GOMA's Enchanting Summer 'Fairy Tales' Exhibition Will Let You Wander Around a Twisted Indoor Forest

The stunning showcase will also feature one of David Bowie's 'Labyrinth' costumes, 3000 genetically modified blooms by Patricia Piccinini and a heap of fairy tale movies.
Sarah Ward
Published on September 26, 2023
Updated on September 26, 2023

No one will need to make any wishes to visit the most magical place in Australia over the summer of 2023–24. Enchanted creatures, alluring woodland spaces, eerie mirrors, dazzling slippers and eye-catching stagecoaches will all be part of the experience, however. The place: Brisbane's Gallery of Modern Art, where Fairy Tales is taking over from Saturday, December 2–Sunday, April 28 as the River City venue's big summer exhibition.

Fairy Tales was first announced in 2022 as part of GOMA's 2023 slate — and, from the moment that the 100-plus-piece showcase was revealed, it instantly sounded wondrous. The focus is indeed the stories that we all lapped up as kids, telling us about otherworldly critters, magic and more. Fairy Tales' art, installations and objects will split into three thematic chapters, starting with 'Into the Woods', then heading 'Through the Looking Glass' and finally pondering 'Ever After'. And yes, the exhibition will also survey the movies filled with such elements that still grace our screens, in what's set to be entrancing experience all round.

Henrique Oliveira / Brazil b.1973 / Baitogogo 2013 / Palais de Tokyo, Paris / Plywood and tree branches / 6740 x 1179 x 2076cm / Courtesy SAM Art Projects, Galerie GP&N Vallois, Galeria Millan / © Henrique Oliveira / Photograph: André Morin / This work is indicative of a new commission by Henrique Oliveira for the exhibition 'Fairy Tales' at QAGOMA.

One massive highlight is Corupira 2023, a huge site-specific installation by Henrique Oliveira, which GOMA also advised would be part of Fairy Tales when the exhibition was initially added to its 2023 calendar. This sprawling piece will take pride of place inside the riverside venue, with the Brazilian artist using salvaged timber, plywood and tree branches to transform the building's architecture. The result: a sure-to-be-stunning gnarled and twisted forest (a sure-to-be-snapped sight, too, naturally) courtesy of a specially commissioned work.

Another sizeable installation hails from Patricia Piccinini, who is no stranger to filling GOMA with delights. Here, she'll create a magical path that sits below a canopy. Of course genetically modified plants are involved, this time in the form of 3000 blooms.

Trulee Hall / Witch House (Seance of the Umbilical Coven)(detail) 2020 / Wood, paper mâché, resin, fabric, stuffing, fake fur, synthetic hair, altered sex dolls, acrylic paint, spray paint, found candle holders, cornucopia baskets, found ceramic cornucopia, found crystal balls, convex mirror, polymer clay, hardware, LED candle / 431.8 × 685.8 × 436.88 cm / Collection: The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) / Photograph: Joshua White / JWPictures.comThis work is indicative of a new commission by Trulee Hall for the exhibition 'Fairy Tales' at QAGOMA.

Overall, as it fills GOMA's entire ground floor, Fairy Tales will explore how folklore-, myth- and legend-related narratives have fascinated audiences through art and culture over not just years and decades but centuries. If creepy woods have influenced sculptures, or tales of princes and princesses have inspired painters, expect to see it here, in a blockbuster Australian-exclusive showcase that'll run for five months.

On a list that goes on like breadcrumb trails, the full showcase will feature everything from drawings and installations through to fashion, as well as films and filmic elements such as props and costumes. Across the venue's walls and screens, wicked witches, magic animals (fierce and friendly alike), coming-of-age tales, shifting gender roles, bravery, loyalty, castles and pumpkins will all feature in one way or another — with help from artists such as Jana Sterbak, Kiki Smith, Abdul Abdullah and Ron Mueck.

Timothy Horn / Australia/United States b.1964 / Mother-load2008 / Crystalised rock sugar, plywood, steel / 292.6 x 182.9 x 170.7cm / Courtesy: The artist / Image courtesy: Jason Schmidt / New York Times / Photographer: Jason Schmidt.

Other specific pieces include a glass coffin by Sterbak, a dual mirror from Anish Kapoor, Gustave Doré's Little Red Riding Hood and Trulee Hall's Witch House (Umbilical Coven) 2023. Or, get excited about seeing interactive sculpture Flying Mushrooms 2015 by Carsten Höller; Costume for a mourner, a ballet costume by Henri Matisse; and Mueck's version of Pinocchio.

Film fans will have much to peer at, and not just because an accompanying movie program is a reality as well thanks to GOMA's excellent Australian Cinematheque. That big-screen lineup will show relevant flicks, but the exhibition will overflow with other cinema-related details.

Think: a costume donned by David Bowie in all-time classic Labyrinth, plus the thirteen-hour clock and glass orbs from the film; celebrating Where the Wild Things Are, both images from Maurice Sendak's and costumes created by the Jim Henson Creature Shop for the 2009 movie; a dress from Jean Cocteau's 1946 masterpiece La Belle et la Bête; costumes from 2012's Mirror Mirror by Eiko Ishioka; and Del Kathryn Barton and Brendan Fletcher's animation The Nightingale and the Rose.

Still from 'Cinderella' (1922) dir. Lotte Reiniger
Image courtesy:British Film Institute

"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," said QAGOMA's Amanda Slack-Smith, who curated Fairy Tales and is also the Australian Cinémathèque's Curatorial Manager.

"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," added QAGOMA Director Chris Saines.

"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."

Tarsem Singh (director) / India/United States b.1961 / Eiko Ishioka (designer) / Japan 1938–2012 'Green dress' costume from Mirror Mirror 2012 / Silk, synthetic taffeta, nylon netting, plastic / © 2012 UV RML NL Assets LLC. / Photograph: Jan Thijs.

Del Kathryn Barton (artist, director) / Australia b.1973 / Brendan Fletcher (director) / Australia /The Nightingale and the Rose (still) 2015 / Single-channel video: 14 minutes, colour, sound / Animators: Chris Breeze, Simon Bronson, David Edwards, Liz Ellis, Richard Swan / Music: Sarah Blasko/ Gift of Del Kathryn Barton through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2022. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art© Del Kathryn Barton / Image courtesy: The artist and RoslynOxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

Timothy Horn / Australia/United States b.1964 / Glass slipper (ugly blister) 2001 / Lead crystal, nickel-plated bronze, Easter egg foil, silicon / 51 x 72 x 33cm / Purchased 2002 / Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra© Timothy Horn.

Fairy Tales will display at Brisbane's Gallery of Modern Art, Stanley Place, South Brisbane from Saturday, December 2, 2023–Sunday, April 28, 2024. For further details, visit GOMA's website.

Top image: Henrique Oliveira / Brazil b.1973 / Baitogogo 2013 / Palais de Tokyo, Paris / Plywood and tree branches / 6740 x 1179 x 2076cm / Courtesy SAM Art Projects, Galerie GP&N Vallois, Galeria Millan / © Henrique Oliveira / Photograph: The artist / This work is indicative of a new commission by Henrique Oliveira for the exhibition 'Fairy Tales' at QAGOMA.

Published on September 26, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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