Two new MoAD websites
The museum now has two brand new websites, showing off aspects of our art collection. One concerns the work of John Frith, the other the work of a Melbourne socialist art community. The websites have now both gone live and are entitled John Frith: The Art of Politics and Art is a Weapon.
In 2012, the museum was fortunate to have received a donation from the family of prominent cartoonist John Frith. The family donated dozens of Frith’s cartoons and in order to do them justice, we decided to devote a website to showing the cartoons in their proper context and letting people see the genius of John Frith’s work.
The museum had previously exhibited some of Frith’s work in 2001, in an exhibition called A Brush with Politics. Some of those cartoons proved very popular, and rather than remove them from the website, we decided to add all the original cartoons, give the site a makeover, and retain some of the more popular Frith works as part of the new site.
The John Frith: The Art of Politics looks fantastic; the designers did a spectacular job bringing John Frith’s work to life and giving the cartoons the treatment they deserve.
As well as the cartoons, the website also shows off some of Frith’s sculpture work. Frith made busts of, among others, Ben Chifley and H.V. ‘Doc’ Evatt, and also produced Toby jugs and reform flasks in the shape of well-known cultural figures. The sculptures show another, less-well-documented side of John Frith’s work. We are particularly pleased to be able to show Frith’s bust of Ben Chifley, made from drawings sketched the night of Chifley’s death in 1951. The bust is one of my favourite pieces in the museum’s collection. As part of the project, I also conducted my first oral history interview.
I spoke to Jeffery Frith about his father’s life and work, and an excerpt from the interview is available on our website. For me, this was a new and interesting experience, and I’m grateful to Jeffery for being so generous with his time.
The Art is a Weapon exhibition has been in the Living Democracy gallery since December 2012. Now, a permanent web page shows the artwork featured in that exhibition and provides more detailed context about them.
Art is a Weapon explores the use of a uniquely Australian event—the Eureka Stockade and the creation of the Southern Cross flag—and how artists and propagandists have used these symbols to spread their messages. In particular, it focuses on a portfolio of linocuts titled Eureka, produced by the Melbourne Popular Art Group and sold by the Communist Party on the centenary of the Eureka rebellion.
The Art is a Weapon website delves deeper into the motivations and history behind the Eureka portfolio and the use of the Eureka legend in propaganda. You can see each of the works, find out about the artists and read longer pieces of contextual background about the Southern Cross flag, the leftist art movement, and the way Eureka has been depicted through time.
It was a somewhat difficult task to design a website that was accessible and clear, but still provided the essential information about the portfolio. I’m happy with the finished product, which is visually very engaging and provides a very different experience to visiting the onsite exhibition.