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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Martin Sharp, 1986

Garry Shead

oil on canvas (frame: 206.5 cm x 130.5 cm, support: 198.0 cm x 122.0 cm)

Martin Sharp AM (1942-2010) was a printmaker, painter, cartoonist, designer, songwriter and film-maker. Born in Sydney, Sharp was founding co-editor with Richard Neville and Richard Walsh of Oz magazine, contributing humorous and often lewd cartoons to the controversial journal. When he and Neville re-located Oz to London, Sharp continued as art director, producing psychedelic rock-star and 'legalise pot' posters that were sold through the magazine. For a time he lived with Eric Clapton, collaborating with him on song lyrics and designing album covers for his band, Cream. Returning to Australia in 1969 Sharp helped set up the 'Yellow House', an artists' space at Potts Point in Sydney which became a focus of the underground art scene of the 1960s. Sharp is well known for his poster designs for the Nimrod theatre in the 1970s, and for his obsessions with Tiny Tim, toys and Luna Park.

Born in Sydney, Garry Shead studied at the National Art School in 1961-2. With Martin Sharp, Jon Firth Smith and Ian van Wieringen he edited The Arty Wild Oat and published cartoons in the Oz, The Bulletin, The Sydney Morning Herald, and Honi Soit. He worked for several years as a scenic artist with the ABC before winning the Young Contemporaries Prize in 1967. His work is represented in the National Gallery, several state galleries and many public and private collections; he won the Archibald Prize in 1993 for his portrait of an old friend, Sydney publisher Tom Thompson.

An article by Greg Weight for Australian Artist magazine explains that 'in the late 1970s Martin Sharp was engaged as a designer and artist to oversee the restoration of Luna Park, including the commission to revamp the enormous laughing face at the entrance. This long commission had all the ingredients of Pop art: the nostalgic elements, huge sculptures, powerful images, wonderful paintings by Arthur Barton along with bright colours and lights. In 1978 Sharp and fellow artist/designer Richard Liney, also an avid collector of memorabilia loaned their combined collection of hundreds of fairground, circus, Luna Park and sideshow artifacts to the Art Gallery of NSW to coincide with the Festival of Sydney. In 1979 a tragic fire in the Luna Park Ghost Train claimed seven lives . . . Martin's work on the Luna Park Face was ruined, and the park's theme 'Just for Fun' lost its meaning. Martin firmly believes the fire was an act of terrorism

. . . Along with various other artist friends and sympathetic supporters, Martin was instrumental in forming the Friends of Luna Park in an endeavour to remind the people of Sydney and the State Government of what they stood to lose if the site were developed.'

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2004
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2004.23

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Garry Shead (age 44 in 1986)

Martin Sharp (age 44 in 1986)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Interview with Martin Sharp and Garry Shead video: 2 minutes
Interview with Martin Sharp and Garry Shead video: 2 minutes
Interview with Martin Sharp and Garry Shead video: 2 minutes
Interview with Martin Sharp and Garry Shead video: 2 minutes

Martin Sharp by Garry Shead

Portrait story

Artists Garry Shead and Martin Sharp recount their friendship and the creation of Martin's portrait.

Interview with Martin Sharp video: 2 minutes
Interview with Martin Sharp video: 2 minutes
Interview with Martin Sharp video: 2 minutes
Interview with Martin Sharp video: 2 minutes

Young Mo (Roy Rene)

'The artist's notebook'

Portrait story

An interview with Australian artist and collector of quirky artefacts, Martin Sharp.

Martin Sharp, 1986 Garry Shead
Martin Sharp, 1986 Garry Shead
Martin Sharp, 1986 Garry Shead
Martin Sharp, 1986 Garry Shead

Oz and beyond

Magazine article by Diana Warnes, 2007

Martin Sharp fulfils the Pop art idiom of merging art and life.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.