In partnership with the Art Gallery of NSW, prominent critic and art historian Hal Foster presented a keynote lecture in association with the Pop to Popism exhibition.



In the 1950s, Richard Hamilton wrote in retrospect from the late 1960s: ‘we became aware of the possibility of seeing the whole world at once, through the great visual matrix that surrounds us; a synthetic, “instant view”. Cinema, television, magazines, newspapers immersed the artist in a total environment and this new visual ambience was photographic.’

This is a telling statement in several respects. It captures the full emergence of capitalist spectacle, of an immersive space of mediated perception, and it is this photographic matrix that Hamilton worked to engage in his painting. For Hamilton the task of the artist-critic was to set various ‘presentation techniques’ in conversation, with painting positioned as the mediator, the medium that might anthologise the forms, and archivise the effects, of the others. As opposed to the levelling often associated with pop, then, Hamilton sought to differentiate experience, and this is why he retained the old medium of painting, but also why he worked to renovate it.



Hal Foster is the Townsend Martin Class of 1917 Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. He has published widely in the field of modern and contemporary art, architecture and theory, with a particular interest in the relationship between art and philosophy at times of political crisis. Select publications include Junkspace with Running Room (2013), co-authored with Rem Koolhaas, Prosthetic Gods (2004) and The Return of the Real (1996). Foster also writes regularly for October (which he co-edits), Artforum and The London Review of Books. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2010 recipient of the Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing, and the 2013 recipient of the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism.

In 2012, Foster published The First Pop Age: Painting and Subjectivity in the Art of Hamilton, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Richter and Ruscha. The book sheds new light on pop art, revealing how these seminal five artists radically shifted our ongoing relationship with images.