The Book of Kells and the art of illumination

Press preview 12pm 24 Feb 2000

The Book of Kells is one of the world's most precious works of art. In the words of Dr Bernard Meehan, Keeper of Manuscripts Trinity College Dublin, "The Book of Kells can be numbered among a handful of works of art known by repute to all, and is featured in all general histories of the treasures of European art".

The Book of Kells is a superbly decorated manuscript copy of the four Gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In 1953 the Book of Kells was divided into the four Gospels and it is the Gospel of St Mark, regarded as the first of the Gospel texts to be written, that is in Australia and forms the centrepiece of this major exhibition. The exhibition also comprises 55 other precious illuminated manuscripts. "It will be a thrill and a surprise to visitors to see the high quality and beautiful illuminated pages of the many manuscripts which are on loan from collections in Australia and New Zealand", said Dr Brian Kennedy, Director of the National Gallery of Australia.

Between the 7th and 9th centuries there was a great flowering of Irish culture and the Book of Kells represents the artistic zenith of that period. The Book of Kells is the work of dedicated Irish monks containing 340 folios, written and decorated on vellum. It has been in the care of Trinity College Dublin since 1653. It is particularly auspicious that the Book of Kells should leave Ireland and come to Australia in the year 2000, a year that marks the second millennia of Christianity.

This exhibition looks at the Book of Kells in a dual perspective. Emeritus Professor Margaret Manion of The University of Melbourne, said: "It is a powerful artistic expression of the Christian faith, and secondly, it portrays the history of the illuminated manuscript which flourished up until the 16th century with the advent of printing." The Book of Kells will be housed in a purpose-built display case. This will be the only opportunity for Australian audiences to view this magnificent masterpiece of ancient Irish culture.

The exhibition has been made possible by the generosity of Trinity College Dublin and the collaborative support of the Irish and Australian Governments. Furthermore, we thank our sponsors, the Irish Tourist Board; APN News & Media and Independent News and Media PLC; the Seven Network; Aer Lingus; Quantas Airways; Waterford Crystal; Guinness Australia; Irish Distillers; Montblanc and Gateway.

For further information please contact the Public Affairs Office Telephone (02) 6240 6431, Fax (02) 6240 6561.


Revealing the Holy Land

Press preview 12pm 24 Feb 2000

Revealing the Holy Land: The Photographic Exploration of Palestine contains vintage photographs made between 1850 and 1880. This period is regarded as the golden age of travel and expeditionary photography. In the mid-19th century theological research and public fascination with travel to the Holy Land employed the newly invented medium of photography to satisfy the desire for accurate views of the Holy Land and to prove the historical truth of the Bible. The exhibition includes photographs from the 1868-69 Ordnance Survey of the Peninsula of Sinai taken by Colour-Sergeant James McDonald of the Royal Engineers.

Revealing the Holy Land features the colour lithographs of David Roberts, showing how the artist presented the region prior to the introduction of photography. By comparison colour photographs of the Sinai Peninsula by Neil Folberg display recent interpretations of the area.

Revealing the Holy Land - a travelling exhibition from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California - is made possible, in part, by grants from Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and the Dana and Albert R. Broccoli Charitable Foundation. The exhibits are drawn chiefly from the collection of Michael and Jane Wilson.

For further information please contact the Public Affairs: Telephone (02) 6240 6431 Facsimile (02) 6240 6561


The Antipodeans: challenge and response in Australian art 1955-1965

27 November 1999 - 5 March 2000

press statement 15 December 99

It is the fortieth anniversary this year of the exhibition The Antipodeans, and with it the first publication of Bernard Smith's polemic The Antipodean Manifesto. The exhibition and the manifesto appeared to unite a number of figurative artists against the influences of abstraction on Australian art and was a central and defining moment in Australian art this century.

The artists who exhibited as Antipodeans were Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, John Brack, Robert Dickerson, John Perceval and Clifton Pugh.

The National Gallery's exhibition will represent the period, and the debates, by showing art by members of the Antipodean group, together with works by artists who may be seen to represent 'the other side', i.e. abstractionists. These artists include Ian Fairweather, Ralph Balson, Godfrey Miller, John Passmore, John Olsen, Janet Dawson, Robert Klippel, Peter Upward and Tony Tuckson.

For further information please contact Deborah Clark, Assistant Curator, Paintings and Sculptures, Australian Art, telephone (02) 6240 6635 or Public Affairs, telephone (02) 6240 6431 or fax 6240 6561


Celebrate the diversity of Youth Culture

Press statement 5 December 99

To ensure that youth art and culture is represented in a relevant and dynamic form, a Youth Committee drawn from the ACT and surrounding region assists the Gallery with the planning, development and implementation of what has become an annual event at the Gallery. Sub-urban '99 includes

youth art
aerosol art
bands: All Systems Go, Bent Hen, Monkey Duck, Beanort
dj's Archie, DJP, Chris Fresh
spoken word performances: Tales of Lime Green Cat Suit extreme sport
break dancing
youth fashion

Rebecca Cartwright (Hayley Smith) from Home and Away will be special guest for the event.

