All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed

Ian Potter Museum of Art Tracey Moffatt, Invocations #11, 2000Tracing the genre of the fairy tale, exploring its function in contemporary society, the Ian Potter Museum of Art presents All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed as its 2017 summer show from 23 November.

The exhibition presents contemporary art work alongside a selection of key historical fairy tale books that provide re-interpretations of the classic fairy tales for a 21st century context, including Little Red Riding HoodHansel and Gretel and The Little Mermaid.

Featuring international and Australian contemporary artists including Kiki Smith, Patricia Piccinini, Amanda Marburg, Miwa Yanagi, Kara Walker, Allison Schulnik, Tracey Moffatt, Paula Rego, Broersen & Lukacs and Peter Ellis, All the better to see you with explores the artist’s use of the fairy tale to express social concerns and anxieties surrounding issues such as the abuse of power, injustice and exploitation.

“Fairy tales help us to articulate the way we might see and challenge such issues and, through transformation, triumph in the end, ” said Curator, Samantha Comte. “This exhibition looks at why fairy tales still have the power to attract us, to seduce us, to lure us and stir our imagination.”

American artist Kiki Smith uses fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood as a metaphor to express her feelings about the feminist experience in patriarchal culture. The Portuguese-British artist Paula Rego has constructed the same tale as a feminist farce, with Red Riding Hood’s mother flaunting the wolf’s pelt as a stole.

Japanese photographer Miwa Yanagi, in her Fairy Tale series has created large-scale images enacted by children and adolescents in which playfulness and cruelty, fantasy and realism, merge. Broersen and Lukacs’ powerful video work, Mastering Bambi depicts the forest as a mysterious, alluring and sinister place. Often the setting of a fairy tale, the forest is used as a metaphor for human psychology.

The theme of the lost child in the forest is played out through tales such as Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. Tracey Moffatt’s Invocations series of 13 images is composed of three disjointed narratives about a little girl in a forest, a woman and man in the desert and a foreboding horde of spirits. The little girl lost in the forest is familiar from childhood fairy tales, and the style of these images is reminiscent of Disney movies.

Australian artist Amanda Marburg, in her series How Some Children Played at Slaughtering looks to the stories that both excited and haunted generations of children and adults the infamous Grimm’s fairy tales. The melancholy of Marburg’s subjects is counteracted by her use of bewitching bright colour, which creates fairy tale-like landscapes with deceptive charm.

Fairy tales can comfort and entertain us; they can divert, educate and help shape our sense of the world; they articulate desires and dilemmas, nurture imagination and encapsulate good and evil. All the Better to See You With invites us to delve into this shadowy world of ancient stories through the eyes of a diverse range of artists and art works.

All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed
The Ian Potter Museum of Art – The University of Melbourne, Swanston Street, Parkville
Exhibition: 23 November 2017 – 4 Mar 2018
Free admission

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Tracey Moffatt, Invocations #11, 2000. Photo silkscreen. Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by the artist, 2013