The Art Collections of the National Gallery


Ramingining Artists, The Aboriginal Memorial, 1987-88

The National Gallery of Australia may seem intimidating with its high ceilings and cool stone floors, but it is actually host to a number of impressive art collections. The National Gallery is open daily from 10am to 5pm (closed on public holidays), and all its permanent exhibitions are free which, let’s be honest, is a priority when it comes to options on many of our To-Do Lists.

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Collection

If you’re a fan of Indigenous art then this is definitely a must-see for you. These galleries feature some beautifully intricate and vivid depictions of Aboriginal art from all regions of Australia, and display the amazing stories of the Dreamtime as well as the land and people’s relationships with it.  In particular the ‘Urban’ section of the galleries contains fantastic examples of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.  The effort put into all the pieces is palpable so go in expecting to be impressed. There’s also a pretty cool surfboard in the collection, which makes you think about how the modern Australian life has both influenced, and been influenced by Indigenous Australians.

European & American Art Collection

Divided up by movement, this collection boasts some impressive artists that you’ll definitely have heard of – the type of artists people name drop when they want to sound cultured. In the these sections of the galleries, you’ll finally be able to fulfil that lifelong dream of taking a selfie with Monet’s ‘Haystacks, midday’ and pose with the King of Pop himself, portrayed in Andy Warhol’s screen-printed ‘Elvis’. The collection also contains works by Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein and Francis Bacon. The ‘Surrealism’ section is particularly interesting due to the hat rack hanging from the ceiling, just minding its own business.

Australian Art Collection

Ever wake up and think, ‘Damn, I desperately want to see some deserts’, but don’t want to drive hours to do so? Never fear, because the Australian Art collection at the NGA has you covered. Depictions of the desert and the outback bring back memories of long and usually unappreciated road trips as a child and the collection’s classic Australian-ness is seen perhaps most prominently through the Ned Kelly series by Sidney Nolan, a nostalgic reminder of so many primary school art lessons. Ned Kelly, the bushranger, is probably most famous for wearing an upturned bucket on his head and being portrayed by Heath Ledger in a film once.

Pacific Arts Collection

With big eyed faces that would make Tim Burton weep with joy, the Pacific Arts Collections contains art from the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji and Tahiti. From the stoic face stone sculptures to ghoul-like pendants from New Zealand, the art in this collection provides all the facial expressions one could want. Bring a mirror and try to duplicate them with your own face. Alternatively, just attempt to appreciate the effort put into making such a variety of detailed art, and the cultures behind each individual artwork.

The National Gallery also hosts some amazing temporary exhibitions. Currently they are showing ‘James Turrell: A Retrospective’ (which ends 8th of June – read our review on page 7, edition 2) and ‘Impressions of Paris’ featuring Lautrec, Degas and Daumier (ending 15th of March). To go to the National Gallery, catch the number 1 bus which stops at Rimmer Street (near the Lena Karmel unilodge) or spend thirty to forty five minutes walking there. Your friends will try to convince you it’s a nice short walk, but I recommend the bus.

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