POPSART: GOMA’s Marvel Launch – Why the Throne of Asgard is in a contemporary gallery and is Captain America really a woman?

Last Friday, the Marvel Creating the Cinematic Universe exhibition opened at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and what a visual, popular cultural feast it is, with over 500 objects including the costumes, props, sets and characters all spectacularly animating the voluminous rooms of GOMA.

Art and God-like archetypes have been an intrinsic part of the Western Cultural canon ever since the Greeks brought a naked Aphrodite to shore on her half -shell and the Norde’s tasked Odin with over seeing Valhalla. These ancient Archetypes embody fundamental characteristics of human psyches from which an individual can learn more about themselves and the social structures around them; in many ways the cartoon characters of Marvel can have the same function.

For example, I relate to Peter Quill otherwise known as Star-Lord a character from Guardians of the Galaxy, who is a renegade living outside the circle, good hearted, likes Bowie and is great on the dance floor.

When I asked Chris Saines, the Director of GOMA, what Marvel character archetype he was, immediately he identified Iron Man, “I have a great choice of suits four of which are on display here and I came from a really primitive place but I am pretty sophisticated now and there is not much I can’t do in that suit.”


What a perfect team partner for Kylie Watson-Wheeler, Managing Director of Disney Australia who worked together with GOMA to bring this show to fruition. Her response to the same question was “Captain America because of his strength, commitment, the way in which he has high integrity, he is a terrific deep character.”

This statement became even more relevant when she dropped the bombshell, after I asked her why there are not more female character in Marvel narratives, that Captain America is a woman in next years release and apparently it’s not Chris Evans in drag, exciting stuff!


So with these two worlds coming together lead by their dynamic leaders the big question in relation to this show is, contemporary art is often just one step away from popular culture what is the defining line? Saines response was quick and clear “It’s permeable, it moves all the time and with in the whole history of modern and contemporary art there is a constant shift and shape shifting between the two, take the pop art movement of the 60s and 70s it was all about popular culture, it was comic book culture think Roy Lichtenstein, it was about commercial and commodity the supermarket, think Andy Warhol, so artist have been trading off and trading in the popular culture space for hundreds of years this is not new.”

Then for Disney, what does it mean to a company like themselves that has generated so much popular cultural content to have it place into a contemporary gallery context? Wheeler-Watson answered “There’s such an amazing depth of story telling in marvel cinematic universe because it is primarily set in the real world, the characters are really accessible and approachable and I think really bringing the beautiful art and the creativity of both our story telling and the art itself, it’s wonderful to be able to share that with a broad audience.”

Debate will continue about the nature of contemporary art and where much needed arts funding and development should be spent. Some industry members think it very telling that the Premiere who is also the arts minister has not made a mention of the five out of six works that have been recently acquired by the TATE Modern being by Queensland artists, but is very excited to have Thor in the State’s major gallery.

But it’s a dream come true for comic enthusiasts like Brett the Comic Man whose Spider-Man comic was behind glass, adjacent to the full wall mural of Spider-Man by Local artist Wayne Nichols. Brett has a vault in WA which stores all his prized possession and at the peak of his collection number over 100,000 comics.


However, the winner at the end of day is the public, and in particular families, as this show will not fail to impress, as it does a lot to extend the invitation to a broad sector of the community to come and participate in their public art gallery. As Saines says “I think we should open the world and the world of culture up for everybody and this is a great road into a gallery like this that people otherwise might never come, I’m all for getting as many people in as wide a range of interest as we possibly can!”

For more details on the exhibition, which runs at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane until 3rd September, head HERE.


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