Joanna Mendelssohn

Joanna Mendelssohn is an Associate Professor at UNSW Australia: Art & Design. She is the lead researcher in Australian Art Exhibitions 1968-2009: a generation of cultural transformation, an ARC-funded Linkage Project.


Losing the big picture: Surviving the Art Hunger Games

In 2016 the arts in Australia inhabit a dystopian world. It could be described as a place of absurdist contradictions, where only those who have mastered the arcane rules of the Hunger Games have any chance of surviving. Possibly the greatest change is that arts funding is now a partisan political issue in a way that it has not been for some generations. In the past there were concerns about the internal politics of art bureaucracies, but now the allocation of funds to support the arts (or not) has become a party‑political issue. The Commonwealth Government recently presided over the greatest reduction in arts funding in Australian history, but when questioned on this in a public forum, the art‑loving/art-collecting Prime Minister was unaware of the impact of his party’s budgets on the arts. It is probably unfair to blame the current Prime Minister for the devastation that was wrought in the time of his predecessor.

Art Land
Culturally ambitious: Moving with the times
Joanna Mendelssohn on the Australia Council’s latest strategic plan.
Australian Art: A History
By Sasha Grishin
Miegunyah Press, 2014
570 pp.
Bio Art
19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire
Cockatoo Island, Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Carriageworks, Artspace.
21 March – 9 June 2014
Indigenous: Blackground
How the demographic got screwed

Associate Professor Joanna Mendelssohn looks over the last twenty-five years of tertiary art education and wonders where the intake of students from a broad socio-economic spectrum has gone and where the subsequent shrinking cultural conversation leaves Australia?

Wall to Wall: Graffiti Art
Bungaree: the First Australian
Curator: Djon Mundine Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney 1 September – 25 November 2012 then touring
Disaster & Fortitude
In-Habit (Project Another Country)
Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney 22 June – August 2012
Panorama: are we there yet?
Daniel Boyd, Nadine Christensen, Sarah Goffman, Fiona Lowry, Bennett Miller, Arlo Mountford, Joan Ross, Caroline Rothwell, Bernie Slater, Jemima Wyman Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, NSW 27 January 2011 – 13 March 2012
Indigenous: Indignation
The Mad Square: modernity in German art 1910 - 37
Curator: Jacqueline Strecker Art Gallery of New South Wales 6 August - 6 November 2011 National Gallery of Victoria 25 November 2011 - 4 March 2012
Reconnecting the Dots: Next Sydney Biennale Directors
Indigenous Canadian Gerald McMaster and Belgian Catherine de Zegher are joint directors of the next Biennale of Sydney. Joanna Mendelssohn interviewed Catherine de Zegher about the global and the local, difference and similarity...
Hijacked Volume 2: Australia / Germany
Joanna Mendelssohn examines a new book on photography, second in a series, this time juxtaposing German and Australian artists. Mendelssohn writes "What Germany and Australia have in common is a certain navel-gazing obsession about what it means to belong to their particular nationalities."
Stirring II
Fiona Davies: Intangible Collection
Fiona Davies: Intangible Collection Maitland Regional Art Gallery, NSW 15 August - 18 November 2009
Changing Climates in Arts Publishing
Lean, mean and living dangerously
Associate Professor of Fine Art at the College of Fine Arts, Uni of NSW, Joanna Mendelssohn analyses a slice of the current state of art publishing in Australia from reviews in newspapers to the DAAO (Dictionary of Australian Artists Online - now rechristened Design and Art of Australasia Online).
Changing Climates in Arts Publishing
53rd Venice Biennale: Making Worlds
53rd Venice Biennale: Making Worlds Bantin Duniyan, Hacer Mundos Director: Daniel Birnbaum 7 June – 22 November 2009
Rational / Emotional
So you want to be a curator?
Joanna Mendelssohn, author and Associate Professor at the College of Fine Art, University of New South Wales where she co-ordinates the Master of Art Administration, writes about the highly competitive and financially unrewarding realities of getting a position as a curator in an art musuem.
Curating : Creating
George Gittoes art and the war on terror
George Gittoes' latest film Miscreants was made in Pakistan and records the contradictions of life there with the polemic of Goya and the speed of an MTV music clip. This film follows his earlier cult films Soundtrack to War and Rampage. Gittoes is never a dispassionate observer, he continues to paint and to draw, making war art that is emotional as well as rich with the difficult truths of our time.
Currents III
Ms & Mr
Heavy Sentimental Ms & Mr Kaliman Gallery, Sydney 1 - 30 June 2007
Screen Deep
The Weather Report: James Guppy
James Guppy: The Weather Reports Brenda May Gallery, Sydney 6 February  3 March 2007
The South Issue: New Horizons
Michael Callaghan: a survey
Michael Callaghan: A survey 1967 -2006 1 December 2006 - 21 January 2007 Manly Art Gallery 2 - 24 March 2007 Tin Sheds, University of Sydney 5 May- 24 June 2007 Wollongong City Gallery
The Word As Art
Primavera 06
Primavera 06 Curated by Aaron Seeto Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney 13 September - 19 November 2006
Elders: The Old Magic
Richard Larter: The Seasons of Art
For Richard Larter the material act of making paintings is an essential part of his daily life. He has written that my first mature paintings were pointillist abstracts done in house paints and enamels on lilac coloured masonite (Larter, 1998). Larter is an artist well aware of the visceral qualities of paint. Larters syringe paintings, made by forcing paint in raised lines onto hardboard, became the signature works for his initial Australian success. His role as assistant to the ceramicist Zora Merabek who was restoring the Marabout Tombs in Algiers led to a continuing interest in the visual forms of Islamic culture and a love of strong pure light. This article follows Larters prominent career and a lifetime of travel throughout Australia, New Zealand and abroad.
Elders: The Old Magic
Tracey Clement: Border Zones
Groundfloor Gallery, Balmain SafARI, Pelt, Chippendale Sculpture, installation, jewellery 14 June - 1 July 2006
Currents II
Twenty: Sherman Galleries 1986-2006

