Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

1264th OGM and open lecture

Joanna Mendelssohn
 “Can art really make a difference?”

   Honorary Associate Professor
   Joanna Mendelssohn
   College of Fine Arts, UNSW

Wednesday 4 July 2018
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW, Sydney

Artists have long tackled global issues, throughout centuries of wars and humanitarian crises. Artists persist in challenging assumed knowledge in their attempts to awaken the conscience of the world. Artists can become witnesses for the prosecution of the crimes of our times, as well as enabling some viewers to see the world differently. Can we really expect it to truly make a difference in the real world? While Picasso's celebrated Guernica may not have stopped the Spanish Civil War (or any war), art still holds value, as witness and as truth teller.

Joanna Mendelssohn came to an academic career after an extensive curatorial background in art museums and as the award-winning art critic of The Bulletin.  She was for many years the coordinator of the Master of Art Administration at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW.  In 1980 she was a research assistant on the University of Sydney's Dictionary of Australian Artists project.  In 2003, after Professor Joan Kerr indicated problems in publishing her new research on Australian illustrators (black and white artists), she suggested that the ideal publishing future for Australian art historical scholarship lay in online publishing.  After Kerr was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Mendelssohn was instrumental in organising the national collaboration of universities and cultural institutions that ensured the future of Kerr's research in the Dictionary of Australian Artists Online.  She has been a CI on each of the successful ARC LIEF grants for this ongoing and expanding project, which has now evolved into Design and Art of Australia Online ( and is currently Editor-in-Chief.  Her first book was the seminal study on Sydney Long (1979).  This was followed by a series of studies on Lionel Lindsay.  The research for her book, Lionel Lindsay: an artist and his family (Chatto & Windus, London 1988) was supported by a Literature Board Fellowship.  She later revisited the ways in which the mythology of the Lindsay family had been created in her PhD thesis, which was then reworked and published as Letters & Liars: Norman Lindsay and the Lindsay family (Angus & Robertson 1996).  She also wrote the catalogue for the 1990 Yellow House exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and was curator for the touring exhibition Larter Family Values (2006).

For the last five years she has been the lead researcher in an ARC Linkage Project in collaboration with the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia and Museums Australia.  The principal results of this research is about to be published by Thames and Hudson as Australian Art Exhibitions: Opening our Eyes, co-written with her fellow researchers, Catherine De Lorenzo, Alison Inglis and Catherine Speck.

Site by
Privacy policy |  Links to other societies
Editor Login
Disclaimer: Positions expressed on this website by authors of publications and
event presenters do not necessarily reflect those of the Society.
The Royal Society of New South Wales acknowledges the traditional custodians
of the lands on which we live and work, and we pay our respects to Elders past and present.
All rights reserved. Copyright © The Royal Society of NSW.
ABN: 76 470 896 415


We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.