National Gallery of Australia - Air-conditioning

The Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Brian Kennedy, today welcomed the findings of an independent inquiry into the Gallery's air-conditioning system.

"The inquiry is comprehensive and reassuring because it finds allegations concerning the Gallery's air-conditioning system have not been substantiated. It finds no evidence of any threat to the health and safety of staff, visitors and the Gallery collection," he said. "In order to reassure staff and our visitors, I have decided to make the report of the inquiry available in full."

After a comprehensive program of testing of the Gallery's air and water quality, the inquiry establishes, among other things, that:

The inquiry concludes that allegations concerning the competence of the Gallery's facilities management staff could not be substantiated. "We are very fortunate to have such excellent staff and the report is a vote of confidence in their ability," Dr Kennedy said.

"The inquiry does have some criticisms of our reporting and processes. The air-conditioning system is a serious matter for us and I have therefore immediately appointed a working party to examine the inquiry findings, and recommend an urgent plan of action. Further I have instructed that progress on our implementation of the inquiry's findings be independently evaluated after three months."

Reporting directly to Deputy Director, Alan Froud, the working party will be jointly chaired by the Gallery's Head of Planning and Facilities and the General Manager, Collection Services. They will be assisted by key building management and conservation staff.

The National Gallery's ongoing program for the refurbishment of its air-conditioning plant is on schedule. "Boilers and chillers have been replaced in recent years, and other significant modifications to the air-conditioning system have taken place. Only last month, one of the Gallery's air-handling plants was upgraded. This work will continue."

"The report of the inquiry is a valuable working document because it shows us how to fix the minor faults identified in our air-conditioning system. With government support, we can refurbish the building and the air-conditioning system and we will get on with it as a matter of urgency."

11 October 2000

For further information, contact Ken Begg, Media Adviser, National Gallery of Australia - 0412 174319.


Lost in Space

The Children's Gallery
National Gallery of Australia
12 August - 10 December 2000

Rocket Girl's spacecraft, Adnan is ready for boarding in the Children's Gallery at the National Gallery of Australia!

Come and see the view from her observation deck and control console! Just like children all over the world, Rocket Girl has looked through Adnan's windows at night to wish upon a star or to simply wonder just what is out there. Why would artists be any different?

Lost in Space shows how artists have taken up their tools to give life to their own dreams or visions of space. They've done this in jewellery, paint, photography, screen-printing, etching, sculpture, collage, drawing, film and video. Adnan is filled with works from the National Gallery of Australia's Collection. Come and see a smiling comet streaking across star filled skies in Every man searching by Greg Bell, an astronaut standing beside giant strawberries in Eduardo Paolozzi's work Me, and Will Alien powers invade the earth? as suggested by Paolozzi's robot in a futuristic city. Watch the morphing shapes in Game III (Sun) by David Rose, discover moon men, space madonnas, rockets launching… even touch a real-life asteroid that fell to earth!

Lost in Space is a world of cosmic shapes, flying cars, strange beings, twinkling stars, astronauts, space monsters, sparkling comets, lunar landscapes and the infinite blackness of space. Adnan is looking forward to seeing you!

For further information contact Public Affairs Telephone (02) 6240 6431, fax 6240 6561 or email


Completion of National Gallery Management Structure

The National Gallery of Australia has now finalised its management structure.
The following appointments are announced today:

Dr Jörg Zutter has been appointed as Head of International Art, and will commence at the National Gallery in December 2000. Dr Zutter is a museum expert and art historian of international painting and sculpture, and architecture. He has been Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland from 1991. For ten years prior to that he was Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Basle, Switzerland. He is widely published and has curated major exhibitions which have been acclaimed for both their scholarship and popular appeal.

Dr Anthony White has been appointed as Curator of International Paintings and Sculpture and will commence at the National Gallery in August. He has recently completed a PhD in Art History at Harvard University USA. He completed his Master of Arts, Fine Arts degree at the University of Melbourne, and his Bachelor of Business, Economics and Marketing degree at Swinburn University in Melbourne. His field of expertise is twentieth century international painting and sculpture, with an emphasis on contemporary art.

Mr Philip Eliason has been appointed as Head of Development and will commence at the National Gallery on 10 July. Philip has been Manager, National Small Business Program, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission since 1998, and has previously worked in a number of business and government agencies.

Dr Deborah Hart commenced as Senior Curator of Australian Paintings and Sculpture on 8 May. Dr Hart has had a distinguished career as a curator and writer in Australian art. Most recently she was acting Director of the S H Ervin Gallery in Sydney. Dr Hart has published a number of monographs, including John Olsen, and William Delafield Cook.

Ms Elena Taylor commenced as Curator of Australian Paintings and Sculpture on 15 May. Elena has worked in a number of national institutions in Canberra, most recently as Curator of Art at the Australian War Memorial.

Margaret Baird has been appointed as Head of Finance, and commenced at the National Gallery on 29 May. Margaret has worked in a number of companies and institutions, and was the Senior Manager, Finance, of ScreenSound Australia prior to coming to the National Gallery.

