Venture into the woods with ‘Fairy Tales’ at GOMA this summer
Across a magical threshold and beyond the everyday, ‘Fairy Tales’ is an unexpected and immersive exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art this summer.
QAGOMA Director Chris Saines said ‘Fairy Tales’, presented across the entire ground floor of GOMA from 2 December until 28 April 2024, would re-tell the enduring folk stories of childhood through the lens of contemporary artists, designers and filmmakers.
‘The exhibition includes more than 100 works encompassing sculpture, installation, painting, photography, printmaking, papercuts, animation, video art, film, props, costumes and even the hidden realm of augmented reality.
‘Celebrating a much-loved genre of storytelling, ‘Fairy Tales’ is an adventure that will inspire and delight as it reminds us how timeworn narratives can be remixed and updated to both surprise and disconcert audiences,’ Mr Saines said.
Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said ‘Fairy Tales’would bring the enchantment of cherished stories to life through visual art and design and captivate Queenslanders of all ages.
‘QAGOMA’s exhibitions and programs, including ‘Fairy Tales’, continue to highlight the power of the arts to engage, enlighten and bring communities together, delivering on key priorities of the Queensland Government’s Creative Together, 10-year roadmap for arts, culture and creativity.
‘The Queensland Government continues to support QAGOMA to secure unique art works and present exciting programming that reinforces Queensland’s position as a unique cultural tourism destination, as we prepare for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games and embrace the opportunities it offers our arts sector and our communities,’ Minister Enoch said.
Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said ‘Fairy Tales’was a must-see on the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar.
"Fairy Tales’ is an exclusive-to-Queensland exhibition, that will captivate audiences with incredible installations staged across the entire ground floor of GOMA.
‘It will also provide a boost for local hotels, restaurants and bars with the exhibition expected to attract more than 4,000 visitors to Queensland, who’ll spend around $10 million.
‘The Queensland Government, through Tourism and Events Queensland, has supported a major exhibition at QAGOMA every year since 2007, attracting more than 175,000 visitors to Queensland and generating more than $140 million for the local visitor economy.
‘‘Fairy Tales’ further enhances Queensland’s reputation as a world class arts and cultural events destination in the lead-up to the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, where our artists, stories and cultures will be showcased to a global audience,’ Minister Hinchliffe said.
Amanda Slack-Smith, exhibition curator and Curatorial Manager of QAGOMA’s Australian Cinémathèque, said ‘Fairy Tales’ would explore the classic archetypes of powerful witches, magical beasts and spirited princesses, and look at how artists have unravelled the iconic visual motifs of the genre, from deep dark woods to impossible shoes and regal gowns.
‘The exhibition explores enchantment, thresholds and transformation while articulating concerns that have always been inherent in fairy tales, such as power imbalances, injustice, ageing, gender and otherness, and resilience in the face of adversity,’ Ms Slack-Smith said.
The exhibition’s first chapter, ‘Into the Woods’, dramatically explores metamorphosis, unpredictability and danger. Corupira 2023, a major new commission by Brazilian sculptor Henrique Oliveira, envelops the visitor in a twisted forest fashioned from found tree branches, plywood and strips of salvaged timber.
Other works in the first chapter investigating classic tales and reinterpretations include Gustave Doré’s Little Red Riding Hood c.1862, Kiki Smith’s wolfish self‑portrait Born 2022, Anish Kapoor’s dual concave mirror Red and Black Mist Magenta 2018, Jana Sterbak’s glass coffin Inside 1990, Trulee Hall’s Witch House (Umbilical Coven) 2023, a gown from Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête 1946, reproductions of the Sky, Sun and Moon dresses worn by Catherine Deneuve in Jacques Demy’s film Peau d’Âne 1970, and Abdul Abdullah’s haunting photographic series Coming to Terms 2015.
Drawing on the childhood imagination, the second chapter, ‘Through the Looking Glass’, is filled with puppets, toys, clocks, twirling mushrooms and flying houses. It features immersive, otherworldly gardens populated with unusual creatures and enhanced by augmented reality.
Highlights include Maurice Sendak’s iconic images from his 1963 book Where the Wild Things Are and costumes by the Jim Henson Creature Shop for the 2009 film adaptation; the thirteen-hour clock, glass orbs and a costume from Jim Henson’s Labyrinth 1986; Carsten Höller’s interactive sculpture Flying Mushrooms 2015; and Enchanted Field 2023, a major installation by Australian artist Patricia Piccinini that opens a magical pathway beneath a canopy of 3000 genetically modified blooms.
The final chapter of the exhibition, ‘Ever After’, celebrates the myriad ways that love and relationships plays out in fairy tales, with a focus on the tropes of marriage in ‘Cinderella’and ‘Snow White’. Along with incredible costumes designed by Eiko Ishioka for the 2012 film Mirror Mirror and Timothy Horn’s Mother‑load 2008, a sumptuously embellished stagecoach created from crystalised rock sugar,this chapter includes Ron Mueck’s sculpture Pinocchio 1996, Henri Matisse’s stunning ballet costume Costume for a mourner c.1920, and Del Kathryn Barton and Brendan Fletcher’s fantastic animation The Nightingale and the Rose 2015.
The exhibition is accompanied by ‘Fairy Tales: Truth, Power and Enchantment’, a film program at the GOMA Cinema, and a major publication with contributions from exhibition curator Amanda Slack-Smith; Emeritus Professor Jack Zipes, former Director of the Center for German and European Studies, University of Minnesota; Professor Pauline Greenhill, Institute for Women's and Gender Studies, University of Winnipeg; an excerpt from Dame Marina Warner,Professor of English and Creative Writing, Birkbeck College, University of London; and Dr Sophie Hopmeier, Assistant Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA, plus an original short story by Holly Ringland, novelist and author of The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart and The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding.
'Fairy Tales' is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland, featuring on the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar, and Major Partners Shayher Group and Urban Art Projects.