||Dr Brian Kennedy, Director of the National
Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia has enjoyed another year of significant
achievement. The Gallery was in the third and final year of the planned
initiatives launched in the strategic document Into the New Millennium
in October 1998. In this plan, we had pledged to focus our acquisition
policy, diversify and intensify our exhibition program, increase the loans
of works of art to state and regional museums and galleries, gain greater
public and private funding, and plan to refurbish and enhance the Gallery
The staff of the Gallery has responded magnificently to these challenges
and all major objectives have been achieved thanks to their efforts.
In the year we attracted a total of 893,583 visitors to the Gallery and
to our travelling exhibitions nationally and internationally. Visitors
to the Gallery in Canberra totalled 589,569 including the highest number
of visitors to major exhibitions recorded to date of 328,686. Total visitation
to Canberra was up 3% on the level of attendance in the previous year.
Visitors to travelling exhibitions totalled 304,514, while important exhibitions
in Australia and around the world included works borrowed from the Gallery’s
collection. For the third year in a row a record number of works of art
have been lent for exhibitions throughout Australia and abroad and to
official establishments. 1,632 works of art were lent this year, an increase
of 9% on the record set the previous year. These achievements are in line
with our strategic objective of providing greater access to works of art
and to information about them locally, nationally and internationally.
The record level of attendance at major exhibitions was principally attributable
to the popularity of the exhibition Monet & Japan which attracted
a total of 227,872 visitors. This exhibition explored the close relationship
that Claude Monet had with Japanese art and was both scholarly and popular.
After its outstanding season in Canberra, the exhibition travelled to
the Art Gallery of Western Australia where it attracted a further 173,892
visitors, a record for the Art Gallery of Western Australia. The Gallery’s
record year of visitors to major exhibitions was also due to the strength
and variety of the major exhibitions program. The range of shows included
the absorbing contemporary Chinese exhibition Inside Out: New Chinese
art which was on display at the start of the year; the contemporary
Aboriginal art exhibition, which had attracted such a high level of interest
and attendance abroad, Aboriginal Art in Modern Worlds; and the
exhibition Federation: Australian Art and Society 1901–2001
which presented a visual mosaic of our first century as a nation.
The record number of works on loan was achieved through the high level
of activity in our travelling exhibition program, combined with the commitment
to the Partnership Program and our ongoing efforts to support loans wherever
possible to enable greater levels of access to works of art in the Gallery’s
In line with the Gallery’s policy of acquiring premium works of
art and building on the strengths of our collections, 1,012 works of art
were acquired in the year. This number included the acquisition of a renowned
international private collection of 397 Southeast Asian and Indian textiles.
Among many significant works of art acquired this year, the most noteworthy
were, in addition to the wonderful collection of textiles: John Olsen’s
Sydney sun 1965, Keith Looby’s Resurrection 1964;
Lucian Freud’s After Cézanne 1999–2000; a major
Cologne School 16th-century altarpiece Virgin and Child with Saints
c.1510–20; Knut Bull’s The wreck of the George III
1850; an 1802 hand-coloured aquatint A view of the town of Sydney;
and Cai Guo-qiang’s Crystal tower.
The Gallery’s ability to continue to develop its collection remains
dependent on both continued Government funding and on the generous support
of individuals. The Gallery is indebted to the National Gallery of Australia
Foundation for the role it has played in recent years in securing financial
support for many of our major acquisitions. To 30 June 2001 the Foundation
had raised more than $8 million through its Capital Campaign to assist
the Gallery in acquiring major works of art. On behalf of the Gallery
Council and staff, I express our thanks to Foundation Chairman, Tony Berg
and his board for their munificence. In this year, Mr James O. Fairfax
AO helped us acquire the Cologne School Virgin and Child with Saints,
while Mr David Coe, Mr John Schaeffer, Mr Kerry Stokes AO and an anonymous
donor made the purchase of Lucian Freud’s After Cézanne
possible. Mr Philip Bacon AM completed his support for the purchase the
previous year of Luca Giordano’s Rape of the Sabines c.1672–74.
A fund to support the acquisition of Asian art was established with the
help of Gene and Brian Sherman and Andrew Gwinnett.
The principal benefactor of the Gallery’s International Prints,
Drawings and Illustrated Books collection, Dr Orde Poynton AO CMG, died
on 21 February 2001. Dr Poynton has provided approximately $3 million
over more than 15 years to support the development of this world class
collection. We understand that ongoing support will be provided to the
Gallery from Dr Poynton’s Estate. We also acknowledge with thanks
Mr L. Gordon Darling AO CMG for his continued support of the Gallery’s
Australian Print collection and its promotion.
In the year, the Gallery was successful in securing the funds necessary
to implement a program to refurbish and enhance the Gallery building.
A total project budget of $42.9 million has been endorsed and an extensive
amount of work was done throughout the year to develop plans for the proposed
scheme. Some elements of the refurbishment have already commenced, but
the full program of work is expected to take four years to complete. Our
plans include refurbishment work to address generational issues with a
building now more than 20 years old and enhancement projects which will
include an improved front entrance, better visitor orientation and circulation
throughout the building, upgraded vehicular and pedestrian traffic flows
outside the building, and increased and enhanced gallery spaces.
Considerable attention was paid this year to the Gallery’s airconditioning
system which was the subject of an independent expert investigation commissioned
by the Gallery. The investigator found the Gallery’s air-conditioning
systems to be operating within acceptable parameters, but made a number
of recommendations for improvement, including upgrading some of the plant
and facilities. These recommendations have been acted upon, including
plans to upgrade elements of our air-conditioning system as part of the
Gallery’s building refurbishment scheme.
Another pleasing feature of the year was the growth in revenue from sales
of goods and services which totalled $7.557 million, up $1.013 million
or 15.5% on the good result achieved the previous year. Merchandising
revenue generated by the Monet & Japan exhibition was the principal
contributor to the year’s level of achievement. The Gallery’s
publication program was extensive with the production of exhibition catalogues,
educational and public program support material, the Gallery’s quarterly
magazine artonview, and commercial promotional and corporate material.
The Gallery’s varied exhibition program was enhanced by our extensive
education and public programs which helped provide information about works
of art while stimulating public enjoyment and understanding. A particular
feature this year was the extraordinary increase in interest in the Gallery
website. During the year 468,486 visits were made to the Gallery’s
website www.nga.gov.au, an increase of 189% in online visitation compared
to the previous year. By this year’s end the Gallery was being visited
on a weekly basis by more virtual than actual visitors.
The Gallery’s ambitions were considerably assisted by the generosity
of individuals and corporations. We wish to record our sincere appreciation
to those individuals and corporations who assisted the achievement of
the Gallery’s programs this year.
The Gallery Council and staff reviewed the strategic direction set for
the Gallery as expressed in our corporate plan Into the New Millennium
1999 to 2001 which was released in October 1998. A revised strategic
plan, to be released later in 2001, confirms the strategies of 1999 to
2001 and sets new, specific objectives for the next three exciting years
in the life of the Gallery.
Activities of the year have placed very considerable demands on all at
the Gallery. I am most grateful to the Gallery Council, the Foundation
Board, our wonderful volunteers and the dedicated staff of the Gallery
for their continuing efforts and support.
Dr Brian Kennedy