Karyn Cooper has been appointed as Manager Finance, and commenced at the National Gallery on 10 May. She has been in the accountancy field in a number of government institutions and was recently senior consultant with Wizard Information Services.

Mr Robert Bell has been appointed as Curator of Decorative Arts and will commence at the National Gallery on 28 June. Robert is acknowledged as a leading expert on decorative arts in Australia.

Curricula vitae and additional information can be obtained from Public Affairs, National Gallery of Australia on (02) 62406431; fax: (02) 72406561 or through email:

National Gallery of Australia
23 June 2000


Howsitgoin: three years at the National Gallery of Australia

National Press Club 14 June 2000

My relationship with the media began over lunch some three years ago. I am pleased to report that with your help and continued attention, I have not put on much weight in the meantime. I am here to offer a status report on what we have been doing in the last few years.

When I came to the National Gallery of Australia in 1997, I had a particular mandate given to me. It was to examine the purpose of the institution and to see how it should continue to develop after its sixteenth birthday.

We had to ask for your patience while we engaged in discussion. Our staff members and voluntary guides engaged with our membership and the public generally. We wished to build on the achievements of the past, so we examined closely all our previous activities. The Gallery is a remarkable institution and has achieved much in a short period, thanks to the support of the visiting public, the Government, Council and staff, and two very talented Directors, James Mollison and Betty Churcher.

One of my first public declarations was to insist that the Gallery needed to be refurbished, and especially that we needed a new front entrance to confer on the Gallery the dignity it deserves. I contacted the architect of the building, Colin Madigan, and came to admire his intellectual framework underpinning what is internationally regarded as one of Australia's best concrete buildings of the 1970s.

Within the first six months, we completed an extension to the Gallery to provide for temporary exhibitions. This highlighted the need to get further funding to address generational problems in the original building. While we campaigned for public funds from Government, we sought to address some replacement issues from within our existing budget. We replaced the boilers and the chillers in the air-conditioning system. We improved the public entrance foyer and modified the layout of the galleries.

We also focussed quickly on our acquisition policy. We found that the only way to give ourselves time to examine the policy was to stop acquiring altogether- -- for what turned out to be eight months. This created some controversy because it signalled a change to a more focussed acquisition policy of fewer and we hope better quality works for the national collection.

We wanted to regain the Gallery's vision of the years 1973 to 1975. It had been simply brilliant - aiming to establish a great collection of works of art in Canberra. Acquisitions like Pollock's Blue Poles, the Francis Bacon triptych, works by Malevich, Brancusi and de Kooning. World record prices were paid for some of them but they were class A purchases. Collections were acquired of outstanding importance - the South East Asian textiles, one of the best such collections in the world; the American print collection of master printer Ken Tyler, which has made Canberra the best repository of the American print for the years 1966-73; and the Ballets Russes collection celebrating the genius of Diaghilev, acquired in 1973 for £3000 sterling.

The outcome of our review was a plan, Into the New Millennium, launched in October 1998. We felt that the only way to move forward significantly over a three year period was to state what we intended to do and then to get on with doing it. The plan was very demanding in what it required of us.

We emphasised that the Gallery is a social enterprise. We believe that it is for the general good of society to have a National Gallery. This is the basic purpose of the Gallery, that its founders believed it would exist for the social benefit of the community.

Culture has been defined as the ability to change ideals into institutions. The National Gallery is an ideal that has become an institution. The Gallery will be around for a very long time. The death rate of major museums and galleries is almost zero.

Most of us would agree that it is worthwhile to invest in the arts because they are an overall civilising influence on society. It is widely agreed that the arts improve our human lives, but nobody would suggest that they necessarily make us better people. Some quite terrifying individuals have been art lovers.

A civilisation is judged not on its economy but on its power of imagination. Individual creative expression, the art that is in each of us, is the key to genuine freedom in society.

In Australia, culture is an aspect of politics whereas, rightly, politics is but one aspect of culture. Only a few political leaders seem to realise that they can often be remembered more for their forays into the arts area than of whether they improved the economy. The Australian public has shown itself to be remarkably indulgent of significant expenditure on cultural initiatives. Can we keep our political leaders focussed on the power of creativity, on the world of imagination?

What is the Australian power of imagination? I see people with huge ambition, great achievement and a willingness to take on the world. What is stopping Australia from being a better powerhouse of imaginative ideas? Each of us cannot change the world. We cannot change Australia. But each of us can change ourselves. We can have ambition, imagination and determination.

The poet William Butler Yeats wrote:
'In dreams begins responsibility.' I called my book on Irish arts policy Dreams and Responsibilities. What do you dream of achieving in your life?

My own dream for the National Gallery has been to give greater access to our staff and the collection. This has been our core message. The Gallery is largely funded by you, by me, by all of us who are taxpayers. Our aim is to be a key access point for the best we can afford in Australian indigenous and non-indigenous art, Asian and other international art.

The difference between the National Gallery and other galleries in Australia is that we are required to operate nationally and indeed internationally. The State galleries can decide whether or not to lend beyond their State boundaries. We do not have the choice.