Sub-urban demonstrates the National Gallery of Australia's commitment to fostering the creative and inspirational force of youth culture.

For more information contact Philippa Winn 02 6240 6632



Press statement 26 November 99

The Director and Council of the National Gallery of Australia have taken the decision not to show the exhibition Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection at the National Gallery of Australia next year.

As a publicly funded institution, the Gallery will not proceed with a show which has been the centre of a furore in New York over issues which have obscured discussion of the artistic merit of the works of art.

The Director and Council had wished to bring this much discussed exhibition of Contemporary British Art to the Australian public. The Gallery had looked forward to engaging the Australian public about issues in contemporary art and will now seek other avenues in which to do so.

For further information contact:
Jan Meek, Senior Adviser - Public Affairs, National Gallery of Australia - 02 93878176


Paul Durcan poetry reading

Thursday 21 October

'Durcan, with a microphone for a lute, can, like Orpheus, charm the birds from the trees'
Derek Mahon - Irish Review

Join internationally acclaimed Irish poet, Paul Durcan in an evening of contemporary verse at the National Gallery of Australia.

From his first publication in 1967, Durcan's poetry was highly distinctive. Its conversational style and quirky subject matter set it apart from traditional Irish lyric musings. Current events, religion and contemporary social issues all found their way into his writing. Durcan emerged as a relentless critic of establishment folly and a shrewd observer of political posturing.

Durcan's many publications from The Berlin Wall Café (1985) to Greetings to Our Friends in Brazil (1999) secure his place as one of Ireland's foremost contemporary authors.

Paul Durcan is visiting Australia as part of the Brisbane Writers Festival.

time: 6.00pm
venue: James O. Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia
tickets: $7; Members $5 tel: 02 6240 6504

Media Inquiries:
David Sequeira Coordinator, Public Programs 02 6240 6521
Peter Naumann Manager, Public Programs 02 6240 6525


Into the New Millennium

First year progress report 13 October

  1. In October 1998 the National Gallery of Australia launched its corporate plan Into the New Millennium, setting out its priorities, with strategies for achieving them in the period 1999–2001.
  1. Free admission to the permanent collection was announced in October 1998 and a 13% rise in visitors to the Gallery’s permanent collection has been achieved in the year since then. The visitation figure for attendance at the Gallery in Canberra is down in 1998–99 in comparison to 1997–98, from 482,370 to 366,773, and this requires explanation. Betty Churcher had carefully provided a program of exhibitions for her successor. Due to the delayed appointment of a successor, the sequence of continuous exhibitions was broken. In addition there was a need to pay off the debt of $2M on the new exhibition wing and expenditure on major exhibitions was curtailed in 1998–99. The detailed breakdown is therefore:
    Year Permanent Collection Major Paying Exhibitions Travelling Exhibitions
    1997/98 269,057 213,313 172,345
    1998/99 303,736 63,037 537,276
  2. It is already clear given the success of Monet to Moore (144,553 visitors) and From Russia with Love (101,192 visitors), and the strong exhibition program now in place, that 1999–2000 will be a terrific year for attendance.
  1. The Gallery’s aim is to provide access to works of art and information about them, locally, nationally and internationally. The Gallery set itself four major objectives in its corporate plan:
  • to acquire major works of art for the collection by purchase and gift
  • to present significant and well-attended exhibitions
  • to attract increased public and private funding
  • to refurbish the Gallery building

    Progress has been made on all four objectives.

    Acquisitions of major works of art

    The Gallery publishes today Developing the Collection: New Acquisitions 1997–1999. Among these acquisitions are important works by Australian artists Arthur Boyd, John Brack, Russell Drysdale, Ian Fairweather, Eugene von Guérard; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art: the Peter Fannin Collection of Early Western Desert paintings, and works by Robert Campbell Jr and Fiona Foley; Asian acquisitions include Khmer and Jain sculpture, Chinese earth spirit guardian figures, and a Tibetan thangka. International artists represented by recent acquisitions include Pierre Bonnard, Chuck Close, David Hockney, Richard Serra, Alfred Sisley and Frank Stella.

    The Gallery acknowledges with gratitude the support of its benefactors:

    Gifts have been gratefully received from:

    Major Exhibitions

    Major exhibition activity was curtailed during 1998. This was fully achieved by October 1998 and the recent major exhibitions An Impressionist Legacy, Monet to Moore: The Millennium Gift of Sara Lee Corporation and From Russia with Love: Costumes for the Ballets Russes 1909–1933 were an outstanding success. They attracted 186,000 visitors, generating much required revenue for the Gallery and injecting $25M into the local economy.

    Internationally the Gallery has been very active, especially with the touring exhibition of Aboriginal art which has achieved record attendances at the International Olympic Museum in Lausanne, and is soon to open at the Sprengel Museum, Hannover (where it will be the turn of the century exhibition for Expo 2000). The show opens in the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg in February 2000, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid next June, and its final destination will be here at the National Gallery of Australia during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and the Paralympics.

