The National Gallery of Australia, completely revamped in 2016-17, contains a very varied collection of work ranging from art, as in pictures, to fabric, jewellery, sculpture, etc. Its collection is divided into a number of geographic collections:
Aboriginal Art Collection
In 2010 the National Gallery building was extended and a new wing – basically devoted to Aboriginal art (but including a new entrance and foyer, Gallery shop and a new function and event space) was added. While formerly the Gallery’s Aboriginal display offering was limited and not that interesting it now offers a much larger range in beautiful bright and spacious surroundings. The most stunning, evocative and perhaps controversial piece is the Aboriginal Memorial which can be entered directly from the main (new) reception area (see below). The Gallery’s collection of Aboriginal art (not all on display) consists of about 7500 pieces and includes bark paintings, western style paintings (eg Albert Namatjira), more traditional “dot” style paintings, textiles, weavings, prints, drawings, photography, headdresses and sculpture.
Australian Art Collection
This collection covers the early colonial period to the present day with art of all styles from impressionism, symbolism, expressionism realism, surrealism and modern art covered.
Sculptures (in a large part religious), textiles, paintings, prints and manuscripts are displayed in three main spaces dedicated to Art of the Indian subcontinent, Art of Southeast Asia and Art of East Asia.
European and American Art Collection
All major styles are covered in three galleries with a number of very famous artists such as Monet, Picasso, Cézanne, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Warhol represented.
Pacific Arts Collection
A very worthy collection of Polynesian and Melanesian art from Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands in between.
Based on what I like (and this is off course a personal recommendation) you should not miss the following items:
Jackson Pollock – Blue Poles (or to use the artist’s title – No 11) is an abstract expressionist painting and one of the most famous works by American artist Jackson Pollock. It was purchased amid controversy (over its cost at $1.3m) by the National Gallery in 1973
Sidney Nolan – Ned Kelly Series – a series of paintings on the life of famous Australian Bushranger (outlaw) Ned Kelly
Monet – Waterlilies and Haystacks at Noon – paintings which most probably need no introduction
Aboriginal Memorial – The Memorial consists of 200 hollow log coffins from central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory with each pole representing a year of European occupation. Together they stand as a memorial to all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who lost their lives during the colonial occupation in Australia from 1788 to 1988. Created 1987-88. The path through the installation represents the Glyde River in central Arnhem Land.
I will refrain (though hard it is to do) from commenting on a number of modern art pieces in the Gallery (including an approximately 2m by 2m plain white canvas) on the basis that art can be a very personal thing. But really ………. I stop!
The gallery hosts excellent world class touring exhibitions – check out what’s on when you visit. Alas these are not free!
The Gallery also hosts talks and films on a regular basis – many of these have no admission charge – check out the website for details.
Shop – The Gallery has a large and well stocked gift shop. Lots of interesting things in here including posters.
Catering – The Gallery has a cafe and an outdoor (weather permitting) coffee shop. While the food and coffee are both of good quality, prices are unreasonably high.
Opening hours – Daily 10am – 5pm (closed Christmas day)
Admission fee : Free (but special exhibitions incur a charge)
Address: Parkes Place, Parkes Canberra, ACT 2600
Directions: In the Parliamentary Triangle on the south side of Lake Burley Griffin.
Phone: (02) 6240 6411