We have indeed made policy changes. We do not shy away from the fact. We acknowledge that some people may feel we should have done it another way. We have challenges at the Gallery - the demands on us are great, the expectations high. Where we need to be better, we will seek to improve. But where we are worthy, we appreciate your praise for our efforts.

Susan Mitchell's new book Be Bold is salutary reading. She asks: why can we not praise a bit more? In Australia there are some who seem to believe that people will perform better if we criticise them. She says that it requires a decision to both give and accept praise. We all need praise for our best efforts. We need constructive criticism too, but it is received best when people perceive it to be well meant. This is done when it is cloaked with the balance of praise.

James Mollison was here at the National Press Club in August 1977. He commented that the Press Club lunch was:
"an appropriate occasion to reflect on the relationship of the Gallery and the Press. From our point of view, this hasn't always been satisfactory. It may be that my view of the role of the Press, and your view of that role, differs so widely that we can't find common ground on which to build an understanding. But I would hope not".

I hope not also, but sometimes I wonder. I have found, as that the great Irishman Kermit the Frog used to say, it is not easy being Green!

Mind you, there are some positive signs. I read today that Australians are soon to enjoy Guinness with a more Irish flavour. It is to be changed, to make it less bitter and less alcoholic, and it will have a creamy head!

Katrina Strickland, Arts Editor of The Australian wrote recently:
"Has the Australian arts scene got so bogged down that it took someone looking in with a fresh eye to state the bleeding obvious? Or is there still an element of cultural cringe at work - do we still hail artists from abroad as somehow better than our local ones, only to condemn them when they don't live up to our lofty expectations. …Put on pedestals as soon as they arrived, their utterances praised to high heavens … subsequently… criticised to high heaven, often with a surprising level of viciousness."

Could I be wrong in concluding that for a story to get into the news media easily, it will involve a high profile personality or institution, and be giving them a hard time? Am I simply naïve to think it could be any other way?

If I say to you that I argued in 1988 for the retention of the Irish Government's splendid system of tax free status for creative artists, and that I am hugely disappointed by the likely effects of GST on creative arts practice in Australia, would you pay attention? I will go further, Australia now intends to tax creative artists unduly just at the moment when they are taking the leap of faith into individual arts practice. Now, is that newsworthy?

My point is simple. It is easy to get a story up in the media if you criticise an institution, especially the Government. So many stories reach the media without checking the agenda of those who wish to negate, criticise, knock, demolish. How often and how well do we check our details? Do we go softer on those who sell the negative than on those who promote the positive?

The National Gallery aspires to excellence and sometimes we succeed, sometimes not. We are fallible. It was Somerset Maugham who said: "Only a mediocre person is always at their best."

But what of the media? Is the media fallible? Is the media beyond critique? We are in such a dependent relationship with the media that we must treat journalists with the utmost care. Just like the Gallery's packing cases for artworks, some journalists seem to wear a T-Shirt emblazoned 'FRAGILE'. But how carefully does the media in its turn treat the artist or the art gallery?

I believe in the essential fair-mindedness of journalism, the preference for truth. I tend not to be a conspiracy theorist.

The media has a difficult job, processing ever increasing amounts of information. The media assists us in promoting our exhibitions. We love their intense interest in us, their willingness to put us on the front page. The Gallery admires and respects the crusading quality in many journalists. We know also that we may be at fault in not articulating our messages adequately.

So let me seize my moment!

The National Gallery has a great collection of works of art. We are I think buying well and have reduced the number of works we acquire from the previous average of 2000 per year. Can you imagine the long-term storage issues arising from acquisitions on this scale? So, we now acquire about 200 annually. These have included major works across the different collections. The most expensive works - those called 'destination works' because people will travel to see them - these get the headlines. But we have been buying more than just these. If you look at our Australian galleries at present, you will see, for example, works by Chinese Australian artists, all acquired in the past few years.

As for exhibitions, our last year has seen a record 370,000 paying visitors at our major temporary exhibitions. This is the highest number ever achieved by the Gallery in a single year. In addition, our general attendance brings the statistic to over 600,000, up from 370,000 last year.

186,000 people saw the Monet to Moore and the beautiful Ballets Russes exhibitions. 103,000 people saw the spectacular Chihuly, Hockney, Stella: Masterworks in Glass, Paint and Print. Finally, I am pleased to say, the most generous loan of the Book of Kells has seen 81,000 people visit the Gallery. These exhibitions have brought millions of dollars into the Canberra economy in spending by overnight visitors. For those of you who saw these major shows, I hope you will agree that they were imaginative, well presented and a credit to our staff. The Book of Kells brought 26% of visitors who had never been in the Gallery before. The public is voting with its feet. We must be doing something right!

During the coming year, we have a range of strong exhibitions. Inside Out: New Chinese Art is a large and thought-provoking show of contemporary art. I would encourage you to see it between now and 13 August. During the Olympics we will have a major show of Aboriginal art Aboriginal Art in Modern Worlds. Then we mark the Centenary of Federation next summer with a show of Australian art. The Federation show will be the first exhibition to be curated by John McDonald as Head of Australian art. In March 2001, we will open the long-awaited Monet and Japan, curated by Professor Virginia Spate with Gary Hickey. This exhibition will show how Monet was not just influenced by Japan but immersed in its culture. We are confident this will be a very beautiful exhibition.

