Fairy Tales show takes flight into the fantastic

Liz Hobday |

The exhibition uses film, art and design to create a fantastical world.
The exhibition uses film, art and design to create a fantastical world.

The Fairy Tales exhibition is unlike anything Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art has staged before, according to director Chris Saines.

“It’s a virtuoso remix of the grand, the sumptuous and the intimate, a never-ending adventure,” he told reporters on Friday.

The exhibition uses much-loved films and contemporary art as an invitation to explore the curious terrain of fairytales – and there’s as much in the show for adults as children.

Gallery-goers enter through an archway, past a polka dot flower sculpture by Japanese artist by Yayoi Kusama.

The next step is to enter a kind of labyrinth by Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira, which begins with white walls and morphs into a surreal forest, where tree branches sprout from every angle.

After years of work organising costumes, props and artworks from all over the world to stage the exhibition, curator Amanda Slack-Smith enjoys seeing the initial responses to the Oliveira installation.

“I’m loving it, it’s a breathtaking moment, you can’t describe that to somebody, you have to just let them have it,” she told AAP.

Having ventured into the woods, there are more disconcerting works on show, including a perception-bending reflective mirror installation by British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor.

Then the cinematic focus of the exhibition comes to the fore, with film scenes projected on curtained walls, and the first of a series of costumes from Tarsem Singh’s 2012 fantasy-comedy Mirror Mirror.

Then there’s a screening of Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy The Labyrinth, with a costume worn by David Bowie on display and several of the golden orbs he used as props.

“I’m pretty sure it has some of his DNA – don’t tell me otherwise!” Slack-Smith quipped.

If that’s not enchanting enough, across the room are original Maurice Sendak prints from his classic picture book Where the Wild Things Are, along with life-size costumes from the 2009 film adaptation, made by the Jim Henson Creature Shop.

It’s a world of witches, woodlands and magic, and as the only public art institution in Australia with its own cinema section, GOMA will host regular film screenings as part of Fairy Tales over the summer.

There’s also fare from the world of classic fairytales, with a nineteenth-century photograph by Lewis Carroll on display, and paper cuts by Hans Christian Andersen.

One major commission is from Australian artist Patricia Piccinini, who has created a magical pathway that winds beneath a canopy of thousands of genetically modified flowers, past sculptures of her fantastical creatures.

Another highlight is an interactive sculpture from Carsten Holler, titled Flying Mushrooms, which is definitely hands-on, with a solid push needed to send giant polyester mushrooms into orbit.

Fairy Tales is on at Brisbane’s GOMA from Saturday until April 2024.