or tagged for reference), Gold’s Instant Decorator [4.7] and real estate clippings [also 4.7]
  • Series 5: miscellaneous Arkley exhibition material, including invitations and catalogues
  • Series 6: ‘Material about Arkley’: various magazines and books, including research notes, index cards and manuscript for Crawford & Edgar’s Spray (1997: refer bibliography) [6.3]; videos of documentaries, including ‘Howard’s Way’ (screened on the ABC in 2000) [6.4]; and a complete list of Arkley’s library, compiled after his death (prepared by John Gregory) [6.5]
  • Series 7: Personal papers, including student notes, correspondence, exhibition proposals and notes (1983-96) [7.3], documents regarding sales of paintings, 1989-1997 [7.5], and Arkley’s Diploma of Education (1976) [7.10]
  • Series 8: Photography: slides taken at various Arkley exhibitions [8.1]; prints, including Photographs of Paris doorways (1977) [3/M], Photographs of Australian flywire screen doors (c.1978-80) [3/M] and Photographs of Los Angeles Freeways (1999) [3/M] [all 8.2]
  • Series 9: Objects: including some masks
  • Series 10: Library (including a catalogue with comments)

Cross-references to relevant examples of source material are noted under individual entries in Arkley Works.

Other developments in 2012

A flurry of auction activity late in the year saw the appearance of several rarely glimpsed works, notably the ‘Pointillist Suburb’ canvas Spray Veneer (1994), previously in the collection of Melbourne architect Alan Powell. This canvas sold for $300,000 (plus buyer’s premium) at the Deutscher & Hackett auction in Melbourne on 28 November 2012. Also included in the same auction was the rarely-seen ‘door’ canvas Proton-Neutron 1979. Other significant works auctioned in 2012 included Deco 1979 [aka Arrows-Crosses], (another door-format painting, not seen publicly since 1992); Nude dreaming of Spiders 1982 [W/P]; the fourth sheet from Untitled (‘Exquisite Corpse’) [1-4] (1984) [W/P] [Howard Arkley, Juan Davila, Maria Kozic]; and Urban Apartments 1999 (see individual entries for details).

2012 publications included a survey of images of Melbourne, where Arkley was characterized, back-handedly, as having developed a “nauseating surrealism” in his suburb-scapes, and treating the inner city as “Lego-land” (Coote 2012, p.146, including reproductions of both Cityscape (1990) [large] and Cityscape (1990) [small]). For further details of 2012 publications, see Bibliography.


“Works on paper,” Charles Nodrum Gallery, Richmond, 29 Nov.-15 Dec.2012: cat.no.2: Zappo Head [screenprint] 1991 and later [W/P]: uncoloured impression, s+d 1994 ($1,350)