We all know the Gallery building has been problematic. The No.1 management priority in our plan of October 1998 Into the New Millennium says:
"We will: continue to promote with Government the priorities, strategies and activities of the National Gallery of Australia to ensure that the Gallery's building and its collections of works of art are appropriately maintained and developed, in the interests of the people of Australia, for whom we hold them in trust."

The No. 2 management priority states that: "We will:
seek funding for a number of capital projects to improve visitor orientation, access and facilities."
In particular we identified…
"the construction of an appropriate and significant new front entrance to the Gallery."

Some people do not ask us what we are doing before they criticise us for failing to do anything. We have been very busy behind the scenes. We have done a lot despite media criticism. Think what we could do with your positive support encouraging our best efforts and those who support us!

I wish to invite the media to visit the Gallery soon and check out what the building is like behind the scenes. We will arrange a date soon. I think you will find that the Gallery is generally very well managed and looks good enough to impress our foreign art couriers, who also remark on the quality of our staff's professionalism. I cite a letter received only yesterday from the New York courier of the current Chinese art show. She writes:
"Your highly professional and dedicated staff made my installation work in the galleries very gratifying. The great care they took of the work and their insistence on getting things right made the exhibition both sound and stunning."

The Gallery has campaigned consistently for Government support since 1995, to refurbish and enhance the building. It is said that the successful politician is the one who can divide the cake so that everyone thinks they've had a slice of it. We have now a $20million slice of Government money to fund our Gallery enhancement works. We can upgrade our air, water, fire and access services. We can build a new front entrance. I am appalled that it has been impossible for a visitor in a wheelchair to independently access our building. We have been determined to do something about this. We are active in securing funds. Will the media now assist us to get further funding? Will they praise the Government for its efforts and encourage it to do more for the Gallery? The Gallery Council studied plans yesterday for the refurbishment and enhancement works. You will see them soon.

Following a recent selection process, the architects Tonkin Zulaikha have been addressing the refurbishment works that require urgent attention, and designing a new front entrance to the Gallery. We are most excited by the developments. The Gallery building will look different in two years time. It will also work better. Building work is scheduled to begin in July 2001

Free admission to public galleries is a core part of my own philosophy. Therefore it was my first aim as Director. The Minister, Senator Alston, made it a reality when he approved free general admission to the collection in March 1998.

Government approval was also secured to freeing up the Gallery's ability to purchase works of art. I had been amazed to find when I arrived that we had to ask the Minister's permission to buy works of art costing more than $450,000. The first time we asked for the amount requiring Ministerial approval to be raised to $10m, we realised it must have seemed ambitious. But the shoot high strategy worked. Ministerial approval is now only required for works costing more than $10m - which is beyond what we can afford at present anyway.

Private funding is improving the Gallery's position also. The purchase of David Hockney's A Bigger Grand Canyon was supported by gifts of funds from the Gallery Council Chairman, Kerry Stokes, Deputy Chairman, Cameron O'Reilly, and Foundation Chairman, Tony Berg. Mr Philip Bacon supported the purchase of Luca Giordano's The Rape of the Sabines. Dr Peter Farrell has made a substantial donation to the Gallery to support the photography collection. Gordon Darling continues to support the Australian print collection. Dr Orde Poynton, who was honoured this week with the Order of Australia, has been a splendid long-time benefactor of the Gallery. The late Nerissa Johnson left us $6m to purchase works of art. All these people deserve our appreciation.

We need a Foundation fundraising drive to improve the Gallery. If there is any private individual or corporation in need of a high profile sponsorship, look no further than the National Gallery! Although we receive significant public funds, there are many of our activities which survive only with support from our commercial activities, corporate sponsorship and private philanthropy. We took in $3m in sponsorship last year. We raised nearly $4m in merchandising and other commercial activities, and attracted gifts of $5m. This did not just happen. It is the result of hard work. Private individuals and business are giving us more money. Are we doing something right?

We need to attract more gifts of both money and significant works of art. We need the support of the media to achieve this aim. We need acknowledgment of our donors in order to encourage private philanthropy. The Prime Minister's initiative to improve tax benefits for philanthropic giving will work better if the arts media helps us to promote them. This will improve the National Gallery's collection for all of us, now and into the future.

Our main aim, as I said, has been to promote greater access to the collection. We have sent a stream of loans all across Australia. Hundreds of works of art have been conserved, mounted, framed, crated, insured, transported, exhibited, published, promoted. State and regional museums and galleries have responded with enthusiasm, welcoming our open policy.

We need public support to continue with this policy. If you like what we are doing, we need to hear from you. Galleries used to have to put in a request at least a year in advance in order to borrow a work from us. Our staff changed all that and now try as best they can to respond to all requests. In Canberra we have provided exhibitions and loans to many institutions, including the National Portrait Gallery, the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery, Parliament House, and the National Library. The Gallery placed Dale Chihuly's magnificent glass works in Floriade. We are now ever more integrated with the national capital through our involvement with local government, tourism organisations, and private companies.

