Garden of
the East
Photography in Indonesia 1850s-1940s

Orde Poynton Gallery (Lvl 1) and
Project Gallery (Lvl 2)

Garden of the East: photography in Indonesia 1850s-1940s presents over 250 photographic prints, albums and photographically illustrated books drawn from the Gallery's extensive collection of photographic art from Australia's nearest Asian neighbour.

While Indonesia might be the second most popular destination for outbound Aussies, the history of the Indonesian archipelago's diverse peoples and the colonial era Dutch East Indies, remains unfamiliar. In particular the rich heritage of photographic images made by the nearly 500 listed photographers at work across the archipelago in the mid 19th – mid 20th century, is poorly known, both in the region and internationally.

The Gallery began building its Indonesian photographic collection in 2006. It is unique in the region: the largest and most comprehensive collection excluding the archives of the Dutch East Indies in the Netherlands.

It was not until the late 1850s with the arrival of photographs printed on paper from a master glass negative, that images of Indonesia – the origin of nutmeg, pepper and cloves, much desired in the West – began circulating worldwide.

Australia had a minor role in the history of photography in Indonesia. A pair of young British photographers, Walter Woodbury and James Page (operators of the Woodbury & Page studios located in the Victorian goldfields and Melbourne) arrived in Jakarta in 1857.*
*see Artonview 75 Spring 2013,


From around 1900 a trend toward more picturesque views and sympathetic portrayals of indigenous people appeared. Old images were given new life as souvenir prints and sold through hotels and resorts or used for cruise ship brochures.

A particular feature of Garden of the East is the display of family albums. Both amateur and professional images in the Indies were bound in distinctive Japanese or Batik-patterned cloth boards as records of a colonial lifestyle.

Hundreds of these once-treasured narratives of now lost people ended up in the Netherlands in the 1970s and 80s in estate sales of former Dutch colonial and Indo (mixed race) family members who had returned or immigrated after the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia in 1945.

The Leo Haks: Indonesian photographs collection 1860s-1940s forms the basis for this collection. Other resources include: Picture Paradise: Asia-Pacific photography 1840s-1940s.

(image): Kassian Céphas Borobudur Central Java 1872 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2007


The exhibition catalogue includes essays by curator Gael Newton, Senior Curator, Photography, and scholars from Europe, Australia and Indonesia.   

– Gael Newton, Senior Curator, Photography


(cover + banner image): Thilly Weissenborn A dancing-girl of Bali, resting c.1925 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2007

Recent acquisitions

Finding your place in
the world

Photospace (Level 1)

The current display in the photography gallery is a selection of work by artists from South and Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Tibet and India. The department's focus in recent years has been to build up the holdings in this area. Ten years ago there were less than two hundred photographs in the collection from anywhere in Asia, with only about a dozen Asian-born photographers.

The artists included in this display all play a prominent role in the cultural life of their communities – not only as artists but also as gallery owners, curators and mentors – as well as representing those communities on the world stage. They use their art practices to comment on the effect of change in their countries, which have undergone fundamental transformations in the last century. In many cases the transition has been from colonial outpost to postcolonial democracy, while all have been confronted with an ever increasing global homogenisation of culture.


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The past, though complex, is a good place to look when trying to understand and explore where one stands in the present. Using the relatively new mediums of photography and video, these artists turn to their country's traditions as a source and inspiration.

While these artists naturally have individual perspectives and personal concerns that distinguish their work, they also share common preoccupations that reflect their place in the world today. In the majority of the works, examinations of broader societal issues and histories intersect with private concerns around defining identity.

The artists included in the display are FX Harsono, Melati Suryodarmo and Mella Jaarsma (Indonesia), Yee I-Lann (Malaysia), Manit Sriwanichpoom (Thailand) Gonkar Gyatso (Tibet), Dayanita Singh and Pushpamal N. (India).

It is through the lens of imagination and metaphor that these artists approach their practice – making works no less powerful or demanding for their poetic sensibility. Loss, both individual and cultural, is at the core of many of the works. At the same time they are moving testaments to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of change.

– Anne O'Hehir, Curator, Photography


(image) Pushpamala N. Sunhere Sapne [Golden Dreams]: A photoromance #2 1998, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2006

Gold & the Incas
Masterclass series


Every Wednesday
5–26 March

James O Fairfax Theatre
Bookings essential

Masterclasses provide an opportunity for enthusiasts who want to delve deeply into the rich artistic content and cultures of the exhibition. They are a perfect format for an exhibition such as Gold and the Incas: Lost worlds of Peru, which covers a vast spectrum of time, cultures, materials and techniques.

The Masterclas series includes one-hour lectures by key academics and experts who discuss specific elements within ancient Peruvian art and culture. Each lecture is followed by an hour long exhibition viewing where participants have the opportunity to talk to the lecturer within the space, ask questions and focus on the works that have been discussed in that evening's lecture.

