Garden Variety: Photography, Politics and the Picturesque

18 February 2021 - 7 March 2021

Image: Grace Wood, Abundance; scattered (study for Rose Pavilion), 2020. Found images, digital collage. Images sourced from the State Botanical Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and the artist’s personal archive.


18 February 2021 - 7 March 2021




Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne [i]
Birdwood Ave, Melbourne
Daily, 9am – 5pm


Wheelchair access, Accessible Toilets, Accessible Parking

Curated by Isobel Parker Philip, Garden Variety: Photography, Politics and the Picturesque is a site-responsive exhibition at Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. A suite of ambitious new lens-based commissions plots a pathway through the Gardens and leads visitors on a journey of discovery. The landscape itself is enlisted as an exhibition partner, with each installation mapped according to its surrounds. All of the featured artists engage with the Gardens’ history and draw reference from its rich archival holdings.

Garden Variety challenges the idea that a garden exists and functions as an idyllic and politically neutral space. Sensitive to the symbolism attached to the site, the exhibition addresses the many functions and identities of Melbourne Gardens. The Gardens are a picturesque landscape and a scientific institution but also a marker of colonisation and an occasional backdrop for displays of soft power. They are a place for pleasure but also political performance, a civic space that carries (horti)cultural capital.

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  • Isobel Parker Philip (AU)

    Isobel Parker Philip is the Senior Curator, Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. She has recently held the position of Curator, Photographs at the same institution. In 2019 she was the AGNSW’s representative curator for the second edition of The National: New Australian Art, a major biennial survey of contemporary Australian art held across AGNSW, Carriageworks and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Many of her past curatorial projects have addressed the complexity and elasticity of the photographic medium and include Imprint: Photography and the Impressionable Image (2016), New Matter: Recent Forms of Photography (2016–17), Pat Brassington: The Body Electric (2017–18) and Hold still: The Photographic Performance (2018). In 2017 she was the coordinating curator of Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium. Isobel lectures and publishes widely and serves on the advisory committee of the Murray Art Museum Albury and is an advisor for PHOTO 2020: International Festival of Photography.


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