By Peter Cochrane Arts Reporter
Gretel Pinniger's contribution to the Australian National Gallery (ANG) exhibition The Trial may be better placed in a follow-up exhibition to be called Punishment. It is a red leather and brass bondage outfit called Atomic Age. Purchased by the Australian National Gallery for $600 in 1984, the outfit was one of three made by the former doyenne of discipline.
As Madam Lash, Ms Pinniger became a woman of some notoriety in the 1970s. "I am a living work of art," she-once told an interviewer. Today she's an "artist and renaissance woman" who is painting lawyer Andrew Stevenson for this year's Archibald Prize, with a double portrait of Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge to follow. (She is a familiar figure at Opera House opening nights, invariably arriving in a black stretch limo bearing the numberplate "Stiff".)
Ms Pinninger retains a black version of Atomic Age. Another of gun-metal, was sold with one knee ripped during her nationally advertised garage sale of whips, racks and other accessories in 1989. As with the ANG's Atomic Age, the prototype gun-metal version featured lace-up breasts, which was a practical consideration because Ms Pinniger was breastfeeding her son Siegfried at the time of its design and manufacture in 1981. However, gloves and a mask were added to the ANG's outfit. When Ms Pinniger saw her creation ' on display for the first time recently she was slightly taken aback to find her name misspelt on the label. This was corrected on the spot with a tube of lipstick. Red, of course.
The ANG is not the only institution to collect the fantasy costumes of Ms Pinniger. The Powerhouse is home to 13 leather garments, donated by her first patron, the Woolloomooloo' Gallery's director, Elinor Wrobel. They include a medical corset in ballet pink, a Bunnykins romper suit in kidskin, and a christening robe, also in kidskin, with Mantegna cherubims on the yoke. The Trial - A Decade of Contemporary Australian Art runs at the ANG until November 15.