Wednesday, January 31, 2007

National Art Gallery

We took a tour of Australian paintings in the National Gallery, Canberra. The guide was called Kay and we were the only two on it, we were lucky, everyone else was queueing up for the Egyptian Exhibition from the Louvre. I began to appreciate Sidney Nolan's work. His Ned Kelly series is amazing. I'm still trying to sort it out in my head. As well as telling the tale of Ned Kelly - and embroidering upon it - he is, I think, concerned to put Australian art and folklore on the world artistic stage. His series is reminiscent of earlier tales such as Hogarth's series Rakes Progress. I don't think it is too fanciful to spot nods to other great artists, Picasso's fingers, Manet's Maximilian, Mondrian, Aborigine art, they and more are all there for me. I loved it.

To recoup our senses after our exhilarating introduction to Australian art we strolled in the fabulously serene sculpture garden by the lake.

We were struck by the very small section of Indigenous art. One small room with an installation of 200 poles to mark the bi-centenary of the nation and 4 or 5 pictures on the wall. Granted Aboriginal 'art' in the western sense is a relatively new phenomena but the National Art Gallery collection is much smaller than Melbourne's and this should really be addressed somehow or other. But its the old story I guess - money, power, influence. In art it is neatly rolled up into that quaint term 'patronage'. The National Gallery is expanding its Asian collection, mindful no doubt of its influential neighbours, after all there is much more money sloshing around in Asian art than Aboriginal works. Its a shame to sideline something so special.

National obviously does not mean National in the Australian art world ....

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