    The Gallery acknowledges the generous support of Art Exhibitions Australia, the National Museum of Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (and the Australian Pavillion of Expo 2000 Hanover), the Australia Council, the International Olympic Committee, SOCOG, The Thomas Foundation and the Northern Territory Government, each of which has made possible the international touring exhibition of Aboriginal Art. The Gallery also acknowledges the assistance of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and the Royal Australian Mint.

    The Gallery acknowledges the support of ACTEW Corporation as major sponsor of the Chihuly exhibition Masterworks in Glass, and the assistance of the ACT Government, the Thomas Foundation, Mrs Beverley Mitchell and Channel 7.

    The Gallery is delighted to acknowledge the support of the Council of the Centenary of Federation which has made a grant of $500,000 to support the Gallery’s touring Federation exhibition. It will open at the Gallery in November 2000, and will be co-ordinated by John McDonald, Head of Australian Art.

    The exhibition program for 1999–2000 has many highlights, including our next exhibition The Book of Kells: The illuminated manuscript tradition. It is a coup for the Gallery to have attracted such a celebrated art treasure.

    Increased Public Funding

    Refurbishment of Gallery Building

    The Gallery today announces that a refurbishment scheme to address fire, water and access issues within the building and to provide a new front entrance area will be undertaken. A competition to select an architect to design the scheme of works will be announced soon.

    Access to the Collection

    Underlying the above four objectives has been a concern to give as much access as possible to the Gallery’s collection.

    The Gallery is pleased to announce that during the past year (1 October 1998 – 30 September 1999) a total of 1624 works of art have been loaned to metropolitan and regional museums and galleries throughout Australia. This is the highest total ever achieved in one year by the Gallery (and evidences the determination to provide greater collection access). The travelling exhibitions program had another successful year. The lucky 3 millionth visitor to an NGA travelling exhibition, Anthony Edwards from Townsville, was flown to Canberra to see the Gallery at first hand. The Gallery’s Partnership Program has been developing and progress made with each of the 12 partner galleries is noted on the attached sheet.

    The Gallery digitisation program has continued and over 16,000 works of art are now being made available on the world wide web in both text and image format being made.

    New Council Member

    The Gallery Council is pleased to welcome the appointment of Mr Robert Ferguson as a Council member for a period of three years from 9 September 1999.


    The year 1998–99 has been a most rewarding one for the National Gallery. We look forward to making continued progress in achieving the priorities of the corporate plan Into the New Millennium during 1999–2000.

    Brian Kennedy

    National Gallery of Australia
    13 October 1999


    David Hockney's A Bigger Grand Canyon

    13 October

    The National Gallery of Australia recently purchased for US$3 million the major painting A Bigger Grand Canyon 1998 by the celebrated contemporary artist David Hockney. Ambitious in scale, subject and colour, with a luminosity rarely seen, this remarkable painting extends the boundaries of the landscape genre.

    Comprising 60 canvases (with an overall measurement of 207.0 x 744.5 cm), the painting was feted as a key work in the recent exhibition in Paris, David Hockney: Espace/Paysage [David Hockney: Space/Landscape] at the Centre Georges Pompidou, and was a great success at London's Royal Academy where it won the Charles Wollaston Award for the most distinguished work on display during the Academy's summer season.

    Few major artists have chosen to grapple with the Grand Canyon, notoriously difficult given its vast scale. David Hockney, the most recent of them, had long harboured a desire to work on the subject, ever since an early visit to America as a young man. Now, as a mature artist, he has applied extraordinary skill to the painting of A Bigger Grand Canyon.

    A Bigger Grand Canyon is a culminating statement by the artist about the depiction of space and the experience of being within a space, or travelling through a space, over time. In this remarkable landscape, Hockney has drawn from a lifetime's experience. He refers to Cubism, where a subject is depicted with multiple viewpoints. There are lessons drawn from a careful examination of Chinese scroll painting - where different time sequences and different elements of a cityscape or landscape coalesce. He draws on his own experience of designing sets for operatic productions; and his responses to the sensation of driving through vast landscapes in his car listening to music - in Hockney's view, music is 'an art of time and of movement ... [with] Nature doing the lighting'.

    In his Report to the National Gallery of Australia (1999), the noted art historian, Marco Livingstone commented on the effect that the painting has on the viewer: 'A Bigger Grand Canyon places the viewer so convincingly at the canyon's south rim at Powell Point, one of the most spectacular vantage points, as to induce in some the vertiginous thrill of standing on the edge of a precipice so deep and extensive that it almost defies the imagination.'

    The element of The Sublime in this work has been perceptively noted by another scholar, Paul Melia, in a second report commissioned by the National Gallery in 1999. Melia sets the landscape within the English Romantic tradition: 'The genre of landscape has been important to Hockney since the beginning of his professional career. Until relatively recently, however, he was unable to draw upon the Romantic or neo-Romantic tradition of landscape art: personal experience, empathy, quasi-magical feelings aroused by a place or location, spontaneity - all triggers of artistic production for older generations of artists (Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, the painters of the St Ives School).'

    A Bigger Grand Canyon clearly has links to the rich and awe-inspiring English Romantic tradition, but also to the broader European emotionally charged Symbolist landscapes of Paul Gauguin and the artists at Pont Aven, the forefathers of Hockney's much loved School of Paris. In their works, the universal, the symbolic, is tapped and the pedestrian or the man-made is excluded. Here is a Symbolist landscape with the colours of the desert.

