DETAIL: Toots ZYNSKY 'Pennellata' 2004, 'Filet de Verre' fused and thermoformed colour glass threads

The language of craft

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
11 November 2005 – 29 January 2006

The development of the National Gallery of Australia’s decorative arts and design collection took place during the burgeoning craft revival that occurred in Australia from the mid 1960s, and in its scope and depth reflects the diversity of practice that has since flourished.  A significant proportion of the works included in Transformations have been recently acquired by the National Gallery of Australia and are a tangible expression of the Gallery’s continuing commitment to the acquisition and exhibition of contemporary craft, not only within the broad historical framework of Australian and international decorative arts and design, but also within the whole spectrum of art practice.

While the integration of decorative arts and design with other artforms is central to the Gallery’s collection and display policy, this exhibition – which focuses on contemporary Australian and international studio craft – is the first of its kind in the Gallery’s history. As a part of the Gallery’s strategy to show Australian achievement in an international context, Transformations offers visitors the opportunity to engage with a diverse and challenging selection of works. Reflecting the Gallery’s international scope, it includes the work of some of the world’s most accomplished artists working in the fields of ceramics, glass, textiles, furniture, jewellery and metalwork. While many of the international artists’ works are seen for the first time in Australia in  this exhibition, a number of these artists have previous connections with this country and their participation provides us with a chance  to reconnect with them through their recent work.

This project was proposed and developed by Robert Bell, Senior Curator, Decorative Arts and Design, over a period of three years. Drawing from his long experience with crafts and extensive knowledge of its history and practices, he has worked closely with all of the eighty-five artists whose work he selected for inclusion in the exhibition. His close involvement with their work and receptivity to their ideas has formed the important bond of trust that makes such an ambitious project possible. We are delighted that every invitation to participate was accepted, and thank the artists and their agents for their confidence in the project and their willingness to commit their work and send it long distances to become part of the exhibition. A number of works that have been recently acquired by the Gallery are being shown for the first time in the context of this exhibition, demonstrating the Gallery’s commitment to building a strong context and critical framework for the works that form its decorative arts and design collection.

To achieve an exhibition of such size and complexity, and this publication that documents it, Robert Bell has worked closely with the Gallery’s experienced teams of professionals, whose expertise and enthusiasm take all of our projects from idea to reality. The creativity and professionalism that they have exercised in bringing Transformations to fruition honours that of the work they have helped  to put on display and document in this publication.

We are grateful to our sponsors, Qantas Freight and Channel Seven, for their enthusiastic support of this project. Their contribution to the international movement of works and to the promotion of the exhibition has ensured that the ambitious scope of Transformations could be achieved. The use of funds from the Rudy and Ruth Komon Bequest allowed the project to move forward as a major exhibition in our 2005 program, and honours the role of the Komons in developing the challenging exhibitions that brought Australian and international art together in the 1960s. We thank The Thomas Foundation for its generous support of this publication, which adds to the discourse on contemporary craft through insightful commentary on the work of all  of the artists and extensive notes on their practices.

The international dialogue that energises Australia’s capital city, Canberra, is given a different inflection through the unspoken language of craft that we encounter through the works in Transformations. Each of them encapsulates ideas that link us to  realities beyond our horizon.

Ron Radford AM
Director, National Gallery of Australia

TOP DETAIL: Toots ZYNSKY 'Pennellata' 2004, 'Filet de Verre' fused and thermoformed colour glass threads

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