Brow against the window in the last carriage of the 1:21 to Pakenham, I’m thinking about how one event can bleed into the next. A cute summer shoe in a shop window helping you miss the train. Small things. A president’s over-cooked chicken schnitzel, and a post-supper decision to bomb the trousers off a hapless desert nation.

Just making it out the closing doors at Caulfield Station, I walk towards the campus and wonder what of the past will influence the next hour. The Monash University Museum of Art is launching its new premises with Change, until December 18, an exhibition exhumed from its collection of post-’60s art. I walk and the sight of strolling students makes me happy. I can smell the coffee cart before I see it.

The director, Max, shakes my hand inside the gallery and his assured poise, his loving fop of just-greying hair, makes me mindful of my current dishevelment. The night before had been a shamble — rapping Do The Bartman on a unicycle, cracking my head on the concrete — it shows. Max leads the way, and the conversation.

The building is a commitment to transition. The opening rooms are a familiar gesture: white cubes with works bolted eye-height to walls, beautiful with fresh paint, then a hand sweeps in front of me and the classic facade falls away — the inner hall is a spotlight alley of exposed woodwork, shafts of ventilation, and concrete pillars left pock-marked where they could have been rendered clean.

Max is proud and excited and we move quickly, glancing looks like tourists, his voice telling me of hidden treasure, and what they hoped, and of the past trickling into how things came to be. And everywhere, the work: Tracey Moffatt, Mike Parr, John Brack, Howard Arkley, Juan Davila, so many more: names on names. Max introduces them like friends.

18-11-2010 11-51-25 AM
(LEFT: Howard Arkley, Family Home suburban exterior; RIGHT: Tracy Moffat, Untitled)

The rooms lead on and around. The great long, far wall has a tiny curve to it and the angle hugs you through. Personal spaces. The tone of the gallery shifts as the artists and architecture play out, as time and style butts up against its siblings.

A tall rectangle of glass allows the luxury of natural light and a view of a court; a garden, yet to grow private and green. I’m walked near the door, and wished well. It is an amazing new building and Change, a perfect smash of art works to show it off — the two-too-many coffees and afternoon sun are reducing thoughts to simple conclusions.

The details: Change exhibits at the Monash University Museum of Art until December 18.

*This article was originally published in Inpress magazine

Peter Fray

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