    According to Livingstone, Hockney's A Bigger Grand Canyon recalls 'the magnificent spectacle of the Hollywood cinema which had helped draw [Hockney] ... to the American West while he was a young boy day dreaming in Bradford', describing it further as a 'technicolour extravaganza that pays oblique homage to Hollywood films in its extended horizontal format'. The painting is rich in golds, crimsons, scarlets, oranges, ochres and browns, and contrasts of vivid blues and greens. To achieve maximum brilliance, Hockney has applied lessons learned from a careful study of the Dutch 17th-century master, Johannes Vermeer, building up the surface of the canvas with layer upon layer of oil paint. The visual impact on even the most jaded late 20th-century eye is as powerful and confronting as a Fauve palette would have been in the dimly coloured, restrained world at the beginning of this century.

    While the pedigree of A Bigger Grand Canyon is set within the European landscape tradition, the colours, the experience of being in the landscape and the sense of the universal imbue the painting with a level of meaning not seen before in Hockney's work. It suggests a move to an art of Symbolism in a landscape of almost unimaginable space.

    During the process of making A Bigger Grand Canyon, Hockney made one large cartoon and then, in an effort to resolve the painting further, he made three more drawings of the left, centre and right foreground. These drawings the artist has generously given to the National Gallery.

    David Hockney"s A Bigger Grand Canyon has been purchased with the assistance of Kerry Stokes, Tony and Carol Berg, and the O'Reilly family.

    For further information please contact Jane Kinsman, Senior Curator, International Prints, Drawings & Illustrated Books, telephone (02) 6240 6406, or Public Affairs telephone (02) 6240 6431 or fax ((02) 6240 6561.


    Frank Stella (artist) Ken Tyler (master printer)
    The Fountain (1992)

    13 October

    The Fountain is a 67-colour, hand-coloured woodcut, etching, aquatint, relief, drypoint, screenprint, collage spanning 2.3 metres in height by 7 metres in length. Derived from an original collage and printed from three carved woodblocks and 105 copper and magnesium plates, this 'mural' print marks the culmination of many years of collaboration between the foremost American abstract artist, Frank Stella (born USA 1936) and the master printer Ken Tyler (born USA 1931).

    In 1965 Ken Tyler set out to establish his own print workshop in Los Angeles, Gemini Ltd, soon to become Gemini GEL (Graphic Editions Limited) - which came to be known as the 'Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer of print workshops'. It achieved its reputation because of Tyler's philosophy that if 'great art is made by great artists', then 'great prints are made only by great artists'. With this in mind, Tyler set out to ensnare the very best artists of his day, promising them: 'here is a workshop, there are no rules, no restrictions, do what you want to do'. In this approach he took inspiration from Picasso's methods of printmaking where the rulebook was thrown out.

    In 1967 Tyler enticed Frank Stella to work with him, thus beginning a collaboration of two dynamic figures which has continued over 30 years - and has been described by the art critic and author Robert Hughes as 'one of the great partnerships in modern American art'.

    In terms of scale and ambition The Fountain is Frank Stella's magnum opus in printmaking - a major exercise in abstraction, with his signature forms, lines, colours, textures and layering - revealing the gifts and confidence of an artist who has reached the pinnacle of his career. It is a high point in Stella's collaboration with Tyler and represents the culmination of the lengthy development of their working method. In this 'mural' print Stella and Tyler have refined the process of working from a completed collage, adopting a wide range of printing techniques for the one work and editioning on specially made paper. The sheer bravura of the project can be seen in the scale, richness of texture and brilliance of colour. For such a monumental undertaking, a special 500-ton platen press had to be designed.

    The Fountain takes its title from chapter 85 of the literary classic, Moby Dick or The Whale by Herman Melville, which describes in detail the majesty of the sperm whale, a beast of grand proportions which dominates the sea with its wondrous breathing apparatus - the spurt of water - hence the title of this episode. This was one of a large group of prints by Stella which take their titles from the chapters of that great 19th-century epic. The artist found Melville's text a very visual one: 'I find the prose pictorial in a way - the rhythms and everything are like the types of things that you can do using shapes ... a nice, kind of crisp, moving language.'

    The Fountain is a high point in Stella's collaboration with Tyler and represents the culmination of their working method developed over a quarter of a century. In this one work, Frank Stella and Ken Tyler have brought the art of printmaking to an extraordinary stage; and, as Tyler chose to reflect recently:
    'I can't really say no to his ideas and he really can't stop having them and so in a funny way we're a good pair.'

