A slither of Reko Rennie’s monumental artwork Visible Invisible can still be seen as you peer down into the foundations of the newly completed Lyon Housemuseum Galleries. ‘It’s all under your feet, but you only view that small part behind the glass, a bit like the archaeological ruins of Pompeii,’ smiles Corbett Lyon, as he notes last-minute preparations to be completed.
The accomplished architect and his wife Yueji have opened their art-filled family home to the public over the past two years. Their Housemuseum tours have been wildly successful, cementing the atypical institution on the international cultural map and attracting visitors from Amsterdam, London, New York and beyond.
‘We see the new Lyon Housemuseum Galleries as an extension of what we have been doing next door, except this is a public museum, open six days a week,’ explains Corbett. The space will host a cycle of three exhibitions annually, rotating through one curated to a theme (like the inaugural Enter), followed by a showcase of a single artist’s works from the Lyon Collection, and finally, an architecture and design focused offering – one co-curated with ‘a very large international design institution’ is already locked in for late 2019!
Corbett has designed both museum buildings from top to bottom, and describes them as siblings, sitting side-by-side with similar streetside forms and also floor plans. However, unlike the Housemuseum with its homely zinc cladding, the new Galleries honours bluestone. ‘I thought with this being a public building, it was perhaps better to have a more public material, one with permanence to it,’ Corbett explains of his ‘very Melbourne’ choice.
His pride and joy of the build are the bluestone ‘pins’ that protrude from the facades. This ambitious concept arose from a pin toy – you know those ones you press your hand (or face!) into? Well, ‘pushed in’ pins spell out ‘LYON’ on the Galleries’ front. As a result, they also protrude in the same formation at its rear. Meanwhile, the side of the Housemuseum to the East ‘pushes’ pins out on the Galleries’ western facade. ‘So you get this really weird thing you can’t really read, but it’s an interesting pattern isn’t it?’ The architect downplays his feat. Fittingly, the bluestone off-cuts were used by Kenzee Patterson for his three sentinel-like sculptures that usher visitors into the central gallery.
A true mastermind, Corbett also led the curation of Enter alongside executive curator Fleur Watson. ‘It has been a huge commitment, yet Yueji and I see this as a life project – all consuming but fun and satisfying!’ His eyes widen as he lists off the 16 Australia artists they have been working with on new commissions over the past 18 months.
‘Melbourne is a great city. We have many museums and venues that present contemporary art and Yueji and I are great advocates for “the more the better!”,’ tells Corbett, highlighting inner-city institutions and more outer-lying museums like Tarrawarra Museum of Art and Heide Museum of Modern Art. In Kew, Lyon Housemuseum Galleries dissolves the boundaries between art, design, and architecture – disciplines that Corbett firmly believes are simply different dimensions of the same creativity. ‘Hopefully what we are doing here is of sufficient interest for people to say, “let’s make a visit”,’ he welcomes.
Featuring five artists new to the Lyon Collection, Enter opens tomorrow. It presents a series of encounters that encourage you to consider the inter-relationship of the visitor, the artwork, and the museum space. ‘We have been very clear to choose artists who have distinct voices,’ Corbett details. ‘They are very diverse yet they sit together.’
Here he highlights five standout artworks…
1. Baden Pailthorpe’s ‘Procedural/Portrait’
The Sydney-based artist has taken my architectural models of this building and deconstructed them in this video. His digital patterns disrupt, expand, and collapse the gallery spaces as they float out over the plains of Western Victoria. This is where we sourced the bluestone that the whole building is made out of – from Mt. Rouse down to Port Fairy, through the family-owned company Bamstone.
As you watch, it settles down and you will recognise the form. It’s almost like it is breathing and there is a beautiful soundtrack [by James Peter Brown]. This work really speaks to the origins of the building.
2. Shaun Gladwell’s ‘Skateboarding Scale Crisis (Fingerboarding)’
This is all about unexpected miniaturisation of a skate park; everything has been downsized. You can also see Shaun has drawn on a Dan Graham pavilion, making a model that is now a bowl for skateboarding. Shaun constructed the landscape from found elements and it’s all about being interactive.
Over the course of the exhibition, we are hoping there will be scuffs on all the plinths and the other elements. It’s the opposite to what you might normally find: please touch it, move it around and mark it up! This weekend we already have a fully-booked workshop for decorating your own Tech Deck. We are very keen to bring a younger cohort into Lyon Housemuseum Galleries.
3. Ffixxed Studios X James Deutscher’s ‘Nature Does Not Come With A Logo’
To have wearable fashion in an art show is an interesting thing in itself, and blurring the lines between disciplines is what this place is all about!
People are encouraged to try on the coats (as worn by Jaqlin above) and these can be purchased as well! You see it’s about the interplay of an art museum and commerciality – merchandising over there in the shop, but in here the chairs and coats are artworks, yet still interactive and wearable. Ffixxed Studios are working out of Shenzhen, China, and my favourite of the three designs is the one showing a Google map of the area.
There are also art plinths, but mirrored ones, so you can look at yourself in the coat. The advertisement-style painting completes the installation and links in with the longer title: Not sure about the turtles, but the copy reads very elegant in Chinese: Nature Does Not Come With A Logo.
4. Ian Strange’s ‘Untitled Light Intersection’
You actually have to go outside to see this one fully because what Ian has done is use these shards of light to pierce through the two buildings; he’s joined, or stitched, the new and the old together with lines of light. There is actually a light that goes right through into Yueji’s study!
Ian is based in New York, and like all the artists, he came to us with his concept, and we worked with him from development through to installation. It has been a fantastic collaborative exercise.
5. Dan Moynihan’s ‘Public Display of Reflection’
I love this work. Dan is playing with the three-dimensional idea of bricks-and-mortar, but his mortar is in these fabulous colours that radiate out from the middle, and his reflective bricks are again about audience engagement (as you walk around it you can see your reflection). In the afternoon, sitting in our minimalist Coffee and Snack Bar, you will see these wonderful reflections of the courtyard too.
Dan has made his artwork the same height as the boundary wall and the proportion of his bricks are relative to the bluestone pavers. Everyone is cleverly referencing the design of the building, which I think makes it all very interesting.
March 16th to July 21st
Lyon Housemuseum Galleries
217 Cotham Road
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm,
For more information on the program of events including workshops click here.