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New Permanent Galleries and Display Spaces at the National Gallery of Australia
Sidney Nolan, Constable Fitzpatrick and Kate Kelly 1946, enamel on composition board, 90.7 x 121.2 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Gift of Sunday Reed 1977.

CANBERRA.- The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for the Arts today officially opens a suite of new permanent display spaces and galleries at the National Gallery of Australia dedicated to the display of works from the national art collection and bringing to completion the Stage One renovations and improvements to the original 1970s building.

“It gives me great pleasure to open these new exhibition spaces, the culmination of a four year refurbishment program of the interior of the National Gallery of Australia. These exhibition spaces promise a whole new and exciting visitor experience at the National Gallery, bringing to light some of the formerly hidden treasures in the national collection.

"These new galleries and display spaces are an exciting addition to the National Gallery of Australia, showcasing not only the stunning Ned Kelly paintings and Polynesian and Melanesian galleries, but also giving Australians and international visitors alike the opportunity to see a range of photographic, jewellery and costume exhibitions drawn from the national collection,” Mr Garrett said.

The completion of this renewal process brings to fruition Director Ron Radford’s goals for the revitalisation of the interiors and facilities of the National Gallery of Australia as outlined in his Vision Statement in October 2005. The development increases the display space from 1,000 works of art to around 1,400 works of art in the existing building.

The new spaces located off the main foyer of the National Gallery of Australia, where the book shop once was, include a specially designed gallery for Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series, the Gallery’s most popular Australian work. Other new spaces include showcases for decorative arts, a small gallery for Melanesian art, the first permanent space for the display of photography and the first permanent gallery in Australia dedicated to Polynesian art. Their positioning on the main level gives these collections a greater prominence, as they are now more visible and accessible to visitors when they enter the Gallery.

“This is a significant achievement for the National Gallery of Australia. All visitors will be able to view Sidney Nolan’s iconic Ned Kelly series, one of the greatest sequences of Australian painting of the 20th century, in a new, purpose-built oval gallery in a highly visible and accessible location,” said Ron Radford AM, Director of the National Gallery of Australia.

The National Gallery of Australia owns the Ned Kelly series produced by Sidney Nolan between 1946–47, easily one of the most loved and recognised series of works in the national collection.

“The Gallery is also breaking new ground in dedicating the first gallery in Australia exclusively to the art of Polynesia, and another to the art of Melanesia,” said Ron Radford.

The first Polynesian exhibition in this small new space will move beyond considering Polynesian art as purely anthropological objects to showcasing them in the context of world art. The Melanesian gallery upstairs will showcase such treasures as the enigmatic Ambum stone, dating back to 1500 BCE, and one of the oldest works in the national art collection.

The new showcases dedicated to decorative arts will highlight aspects of the Gallery’s extensive collection of late 19th and 20th-century fashion and textiles by some of the field’s leading designers. The first display focuses on the work of three of the most influential figures in fashion in the late 20th century: Japanese designers Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo. It will be complemented by a rotating display drawn from the National Gallery of Australia’s extensive Australian and international jewellery collection.

The opening of these new galleries and display spaces on the main level concludes a more than four-year refurbishment program of the building’s internal spaces and facilities. Achievements include the re-establishment of the National Australia Bank Sculpture Gallery; elaborate collection displays in new, separate galleries for Indian, Southeast Asian and East Asian art; a total reorganisation of the international art displays including a new gallery for contemporary International Art; new room configuration and wall colours for Australian art; and a new under-croft area to improve art-handling, framing and storage facilities.

The refurbishment of the building has also delivered important service improvements such as an upgraded security system, upgraded air-conditioning, new lighting systems, roof repairs, upgraded access and safety facilities and extensive outside cleaning of the building.

The revitalisation of the National Gallery of Australia continues with the construction of the new Stage One building due to open next year. The new building will feature a ground level entry, ten Australian Indigenous art galleries, a new Gallery Shop and a 320-seat function hall overlooking James Turrell’s monumental Skyspace sculpture.

National Gallery of Australia | Peter Garrett | Ron Radford |

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