    - a collaboration dubbed 'part brinkmanship, engineering, and sometimes theater'.
    Siri Engberg Frank Stella at Tyler Graphics (1997)

    The National Gallery of Australia's recent acquisition of The Fountain original collage and The Fountain print (edition 4/8) was made possible with funds generously provided by Orde Poynton Esq. CMG. The three woodblocks and the 105 metal plate inserts along with documentation are the gift of Tyler Graphics Ltd.

    view artist biographies


    Chihuly's statement

    7 October

    Dr. Brian Kennedy, Director of the National Gallery of Australia, spoke today to Dale Chihuly who asked that the following statement be released:

    "I had a great time in Canberra and the experience increased my interest in Australia considerably. There is such an exciting arts community, especially among glass artists. Given the nature of my practices, working on such a large scale, and especially placing work where it can be most available to the public, there is inevitably the potential for vandalism as the work is placed at some risk.

    I am delighted that the exhibition at the National Gallery is such a success and that people continue to enjoy it. Australia's reputation for the visual arts is secure and I look forward to continue to show my work there."


    Chihuly Glass Theft

    5 October

    Broken red glass, enough to make up three or four of the spears stolen from the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Garden on Sunday evening has been recovered by the police.

    The Gallery has communicated its sincere regret to the artist, Dale Chihuly. It is sad that Dale Chihuly's great generosity in permitting his work to be shown in our sculpture garden has been responded to in such a senseless and malicious way.

    The Chihuly studio and the National Gallery of Australia were aware, as with all public sculpture, that there was some risk involved in making the works so available to the public. That trust has been breached and, as a consequence, the installation will be removed from the Sculpture Garden.

    Meanwhile, the Chihuly exhibition in the Gallery's Exhibition Wing is attracting record visitation with over 4300 enjoying the display this weekend.


    Chihuly: masterworks in glass

    24 Sep 1999 – 26 Jan 2000
    Floriade 18 Sep – 17 Oct 1999

    Press preview
    12 noon 23 September 1999

    Official Opening
    6.00pm 23 September 1999

    Virtuoso installations of shimmering beauty by the world-renowned glass artist, Dale Chihuly

    Opening at the National Gallery on 24 September, and coinciding with Floriade, Australia’s spring festival of flowers, Chihuly: Masterworks in Glass is the first of the Gallery’s forthcoming series of spectacular exhibitions which run until 26 January 2000, collectively titled Masterworks.*

    Chihuly: Masterworks in Glass is a brilliant survey of Dale Chihuly’s artistic practice as well as the showcase for new work made for Canberra — pieces with such titles as Three Australian magpies resting in a tree; Putti with Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, Putti perched in a tree with opalescent kingfisher.

    The Exhibition Galleries will be transformed into an exotic world of luminous colour with some 63 works which comprise Chihuly: Masterworks in Glass — individual pieces, series of objects, installations and ‘environments’ that are at once conceptually unique art objects and intense sensory experiences. Chihuly has also incorporated in his exhibition plan an architectural feature of the Exhibition Galleries: the large windows which look out over the Fiona Hall garden will be filled with a wall of ‘stained glass’ — an exciting two-dimensional ‘drawing wall’ of 42 acrylic on plexiglass panels — made especially for this space.

    Dale Chihuly’s long and distinguished involvement with glass began in the early 1960s at the University of Wisconsin and the Rhode Island School of Design. After being awarded a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant as well as a Fulbright Fellowship, he travelled to Europe in 1968. He became the first American glassblower to work in the prestigious Venini factory on the island of Murano, Venice. In 1971 he co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, which has had a major impact on contemporary glass and attitudes to glass in America. The list of his museum exhibitions is long and encompasses the world; likewise the list of his work in museum and public collections and his architectural installations.

    Chihuly promotes the studio concept of glassblowing — a collaborative approach, which is the philosophy at Pilchuck. The emphasis that Chihuly places on teamwork has often been explained as a direct, and necessary response to the physical damage sustained as a result of a car accident in 1976. His experience of Italian glass production at the Venini factory, however, was of paramount importance in developing this approach.

    Chihuly returned to Venice in 1996 and, with his team, installed his trademark Chandeliers in 14 sites across the city. Chihuly over Venice was followed this year by Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem 2000, which comprises 15 major installations throughout the entire Citadel. Chihuly: Masterworks in Glass continues this idea of engaging with the city — as well as presenting National Gallery audiences with a powerful aesthetic and sensory experience, Chihuly and his team are creating virtuoso installations which form the artistic centrepiece of the Floriade display in Canberra.

    Chihuly himself will take part in the events planned around Chihuly: Masterworks in Glass which include lectures, tours, demonstrations and drawing workshops for children.

    The ultimate point of Chihuly’s glass sculptures is to embody and convey ecstasy. (‘Delirious Glass: Dale Chihuly’s Sculpture’, 1997, Donald Kuspit, Professor of Art History, State University of New York)



    A National Gallery of Australia
    Children's Gallery Exhibition
    2 Oct 1999–20 Feb 2000

    DOG is built around a simple theme that all children can enjoy.

    From prehistoric times to the present day, dogs have been represented in art as the human companion. This exhibition looks at the way artists communicate their experiences of dogs.

    In Bruce Latimer's prints, dogs are benign entities or playful rogues that animate the backyard. Lin Onus' lifesize dingoes engage in dog's business—sniffing smells and playing with puppies. Painted in ochre colours, they are metaphors for Aboriginal Australia. William Wegman's dog, a Weimaraner, is his muse, providing the continual inspiration for his photographs.

