August 11th marked an important day in AGWA history, as the Gallery celebrated the reopening of its Historical Collection; part of the permanent AGWA Collection displays which spans across many time periods in Australian and international art.
Moving from the Centenary Galleries, the historical collection is now located upstairs alongside AGWA Six Seasons, Screen Space and the contemporary craft and design in AGWA Design.
The reopening of AGWA Historical offers an exciting opportunity to revisit the Gallery’s permanent collection and experience the works in a new and refreshing way.
“There is a lot of architecture in the Centenary Galleries which impacted on the display,” said Melissa Harpley, Curator of Historical and Modern Art.
Moving the historical works into the main gallery space has taken that visual interference out so that you can see the works differently. As a curator, it enabled me to make some interesting groupings and provided more flexibility in the placement of works than was possible in the Centenary Galleries.
Unlike the Centenary Galleries, which is mostly comprised of long-established square rooms, the central gallery space is designed in a triangular shape, which enhances the viewing of the collection.
“What is so fantastic about this building is the fact that it doesn’t have right angles,” she said.
“It allows those visual connections which are important for art. You can stand in some spaces of the gallery and see a 1860s landscape, but you might also see a Heidelberg landscape and a Hans Heysen from 1914. You couldn’t do that in the Centenary Galleries.”
The AGWA Historical will undergo two separate iterations. The first hang coincided with another important historical exhibition, Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series which opened the same day.
There’s one point where Ned Kelly and Historical share a wall, and we’ve managed to design the show, so the Ned Kelly work sits next to the Hans Heysen. I think there’s a nice connection between not only the approach to the Australian landscape but even down to the two men on horses echoed in both paintings.
The second iteration of AGWA Historical is scheduled for November and Melissa said she is excited about the upcoming curatorial possibilities and encourages the public to attend both reprises of the collection.
“Looking at the works in the historical collection, particularly the ones with figures, humans haven’t changed. The works from the past are still very much a meditation or commentary on what it means to be human and what it means to be in the world,” says Melissa.
“I think people will connect with that because it’s as relevant now as it was then.”
Glimpse into the collection
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