National Gallery of Australia acquires Pregnant woman

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Pregnant Woman 2002,  Ron Mueck
Ron Mueck "Pregnant woman" 2002 National Gallery of Australia

The National Gallery of Australia announces the acquisition of a major new work Pregnant woman 2002, by Melbourne-born, London-based, leading international sculptor, Ron Mueck.

The startling, hyperrealistic, flawlessly detailed Pregnant Woman is larger than life, standing 2.5 metres, or nearly nine feet tall.

There are surprisingly few representations of a naked pregnant woman in the history of art, and Mueck has succeeded in creating a figure, at once poignant but also powerful and awe-inspiring.

Ron Mueck, who moved to England in the early 1980s, is best known for his small-scale, hyper-real sculpture Dead dad, which featured in the controversial exhibition Sensation, and for his huge 4.5 metre Boy which was the centrepiece of the Millennium Dome in London in 2000 and of the Venice Biennale in 2001.

Seven works by Mueck, including Pregnant woman, will be on show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, from 19 December 2002 to 2 March 2003 (admission free). It will be the first time Mueck’s work has been seen in his native country. Pregnant woman and several of the other works have not been on public display before, having been completed recently by Mueck as part of his residency as the fifth Associate Artist at The National Gallery, London.

Pregnant woman will be included in exhibitions of Mueck’s work to be held at The National Gallery, London from March to June 2003, at the Frans Hals Museum Haarlem from November 2003 to January 2004, and the National Gallery Berlin early in 2004, before returning to permanent display at the National Gallery of Australia.

The Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Dr Brian Kennedy said that, for several years, he has been following Ron Mueck’s career. In October 2002, Dr Kennedy and Dr Anna Gray, the NGA’s Assistant Director, Australian Art, visited Ron Mueck in his London studio to view his latest works. Dr Kennedy said: ‘Pregnant Woman was truly impressive. It stopped me in my tracks, but after a while, this majestic Earth Mother had me contemplating subjects from the wonder of maternity and pro-creation, to population-control and female vulnerability. The tendency to be shocked dissolved amid the tenderness of the mother’s face, her exhaustion and her powerful presence.’

Dr Kennedy added: ‘Ron Mueck dares to be different. There can be no artist who has so faithfully invoked the human figure while striking notes of great poignancy. I look forward to the reaction of gallery visitors and encourage as many people as possible to visit Ron Mueck’s show in Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art’.

The acquisition of Pregnant woman by the National Gallery of Australia has been assisted by the generosity of long-time Gallery benefactor and Chairman of the NGA Foundation, Tony Berg AM and his wife Carol, who have shared Dr Kennedy’s enthusiasm for Mueck’s work. Mr Berg said today: ‘I am delighted that Ron Mueck, an Australian who up-to-now has been best known abroad, will be so strongly represented in our National Gallery’.

The Chairman of the NGA Council, Harold Mitchell, congratulated Dr Kennedy and Mr Berg, and said that the purchase underlined the strength of the Gallery’s current acquisition policy, and of the NGA Foundation. In recent years the Gallery has bought many important works of art including, most recently, Lucian Freud’s After Cézanne, John Glover’s Mount Wellington from Hobart Town, Asian textiles from the Holmgren-Spertus Collection, and the Tyler Print Collection, currently on show in Canberra in the exhibition The Big Americans.

Pregnant woman was acquired through the Anthony d’Offay Gallery in London for $AUS817,000.

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