Around Australia we have established partnerships with many regional museums and galleries. We started with a range of partner galleries, among them Wagga Wagga, Rockhampton, the Gold Coast, Adelaide, Hobart, Launceston and Perth. The program is now expanding. It sees, for example, Newcastle currently hosting Arthur Streeton's famous painting Golden Summer, Eaglemont as well as an exhibition of Henri Matisse's splendid drawings.

Our travelling exhibitions program will see eleven exhibitions on show at over 30 venues across Australia this year, a doubling of the number of shows sent in previous years. Thousands of kilometres are travelled each year transporting art works. All over Australia, the Gallery's presence is being felt through the loan of works of art.

Internationally we are developing our profile - most recently with an Aboriginal art exhibition in Switzerland, Germany and Russia (nearly half a million visitors attended the show in the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg). We have had exhibitions of Australian landscapes in the USA; Chinese art in New Zealand; Arthur Boyd paintings are going to London; Pollock's Blue Poles was in New York and London; and numerous other loans of individual works have gone abroad.

All this activity has seen access to the entire collection of over 100,000 works grow dramatically, whether through the Gallery's permanent displays, the Collection Study Room (where any works can be requested for viewing), or with loans and exhibitions outside Canberra.

Our Internet access is creating great interest too. The Gallery was recently nominated as one of the best Gallery web sites at an international multimedia conference. In the week ending 4 June, 17,000 hours were spent on our site. One third of the visitors were from Australia, one third from America, and one third from elsewhere.

I wish to end by thanking you all for your role in my last three years. It's been stimulating, unceasing and engaging. It's been fun and I have a thicker skin as a consequence. But one thing remains constant. I am indebted for the honour of being Director of such an important institution, with a marvellous, diverse collection and a soon to be improved building.

Before I came to Australia, a friend of mine gave me a postcard of a rather ferocious-looking crocodile. On it was written: 'If you think I can bite, wait until you meet the art critics'. I framed the print and put it behind my desk to remind me of how the critics will always be at my back.

So may I propose a toast. May our critics have long life, good health and the services of a great dentist.

Dr Brian Kennedy Director National Gallery of Australia
14 June 2000



The safety of National Gallery staff, the visiting public and the collection, is of paramount importance to management. The Gallery takes seriously all allegations made against it.

The Gallery rejects allegations made that the collection is at risk from the use of hydrogen peroxide as a coil cleaning agent in its humidifiers. Mr Bruce Ford, a Gallery employee who is on compensation leave and has not worked in the Gallery for several years, has alleged wrongly that hydrogen peroxide is being pumped through the Gallery's air-conditioning system. He is referring to a comment in a report by Comcare which is inaccurate on this point. The Gallery's system is in fact shut down during cleaning and there is no residual hydrogen peroxide left at the end of the cleaning process. The clear scientific advice is that it breaks down rapidly into water and oxygen leaving no harmful bi-products, which is the rationale for its selection. The concentration of hydrogen peroxide in use at the Gallery is only 1%, the same concentration used when the humidifiers are being cleaned at Parliament House in Canberra.

7 June 2000

For further information please contact: Public Affairs - ph: 02 62406431; fax 02 62406561.


new acquisitions

The National Gallery of Australia announces two important acquisitions:

Eugene von Guérard (1811-1901)
Govett's Leap and the Grose River valley, Blue Mountain, NSW 1873
(68.5 x 104cm)

Luca Giordano (1632-1705)
The Rape of the Sabines c.1672-4
(257.2 x 314.6cm, 8'5" x 10'4")

For further information please contact: phone 62406431, fax 62406426

Eugene von Guérard (1811-1901)
Govett's Leap and the Grose River valley, Blue Mountain, NSW 1873
(68.5 x 104cm)

The von Guérard was to be one of the centrepieces of Sotheby's 2/3 May 2000 Australian art auction in Melbourne. The Gallery is grateful to the owners of the work, and Sotheby's, for facilitating the pre-auction sale.

Govett's Leap will hang alongside Von Guerard's North-east view from the northern top of Mount Kosciusko (1863), which has long been one of the Gallery's most popular pictures. Together, the works will show two aspects of the sublime by Australia's leading Romantic landscapist. It was common for Romantic artists and writers to seek "the sublime" in Nature - more particularly in the experience of high peaks, sheer precipices, dizzying ravines and a feeling of boundless space. A key element of the "sublime", was the thrill of terror inspired by such sights, from the deep, shadowy valleys of Govett's Leap to the awesome vistas seen from the top of Kosciusko.

This was the way Govett's Leap struck the novelist, Anthony Trollope who visited the Blue Mountains in 1873, the same year Von Guerard completed this picture. Trollope wrote that the scene had "an awful grandeur", while the thick vegetation on the floor of the valley made him think of an infinite "abyss". Von Guerard was equally familiar with such concepts, which he would have absorbed during his early training in Dusseldorf, where artists were taught to paint spiritually-charged landscapes following in the footsteps of Caspar David Friedrich. Upon visiting Govett's Leap in December 1859, Von Guerard was instantly struck by the "sublime" possibilities of the view, and made numerous sketches. He did not, however, begin work on the canvas until several years later when he approached the subject in his usual meticulous fashion.