Twenty: Sherman Galleries 1986-2006 Laura Murray Cree (ed) Craftsman House ISBN 0 9757684 1 7 RRP $95

Currents II
Charles Merewether: Director of 15th Biennale of Sydney
It is always hard to characterise an exhibition as vast and sprawling as the Biennale of Sydney as it takes over the city, but every time the Biennale has taken place, it has taken on the flavour of its artistic director. Joanna Mendelssohn has conducted an interview with Charles Merewether - art historian, writer and curator - who has produced what could be the most confronting Biennale for many years. His take is at first glance the external world of war and conflict, of cultural difference and exchange but ultimately he wanted to do 'a show that tried to interfere in the way in which contemporary art was being seen'. Included in this article is the work of artists Akram Zaatari Saida, Elena Kovylina, Raeda Saadeh, Ghada Amer, Ruti Sela, Maayan Amir, Sejla Kameric, Mladen Stilinovic, Milica Tomic, Imants Tillers, Savanhdary Vongpoothorn, Julie Gough, Adrian Paci, Liza Ryan, Sharon Lockhart and Antony Gormley.
New Zealand Contemporary Art Turangawaewae A Place to Stand
The 12th Biennale of Sydney 2000
AGNSW, MCA, Artspace and satellite venues 26 May - 30 July
Reflection: 20th Anniversary Issue
Paramor: Lost and found
Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, NSW 9 September - 39 October 2000
Sculpture and Cities
Phillip George: Tranzlution
Stills Gallery Sydney 6 December 2000 - 10 February 2001
Taking in Water
World Without End: Photography and the 20th Century
Art Gallery of New South Wales 2 December 2000 - 25 February 2001
Taking in Water
William Yang: Miscellaneous Obsessions
William Yang miscellaneous obsessions Stills Paddington, Sydney 16 October - 16November 2002
Ruth Waller
Watters Gallery, Sydney 25 March - 26 April 2003
Critical Mass: The New Brisbane
A Memory of Times Past
Australia's 'official culture', the face that government puts on to show the country to the world has changed, and although those changes were set in motion well before the events of 11 September 2001, they are only now beginning to emerge as defining forces. Mendelssohn looks at the role of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games as a celebration of Australia's diversity and one of the main catalysts for such change. However, there is a darker side to all of this celebratory glory which Mendelssohn has addressed with reference to Australia's political climate and the granting of permission to express its collective worst feelings of fear and loathing.
Yayoi Kusama
Roslyn Oxley9 Sydney 11 April - 4 May 2002
Suburban Edge
Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney 5 March - 18 April 2004
Shopping & Extreme Pleasures
Shaun Gladwell
Sherman Galleries, Sydney 19 June - 12 July
Rich & Strange
The Perverted Gaze of the Artist: Recent Work of James Guppy
James Guppy has a curiously ambiguous place in contemporary art. This is not because of his subject matter, but rather because of his technique. For the most part Guppys recent work is not about fun, nor is it even really about sex. Rather he argues it is about the nature of exploitation. He argues that artists by their nature are voyeurs who see the world around them and all its objects as items to be used as visual product. His recent Peeping Box series taps into this idea where images of sexual activity with a particular sadistic overlay are presented behind thick glass to incite some vain attempt on the part of the viewer to engage in such voyeuristic acts.
Shopping & Extreme Pleasures
The Winter (of our Discontent) Games
Blackmore Park Leichhardt 29 August 2004
Hybrid World
Disappearing Act
Sherman Galleries, Sydney 10 February - 5 March 2005
Vivienne Westwood
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 12 November 2004 - 30 January 2005
Handmade: The New Labour
Ken Searle: Papunya: Paintings and Drawings
