Author(s): Edward COLLESS
In 1967 and 1968 an exhibition of Marcel Duchamp’s
ground-breaking avant-garde art, from the Mary
Sisler Collection, toured New Zealand and Australia.
The exhibition included some of the most famous of
Duchamp’s readymades, such as the Bicycle Wheel and
the inverted urinal, Fountain. The exhibition’s arrival in
Sydney and Melbourne in 1968 coincided with the visit
of the eminent and controversial US art critic Clement
Greenberg, who delivered the first Power Lecture at
the University of Sydney. In his lecture, Avantgarde
Attitudes, Greenberg swiped at Duchamp’s ready-
mades for being ‘easy’ art. The same year the National
Gallery of Victoria re-opened on St Kilda Road with The
Field, an exhibition of so-called colour field painting.
The following year Donald Brook delivered a riposte to
Greenberg, and to the critical theory sustaining post-
painterly abstraction, in his Power Lecture, Flight from
the Object. A battleground had formed. This book, the
first in the series of Documents from Art+Australia, charts
the dramatic juncture of these competing and combative
artistic orientations, and the stakes in what increasingly
became, with the emergence of conceptual art and
expanded artistic media, a challenge to modernist orthodoxy.