]According to Dr. Candice Bruce, one of the leading authorities on Von Guerard, the artist's skill in this work lies "in being able to combine the two (almost exclusive) elements of breadth and detail, simultaneously depicting the panoramic drama of the scene, whilst also filling much of the canvas with microscopic definition."

For the National Gallery of Australia, Govett's Leap fulfils policy objectives of strengthening its holdings in colonial Australian art, and in acquiring premium works by the most historically-significant artists. As one of the few major paintings by Von Guerard that has remained in private hands, it is pleasing that Govett's Leap will now be permanently available to the people of Australia.

Luca Giordano (1632-1705)
The Rape of the Sabines c.1672-4
(257.2 x 314.6cm, 8'5" x 10'4")

Luca Giordano was born in Naples and became the leading Italian decorative painter of the second half of the seventeenth century. His natural talent and ability gave him the nickname of 'Luca fa presto' or 'Luke, paint quickly', from the habit of his father to encourage his son to paint with free execution. Giordano's fame during his lifetime was very great indeed. He worked in Naples, Florence, Venice and for the King of Spain on schemes in Madrid, Toledo and the Escorial. His reputation was revived in this century thanks largely to the monograph of 1966 by Professors Oreste Ferrari and Giuseppe Scavizzi, and by the major exhibition: Painting in Naples 1606-1705, Caravaggio to Giordano, held at the Royal Academy London and the National Gallery, Washington in 1982/3. A series of exhibitions devoted to Giordano will be held in 2001/2 in Los Angeles, Houston, Madrid and Naples which will further emphasise the status of the artist.

Professor Ferrari states that The Rape of the Sabines was painted about 1672-4 and is one of a series of four large works created by Giordano for the Palazzo Vecchia (now Palazzo Romanelli) in Venice. Two of the other paintings The Massacre of the Innocents and Christ's expulsion of the merchants from the temple are in the Church of Sant'Aponal, Venice and the third The Judgment of Solomon was acquired by the Thyssen Museum, Madrid.

These paintings were noted by the writer Charles-Nicolas Cochin in his Voyage d'Italie published in Paris in 1758 as being among the most beautiful and vigorous works of Giordano. The famous Abbot de Saint-Non saw them in 1761 and described them as 'without fear of contradition, the most beautiful works that Giordano painted'. The French artist Fragonard who accompanied Saint-Non made fine drawings of Giordano's Massacre of the Innocents and The Rape of the Sabines (the drawings are now in the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California).

The Rape of the Sabines is a quintessential Baroque work, with complex figure groups, intense dramatic action and powerful lighting effects. It tells the story of how, although powerful, Rome with its small population had a shortage of women. To solve the problem, the Romans invited their neighbours, among them the Sabines, to a great games event. As part of a preconceived plan, the young Roman men attacked their guests and carried away the young women.

The National Gallery of Australia has received strong recommendations in support of the painting by major experts on Giordano, Sir Denis Mahon, Dr Dawson Carr of the Getty Museum, Dr Stephen Pepper, and Professor Oreste Ferrari.

The painting accords with the Gallery's policy of concentrating on premium works of art, representing major individuals and movements in international art, and collecting outstanding works by major artists for permanent display.

Purchased with the assistance of Mr Philip Bacon AM, Council Member of the National Gallery of Australia.The Gallery is deeply appreciative of Mr Bacon's outstanding support for the painting and the current acquisition policy.


Artist talk

2pm Saturday 27 May 2000
Admission Free
James O. Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia

Leading contemporary artist will discuss his work
In conjunction with the forthcoming major exhibition: Inside Out: New Chinese Art

Xu Bing was born in Chongqing, China and currently lives and works in New York City. Internationally renowned, he is represented in Inside Out: New Chinese Art as well as this year's Biennale of Sydney. Xu Bing trained as a printmaker and is best known for his elaborate installations and performance pieces. In his work the artist combines elements of traditional Chinese arts such as woodblock printing and calligraphy in a distinctly contemporary and individual style. His most celebrated work to date is Book from the sky, an exquisitely crafted installation that consists of large hanging scrolls and open books all hand printed with 'pseudo-characters' - signs that look like Chinese pictograms but are without known meaning and cannot be read. Invariably text-based and ambiguous in intent, Xu Bing's work provides cultural and social critique in a manner which is at once curious and elegant. Book from the sky will be on display in the exhibition Inside Out: New Chinese Art at the National Gallery of Australia from 3 June until 13 August 2000.

For information call 02 6240 6589


Arthur Boyd & the Exile of Imagination

Australia House, London 28 June - 30 July 2000

This exhibition of Arthur Boyd's paintings and drawings from the National Gallery of Australia is held in conjunction with Australia Week in London (2-9 July 2000) and is part of Australia's Centenary of Federation celebrations

Australia's pre-eminent artist and patron, Arthur Boyd AC, AO, OBE, Australian of the Year in 1995, died on 24 April 1999. His art was of such sustained quality and popular appeal that during his lifetime Boyd gained a special place within the wider Australian community.

