Cool hunter predictions: Michael Cook - Art Collector

Issue 59, January - March 2012

This profile appeared in the Cool hunter predictions feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2012.

Brisbane-based artist Michael Cook is literally too deadly for words, or two Deadlies, given his second win as artist of the year in last year’s Deadly Awards. The first time he won, in 2008, he was recognised for his work as a fashion photographer. The second time, just three years later, it was to honour his work as a contemporary artist.

Since Cook’s first solo exhibition at Andrew Baker Fine Art in Brisbane in 2010 he has garnered widespread critical and institutional support. The photographic series he exhibited – based on a skilful merger of official black-and-white portraits of Australian prime ministers taken from the National Library of Australia archives with portraits taken from Cook’s own Queensland networks – was a playful exercise in subversive, political imagination. The whole series, comprising 27 portraits, was purchased by the National Gallery of Australia and will be shown in unDisclosed, its second National Indigenous Triennial, in May 2012.

The switch from fashion to fine art photography may not seem so radical. In Cook’s work the highly crafted, collaboratively produced fashion photograph is still very much part of his aesthetic, as shown in more recent series such as Broken Dreams and Undiscovered with models in colonial costume and highly stylised production values. Both complete series were also acquired by the National Gallery of Australia. Instead of selling a brand or particular idea, however, Cook’s fine art practice offers scenes of purely poetic, politicised import.

In 2012, Cook will show a new body of work, reportedly very different from his three key series to date, at Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects in Melbourne, to coincide with unDisclosed in Canberra. The prospect of showing overseas is also on the cards, with Andrew Baker “currently pursuing international opportunities”. With Cook awarded the people’s choice award in the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards late last year, Baker affirms: “You know you’re a successful artist when you’re accepted by the critics and by the public.”

Maurice O’Riordan

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