    Animals naturally compete with each other, but the dog and the human stand together, mutually beneficial. For children the dog is a wonderful companion, always willing to play. Frank Hurley's 1915 sepia photograph captures the child and puppy engrossed in a timeless and poignant moment.

    Play is a vital form of learning for dogs as well as humans. The little Jack Russell in William Strutt's delightful set of paintings is intent on making a crayfish his playmate. Human warnings would be of no use to him. For a dog, the way to learn about the world is by experiencing it, and experience it he does, with a nip on the paw.

    DOG creates an opportunity to reflect on the moods and qualities of this human companion and its infinite variety, and, at the same time, offers children a means to enjoy the exhibition experience.

    The exhibition comprises over 50 works of art from the National Gallery's collection, ranging from paintings, sculpture and ceramics to drawings and prints. The works of art are displayed at kid's height, and in novel ways — such as a display case in the shape of a kennel.

    For further information please contact Philippa Winn, Project Officer, Education and Public Programs, telephone 02 6240 6632 or fax 02 6240 6560; or Public Affairs on telephone 02 6240 6431 or fax 02 6240 6561.


    Landscapes in sets and series

    Australian Prints 1960s-1990s
    6 August-21 November 1999

    Celebrating ten years of acquisitions from the Gordon Darling Australasian Print Fund

    Landscape has been the prime subject matter both for indigenous Australian artists and those who have come to Australia since 1788. For many people in this country and overseas, paintings and prints by artists such as John Glover, Eugene von Guérard, Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Sidney Nolan, Fred Williams and Jon Olsen have formed the popular conception of the Australian landscape. It is only in recent years that the importance of Aboriginal depictions of the landscape has been acknowledged and their images have become part of the popular imagination.

    This exhibition focuses on prints produced by Australian artists from 1960 to the present. As well as presenting prints of the Australian landscape, it represents the work of two artists who have often found their subject matter in foreign landscapes. Janet Dawson produced poetic lithographs of the Italian landscape, where she worked in the late 1950s; while, for the 'new Australian' migrant Salvatore Zofrea, the Italian landscape is the source of formative memories.

    In the 1960s Australian printmaking came to maturity. Tertiary institutions added printmaking to the curriculum, print workshops both private and publicly financed were established, and specialist 'master printers' and print publishers began to operate. During these years artists extended the possibilities of printmaking by producing sets and series of prints. In some instances, as in the work of Bea Maddock, Mike Parr and John Wolseley, images on individual sheets are hung so as to form one work. Maddock's Terra Spiritus, comprising 51 sheets that form a panorama of the complete Tasmanian coastline, could not have been produced as a single composition.

    For other artists, producing sets allows them to examine a theme from different perspectives or times. John Olsen's prints in the Down Under suite explore a single theme, as do Fred Williams's lithographs of the Werribee Gorge. Frank Hodgkinson examines the effect of differing inkings of the same plate in his sensuous landscapes, while Zofrea records the landscape through the seasons of the year.

    The production of sets and series involves considerable cost, and these are often financed by publishers. In some cases publishers have initiated print portfolios to make artists' works more widely available to the public. Lloyd Rees's Australian Landscape portfolio, published by Port Jackson Press, was initiated by the publisher, while Sydney-based Utopia Art commissioned the artists of the Utopia community to produce 72 woodcut prints. For artists Mary Macqueen and Kim Westcott, however, their experiments and exploration of the landscape motif have been self-directed and self-funded.

    Judy Watson, an urban Aboriginal, returns the exhibition to the beginning - the depiction of the landscape through Aboriginal eyes. Altogether, these works demonstrate the continued interest in representing the landscape and the contributions that different printmakers have made to our rethinking of it.

    For further information please contact the exhibition curator, Roger Butler on telephone (02) 6240 6414 or Public Affairs on telephone (02) 6240 6431, fax (02) 6240 6561.


    Major Hockney Aquisition

    27 July 1999

    The National Gallery of Australia has acquired a major oil painting by David Hockney, A Bigger Grand Canyon (1998). The work, 207cm high by 744.2cm wide, on 60 canvases, will be unveiled at the Gallery in October 1999 at a press conference to be held then.

    This important acquisition, costing US$3 million, continues the Gallery's history of purchasing premium works by Australian and international artists of distinction.

    National Gallery of Australia
    Public Affairs
    Telephone: 02 6240 6431
    Fax: 02 6240 6561


    3 millionth visitor to a National Gallery of Australia travelling exhibition

    Earlier this month, whilst discovering the marvels of Boyd's painting technique at the opening function of Arthur Boyd and the Exile of Imagination at the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery in Townsville, Anthony Edwards was delighted to learn that he was the 3 millionth visitor to a National Gallery of Australia Travelling Exhibition.

    His prize includes flying to Canberra with two nights accommodation, and his trip coincides with the two major exhibitions Monet to Moore and From Russia with Love currently on at the National Gallery. Anthony grew up in Weipa in Far North Queensland but completed his secondary school studies in Townsville where he is now in his 3rd year of a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the James Cook University. Majoring in painting, Anthony is very excited at the prospect of being able to look at works in the National Gallery by major Australian and International artists that he has only previously seen in books..

