Bold, contemporary, challenging and exquisite


Two irresistible exhibitions have opened side-by-side at the Gallery of Modern Art and are poised to deliver one extraordinary experience featuring more than 200 contemporary artworks. Delve into two major retrospectives and the most extensive exhibitions from artists eX de Medici and Michael Zavros.

‘eX de Medici: Beautiful Wickedness’

‘eX de Medici: Beautiful Wickedness’ is the largest exhibition of eX de Medici’s 40-year career. Visitors will be drawn into the exquisitely dark heart of her practice, which explores the value and fragility of life, global affairs, greed and commerce, and the universal themes of power, conflict, and death.

An avowed environmentalist and activist, de Medici’s life and career has been dedicated to uncloaking misuses of power and revealing its effects on everyday lives.

Exquisitely detailed and technically adept, her often large-scale watercolours seduce the viewer while seeking to expose the shadowy underbelly of consumerism and the long reach of systems of surveillance, authority, and control.

Her artworks conceal surreptitious yet razor-sharp barbs among lush arrangements of historical and contemporary emblems of excess.

eX de Medici, Australia b.1959 / The theory of everything (and detail) 2005 / Watercolour and metallic pigment on Arches paper / 114.3 x 176.3cm / Purchased 2005 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © eX de Medici

‘Beautiful Wickedness’ follows the artist’s journey from her ephemeral early works, including the oversized photocopy Scene from an Ivory Tower (Pistol) 1985, and the blood swabs sampled from her clients post-tattoo, The Blood of Others 1991–ongoing, which document her work as a tattooist, to her most recent series of large-scale watercolours in which she fuses moths and weapons to denounce the futility of war and its impact on the planet.

These recent artworks hark back to de Medici’s earliest engagement with moths, realised in a series of studies that reflect the artist’s ongoing collaboration with entomologists at the CSIRO’s Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC), Canberra, among them leading evolutionist and Honorary Research Fellow at the CSIRO Dr Marianne Horak.

Other highlights include de Medici’s sumptuous early watercolours Blue (Bower/Bauer) 1998–2000 Red (Colony) 1999–2000 and The Theory of Everything 2005, which are rich in detail and embody complex social and political ideas.  

Importantly, de Medici’s watercolours foregrounding the corrosive effects of coercive control and domestic violence will feature alongside related works of decorative art, such as Shotgun Wedding Dress/ Cleave 2015, based on the bridal gown that Julie Andrews wore in The Sound of Music, and The Seat of love and Hate 2017–18.

‘Michael Zavros: The Favourite’

‘Michael Zavros: The Favourite’ is the largest state Gallery exhibition of Zavros’s work to date and traces 25-year survey of his artistic trajectory since 1999.

‘The Favourite’ highlights Zavros’s abiding interest in objects and ideals of beauty. These are rendered in exacting detail, with a subtle yet conscious focus on their status and effect on contemporary culture.

At the core of the exhibition and among the things that differentiate Michael Zavros from other artists of his generation is an unapologetic love of beauty and craftsmanship, folly, and grandeur.

Audiences will enter Michael’s world. They will see the rigour and breadth of his practice and how his work across multiple media reveals a subtly evolving worldview. His work is inescapably about who he is: his lifestyle — real or imagined — his family, his interests and values.

‘The Favourite’ brings together more than 90 works, primarily paintings, but also includes sculpture, video, and photography. It begins with a series of early paintings including Man in a wool suit 1999 and Ferragamo 2000, exquisite miniatures inspired by luxury advertisements in men’s magazines.

These works appear alongside a series of large, sleek Debaser drawings that depict head shots of male models wearing the collars of high fashion houses but with their faces largely erased, followed by the Prince/Zavros series inspired by American conceptual artist Richard Prince’s ‘Cowboy’ images of the late 1980s – appropriations of the iconic Marlboro Man tobacco advertisements.

Audiences will encounter Zavros’ dramatic equestrian series, paintings of rare Japanese Onagadori chickens with their impossibly long tails and intricate representations of architecture and stately European interiors such as Love’s temple 2006 and Unicorn in the anticamera 2008, along with a trio of large, lavish monochrome interiors that reveal domestic spaces inhabited by ‘trophy’ artworks by three very recognisable and coveted Australian artists – Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Dale Frank, and Bill Henson.

Portraiture is another major focus within the exhibition and Zavros himself is a common subject, whether represented as the Greek mythological character Narcissus or by the bespoke mannequin Dad, who acts as the artist’s double, and features in numerous works, stretching and blurring notions of identity.

Drowned Mercedes 2023, a major new sculptural work created for the exhibition, sees the cabin of an original classic 1990s Mercedes-Benz SL convertible entirely filled with water. Gallery visitors will peer into the luxury vehicle with its immaculately crafted wood and cream leather interior and see their own Narcissus-like reflection in the water.

Michael Zavros painting Bad dad 2013 / Purchased 2016 with funds raised through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Appeal / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Michael Zavros
Michael Zavros, Australia b.1974 / Bad dad 2013 / Oil on canvas / 110 x 150cm / Purchased 2016 with funds raised through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Appeal / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Michael Zavros

Both exhibitions are accompanied by major hardcover catalogues, eX de Medici: Beautiful Wickedness and Michael Zavros: The Favourite, and programs developed in partnership with the artists and QAGOMA at the Children’s Art Centre.

The Alien Others’, by eX de Medici encourages children to consider the important role that insects play in our world and the need for us to protect their habitats. While ‘Gods and Monsters’, a special children’s project developed by Michael Zavros , encourages children to explore key figures and symbols of Greek mythology through multimedia interactives and hands on art-making activities.

For one admission price, audiences can experience ‘eX de Medici: Beautiful Wickedness’ alongside ‘Michael Zavros: The Favourite’ at GOMA until 2 October 2023.

Immerse yourself in an irresistible contemporary art experience, see more than 200 artworks in two major retrospectives from leading Australian artists. Your ticket provides entry to both exhibitions on your day of visit. Buy timed tickets in advance to guarantee entry. Last session 4.00pm daily. Exhibition closes at 5.00pm. Full-day Flexi Ticket also available.

eX de Medici: Beautiful Wickedness’ in Gallery 1.2 and 1.3 (Eric and Marion Taylor Gallery) is presented in the adjacent gallery to ‘Michael Zavros: The Favourite‘ in 1.1 (The Fairfax Gallery) and 1.2 at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) from 24 June to 2 October 2023.