The recently refurbished Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) has been a resounding flop. Its former dagginess was a kind of museum within a museum, and admittedly humourous. Now, slightly less daggy than before, it’s just shinier.
The upstairs gallery exhibiting Benjamin Duterrau’s The Conciliation 1840 has been repainted grey and rehung. In this instance, I’d prefer the red. In front of Duterrau’s The Conciliation now sits Benjamin Law’s busts of Woureddy 1835 and Truganini 1836. I was really taken with Woureddy’s direct gaze. As Mary Mackay has noted, it portrays Woureddy ‘as hunter, warrior and man-in-command, a Greek hero in kangaroo skin’.
Considered the earliest major Australian sculptures, they’re historically and culturally significant. Reportedly acquainted with the sitters, Law’s busts represent potent figures. Eight pairs and four individual busts are known to exist in public collections worldwide, including the British Museum.
By contrast, Piguenit’s watercolours and Raymond Arnold’s Unique States: Seriality & the Panoramic were captivating highlights.