Nick Mitzevich (left) and Stefano Carboni say Nolan’s exhibition has been a popular permanent feature in Canberra. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Ned Kelly provides opportunity for AGWA

Friday, 10 August, 2018 - 15:03

The Art Gallery of WA has welcomed an exhibition of works by Sidney Nolan in partnership with the National Gallery of Australia, providing an opportunity to showcase an existing historical collection of art.

Painted from 1946-47, the 26 artworks depict the story of outlaw Ned Kelly, using a stark and simplified style.

The travelling exhibition marks a rare outing for the works, which have held a permanent display at the national gallery for many years.

“This is very generous on the part of the national gallery to allow the entire series to travel,” AGWA director Stefano Carboni told Business News.

“This is one of the most iconic and beloved groups of paintings that people specifically go to the national gallery to see.”

Mr Carboni said the exhibition provided an opportunity for AGWA to introduce visitors to existing works in the gallery.

The gallery owns an historical collection of 19th and early 20th century Australian art, which has been housed in the downstairs centenary galleries.

Mr Carboni said a recent study found only 20 per cent of visitors were finding their way to the collection, despite multiple attempts to clearly signpost the route.

“People are missing some of the most important works in the collection,” he said.

The collection is currently being relocated to the main AGWA building.

Space for the Nolan exhibition has been carved out of the incoming historical art installation, with the latter to be completed when the exhibition closes.

The expected popularity of Nolan’s work will additionally expose visitors to the new location of the Australian collection, Mr Carboni said.

National Gallery of Australia director Nick Mitzevich attributes the popularity of Nolan’s works to the nature of Australian myths and stories, noting a preference for figures that rebel and challenge authority.

“When it comes to Australian mythology, we like to celebrate bushrangers, failed explorers and the unrelenting harshness of the Australian landscape, and this plays into the national psyche,” he said.

“Even though Ned Kelly is an outlaw, we celebrate these anti-heroes.”

The exhibition will be free to view in the Art Gallery of WA from Saturday August 11.