It’s been 15 years since Sidney Nolan’s gang of 26 paintings depicting the history and mythology of Ned Kelly have toured Australia.
That’s about to change, with the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) set to lend the collection to galleries in four states and one territory. What makes this tour particularly exciting, however, is not just the amount of time that has passed since the previous one, but that the venues that have been selected to host the work are probably not those you’d expect.
Ned Kelly will travel to the “far corners of Australia”, announced NGA Director, Dr Gerard Vaughan, providing a rare opportunity for communities outside of capital cities to experience some of the nation’s best art in their own backyard.
Starting at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the series will then stop at the Murray Art Museum, Geelong Art Gallery, Riddoch Art Gallery, and Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.
“The NGA is to be applauded for its lending program”, says Jason Smith, Director & CEO of the Geelong Art Gallery.
“Major works of art that help define the nation should be seen by as many people as possible.”
He believes such programs are an important element in a broader strategy that informs how regional cities are evolving as Australians continue to flow out of cities into regional centres.
“Giving Geelong the opportunity to host this exhibition is a strong sign of faith in the importance of the gallery as a leading cultural contributor.”
The announcement has come less than a year after the gallery hosted the 2017 Archibald Prize exhibition, which brought 58,000 people and $6.5 million dollars into the local economy.
Smith says that he and his board have developed a long-term strategy to find the right mix between large-scale events such as these with bespoke exhibitions that promote art history and scholarship. The goal – to establish Geelong Art Gallery as a major Australian cultural institution with a regular stream of both national and international visitors of all ages.
Ned Kelly is a particularly potent followup to the Archibald Prize exhibition due to its reputation and the popularity of its subject, whose crime spree came to an end just 300 kilometres north of Geelong.
Smith highlights the “inventive narrative” that Nolan brought to the series.
“It’s sophisticated in the way it constantly refers us back to Australian landscape, not just the protagonists of the drama.”
Not only is he sure that the opportunity to experience the physical paintings will excite art enthusiasts, but Smith hopes the tour might inspire a new generation of artists.
He refers to Nolan as ambitious, dogged in the pursuit of producing great work. That he created work so unique, so powerful in the way it redefined contemporary Australian art, seems merely a by-product of that.
It’s a testament to the importance of dedication, creativity, and innovation. While there may be more artists now than ever before, by bringing important art to all Australians, we broaden the potential to encourage the next Sidney Nolan, the next artist to define the future of Australian art.
Ned Kelly will exhibit at Geelong Art Gallery March 1st to May 26th, 2019.
For more information on the gallery, click here.