On Saturday 19 January 2013, the Art Gallery of South Australia
opened the doors of the newly revitalised Melrose Wing of European Art, following a twelve month gallery refurbishment and re-display of the collection.
An opportunity to show works which have not been presented for a number of years, the exciting and dynamic new display will allow visitors to see a greater number of major works, several new acquisitions and many collection favourites, including J.M. Waterhouses Circe Invidiosa 1892.
During the planning process, Art Gallery of South Australia, Director Nick Mitzevich steered curatorial staff beyond the traditional chronological system of display, seeking instead to hang the collection in a manner that reflects the contemporary approach of appraising and experiencing works of art across time and place.
Boundaries of geography and time have been collapsed to inspire a new way of looking at the rich diversity of the Gallerys collections. Objects from different periods and cultures are juxtaposed to reveal how art links the past to the present.
We wanted to find a way to celebrate the diversity and unique quality of the Art Gallerys superb European collection, while encouraging and compelling audiences to look and think about how art is meaningful to our lives, Mitzevich said.
Drawn from the Gallerys extensive collections that encompass paintings, drawings, ceramics, sculpture, the decorative arts and antiquities and covering 2,000 years of art-making, each room in the refurbished wing embodies a distinctive thematic idea which relates to the world in which we live.
In Gallery 13, the Gallery devoted to the theme of the human condition, contemporary Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere extends the European tradition of representing suffering in her confronting, monumental sculpture We are all flesh 2011-12. In this work two equine forms are entwined and suspended high in the centre of the room. Here, the body expresses and compels a range of emotions from feelings of alienation, love, loss and introspection just as August Rodins The inner voice c. 1894, which sits side by side, does.
The journey through the European collection also includes a group of works that explore how our preoccupation with mortality defines and structures our life. The Thomas Tompion Bracket clock c.1678 marks time, just as works representing the seasons and memento mori traditions. From a Hellenistic Etruscan (Chiusi) cinerary urn lid 2nd century BC to Wim Delvoyes tattooed pig skin Untitled (Robert) 2004, the boundaries between life and death and art and life are explored.
While the Art Gallery is committed to innovation the new Melrose Wing is also sumptuously traditional. Many aspects of the new displays represent a return to the past. This is evident in the gold frames, the impressive architecture of the building and the authored salon style displays that were popular in the 19th century. Mitzevich explains, The gallery boasts impressive 19th century neo-classical architecture that the re-hang aims to celebrate in a more contemporary style. The furniture and objects are displayed on, and in, new custom made cases which imbue 19th century forms with a 21st century sensibility.