A lesson in activism from US photographer Nan Goldin

NGA’s acquisition of Nan Goldin’s iconic suite of 126 photographs ‘The Ballad…’ offers lessons in documenting truth in times of activism.
Nan Goldin photography of woman looking in bathroom mirror

At 11.15am on 9 November (2022), two climate change protesters attacked Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans hanging in the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). After a good clean, it was back on the wall five hours later.

While the action picked up on a wave of museum-based eco protests globally, it was hardly lasting in its impact. However, within metres of where that protest action took place, this week saw the opening of an exhibition of US photographer Nan Goldin’s work. The work has endured for more five decades as a radical statement, and was the trigger to a lifelong journey as an activist artist for Goldin.

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Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina