I spent the Sunday before the river peaked at GOMA and 21st Century: Art in the first Decade. Brisbane was being pelted by sudden downpours and we were drenched rushing from the Library back into the Museum. Unthinkably the Queensland Art Gallery and GOMA have both been closed since the flood hit three days later, on January 12th, and web updates indicated a month later that remedial work was being carried out on the lower ground floors, the (too-aptly named) River Café and the carparks, that no artworks were damaged, but that there was no date for reopening yet. That thrilling site on the Brisbane River, like the healing views from the Cairns Hospital right on the foreshore, were chosen in defiance of the knowledge that both spots are in the direct line of Queensland's notoriously fickle elemental forces. The Hospital was evacuated in advance of Category 5 Cyclone Yasi which changed its mind at the last minute and destroyed several small towns further south, but cultural collections cannot easily be evacuated in advance of raging rivers. Museum staff were able to move the work from the ground floor up to higher floors, but like the Hospital this floor was spared damage. GOMA has become more than a museum for Brisbane. The mood on that packed Sunday was more fairground and family fun day out than I have ever witnessed in an art museum. GOMA is starting to be ranked as one of the top collections in the world, and its curatorial verve and blue sky thinking has brought the public along with it in an unprecedented way. Perhaps this ingenuity will find a way to ensure that next time the Brisbane River rears its muddy head it will not mess with the pleasure palace, but short of raising the whole magnificent pile on stilts, like the Queenslanders of old Brisbane, which some planners are now advocating for buildings on the riverfront that have been destroyed, it remains to be seen whether the South Bank cultural precinct is doomed to be flooded out again.
Downriver at the New Farm bend the Brisbane Powerhouse to general amazement escaped with only minor damage. The water lapped at the feet of its famous Watermark sculpture by Richard Tipping, (a conceptual piece made in 2000 to trigger memories of the 1893 and 1974 floods) but retreated again, establishing the base of the work as the new 2011 flood watermark. Artists once more taking the long view.

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