(image) MOCHE culture North Coast 100-800AD Mask, copper, gold, shell, stone, Ministerio de Cultura del Peru: Museo de Sitio de Chan Chan, Dos Cabezas, Photograph: Daniel Giannoni

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The range of topics include the importance of gold and silver, the spiritual traditions of Peruvian cultures, significant discoveries at the Royal Tombs of Sipan and excavations at the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon in the Moche valley.

We have a wonderful line-up of speakers for this series:

  • Christine Dixon, Senior Curator, International Painting and Sculpture, National Gallery of Australia, and curator of Gold and the Incas: Lost worlds of Peru
  • Carlos Ramirez, Peruvian archaeologist and former Director of the Salango Museum
  • Ian Farington, Visiting Fellow, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, The Australian National University
  • Professor Richard L Burger, Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of Anthropology, Yale University

$140, $120 concession, $100 members (includes four lectures and exhibition entries)

Bookings essential

Members news

Pisco Sour evening

Adorned in gold and silk, members and their guests enjoyed a private exhibition viewing of Gold and the Incas: Lost worlds of Peru before celebrating the origins of Pisco with traditional Peruvian dancing and Pisco Sour cocktails.

The members were delighted to have the Second Secretary from the Peruvian Embassy, Daniel Reategui Ruiz-Eldredge, join them to discuss the cultural significance of Pisco.



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Jewels of Peru
Tuesday 18 March, 4.30pm

Join Dr Ximena Briceno, expert in pre-Columbian metal techniques, to unravel the secrets of Gold and the Incas: Lost worlds of Peru, followed by champagne and canapés.

Venue: Members Lounge
Price: $55 members, $65 guests (includes exhibition entry)
Bookings essential




Join the Gallery today for the first time to receive one complimentary Gold and the Incas: Lost worlds of Peru exhibition ticket.

Enjoy exclusive exhibition viewings, participate in members-only programs, be stimulated by engaging events and meet
like-minded people.



10th Latin American
Film Festival

Thur 3 – Mon 14 April
James O Fairfax Theatre
No bookings required

This April, immerse yourself in the best of contemporary film from Latin America at the National Gallery of Australia – and best of all, it's FREE!

The 10th Latin American Film Festival is proudly presented by the Latin American embassies, and this year the Festival is hosted by Peru – an exciting link with the Gallery's current exhibition Gold and the Incas.


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Each of the 12 films will be screened twice:

  • 2.30pm matinee
  • 6.30pm evening

All films are subtitled

The program features some of the most exciting and creative productions to reach the big screen in recent years, including international award-winning pieces.

The 2014 film program is available online. A printed program is also available at the front desk of the Gallery.

Canberra connection

Artist: Marie Hagerty

Opening the door to Marie Hagerty's Canberra home is to walk into a serene world of clarity and balance but with a slight kink in the thread. One feels as though if you pressed a button on the wall the scene before you might all fold up before your eyes and a new production begin. Similarly with the surface of her immaculate canvases, the space she inhabits exudes a perfectionism whereby everything is seemingly in its rightful place. 

Yet this poise is playfully cut with the perverse such as discovering that the minimalist black sculpture at the entrance by her partner Peter Vandermark is in fact a Roald Dahlesque Glum sump suggesting that all visitors should leave their gloom at the door. 

Indeed, the strength of Hagerty's work lies at the point where perfectionism and wayward perversity merge. This key ingredient in her work is found in abundance in deposition 2012. It is a grand summation of the big themes Hagerty has always explored such as: the body, femininity, eroticism and power and how these constructs play out on the stage of art history.

In deposition 2012 Hagerty takes two master triptychs as her source material, namely Rogier van der Weyden's Descent from the cross (Museo del Prado) painted circa 1435 and Francis Bacon's Triptych 1970 from our own collection and currently on display in the international galleries. 


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She reduces and abstracts van der Weyden's composition but stays true to the crucifix as a means of dividing the figures and arranging the space. Hagerty makes much of the lure of drapery and fabric in this work and in her hands drapery becomes a metaphor for the feminine. Her shrouded enigmatic forms eroticised with their protruding stockinged thighs evoke a dark power poised precariously on a thin tightrope subtly referencing Bacon's Triptych

There is a performative element latent in Hagerty's work hinted at here through the burlesque tone of these figures. In fact, when installing deposition 2012 late last year the work commanded such a powerful presence in the space as though it was setting the stage and we were the spectators of a gripping performance. 

Marie Hagerty was born in Sydney and moved to Canberra in the mid 1980s to study at the Canberra School of Art, from which she graduated in 1987.

