MOMA comes to Perth

MOMA comes to Perth

A crowd of us went to the WA State Art Gallery on Friday to see the ‘Picasso to Warhol’ exhibition which was excellent. The works on show, all 20th-century artists, were mainly paintings though there were a few sculptures. They are on loan from MOMA in New York, a place I used to frequent regularly when I lived there, not only because it’s one of the world’s great galleries, but also because it was (and undoubtedly still is) an excellent place to meet friends. I often found myself saying to a friend, ‘I’ll see you inside MOMA.’ God knows what anybody listening must have thought; perhaps they thought we were into regression therapy. Anyway it’s great to see some of MOMA’s fabulous collection fetching up in WA.

My favourite pieces in the exhibition were: the Jackson Pollock, ‘There were Seven in Eight’, a large rectangular piece in and browns and muddy greens which has a sense of subtle power.

  • the Mondrian, ‘Composition Number 11, Red and Blue’ which, though the smaller of the two Mondrains on exhibition, has, to my mind, more impact.
  • the Picasso, ‘Seated Bather’ there’s a sense of vastness in this piece; the Cubist figure seems all alone in an eternal landscape.two pieces by Matisse: Interior with a Violin Case which is a perfectly executed domestic scene with a window opening onto a view of the Mediterranean, and Gourds which is just perfect.

Matisse is one of my favourite painters: not only because he uses such terrific colours in his works but also because he lived and painted in and around the seaside small town of Collioure in South Eastern France right up against the Spanish border which is where Abbe and I met and fell in love thirty years ago. At the time I was writing my first novel, Money for Nothing.

But the standout in the exhibition was, to me, the enormous replication of the forty-eight states of continental America by Jasper Johns. It’s simply called ‘Map’. The piece is about 3 metres x 2 and is executed in bright reds, yellows and blues, with the names of the States faintly stencilled onto the vivid colours. It’s wonderful and I was truly impressed. I don’t have a big possessive streak, so I rarely find myself wanting to own the pictures I see in exhibitions. But if I had a wall big enough – and it would need to be bloody big – then I would want to hang this picture on it.

It’s a great exhibition and we had an enjoyable couple of hours, kicking off first in the Art Gallery coffee shop where we had a light lunch. The staff there are extremely pleasant and helpful but, like so many eateries in Perth, the place is pretentious and massively overpriced. The food wasn’t up to much but the cost was astronomical.

The great galleries of the world like MOMA in New York, or MOMA in San Francisco, where, last year, Abbe and I saw the fantastic,  Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisien Avant Garde all have unpretentious buffet restaurants where you can get reasonably good food at reasonably cheap prices – and quickly. I’m sure if the WA Gallery had a restaurant along the same lines, it would attract more visitors.

My big buddy, Jules Sher, the well-known WA painter, also enjoyed the exhibition, although his list of favourites was entirely different to mine.  Another buddy ‘Count’ Lorenzo enjoyed it too, but the poor bugger has just undergone an operation, so he viewed the paintings from a wheelchair.