    Since February 1988, when the NGA Travelling Exhibitions program was established, 3 million people have taken the opportunity to visit 54 touring exhibitions at locations outside Canberra in every state and territory in Australia. Over 4,000 works of art from the national collection have travelled well over 600,000 kilometres.

    Currently there are 4 exhibitions 'on-the-road' throughout Australia,

    Anthony, who has not been to Canberra before, is looking forward to visiting the national capital.

    For further information please contact Jude Savage, Manager Travelling Exhibitions - Tel, 02 6240 6503 Fax, 02 6240 6560.


    From Russia with Love
    Costumes for the Ballets Russes 1909-1933

    The National Gallery of Australia proudly presents From Russia with Love - an exhibition of the extraordinary costumes and drawings created for the Russian Ballet, or Ballets Russes as the company was known. Bold and original designs, new music and choreography, as well as inspired dancing, combined to magical effect. The artists, composers and dancers became world famous; they were the stars of their day.

    The spectacular productions of Serge Diaghilev's Russian Ballet amazed the world and transformed the art of dance. The company performed in Paris, throughout Europe and in North and South America. Ironically, Diaghilev's company never performed in his native Russia. Modern ballet was established in Australia by Colonel W. de Basil's touring company - formed in 1932 after the death of Diaghilev and the collapse of his company in 1929.

    Diaghilev was a unique figure in the arts. He fostered collaborations between dancers and choreographers, composers and artists - dancers such as Vaslav Nijinsky, Michel Fokine and Tamara Karsavina, the composers Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, and artists including Henri Matisse, André Derain and Léon Bakst - to create legendary productions that had an impact far beyond the worlds of ballet and theatre.

    Many of the costumes, designed by the foremost artists of their day, have survived as artistic objects in their own right. They provide a key to the wider significance of the Russian Ballet whose artistic success depended the collaborative nature of a total creative effort that is unique in the history of modern culture.

    The first designers of the sets and costumes were Léon Bakst and Alexandre Benois. Bakst caused a sensation with his brilliant visions of exotic cultures, while Benois charmed the sophisticated Parisian audiences with his interpretations of Russian and French traditions. Artists of the avant-garde also became designers for Diaghilev: Michel Larionov, Natalia Goncharova and Matisse, amongst others.

    Part of the Russian Ballet's early success in western Europe was due to its 'Russianness', corresponding with the popular image of Russia as a wild, primitive place. The Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor 1909 was the company's first hit in Paris. Nicholas Roerich's earth-smeared set and vibrant costumes, Alexander Borodin's stirring music, and the vigorous choreography of Michel Fokine shattered the refined traditions of ballet.

    In 1911 Alexandre Benois and Igor Stravinsky worked together to create Petrushka, Diaghilev's most famous ballet. The bitter-sweet fable of the puppet Petrushka, danced by Nijinsky, was staged as a contemporary view of a Russia fast disappearing. The Rite of Spring 1913 showed how modern the company could be. Stravinsky's score overturned musical conventions, while Nijinsky's choreography was considered radical and offensive. Nicholas Roerich's costumes, with their crudely stencilled patterns, echoed the primeval mood of the ballet.

    During the First World War Diaghilev turned to modern artists for his new ballets. Always interested in extending the frontiers of theatre, he incorporated ideas from the major art movements of the time. Natalia Goncharova, a leader of the Moscow avant-garde, used popular and traditional imagery to reinvigorate modern art. Her exuberant designs for The Golden Cockerel 1914, with their odd perspectives, strange proportions and irrepressibly bright colours, drew on the florid patterning of Russian peasant art. Michel Larionov exploited the fractured and geometric forms of Cubism and Futurism to create amazing, sculptural costumes for The Buffoon 1921.

    Henri Matisse, famous for his brilliantly-coloured paintings and flamboyant line, designed The Song of the Nightingale for Diaghilev in 1920. His overall scheme was restrained, using black, white and yellow for dramatic emphasis. The costumes, created in multiples, on stage became part of a fluctuating pattern of stylised shape and colour.

    After Diaghilev's death in Venice in 1929, his Russian Ballet fell apart. Colonel W. de Basil and René Blum re-formed the company in 1932 and bought original sets and costumes. The new Russian Ballet toured the world, visiting Australia three times between 1936 and 1940. Several dancers remained in Australia and founded their own companies: Hélène Kirsova in Sydney, Kira Bousloff in Perth, and Edouard Borovansky in Melbourne. Thus modern ballet began in Australia, continuing the great tradition of Diaghilev's Russian Ballet.

    From Russia with Love recaptures the excitement generated by the Russian Ballet. Highlights include the costumes worn by Nijinsky in Petrushka 1911 and The Blue God 1912; Bakst's exotic fantasies for Cleopatra 1909 and Sheherazade 1910; and Matisse's dramatic robes for The Nightingale's Song 1920.

    More than 200 works of art - original costumes, drawings, photographs, posters and theatre programs - are enhanced by dramatic theatre lighting, photographs of the dancers and original film footage of the de Basil ballet company performing in Australia, as well as the music of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy.