Arthur Boyd belonged to a famously artistic Anglo-Australian family. His paternal grandparents, Emma Minnie Boyd (nee a'Beckett) and Arthur Merric Boyd (after whom he was named), were accomplished exhibiting artists in Melbourne from the l880s, and both exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. Arthur's father, Merric Boyd, was an influential sculptor/potter. Merric had two brothers, Penleigh and Martin - the former was painter and teacher, the latter a novelist.

The personal and professional world of Martin Boyd exemplifies the ties that bind the Boyd family to both England and Australia. Although brought up in Australia, he fought with the British forces during World War I, and in London during the l950s had a successful career as a novelist.A number of Martin Boyd's books such as The Montfords, The Cardboard Crown and A Difficult Young Man took as their theme the complex personal relationships in an upper middle class family of Anglo-Australian heritage. It is the legacy of this continually expatriate family and their perennial travels between England and Australia that forms the historical framework of the exhibition Arthur Boyd and the Exile of Imagination.

Arthur Boyd was Australian by birth, yet spent almost half his life living and working as an artist in England. He first moved to Hampstead with his young family in l959. He built a substantial exhibiting record in the UK which began in 1962, in typical style, with a retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery, London.

In many ways Boyd needed England in order to see Australia. The works in Arthur Boyd and the Exile of Imagination were instigated by a journey between England and Australia during l971/72 and are testament to both the possibilities and the personal costs of purposefully looking at oneself (or one's country) from the outside. Most of the works on display were made in England, for an English audience, and were first exhibited at Fischer Fine Art in London.

The sometimes confronting images draw heavily on a European iconography - Manet, Rembrandt and Mantegna - yet are set in the landscape around Canberra and are about the wrenching call of the Australian landscape.

Arthur Boyd and the Exile of Imagination is about a journey. For Boyd this journey was most often by sea between Australia and England - each country filled a different artistic need and each allowed the artist the space to look at the other. This is a 'relationship' shared by other notable Australian expatriates including Barry Humphries and Germaine Greer. Boyd's imagery is not always pretty or comfortable; it is ethical, original and sometimes cruelly beautiful.

For further information:
Public Affairs
National Gallery of Australia.
Telephone 61 2 6240 6431
Facsimile 61 2 6240 6561


Eye spy with my little eye!

National Gallery of Australia, 15 April- 30 July 2000

Humphrey B Bear will open an exhibition for children Eye Spy with My Little Eye in the presence of preschool students.

National Gallery of Australia Children's Gallery
Friday 14 April 2000

Eye Spy with My Little Eye is an exhibition that challenges children to seek out the wonders contained in works of art. Countless items displayed in a visual menagerie to be explored by children as they uncover the secrets suggested by the clues.

A unique system of showcases built into and rising from the floor of the NGA Children's Gallery will offer children a new perspective from which to view works of art. Selected from across the many areas of the National Collection the exhibition will include works by Arthur Boyd, Peter Booth and Peter Tully and will range from Pre Colombian figures to a concertina book by Fiona Hall or a wooden postcard by Joseph Beuys.

The exhibition is designed for children of all ages. It can be played alone or by a group using the clues provided or by inventing clues of their own. Teachers and parents can use the exhibition to reinforce aspects of their children's education by drawing their attention to aspects of history, of cultural diversity and refer to the diverse range of medium used to create works of art.

For further information please contact:
Mark Van Veen, Project Officer, Education and Public Programs telephone 6240 6524, fax 6240 6560, or Public Affairs, telephone 6240 6431, fax 6240 6561 or email


Keeping culture
Aboriginal Art to Keeping Places & Cultural Centres

Keeping Culture heralds a new era in the National Gallery of Australia's Travelling Exhibition Program, linking an integrated Aboriginal Curatorial Mentorship Program with a travelling exhibition. The National Gallery of Australia is working closely with nominated art workers amongst the Ngarrindjeri people of Coorong/Murray River region in South Australia, the Aboriginal people of Tasmania and the Yuin/Monaro people of south coast New South Wales.

These people share a common history and contemporary profile having experienced vast changes with the impact of white settlement and are committed to be involved in continuing projects to explore and maintain their culture. The works in the exhibition originate from various parts of Aboriginal Australia including the communities to which the exhibition will travel. The works include coloured glass coolamons, eel trap, sister basket, engraved emu eggs, boomerangs, wooden tools, bull-kelp water carrier, maireener shell necklaces, poker work panels and coolamon. All the works in the exhibition are drawn from the National Gallery of Australia's Collection.

The Aboriginal Curators will be actively involved in the development of the exhibition and will contribute to education, promotion and training both at the National Gallery of Australia and in each community. Knowledge and skills are passed on into the communities and the keeping places to which the exhibition travels. This has been made possible with the generous assistance of The Thomas Foundation.

