12/10/2015 - 16:10

Gallery’s spicy treasure trove

12/10/2015 - 16:10

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A celebration of WA’s historical connection with trading ships dating back more than 500 years will be on display this spring and summer.

Gallery’s spicy treasure trove
TREASURE: Stefano Carboni (left) and John Day unveil ‘Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices’. Photo: Courtney McAllister

A celebration of WA’s historical connection with trading ships dating back more than 500 years will be on display this spring and summer.

An art exhibition five years in the making that showcases one of the most expensive collections to appear at the Art Gallery of WA opened last week to critical acclaim.

‘Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices’ features more than 260 items from Europe and Asia created between the 1500s and 1800s such as paintings, porcelain, fashions, coins, carvings and maps, including some rescued from shipwrecks such as the Batavia, which sunk near the Abrolhos Islands in 1629.

Art Gallery of WA director Stefano Carboni told Business News he was confident visitor numbers to the exhibition would significantly boost the gallery’s 400,000 annual figure.

Culture and Arts Minister John Day said the exhibition was one of several drawcards to the Perth Cultural Centre over the next few months, including the AWESOME festival during the school holidays, interactive exhibits at the State Library and State Theatre Centre of WA, and concerts to be held at the ARTBAR within the art gallery.

In addition to unique art pieces on display at the Treasure Ships exhibit, such as first editions of Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels, the foundation that runs the replica tall ship Duyfken (the first-known European ship to visit Australia) is hoping to capitalise on trading ship interest over summer when it moors at Elizabeth Quay.

Dr Carboni said the Art Gallery of WA had worked in conjunction with the gallery in South Australia to bring the exhibit to Perth because he believed there would be significant local interest, given WA’s history of shipwrecks along its coast.

“This is going to be one of the sleepers, as we call them, in terms of capturing the imagination of people, especially people who will come more than once, because there is so much here,” he said.

European aristocrats had an insatiable desire for spices such as pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon from India and Asia, and Dr Carboni said the period between the 1500s and early 1800s was marked by overseas voyages that opened up cultural, spiritual and artistic exchanges as well as economic ones.

“This exhibition reminds us that the cut and thrust of international trade is really nothing new ... this brings diamonds to the arts, sparkling, really amazing cross-cultural interchange and innovation,” he said.

“This is about showing a moment in time when things changed dramatically.”

During his visit to the Art Gallery last week, Mr Day also announced the nearby WA Museum was set to open ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ exhibit from February next year.

The exhibition will be one of the last before the building is closed for four years to make way for the new $428 million facility due to open in 2020.

On loan from the British Museum, the exhibition has items ranging from 2,000,000-9,000BCE, including a mummy, to present day items, including a throne made of weapons.


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