Menu lock

The Arts

Oct 7, 2016

James Paterson’s sledge of Pollock painting is jingoistic dog-whistling — and it’s wrong

Senator James Paterson says the Australian government should sell Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles. But it would mean selling more than a canvas.

Ben Eltham — <em>Crikey</em> arts commentator

Ben Eltham

Crikey arts commentator

Liberal Senator James Paterson has got tongues wagging with his proposal to sell off the painting Blue Poles. Jackson Pollock’s Number 11, 1952, better known as Blue Poles, is the most famous artwork in the National Gallery of Australia’s collection.

We recommend

From around the web

Powered by Taboola


Leave a comment

20 thoughts on “James Paterson’s sledge of Pollock painting is jingoistic dog-whistling — and it’s wrong

  1. Edna Prince

    About 20 years ago there was a painter who for a decade or more had put his fake Old Masters into Sotheby’s. When he was eventually caught he expressed surprise that he had fooled all the experts for so long.
    He said: When I look at a genuine masterpiece my hair stand on end. When I look at my own picture there no response.
    From this I deduce that most experts are actually experts in the appearance of art but not in art itself.
    Sell Blue Poles and do something useful with the money.

  2. jmendelssohn

    Good article Ben. There are two other good reasons to ignore Paterson – other than noting that like many Australian politicians he knows more about price than value.
    The purchase of Blue Poles gave Australia considerable international cachet. It made (and makes) us seem an interesting place to visit. It’s ongoing value in our ‘brand’ (for want of a better word) has been beyond measure. It has travelled twice since purchase, once to New York and now in London. Visitors to these major blockbuster exhibitions see the owner, ‘National Gallery of Australia, Canberra’, which is a better value tourist advertisement than Lara Bingle.
    Then there is quid pro quo. Because we have lent Blue Poles (and other major works) to international exhibitions Australia is able to borrow major works from overseas. Those major international exhibitions that we enjoy are a direct consequence of the collecting strength of the National Gallery’s collection – especially Blue Poles

  3. Pedantic, Balwyn

    I strongly suspect that Senator Paterson subscribes to the thought bubble that Pollock’s work is merely the daubing of paint in an unstructured way that could easily have been done by a kid or the monkey. Despite comments that the sale value would be used to purchase “Australian ” art, which is unlikely if he claims the primary purpose is to reduce the national debt, it is more likely that he simply does not appreciate its artistry or cultural value.

    1. Edna Prince

      ” could easily have been done by a kid” or these days using artificial intelligence.

      So how do we know it is art? Because some people told us!

      Proof indeed!

      1. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

        No Edna, it’s art because it’s in an art gallery. When it goes overseas you’ll have to look for it in a gallery rather than a service station or a supermarket. But maybe you’ve never seen it? Stood in front of it, had the thing reach out and grab you. Blue Poles is a wondrous thing, priceless, kind of like the Opera House. I suppose the IPA creeps think of that as just ‘poles and wires’ or ‘bricks and mortar’. Shit for brains.

      2. old greybearded one

        Because, skeptical as I was when it was purchased, when I finally stood in front of it, it spoke to me. I am also somewhat skeptical of the alleged monetary value.

  4. old greybearded one

    Where do the LNP get these fools from? As you suggest the gallery, like all the cultural institutions in Canberra is struggling with the results of the efficiency dividends. My daughter works at another such icon and it is the same. There is no way the money would go back to the arts. I am no great lover of modern art in general, but it stunned me. Then, the price suggested by the senator is over twice the highest price ever paid for a Pollock, so I am even more doubtful. Look if we do not have iconic pictures in our galleries, we cannot do deals to get great exhibits and most of us will therefore never get the chance to see them. They are what let the Gallery show Turner, van Gogh, impressionists, Renaissance and all the other big shows. Wake up senators.

    1. jmendelssohn

      The price (for insurance purposes) is because it is literally priceless – i.e. Unique and an essential part of the world’s cultural heritage. If this, or the Mona Lisa, or Seurat’s Bathers, ever came on the market it would blow it to smithereens and would have to be bought by a consortium of art museums with shared ownership.
      We are incredibly lucky that in the 1970s James Mollison had the foresight to buy so much great art and that Gough Whitlam had the vision to believe in him.

  5. Ian Roberts

    By “consolidated revenue” I take it you mean tax cuts and super rorts for their wealthy friends and supporters.

  6. colin skene

    Can someone fill me in on the lineage of James Paterson? How did he get to where he is?

    1. billie

      from a normal non-selective government high school.
      A privileged scion would have been taught to appreciate “kultcha”

  7. prlofe

    Perhaps the IPA could consider selling off James Paterson. He could be wasting his potential in Parliament.

    1. jmendelssohn

      He could have a great career path in the Commonwealth Bank

  8. pinkocommierat

    Imagine how many paintings of jolly swagmen camped by a billabong you could get for $350 million. You could probably even get a few of those cool paintings of dogs sitting ’round the table playing poker, I like them.

  9. Wayne Robinson

    Whenever I go to Canberra (admittedly not often) I go to the National Gallery of Australia just to see ‘Blue Poles’. It fact it’s the only reason I go to the art gallery. I wouldn’t go if it wasn’t there. Whenever I visit I just stand there entranced for up to 30′ at a time.

  10. Greg Mundy

    No shortage of philistines now, as was the case on the 1970s when NGA acquired this iconic work. Go back to reading comics.