Watters Gallery, Sydney 25 May - 19 June 2004
Currents I
Clinton Nain: Living Under the Bridge
Sherman Galleries, Sydney 6 - 28 November 2003
Adelaide and Beyond
Nigel Helyer: Gone to Earth
Boutwell Draper Gallery, Sydney 10 September - 4 October 2003
The China Phenomenon
Nell: Happy Ending
Roslyn Oxley9, Sydney 26 May - 25 June 2005
Why Correggio Jones is not The Hero of the 2004 Biennale of Sydney
The title of the 2004 Sydney Biennale was Biennale Of Reason and Emotion, the curator was Isabel Carlos, a Portuguese woman who will stress her cultural links with the New World, but in her case it is South America rather than North. One of the ideas she wished to explore through the Biennale was the concept of 'south' in a world dominated by the culture of the 'north'. As she states - "what I really want is to create a Biennale that works on the borders of the perception and on artworks that change our way of seeing the world around us."
Rich & Strange
Philanthropy, Sponsorship, or Dinner?
On July 29 2005 the Prime Minister, John Howard, was guest of honour at the annual Australian Business Foundation for the Arts (AbaF) Awards Dinner. Joanna Mendelssohn reports on the event.
Refocusing the Gaze
Review of the First Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Sept - Dec 1993. The rationale for selection, search for different voices from each country, enormous diversity, some common threads eg experience of colonisation; politicisation; role of religion in some countries. Dramatic performances by Dadang Christanto (Indonesia) and S. Chandrasekeran (Singapore). Theme of environmental pollution also appears in several works.
Contemporary Arts of the Region: SE Asia & Australia
Jeffrey Smart: Paintings of the 70s and 80s by John McDonald
Book review Jeffrey Smart: Paintings of the 70s and 80s By John MacDonald Craftsman House 1990 RRP $65
Art & Education
Problems with Art Publishing in Australia
Art writing and payment to writers and how this influences who writes for what!
Art & Education
Abel Tasman at Dunedin
Looks at the exhibition 'Terra Australis Incognita' at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in New Zealand, to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Abel Tasman's discovery.
Museums on the Edge
My Sydney
Editorial by guest editor Joanna Mendelssohn. What after all is different about Sydney? I have tried to give some idea of the debates which are not always expressed in writing - the incestuous nature of the mighty arts organisations; the way that words influence or corrupt understandings of art; and the limits on public debate because of fear of the consequences.
Sydney: The Big Shift
Changing Cultures and Glittering Prizes
Examines the culture of art prizes, scholarships and patronage in terms of support for younger artists. Looks at the work of artists Megan Walch, Sue Saxon and Michele Beevors.
Emerging Artists
Vi$copy Rules. OK?
In 1972, when I began work as curatorial assistant at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, artists in the collection had no formal written rights to their work. Each time a work was acquired by the gallery, the artist was sent a pink copyright form which they were expected to sign, even though this relinquished all their rights and assigned them to the gallery.
Art & the Spirit
Sydney Biennale Every Day
Exploration of the 11th Biennale of Sydney curated by Jonathon Watkins.
The Big Pond: Australian Artists Overseas
The Artist and the Critic
Fortunately not all critics are so urgently in need of friends that they write hymns of praise after every long lunch. Some even relish being labelled 'ungrateful'. I would argue that the only critic worth reading is an ungrateful critic. Looks at the role of visual art criticism in the newspaper columns of the daily press.
The Future of Art
Richard Larter
An exhibition to celebrate his 70th birthday Watters Gallery and Legge Gallery May 1999
AMaGA Cementa Unley Museum NAVA