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Friday, March 14, 2008

The Rapture

Readers, at one point, we were only 2 metres away from him.






I went, tonight, to the grand opening of the National Gallery of Australia's latest blockbuster, Turner to Monet: The Triumph of Landscape. It was packed, even though it was out in the sculpture garden, and the chilled wine and beer was being quaffed in large quantities because the weather was very hot. The nibblies were very good, much better than they have been for ages, not leaving you with a handful of detritus after you'd had your bite.

I've been to lots of NGA openings over the last 5 to 10 years; I stand as far away from the speeches as possible and watch the crowd, who are very entertaining. Lots of glitzy summer frocks tonight, and the shoe du jour was very high, very strappy and of either a solid bright shade or totally black. Hattie was there, which is always a good thing. Hattie is a woman that BB and I have admired at many openings. She is an elderly lady who dresses beautifully, and is never seen without an elaborate headpiece. I've never seen her wear the same hat twice. One day we felt brave, and introduced ourselves to her; her name is Beryl, and she has 40-something hats, and she is a great supporter of the arts, but isn't an artist herself. Oh Hattie (Beryl isn't quite right), I beg to differ.

ANYHOO, at every single one of the previouos openings, there is always a jaded, cool bunch who hang around the back, standing equidistant from the catering entrance and the bar, and keep chatting through the speeches. One opening (the Bill Viola one), they were so shockingly loud that the speeches were badly disrupted.

Not this time. Because He was there. Kevin. Kevin Rudd.

I have never seen an NGA crowd so utterly rapt. They were silent, they huddled around the podium, they strained to hear, they stretched upwards to catch a glimpse of him. It was quite amazing. And I don't think he disappointed, even though he did get a bit dry in parts, especially when he waxed on about Australia 2020 and Cate Blanchett (gah). I wish I'd had my camera on hand, to capture the earnest, listening faces.

When will this awe subside? At which point will he become an ordinary man?

Don't ask me, I shamelessly fought through the crowd afterwards to catch a glimpse of him. Past the Whitlams in their matching wheelchair scooters (cute!), past James Gleeson in his real wheelchair, through the sea of admirers watching him work the sculpture garden. I watched a senior colleague from the art school, normally proud of her ability to poke politicians in the chest with a nana finger (even though she's much younger than nana age) turn to mush and gush when she shook his hand. He could do no wrong all evening.

We are so desperate for change, so keen for the fairy tale. Is it really happening? When does it start to go wrong?


The paintings were pretty good too, although they're not really my cup of tea. There were two Van Goghs, and they made my evening, maybe more so than being close to Kev. You just can't beat a bit of Vincent. Rapt!

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

it is a great change for this time in Australia's history, we just need it all to come true! I hope the gap between less advantage workers who do a great job and the higher wage earners get closer, as Grandad used to say quote! " You will always need checkout (chick)operators behind a store counter.". You need more indians than chiefs!

Bernice said...

Yes but darling, we'll eat him alive if he stuffs up the ed or arts sector budgets....

Beautiful piece, love the notion of the artseoisie actually shutting up long enough to focus on something other than their own reflections...

Georg said...

Great post &d. I've been wary of this Kevin-as-god attitude too, even in myself. After being so long under the cosh of Howard et al it's all too easy to see Kevin as some sort of saviour. His whole campaign was geared in this way and why not, it worked. He's got to have flaws, he's got to make mistakes, if he's not then I tend to think it's because we're not seeing them or the media is not reporting them, not because he's not making them. That's not a good place to be, even with Kevin.

Anonymous said...

Sweetie, is there suppose to be a piccy of the Rudd at the top of the post? If so, it aint showing my end. Could just be my faulty back end of course. Great post. Would love to have seen the Whitlams in their matching motorised chairs. I imagine they are still tall and imposing figures all the same. Sach.

Anonymous said...

OOh, forgot to add. Nothing takes the breath away quite as much as a Van Gogh. I have stood in front of a few in the past and have found myself inexplicable awe struck. Don't understand intellectually the magic he had as an artist but the impact of his work is always the same - breathtakingly beautiful. Sach.

Ampersand Duck said...

No, it's just meant to convey a weighty pause :)

Yes, the Whitlams looked fabulous. Margaret Ollie was there, too, I noticed in the Canberra Times this morning. I missed her, but don't regret it, because apparently she chain-smoked through the whole thing.

In case anyone's wondering, we weren't invited because of me -- we got the tickets via BB's brother, who has many connections...

Ampersand Duck said...

also -- Sach and the other anon whom I suspect could be Auntie Lou, you should start giving your comments identities! There's a dot point you can check under the comments box that allows you to enter your name (or anyone else's name if you're feeling cheeky)... claim your name!

Yairs, happy to be an Indian, too many chiefs already :)

fifi said...

Splendid!
but what SHOES did you wear, is the important question. I will be disappointed if it wasn't an 11cm spike heel in daffodil yellow.

And, the Whitlams, I really miss seeing them towering over the hordes, always such a thrill. How strange it must have been to be at eye level (since they were sitting down.)
Margeret Olley: can be cantankerous, often spotted at the AGNSW, but I must say I still get excited about her as well.

You know, I love Turner. I do, I do. Monet has been blighted forever by a legion of printed umbrellas and other such paraphernalia, but I still manage to lose myself utterly in Turnerscapes. I'll no doubt drag my carcass down there at some point to have a look.


Good on Kevin07. Yay! I'd have been for touching his hem...

Pavlov's Cat said...

People who talk though speeches are actually demonstrating how naff and crass they are. I am approaching an age where I won't hesitate to point this out to them, should the occasion arise.

I have several different grave doubts about Kevin, and yet I seem to share the awe. I think the awe, generally speaking, is something to do with his having exterminated the Rodent.

Ampersand Duck said...

I think you're on the money there, Pav, as usual!

fifi, prepare for disappointment. I haven't worn heels since some drunken New Year's Eve in the early 90s when I chucked my heels off the Sydney Harbour Bridge and walked home barefoot. I dress up, but my shoes are ALWAYS flat.

And Turner is pretty good, too. I like looking at the changes he made as he got older, very much like Lloyd Rees. His best work was done when he was about 70.

It is a spectacular show, but a bit chocolate-box-ish at times. If you come down, we should have a coffee!

fifi said...

ha ha, of course I didn't really expect heels!!

definitely on for coffee.

ellis hutch said...

You know K-Rudd went back the next day with his family and actually went into the exhibition to look at the art. Now isn't that refreshing, a pollie who goes to art exhibitions in his - limited - free time.