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Wall to Wall
Collections & Collecting at the National Gallery of Australia
14 Oct '98 - 26 Jan '99

Martin Sharp and Tim Lewis The unexpected answer (Yellow House) 1973 National Gallery of Australia. Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant 1982.

Bizarre, eccentric, eclectic, mind-boggling, idiosyncratic: Wall to Wall examines the variety of works that the National Gallery of Australia collects and the ways that they are displayed.  Wall to Wall is intended to underscore the depth, diversity and beauty of the National Collection.

A Rich & Varied Collection
The works on display in a museum are like the tip of an iceberg:  only a small part is visible, with the bulk of the collection out of sight.  Many of the works in Wall to Wall are unfamiliar exhibits which have appeared infrequently on the walls.  These works have been taken from the Gallery's repository or store house.  It is popularly assumed that this is either a graveyard for unfashionable works or, alternatively, that it is an Aladdin's cave of undiscovered treasures.  The reality is far more prosaic.

Computerised cataloguing ensures that details of all works in a collection are known and listed.  All of the National Gallery's collection is listed on the Internet. The works in store provide support for the collection on the walls. The store is called upon for theme exhibitions or to substitute for works on loan.  Using the works in storage, the output of the most influential artists can be seen in depth, as with Arthur Boyd, Australia's most important living artist, whose work is displayed in this exhibition.  Works on paper, because they are changed regularly to minimise deterioration caused by light, are also plentiful among the collection in storage.

Treasure Rooms
Wall to Wall draws on all major areas covered by the National Gallery of Australia's collection policy and includes Australian, including Aboriginal art, European, American, Asian and African art in diverse media. More works of art than have ever been seen at any one time will be on display in the new exhibition galleries in a deliberately eclectic and dense display - as the name Wall to Wall suggests.  The display is divided into five zones, each to feature a particular way of collecting.

Boxes & Crates
In addition to the works on display, curators will show works to the public directly from solander boxes at advertised times throughout the period of the exhibition. The solander boxes will be chosen to indicate the range of works on paper from all parts of the collection.  The attention given to preserving the works in the collection will be evident in a conservation display. The Conservation Department will show aspects of the varied duties that they perform for the Gallery - for example, arranging the packing of works to be transported.  The crates in which works have been transported to exhibitions nationally and internationally will also be on display. A varied and challenging public program has been designed to work in tandem with the concepts announced by the exhibition and will include talks by noted Australian artists, collectors and dealers.

'It was very late before we would admit we were collectors': The famous American collector, Dominique de Menil's confessional statement makes collecting sound like a secret vice.  Collecting is a passion and an obsession. While the idea of collections and collecting forms the central concept for Wall to Wall, at the core is the sheer aesthetic delight and wonder of works of art. This is the ultimate rationale for collecting, as witnessed in Wall to Wall.

For further information and photographic images, please contact:

Michael Desmond
Senior Curator
International Paintings & Sculpture
Tel. (02) 6240 6434

Helen Power
Promotions Officer, Public Affairs
Tel. (02) 6240 6431, Fax (02) 6240 6561