National Gallery of Victoria – Australian Collections (Part VI)

Saturday, 14 January 2012

… continued from the previous entry …

National Gallery of Victoria – Australian Collections (Part VI) 

It is with a sense of elation that I saw a display of post-1960s Australian art from the gallery’s permanent collection in the northern wing of the top floor spaces. A giant Robert Klippel statue greets the visitor at the entrance. Alun Lean-Jones’s Noumenon of the 1970s gives a foretaste of things to come. The display in the first gallery includes a giant You Beaut by John Olsen from 1962; a shaped canvas by Tony McGillick; a vast Brett Whiteley nude; an industrial Jan Senbergs; and Richard Larter’s iconic paintings of his wife, Pat. Placing a set of giant Gawirrin Gumana’s totem poles in the next room in the centre of Fred Williams’ Pilbara landscapes of 1981 is an inspired touch, as is Nick Mangan’s In the Crux of the Matter against Peter Booth’s post-apocalyptic nuclear Winter of 1993. Paintings and installations by Rosalie Gascoigne, Louise Weaver, Howard Arkley, Rosslynd Piggott, Tim Maguire, and others complete this section. In the adjoining gallery, under the banner of 10 Ways to Look at the Past, there’s a limited display of contemporary artists, consisting of works by Tom Nicholson, Tracey Moffatt, Peter Kennedy, David Noonan, Brooke Andrew, Ricky Swallow, and a few others.

As I sat down at the NGV’s Crossbar Café for a bite of smoked salmon sandwich and a sip of coffee, I caught myself thinking that the display of permanent holdings of Australian art from the 1780s to roughly 1960s has always been consistent and well-represented. The display of Modern and Contemporary Australian art post 1960s has appeared at times as an afterthought. For example, when the entire collection was housed in the St Kilda Road building, the display of Australian collections inexplicably stopped with the art from the 1960s; only three pictures by Booth, Tuckson, and Watson near the exit summed up the history of contemporary art from the 1960s to the present day.

When the collection was split in two, and Australian holdings were relocated into the Fed Square building, there was a general expectation that Modern and Contemporary art would be given a more considerate treatment. Certainly, the opening exhibition redressed this problem, as, from memory, it provided a detailed examination of Australian art post 1960s in all its stylistic complexities and diversity of various media. It also showed the immense holdings of contemporary Australian art within the NGV’s collections, no doubt due to generous bequests that are specifically targeted towards the acquisition of contemporary art; the Gallery’s own buoyant collection policy in this area; numerous gifts of contemporary Australian art, which are generously donated to its collection with the encouragement from the Commonwealth Government’s Cultural Gifts Program in exchange for tax concessions; and last but not least the presence of a number of high-profile art collectors on the NGV’s various boards and committees…

the be continued…

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012. Where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]

2 Responses to “National Gallery of Victoria – Australian Collections (Part VI)”

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Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

January 2012


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