Keeping Culture: Aboriginal Art to Keeping Places and Cultural Centres will be on view at the National Gallery of Australia from Saturday, 25 March until Sunday, 9 July 2000 in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Gallery. The exhibition will travel to ten venues in South Australia, Tasmania and South Coast New South Wales from September this year.

In the spirit of reconciliation, Keeping Culture: An exhibition of Aboriginal Art Travelling to Keeping Places and Cultural Centres 2000-2001 celebrates the richness and regional diversity of the art and craft practices of Aboriginal people.

Touring: South Australia, Tasmania and South Coast New South Wales Commences September 2000 until September 2001
Inquiries: Susan Jenkins, Assistant Curator - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, National Gallery of Australia Tel: (02)6240 6478 Email: Belinda Cotton, Project Coordinator, National Gallery of Australia Travelling Exhibitions Tel: (02)6240 6556 Email:


National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, ACT, 25 March 2000 - 9 July 2000

Camp Coorong: Race Relations, Cultural Education & Recreation Centre, Meningie, SA, 15 September - 13 October 2000

Winmante Arts Incorporated, Glossop, SA, 20 October - 17 November 2000

Fountain Gallery & Country Arts SA, Port Augusta, SA, 27 November - 22 December 2000

Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery Inc., Port Pirie, SA, 13 January - 4 February 2001

Signal Point - River Murray Interpretive Centre, Goolwa, SA, 9 February - 18 March 2001

Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation Woman's Arts and Crafts, Launceston, TAS, 30 March - 20 April 2001

Women's Karadi Aboriginal Corporation, Forestry Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, 30 April - 25 May 2001

Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council and Keeping Place, Eden, NSW, 8 June - 6 July 2001

Umbarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Tours, Wallaga Lake, NSW, 14 July - 19 August 2001

South Coast Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Nowra, NSW, 25 August 2001 - 7 September 2001


Inside Out: new Chinese art announcement

"Without doubt, Inside Out is the most comprehensive exhibition of contemporary Chinese art ever to have been mounted"

Inside Out: New Chinese Art
2 June - 13 August 2000

Inside Out: New Chinese Art is the first major international exhibition of contemporary Chinese art to explore the vitality and dynamic changes in Chinese culture in the late 20th century. The artists in this exhibition have been working in a period when the deeply-rooted cultural assumptions and centuries-old visual traditions are under enormous pressure from rapid modernisation, changing political realities and conflicting global, ethnic and local identities.

The exhibition explores the many ways in which the challenges of recent social, economic and cultural changes have confronted artists in mainland China and the Chinese diaspora - Hong Kong, Taiwan, and those who have emigrated to the West since the late 1980s. Inside Out presents an astonishing body of art - confronting, clever, mysterious, elegant and always thought-provoking - across the widest range of artistic media.

Consisting of nearly 90 works created in the years 1985-1998, Inside Out includes painting, sculpture, photographs, installations, videos and prints by some of the world's leading contemporary artists. The show explores many major themes including the artist's response to the globalisation and the commercialism of contemporary society; the use or rejection of cultural heritage and artistic traditions; and the relationship of the individual to society against the underlying quest for artistic identity, both in China and abroad.

Co-curated by the Asia Society in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art, the exhibition was first shown in late 1998 simultaneously at the Asia Society and P.S.I. Contemporary Art Center in New York. Vishakha Desai, Director of the Asia Society Galleries in New York remarked, "These works have been selected to show the explosion of creativity among these artists in the past dozen years or so, and to convey a sense of dynamism in their work - we also hope to break down barriers between audiences of Asian and Western art - this art is Asian but it is also contemporary in an international context."

Huge installations include Xu Bing's famous Book from the Sky, with its elegant play on Chinese literary traditions in the form of nonsensical printed calligraphy. Similar themes inform Gu Wenda's ethereal enclosure, Temple of Heaven (China Monument), constructed of traditional furniture, videos and screens of human hair which also challenged conventional Chinese respect for learning. Both artists will be in Canberra for the opening of the exhibition.

Photography - still and video - is the preferred media of many works in Inside Out. Zhang Huan's To Raise the Water Level in a Fish Pond plays visual and political games with a host of naked villagers against the luminous blue surface of the pond. Other works allude to traditional Chinese art forms: in Zoon, Huang Chih-yang's grotesque figures appear in ink on hanging paper scrolls, while The Dream of China by Wang Jin creates a shimmering dragon robe from polyvinyl chloride and fishing line.

Pop remains a favourite style with Wang Guangyi's Great Castigation Series targeting the global domination of Coca Cola. Zhang Xiaogang's startling Bloodline: Family Portrait shows a blank-faced Mao-badged couple and child, figuratively and literally linked by lines of blood.

As critics of the show have pointed out "These artists have the courage to say things are changing - how am I going to deal with this?"…"This exhibition offers a promise of insight into the psyche of the awakening giant of modern China." An extensive program of performances, artists' talks, lectures and films will accompany the exhibition.

For further information and transparencies, please contact Public Affairs, telephone (02) 6240 6431 or fax 6240 6561.


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