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Patti Adler reunited with Jackson Pollock’s famous painting Blue poles
Blue poles arrives at the NGA's Fyshwick store in 1975.


CANBERRA.- This week, Patti Adler was reunited with Jackson Pollock’s famous painting Blue poles 1952 for the first time in over 40 years. The painting, which once hung on the walls of Patti Adler’s childhood home, has moved to a new position in the newly refurbished International Galleries at the National Gallery of Australia.

Patti’s father, Ben Heller, a New York based art collector, was an early admirer of Pollock’s work and later befriended the artist. Heller sold the now iconic painting to the NGA in 1973. Under the leadership of inaugural NGA Director James Mollison, then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam approved the purchase of the work, amidst unprecedented protest from the press. Newspaper headlines referred to the work as ‘dribs and drabs’ painted by a ‘barefoot drunk’. Blue poles is now one of the most famous and popular works in Australia – visited by millions since it went on display in 1982 – and is generally regarded as one of the greatest American paintings of the 20th century.

‘I can well remember the day that my family all gathered together in our living room to say goodbye to Blue poles,’ said Patti Adler. ‘The Seven Santini Brothers took the canvas off of its stretcher and boxed it, then removed the entire wall from our 10th floor apartment and, using a set of pulleys and ropes, hoisted the huge box out of the window and down onto the street below, to their waiting van. It was sad for us all to say goodbye to something that had become a part of us all. I have not seen the painting since that day.’

‘The story of Blue poles and how it came to be a cornerstone work in our national collection is fascinating. To hear Patti’s recollections of growing up with the painting in her home reminds us of the important history of this painting and how it is now a part of Australian folklore.’ said Director Gerard Vaughan.

Blue poles is moving as a part of major changes to the NGA, announced in August. The biggest change to the permanent collection will be the flipping of the basic layout, which has survived since the NGA opened in 1982. Australian art will come down to the main floor and international art is to move upstairs.

The NGA also announced Blue poles will travel to London, as an important inclusion in Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy in September 2016. The painting has not left the country since 1998 where it was a part of the Jackson Pollock retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

‘It is never an easy decision to lend art that is considered a favourite or highlight but it is important that the world experiences the incredible works in the NGA’s collection, owned by all Australians,’ said Gerard Vaughan. 'Institutions and collectors from around the world regularly support our major exhibitions through generous loans. This is an opportunity for Australia to share with a huge global audience in London one of our greatest treasures.'






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