Ern Malley

The Hoax and Beyond

The notorious Ern Malley Affair of 1943–44 was Australia’s greatest literary hoax and its impact on Australian cultural history has resonated for more than sixty years. This exhibition explores through a range of artworks, original documents and publications this remarkable tale of deception, which was the brainchild of two young Sydney poets Harold Stewart and James McAuley.

Art Exhibition previously on at Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne precinct, Victoria, Australia.
From Wednesday 22 July 2009 to Sunday 15 November 2009

Published by anonymous on Thursday 11 June 2009.
Contact the publisher.

The notorious Ern Malley Affair of 1943–44 was Australia’s greatest literary hoax and its impact on Australian cultural history has resonated for more than sixty years. The poems of the fictitious Ern Malley were written by two young poets Harold Stewart and James McAuley, and submitted to Max Harris, co-editor with Heide founder John Reed of the radical cultural journal Angry Penguins. Stewart and McAuley aimed to ridicule the perceived modernist pretensions of the journal, its editors and its contributors.

Harris and Reed, impressed with Malley’s talent, devoted an entire issue of Angry Penguins to the verses. When the hoax was revealed the ensuing scandal severely damaged their reputations, despite attempts to engender debate on the creative validity of the poems. Moreover, Max Harris was prosecuted for publishing ‘indecent advertisements’ based on the poems’ explicit content.

The exhibition examines the genesis, reception and repercussions of the hoax through a range of art works and archival material. It includes a selection of remarkable images by Sidney Nolan, Douglas Robert’s satirical portrayal of Harris’ trial, facsimiles of surrealist collages by hoaxer Stewart and works by contemporary artist Garry Shead. Also displayed is a letter from Malley’s sister ‘Ethel’ to Harris, various editions of the collected poems and a 1948 silent film The Well Wrought Ern, made by University of Michigan students intrigued with the tale of deception.

Location

Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road
Bulleen 3105
Tue-Fri 10am-5pm
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 12noon-5pm