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The Life and Legacy of Bernard Smith Celebrated at Landmark Symposium



8 November 2012

Professor Bernard Smith
Professor Bernard Smith was widely regarded as the founder of Australian art history.

The pioneering work of the Power Institute's inaugural Director and founding Professor of Contemporary Art, Bernard Smith, will be celebrated at a two-day symposium beginning Friday 9th November.

A little over a year since his death in September 2011, the University of Sydney will host 'The Legacies of Bernad Smith' symposium, the capstone event in a collaborative series held across two cities at three locations deeply connected to Smith's work - the Power Institute at the University of Sydney, the University of Melbourne, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Widely regarded the founder of Australian art history, Smith was a radical intellectual, writer and passionate defender of Indigenous Art who left an indelible influence on Australian cultural life. During his tenure at the Power Institute from 1967 until his retirement in 1977, he secured more than 60 European artworks for the University's Art Gallery and Power collection, including Jean Tinguely's kinetic automaton, Bascule No.1 Sisyphus (1965), and Valerio Adami's French Pop print, F. Lensky at the International dance studio (1968).

Bascule No. 1 Sisyphus
Jean Tinguely, Bascule No. 1 Sisyphus, 1965 101.6 x 147.3 cm, purchased Alexander Iolas, Paris, Power bequest 1968 Power Collection, 1961, University of Sydney, managed by the Museum of Contemporary Art.

An eclectic mix of Australian and international scholars from history, anthropology, art history and curatorship backgrounds will reflect upon Smith's equally varied life at the largest cooperative event of its kind to examine his illustrious career.

Smith's championing of a uniquely Australian artistic culture cannot be overstated, according to Power Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Sydney, Mark Ledbury.

"As an art historian, an ideas person and as a writer he's very important," Ledbury says. "He's a significant figure in Australian culture, and I think it's sometimes easy to overlook. We're very fond of getting big thinkers over from other countries, but sometimes we neglect significant thinkers, intellectuals and writers who are right here among us."

F. Lensky at the International dance studio
Valerio Adami, F. Lensky at the International dance studio, 1968 80.3 x 100 cm, enamel on canvas, Power Bequest 1968 Power Collection, 1961, University of Sydney, managed by the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Among Smith's enduring legacies under discussion is his best-known work, European Vision and the South Pacific (1960). This seminal book on early European impressions of Australian and Pacific flora and fauna on Cook's voyages of discovery helped politicise art history, and presented revolutionary ideas on the ideological dimensions of artistic expression.

"He showed that art history had a social or cultural function; that it wasn't just about looking at pretty pictures, but that actually a lot was at stake when people sit down to represent something in their paintings," says Ledbury.

The Melbourne leg of the 'Legacies of Bernard Smith' Symposium was held at the University of Melbourne in September 2012, and featured talks by Warwick Thornton, Marcia Langton and Tracey Moffatt on Smith's fund supporting Indigenous Art.

The Symposium is proudly presented by the Power Institute at the University of Sydney, in partnership with the University of Melbourne and the Art Gallery of NSW.

EVENT DETAILS

What: The Legacies of Bernard Smith: A symposium at the University of Sydney - Day One

When: Friday 9th November 2012

Where: The Institute Building, City Road, University of Sydney (between Butlin Ave and Darlington Rd), Camperdown

RSVP: here

What: The Legacies of Bernard Smith: A symposium at the University of Sydney - Day Two

When: Saturday 10th November 2012

Where: Domain Theatre, Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney

RSVP: here

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Contact: Kate Mayor

Phone: 02 9351 2208, 0434 561 056

Email: 0353200416230b2e29262f2a1a081e102a7914011f5d163c