The 15th anniversary of Arkley’s death passed without comment, but key examples of his work continued to appear on the secondary market, and in exhibitions.

Triple Fronted 1987, newly purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, was included in the AGNSW’s significant “Pop to Popism” exhibition (Nov.2014-March 2015), together with the NGV’s Primitive Gold 1982. Earlier in the year, the latter painting’s “twin,” Primitive (Silver) 1982, sold at auction in Melbourne. In August, A Large House with Fence 1998, one of Arkley’s most assured and characteristic late canvases (previously in the collection of the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart), also sold at auction, for a new record price of $463,600 (including buyer’s premium).

In November, the major gift of Michael Buxton’s collection of contemporary Australian art to the University of Melbourne was announced; the Age report (see Puvanenthiran 2014) featured a photograph of Buxton sitting in front of Arkley’s A Large House and Garden (1997), another key late painting.

Patrick McCaughey’s new survey (sub-titled “Why Australian painting matters”) included recognition of Arkley’s houses as “one of the most resonant images of contemporary Australian art.” At the same time, he continued, the “cloying banality” and stifling boredom implied by examples like Stucco Home (1991) “have the fascination of horror that such places may be the true representation of the Australian experience” (McCaughey 2014: 330-31). These astute remarks – by an influential figure who, while never a great admirer of Arkley’s art, had supported the acquisition of his major early installation Muzak Mural – Chair Tableau (1980-81) [3/M] for the NGV in 1982 – go to the heart of the ambivalence in Arkley’s suburban imagery.

2014 Exhibitions

Pop to Popism. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1 Nov.2014 – 1 March 2015