– Lara Nicholls, Assistant Curator, Australian Paintings and Sculpture


deposition 2012 is on display in the Contemporary gallery 7A (Level 2)

(image) Marie Hagerty deposition 2012 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2013

a textile

The National Gallery of Australia is truly lucky to boast an impressive and varied collection of beautiful textiles. These textiles can be among the most delicate works of art in the collection, and conservators can spend up to 1000 hours restoring them to their original and spectacular glory.

For this very reason, the Foundation has a dedicated Fund, Treasure a Textile, which supports the specialist conservation efforts that go into preserving the collection's textiles.

Already, through the generosity of a number of our wonderful donors, our conservation team has restored textiles such as the Map of Jain sacred site Shatrunjaya1897–98; a remarkable work featured in the Divine Worlds exhibition in 2012.


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Work such as fixing creases and tears, repairing damage from insects, acidic dyes or mordants and recovering abrasions and loss is essential to their preservation.

In return for their support, donors to the fund will receive a photograph of their adopted textile before and after treatment, as well as acknowledgment of their contribution on the work's exhibition label. You can support the Treasure a Textile Fund here or by calling the Foundation Office on (02) 6240 6408.

For those interested in the work of Gallery Conservators there will be a number of talks on the conservation of works from the current exhibition Gold and the Incas: Lost Worlds of Peru in March. See the calendar for more information.


(image) Gujarat or Rajasthan, India, Map of Jain sacred site Shatrunjaya
pilgrimage painting [tirtha pata]

1897-98. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2005

Art and

Outreach Training Workshops

The National Gallery of Australia's Art and Alzheimer's Outreach Training Program assists art galleries in remote, regional and metropolitan communities to develop a sustainable model of tours for people living with dementia.

A two-day workshop has been designed which brings health and arts professionals together to share expertise and learn from experienced staff of the Gallery's Learning and Access team.

The workshop features demonstration tours for people living with dementia and is interactive and practice oriented.

"It was great to see community workers and gallery staff and volunteers working together for the common goal for people in the community".

- Health worker, workshop hosted by Art Gallery of NSW, October 2013


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The Art and Alzheimer's Outreach Training Workshop is in demand and has a busy few months ahead.

The workshop is being hosted at the following venues:

  • Queen Victoria Museum Gallery in Launceston, Tasmania
    (26-27 March)
  • Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, Queensland (23-24 April)
  • National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (13-15 May)
  • Bayside Arts and Cultural Centre in Brighton, Victoria (3-4 June)

For further information about the Art and Alzheimer's program, visit the website.

Subscribe to the National Gallery's YouTube Subscribe to the National Gallery iTunes

Did you

National Gallery of Australia YouTube National Gallery of Australia iTunes

The National Gallery of Australia has a wonderful range of podcasts and video highlights of the national collection to share with you.

Our iTunes channel contains a selection of lectures and talks ranging from Curator insights, Architectural series, Artists' talks, Egyptian antiquities from the Louvre, Australian quilts, to Celebrity talk with Margaret Fulton about recipes!


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The National Gallery of Australia has produced 40 short videos introducing the highlights of the national collection as well as some of our public programs, which are continually being expanded over time.

Visit and subscribe to our channels to keep up to date with our breadth of educational and fascinating online resources.


New South Wales
The Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn Gift: The 1888 Melbourne Cup | Albury Regional Museum and Art Gallery, Albury NSW, until 1 April 2014

The Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn Gift: Red Case: Myths and rituals and Yellow Case: Form, Space and Design | Gympie Regional Gallery, Gympie QLD, until 25 March 2014

South Australia
Bodywork: Australian Jewellery 1970–2012 | Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery, Port Pirie, SA, until 2 May 2014

The Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn Gift: Blue Case: Technology | Port Lincoln Region Arts, Port Lincoln SA, until 14 April 2014


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Capital and Country: the Federation years 1900-1914 | Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, Hobart TAS from 14 March until 11 May 2014

(image) Ethel Carrick, The quay, Milsons Point 1908 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1975


Win movie
tickets to


Wadjda is a 10-year-old girl living in a suburb of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Although she lives in a conservative world, Wadjda is fun loving, entrepreneurial and rebellious. She's determined to fight for her dreams, which include saving enough money to buy a bicycle, so she can race her friend Abdullah.

Haifaa Al Mansour's critically acclaimed feature is a fascinating, honest and hugely satisfying film, and a thrilling cinematic achievement. It is the first film ever made in Saudi Arabia, and most remarkably by a female director in a country where it is illegal for women to drive or vote.

Thanks to Hopscotch eOne, we have 10 double passes to giveaway to see Wadjda.

In Cinemas March 20

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For your chance to win a double pass to see this movie, briefly tell us your favourite inspirational movie and why.

Include your name and postal address and email by Friday 7 March 2014.

We will pick the best ones - good luck!

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