European & American Art
National Australia Bank
A highlight of this gallery, dedicated to sculpture in all mediums and forms, is Constantin Brancusi’s black and white marble Birds in space. Birds are central to the artist’s oeuvre,and he made nearly thirty versions in marble or bronze over three decades. These are the ultimate, and tallest, explorations of the theme of birds and flight, representing the artist’s quest to 'fill the vault of the sky'. Balanced precariously but perfectly on their sandstone plinths, they suggest not only the physical notion of flying, but the human urge for a spiritual ascension.
Relief works, floor pieces and free-standing sculpture are executed in a rich range of materials, from traditional stone and bronze to works incorporating clothing and other found objects. Donald Judd’s brass boxes, Louise Bourgeois’ pink wooden C.O.Y.O.T.E.and Anselm Kiefer’s magisterial Abendlandare displayed alongside works by the great Australian sculptors Rosalie Gascoigne, Robert Klippel and Ken Unsworth. Exciting new acquisitions – Max Ernst’s giant black bronze Habakuk, Cy Twombly’s elegant pale bronze, and Anthony Caro’s Duccio variations no.7 – are the result of generous sponsorship and donations.
When the National Gallery opened in 1982 one of its nine galleries was the Sculpture Court, its external views designed to link it to the Garden outside. During the 1980s and 1990s, temporary exhibitions gradually reduced the space dedicated to sculpture, and major works such as the Brancusi birds were incorporated into the displays on the entrance level. Refurbished in 2006, with the support of the National Australia Bank, the reinstated Sculpture Gallery signals a renewed commitment to the discipline of sculpture.