    The exhibition draws on major international collections, including the National Gallery of Australia's superb holdings; St Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music; A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum, Moscow; Österreichisches Theatermuseum, Vienna; Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Theatre Museum, London.

    Now showing in Perth at the Art Gallery of Western Australia (6 February-5 April), From Russia with Love premieres in Canberra at the National Gallery of Australia on 15 May and runs until 22 August 1999.

    For further information, please contact Christine Dixon, co-curator of the exhibition on telephone (02) 6240 6458; or Helen Power, Promotions Officer, Public Affairs on telephone (02) 6240 6431 or fax (02) 6240 6561 and after 29 March 1999, exhibition curator Roger Leong on telephone (02) 6240 6637.


    An Impressionist Legacy
    Monet to Moore
    The Millennium Gift of Sara Lee Corporation

    Press preview wednesday 9 June 1999 at 12 noon

    Official opening wednesday 9 June 1999 at 6pm by The Hon. John Howard MP Prime Minister of Australia

    view list of works

    More than 50 major Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works including paintings and sculptures by Monet, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pissarro, Sisley, Braque, Chagall, Léger and Picasso go on show at the National Gallery, Canberra on June 11 until August 22.

    The exhibition titled AN IMPRESSIONIST LEGACY - MONET TO MOORE: THE MILLENNIUM GIFT OF SARA LEE CORPORATION comes from the renowned art collection of the Sara Lee Corporation based in Chicago in the U.S.

    Last year the Sara Lee Corporation took the unprecedented decision to disperse the top-tier of their famous collection. Faced with selling the collection or giving it to public museums and galleries - they decided on the latter path.

    John H. Bryan, Chief Executive of the Corporation said at the time, 'It wasn't a hard decision ...... and if its an inspiration to society at large and the business community - that would be great. Sara Lee Corporation has for many years supported the arts in many different ways. We think it is an essential aspect of doing business in the modern world. Art has a positive influence on society, and it is our most enduring legacy.'

    The company has donated works to 20 major art institutions in the US including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, The Art Institute of Chicago and The Fine Arts Museum of Boston and to a few select galleries in Europe including The National Gallery, London, The Vatican, Rome and The Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh, Amsterdam. Outside the USA and Europe, the National Gallery of Australia will receive an important Impressionist painting by Alfred Sisley, Un sentier aux Sablons (The path at Les Sablons) 1883.

    James N. Wood, director of The Art Institute of Chicago, said that 'Sara Lee Corporation's gift is unprecedented in its scope and impact. It is entirely consistent, however, with this company's tradition of civic and public responsibility, which over the years has benefited the arts community enormously. Now we and other institutions across America and the rest of the world will be immeasurably strengthened because of this far-sighted gift.'

    The exhibition world tour opened at the Singapore Art Museum in early March, followed by the National Gallery in Canberra - the only Australian venue - and concludes with 3 venues in the U.S. This is the last opportunity to see the collection before it is dispersed to some 40 museums and galleries around the world.

    'For nearly 2 decades, the employees of Sara Lee Corporation have been inspired by these great works of art in our offices. But it was never our intention to establish a permanent collection for the company' says Chairman and Chief Executive John H. Bryan. 'The time has come to place these works in public art institutions where they will be available to the widest possible audience.'

    A superb full colour catalogue designed in the U.K. by Yale University Press and written by the distinguished American art historian Dr Richard Brettell and entitled MONET TO MOORE - THE MILLENNIUM GIFT OF SARA LEE CORPORATION will have its world release to coincide with the opening of the exhibition on 11 June in Canberra.

    The exhibition will be opened officially by the Hon. John Howard MP, Prime Minister of Australia at a gala party at the Gallery beginning at 6pm on Wednesday 9 June.

    Dr Brian Kennedy, Director of the National Gallery of Australia said: 'This is a real coup for the National Gallery and of course we are delighted. This is a stunning exhibition that tells the story of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in a fascinating and lucid way and it is rare in my experience that an exhibition has such broad appeal - there are so many delights, from Monet's early masterpiece Jean Monet on His Mechanical Horse which goes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, to 3 marvellous works by Degas including Russian Dancers which is gifted to the National Gallery London - a sensational Matisse Lemons on a Pewter Plate, destined for the Art Institute of Chicago - works by Pissarro, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Henry Moore - and my favourites, 2 fabulous paintings, to my eyes, Braque's Antwerp and Woman at an Easel (Green Screen).
    Supported by 7 CTEC The Australian Magazine Prime TV
    Tickets are available each day at the door or pre-purchased through Ticketek.

    For further information please contact Public Affairs on telephone (02) 6240 6431 or fax (02) 6240 6561 or Michael Desmond, Senior Curator, Paintings & Sculpture Post-1900.

    Exhibition Dates
    26 April - 30 May 1999 Singapore Art Museum
    11 June - 22 August 1999 National Gallery of Australia
    12 September - 7 November 1999 North Carolina Museum of Art
    19 November - 23 January 2000 Portland Art Museum
    1 March - 30 May 2000 The Art Institute of Chicago