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Gallery of Fools

Some people just never learn.

The Flinders Street gallery that was embroiled in controversy after exhibiting an art work deemed anti-Semitic finds itself at the centre of another cultural imbroglio. In May, Melbourne’s Jewish community was outraged by an installation at the 24seven gallery featuring the Israeli flag superimposed with questionable statistics about the plight of the Palestinian people. The small shop-front gallery, which is funded by the Melbourne City Council, was forced to close the exhibition. Now, the city’s Vietnamese community is upset by plans to exhibit an art work inspired by the Salt nightclub killings. Artist Mark Hilton, who also runs the 24seven gallery, said that in the aftermath of the gruesome killings, he wanted his work to challenge the typecasting of Asian youth as sword-wielding gang members. But Hung Chau, the president of the Victorian Vietnamese Community, said that contrary to the artist’s intention, Hilton’s work perpetuated stereotypes of Asian people as just that. It was not helping the cause in any way, he said, and would upset the families of the men who died. Being launched on Wednesday, the work, titled Alexandra Avenue, is a large, intricate drawing, influenced by ancient Chinese coffin carvings. The sprawling landscape features a pagoda, a fierce, sword-brandishing god, and clearly alludes to the tragic fate of three Vietnamese men who died in an attack near the corner of Chapel Street and Alexandra Avenue, South Yarra, two years ago. James Huynh, 19, was killed by sword-wielding attackers who chased him from the nearby Salt nightclub, while brothers Viet Huynh, 25, and Nam Huynh, 21, drowned in the Yarra River after trying to escape the attackers. Hilton’s vast work includes an image of the Alexandra Avenue sign, bearing flower tributes to the dead men and two hands emerging from the swirling waters of the Yarra River near the Princes Bridge. The two-by-three-metre, black and white drawing will be displayed in 24seven’s shopfront window and backlit, giving the work a lantern effect.

And in trying to justify this latest error in judgement, the Lord Mayor of Melbourne will only inflame the situation further.

Melbourne Lord Mayor John So said he was hoping the council-funded gallery’s latest installation would not provoke the furore caused by artist Azlan McLennan’s protest against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. “I don’t believe it will generate a public outcry,” he said. “It’s completely different to the other incident. “When I look at it, it is very oriental, it is not offensive . . . it’s striking, it’s quite unique.”

You might want to reword that, John.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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