Vivisector , 1983

Sidney Nolan Vivisector 1983 Oil on canvas 152.5 x 152.5 cm

Tim Abdallah is Head of Australian Art and a Fine Art Specialist at Menzies

"In 1985 I was a young, I think the word is ‘callow’, director of a commercial art gallery in Melbourne.

In August 1985 we opened a German branch of the gallery in Cologne. Through the kind intercession of Elwyn Lynn, we were able to launch our new venture with an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Nolan, a fantastic coup.

Sid and Mary came to visit and attend the opening. I was a babe in the woods, the gallery was a bit under-funded, however Sid was very gracious and the opening went well, two good oils were sold, the Director of the Wallraf-Richartz museum paid us a visit and the exhibition was the subject of a review in the Kölner Stadtanzeiger. Sid and Mary spent 2-3 days in Cologne enjoying the sights. I remember visiting the museum with Sid and listening to his thoughts on the paintings we looked at. It was completely fascinating.

The exhibition we had included some paintings from the series Nolan painted as a response to the fuss created by Patrick White’s Flaws in The Glass. As is widely known, Nolan was criticised by White in the book and the friendship they had enjoyed ended in fairly lurid circumstances. Several of the paintings we showed (the best ones, in my opinion) were pretty uncompromising, if not downright vicious.

I remember standing in front of one of the paintings and being fairly amazed that the spat had come to this and wondered to Sid if he thought that he might be able to bury the hatchet with White. Sid responded, “Oh no, it’s far too good for that!” Clearly Nolan was enjoying the fight and relishing the artistic possibilities it offered. The art was more important than the friendship."

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