Overheard at the gallery

A photo from Flickr showing a man and a woman each walking past a curved internal window

Photo: courtesy of Georgie Pauwels via Flickr

A trip to the gallery is typically a visual experience, but there also exists the sheer enjoyment of overhearing what other punters say as they ponder paintings, inspect installations, and survey sketches and sculptures.

Here’s a few snippets overheard from impressed and less impressed gallery goers at two shows recently; the always entertaining Archibald Prize and the more challenging fare at the MCA–Tabaimo: MEKURUMEKU and Annette Messager: motion / emotion exhibitions.

  • Child on entering the Archibald Prize exhibition: "Do we have to look at every single painting, or just one of them?"
  • Woman examines the winner of the Archibald Prize, Penelope Seidler‘s portrait by Fiona Lowry: "Is she dead or alive, she looks like a ghost!"
  • Man who has seen one painting too many: "I can’t read anymore of the descriptions, they’re just too informative!"
  • Woman after staring at a painting for several minutes: "Is that really a painting? I don’t believe it."
  • Man assesses a portrait: "This is reasonably … competent!"
  • Man grapples with Cate, take 1 and Cate, take 2 by Tim Maguire: "I don’t get what the point is of having two the same next to each other but in a different colour."
  • Woman to friend at mistaking a contemporary sculpture of packing boxes as rubbish left by the gallery installation team: "Gosh, how come they left all that stuff here – this used to be a really good gallery."
  • Unsure parent to child amidst the work of Annette Messager: "No, I don’t think it’s for playing with."
  • Woman inspects an installation: "It’s the subtext of this piece I really appreciate."
  • Child is bamboozled by contemporary art: "What is this? What is this? MUMMMMYYY!"

Next time you are at a gallery, forego the audio tour, the real-life narration is far more entertaining!


Meet Kat Crossley; law graduate, writer, florist, and museum and gallery lover. We call her Gallerina, and she’s one of our Roving Reporters. She’ll be giving us her insights every month in M&Gazine as she flounces around the state from museum to gallery, so stay tuned.

You can find her on Twitter at @kat_crossley or exploring an exhibition near you. 


Museums & Galleries of NSW helps small-medium museums, galleries and Aboriginal cultural centres create exciting experiences for visitors and, through this, thriving local NSW communities. We don't run museums, galleries and cultural centres but we care about those who do. We develop their skills, connect them with others in the industry, provide funding, point visitors their way, and give them access to ground-breaking exhibitions.

Museums & Galleries of NSW is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.

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