Australian politics, society & culture

Architecture Masterpiece

Lindsay & Kerry Clare - 'Gallery of Modern Art', Queensland, 2006

© Chris Harvey

Haig Beck

Short read300 words
October 2011
Art Gallery of NSW - 24 September 2011 to 5 February 2012
Meeting Mary Finsterer
Girls’s 'Father, Son, Holy Ghost'
Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter and Anh Hung Tran’s Norwegian Wood
Meeting Andrew Fraser
John Bell’s 'On Shakespeare'
Alice Neel and Louise Bourgeois
A Correspondence with Clive James
Meeting Meow Meow

Nowadays ‘masterpiece’ refers to a work of extraordinary artistic merit. But it once described a work by a craftsman made specifically to demonstrate mastery of (his) craft and so gain entry to a guild. This older meaning is appropriate to architecture, a practice lodged somewhere between fine arts and craft. The Gold Medal of the Australian Institute of Architects is a contemporary measure of mastery.

Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art, designed by 2010 Gold Medallists Lindsay and Kerry Clare (with James Jones), is a building readily available to the public. With its large overhanging roof, open verandahs and timber-batten screening, GoMA conveys a typical, familiar and regional expression of subtropical informality at a civic scale. It is a friendly, welcoming building, unexpectedly filled with natural light and with tactile surfaces that successfully deflate conventional expectations of the art gallery as an imposing institution. Here, grandeur and hauteur are exchanged for ideas of accessibility and the ordinary, refined and made beautiful and extraordinary.

—Haig Beck and Jackie Cooper