The Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Dr Brian Kennedy,
today announced the major acquisition of Asian textiles from the collection
of Robert J. Holmgren and Anita E. Spertus. Purchased over three years
at a cost of $6.5 million, the acquisition of more than 400 rare and ancient
textiles from the internationally renowned collection represents the National
Gallery's biggest investment in Southeast Asian art.
Dr Kennedy said: 'The acquisition from the closely held and rarely publicly
displayed Holmgren/Spertus private collection is a stunning addition to
the Gallery's internationally recognised collection of Southeast Asian
textiles. It reaffirms the Gallery's commitment to display the best of
the region's artistic traditions.'
Dr Mattiebelle Gittinger, of The Textile Museum, Washington DC, and the
world's leading scholar of Asian textiles, adds: 'The acquisition of a
substantial portion of the Robert Holmgren and Anita Spertus collection
of Asian textiles will earn for the National Gallery of Australia the
reputation of having the world's premier holding of Indonesian textiles.
It is an opportunity that, in all likelihood, could never be repeated
given the limited number of fine textiles from this region of the world
that remain available for purchase.'
The Federal Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the
Arts, Senator Richard Alston, said the acquisition underlined the importance
the Gallery attached to the arts of Australia's northern neighbour. 'This
will position the Gallery as a valuable centre for the study of Indonesian
textiles for years to come.'
Senator Alston also said he was pleased to see major acquisitions by
the Gallery reflecting and celebrating the great diversity of artistic
media in this region.
The collection of Asian textiles was assembled over 30 years and constitutes
the life work of New York-based art historians and collectors, Robert
Holmgren and Anita Spertus.
The Holmgren/Spertus collection is celebrated internationally. Since
the 1970s, every major exhibition of Indonesian art or textiles in Europe
and the USA has included outstanding works borrowed from the collection.
'When we decided to secure a permanent home for a substantial part of
our precious Indonesian textile collection, we sought a public institution
which shared our vision of these woven treasures,' Mr Holmgren said. 'Beyond
the sheer aesthetic pleasure they arouse, the textiles provide unique
windows into Southeast Asian art history, into an encyclopaedic richness
and variety of visual imagery. The National Gallery's commitment to the
collection and display of textiles as one of the region's greatest and
most varied art forms meshes exactly with our collecting philosophy.'
'Australia's immediate proximity to Indonesia, the prospect of fertile
scholarly collaborations with Southeast Asian neighbours and the National
Gallery of Australia's longstanding and unwavering commitment to the display
of Southeast Asian art were decisive factors in the collectors' choice
of venue,' said Dr Kennedy. 'The opportunity to acquire a large group
of textiles of such rarity and beauty would probably not occur again because
of the limited number of fine textiles from this region of the world that
remain available, anywhere, for purchase.'
Robert Holmgren and Anita Spertus have also generously agreed to lend
the Gallery 40 historical textiles that were traded from India to the
Indonesian archipelago during the 15-18th centuries.
Dr Kennedy said he was also delighted that the Sultan of Yogyakarta,
Hamengku Buwono X, who is in Australia as a special guest of the Federal
Government, has agreed to officially launch the collection. Robert Holmgren
and Anita Spertus will also be present.
The Holmgren/Spertus collection includes ship cloths with different maritime
scenes from Lampung, South Sumatra; intricate batik textiles filled with
mythical and exotic creatures from the Sino-Indonesian communities on
the north Java coast; sombre Balinese sacred geringsing, masterpieces
of the complex double ikat technique; and startling painted bark head
cloths from the remote mountains of central Sulawesi.
According to Robyn Maxwell, the Gallery's Senior Curator of Asian Art,
and an expert in the area of Asian textiles, the Holmgren/Spertus collection
contains some of the most exceptional and oldest textiles yet discovered
in Indonesia. 'This collection represents Indonesia's finest and most
valued two-dimensional art form. Textiles are to Indonesia what painting
is to Italy,' Ms Maxwell said.
Ken Begg, Media Adviser 0412
Gillian Freeman, Public
Relations +612 6240 6694