Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information, including hours




Western art


View More:


13 Clues to a fictitious crime circa 1940 - 1941, from the series 13 Clues to a fictitious crime circa 1940 - 1941



Mari Mahr

Chile, Hungary, England

1941 -


‘No real crime has been committed. The recurring face is that of my mother – youthful in a way I only knew her from early photographs.’ Mari Mahr 1984 1

Evoking dream-like fragments of real or imagined memories, Mari Mahr’s series of works that reflect on personal histories and journeys are drawn from her Hungarian mother’s photographic archives and found objects. The play with scale and objects confuses space and time, becoming uncanny glimpses into a supposed reality that presents tableaux vivants recalling, for instance, communist posters (‘Remembering the land – Mezögazdasági Emlék’) or ‘Alice in Wonderland (A few days in Geneva)’. Trained as a photographer in Budapest, Mahr was a press photographer before migrating to England in 1972 where she continued her studies. Her earlier works incorporated text, forming a strange and oblique narrative that reflects on a wide range of stimuli including films, events and situations. Drawing on the photomontage technique of the dadaists, futurists and surrealists, Mahr’s complex imagery incorporates typography, objects and images to create compositions that are then photographed, flattening the depth of plane and confusing the reading of the fictive image.

In ‘13 clues to a fictitious crime circa 1940–1941’ we are drawn into a perceived mystery: a telescopic view of a building, an aerial view of a bird flying over a town, the letter A, the number 2553, a clock reading ten past twelve, a half-hidden face, a message, fish, stars, a piano and the book ‘A house of gentlefolk’; all clues that lead back into themselves. There is no accurate narrative and Mahr herself tells us that ‘No real crime has been committed’.2 We have instead been part of a fiction that, like the dadaist and surrealist games and images, fractures reality and our perception of it, reflecting the surrealist obsession with sight and blindness.

1. Accessed 08.06.2006
2. See Mari Mahr’s website: Accessed 08.06.2006

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007




Media category


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph


23.0 x 15.2 cm image; 25.0 x 17.3 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r.corner verso, pencil "Mari Mahr 84".


Gift of Edron Pty Ltd - 1996 through the auspices of Alistair McAlpine


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Mari Mahr

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Judy Annear, The Enigmatic Object, Sydney, 1997.

Donna Brett, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'The surreal aesthetic', pg.113-129, Sydney, 2007, 119, 128.

John Stathatos, Isolated Incidents, London, 1989. Text reference in introduction. 'A Sextant for Mnemosyn.' Found on the second page of text.