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Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

11 December: Visiting the National Gallery of Australia

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 Visiting the National Gallery for the first time in 14 months gave an opportunity to see the new Entrance and Foyer as well as, in another post – the James Turrell ‘Within without’ work.

The new extensions add a new box to the front of the building certainly provides an entrance way to the building that adds impact to the visitor’s first encounter with the space. Gone is the revolving door and the feeling of coming in a side entrance. Gallery staff welcome you and direct you to get your tickets for the Renaissance show, or to drop your excess gear at the cloakroom or see arty stuff in the bookshop.

As if to be uplifted to the space where the art is an escalator beckons, when we were there it squeaked disconcertedly, and gradually your anticipation for being drawn into art Nirvana is met by …

THE LIFT LOBBY!!  A side-step to the right placed us on track to the exhibition galleries – It is as if the floor plan needed to be shifted 4 metres for the two buildings to line up.

Anyway there were some great shows and art to see and some favourite artworks to re-connect with.

In the PHOTOSPACE Gallery area the exhibition Upstairs downstairs: Photographs of Britain 1874-1990 presented a selection of classic documentary works from familiar names including Julia Margaret Cameron, John Thomson, Cecil Beaton, Felix H. Man, Humphrey Spender, Edith Tudor Hart, Bill Brandt, Grace Robertson, Bert Hardy, David Moore, David Potts, Roger Mayne, Lewis Morley, Chris Killip, Martin Parr and Nick Waplington.

Photography has long served the rich, the famous and the infamous. It has also had many practitioners who have championed the lives of those whose names history has never known. The social documentary tradition, focusing on the lives of ordinary people – usually those powerless to tell their story – has been a driving force in British photography. This is hardly a surprise in a society traditionally marked by class divisions and prejudices. (From the exhibition blurb)

This little gallery space in what was once the bookshop houses the NGA’s photography exhibition presence and while other media ancient and new get large prominent acreage this what we, as the photography interested public, have for the moment as an exhibition space.

Later we visited the big ‘blockbuster’ Renaissance show and, as part of any NGA visit, the Members Lounge to sit and ponder the art seen and experienced over a coffee and friand.

One other new building activity underway at the National Gallery is a bird busily making a nest home in Neil Dawson’s suspended orb sculpture ‘Diamonds’.    Interesting …

Neil Dawson’s ‘Diamonds’

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