The Fall and Rise of Australian Culture

In any case, Sydney’s response to “Mountain” was one of several experiences this week that got me thinking about Australia’s relationship to culture.

That same day, Sebastian Smee, a wonderful art critic who returned to Sydney this year after winning a Pulitzer with the Boston Globe, wrote for us about the Art Gallery of New South Wales and its struggle to obtain the financing it needed to expand its exhibition and event space.

Later in the week, Besha Rodell, another Australian who has become a standout in the United States — in her case, Los Angeles — explored the battle over how to modernize Melbourne’s beloved Queen Victoria Market.

Both pieces mined the tension in Australia that often seems to come with proposals for the new, the bold, the different. This is something Ben Shewry, the world-renowned Attica chef who Sam Sifton profiled this week as part of a special series of features on Australian food and drink, talked about when we hosted an event with him in Melbourne last month: the degree to which Australia tends to knock down rather than celebrate novelty and excellence.

But how does that jibe with what I saw at the opera house?

What I experienced there suggests that this is a country where the demand for culture is greater than the supply; so did the crowd at Vivid Sydney. And of course, a few hours after we published Sebastian’s story, the Art Gallery of New South Wales announced that public and private financing had come through for its expansion.

So is Australia becoming more open to bold creative expression or is this country just as eager as always to cut down the tall poppies who stick their heads up and stand out?

While you consider that, here’s another question, which may get us closer to an answer: What are your most memorable recent experiences with Australian culture?

Quick, don’t overthink it: What comes to mind? What have you seen, heard, tasted, watched or read lately that’s…

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