About the NGV
National Gallery of Victoria


Howard Arkley
Australia 1951-1999
Tattooed head 1988
airbrushed synthetic polymer paint on two sheets
172.0 x 122.0 cm (overall)
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of The Leon and Sandra Velik Endowment for Contemporary Drawings, Fellow,1989
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
© The artist's estate, courtesy of Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art


Single Entry Tickets
Adult: $10
Concession: $7
Family Pass: $25
(2 adults / 3 children)
NGV Member Adult: $5
NGV Member Family Pass: $12.50

Unlimited Entry Tickets
Adult: $25
Concession: $17.50
NGV Member Adult: $12.50

Audio Guide
Learn more about the world of Howard Arkley’s vibrant artwork.
Available for hire from the Information Desk.
Cost: $5


Howard Arkley
Australia 1951–1999
Family home: Suburban exterior 1993
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
203.0 x 257.0 cm
Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne
Purchased 1994
© The Estate of Howard Arkley. Licensed by Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

Howard Arkley

A National Gallery of Victoria Touring Exhibition

17 November 2006 to 25 February 2007
Level 3, The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Admission fees apply

10 March to 6 May 2007
Art Gallery of New South Wales

6 July to 16 September 2007
Queensland Art Gallery

The singular vision of Australian artist Howard Arkley (1951-1999) developed throughout a career spanning three decades. This retrospective represents comprehensively the evolution of Arkley's oeuvre from the early 1970s to the final major works with which he was represented at the Venice Biennale in 1999.

Howard Arkley is popularly conceived as the foremost painter of Australian suburbia. His signature houses and domestic interiors and fascination with vernacular, quotidian experience, however, were produced always in dialogue with his preoccupation with abstraction, patterning and the slide between two and three dimensions. Arkley's paintings, painted sculptures and installations collapsed distinctions between abstraction and representation, and questioned certain utopian aspirations - whether it is the suburban dreams of home ownership or the functional design of modernist furniture and architecture. Arkley's literally spectacular pictorial abstraction involves a slippage between the real and the model, between utilitarianism and decoration, and between the elevated and the commonplace.

Arkley's visual lexicon of houses, furniture, decorative schemes and optically turbulent patterns drew on his abiding interests in the architectural and the sociological. This retrospective examines, in depth, the influences and milieu that inspired Arkley - punk music, the club scenes of the 1970s and 1980s, fashion, feminism and masculinity, and the volatile art world itself. The retrospective surveys Arkley's work through the developments of abstraction early in his career, the evolution of figuration and iconographic register, and the continual tension between representational and abstracted images of the landscape, the home and suburbia that fuelled his imagination and lines of sight.

Howard Arkley was particularly influential on his peers and on a younger generation of artists with whom he interacted as a teacher and mentor. He was a quiet but essential presence in the Melbourne art scene. For almost thirty years he produced some of the most idiosyncratic and iconoclastic art in Australia. Using a range of techniques from the commercial airbrush to conventional artists' tools, Arkley's work attracted and balanced critical and commercial success, professional and popular appeal. This retrospective of Howard Arkley's work assesses and celebrates his singular contribution to the history of twentieth century Australian art.

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