Brook Andrew

Exhibition: The Right To Offend Is Sacred

An exhibition till 4th June 2017, by Brook Andrew at the State Gallery in Victoria (NGV*).

Here’s one description from Tolarno Galleries:

Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred includes many of Andrew’s most memorable works, contextualised in exciting new ways, juxtaposed with formative works that have had very limited exposure. As a map that scopes, records and pinpoints great moments in Andrew’s career, this solo exhibition will also include a new sculptural work, enabling viewers to intuit future directions in the artist’s ever changing practice.

This is an exhibition of many media – installations, video, collage, photo-media, neon, and a host of other graphic works that use postcards and photographs and other materials.

There’s a lot of stuff in this one person exhibition. Too much in fact.

The themes are important, being based on the treatment of particular races by the global dominant race – with themes of exploitation, colonial powers, with the Australian indigenous experience dominating.

The basic theme is often repeated. The first room is full of works. I suspect a curator needed to be far stronger and should have insisted on less – as in ‘less is more’ – and to have had more space between major sets of works – more room to breathe. Assuming that a curator was involved – as it did not look as though there was.

Overall the artist demonstrates that he works in a range of media to address his messages/ themes. At times it felt as though he has become a ‘jack of all trades’.

For instance, the artist has used collage a lot – and in this exhibition collage is dominate. However his use of collage, while it has been strong in individual works beforehand, when so much of it is presented within one exhibition, I sensed not many people actually were taking the time to view the works individually.

Instead I observed that after a while most people started to skim and to view the works as one large installation – being one room and then the next being dominated by pieces set up as an installation.

That installation in the  second room was composed primarily of rows of portraits. Yet again there was the urge to stand back and try to see it as one piece – and then move on. Above was a video playing across several large screens. Most people glanced up – and moved on.


I fear an important set of messages were being drowned out by so much work. At the end of my walk through, I was confused – possibly overwhelmed by so much work being crammed into one set of gallery spaces.

I suggest that if this had been an exhibition of works by 10 artists, then far more room would have been allowed between works to allow the viewers to engage with each work. This was not possible within this exhibition.

Given time, good art takes you somewhere unexpected – provides new insights – engages the brain and the senses.

As I wandered through I realised that I had taken the theme on board reasonable quickly – but that I was seeking more depth. Instead the theme was repeated using different media – collage, lights, graphics etc.

It is always of interest when one of our main public galleries invests a huge amount of resources into a ‘mid career’ artist. What effect does it have on their career?

I am still pondering whether this exhibition really worked as well as it should have. The artist’s theme and message were dominant – but was that at the cost of the experience of engaging with the artefacts – the reason why we go to art galleries?

The above are my first impressions of this exhibition – based on being there for about 30 minutes. Maybe another visit will reveal more.

I do urge people to visit and to engage with the works for yourself and see what you think.

A link to one notice – click here.

Here’s a piece commenting on a previous exhibition – click here.

Here’s the galleries page on the exhibition – click here. They have illustrations of some of the key works.

and then there are those that praise the exhibition – click here.

*Note for people outside Australia – the state gallery of Victoria maintains the 19th Century title of “National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)’ being the colonial name for the then gallery of the nation/colony of Victoria.

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