Sasha Grishin and Canberra’s Visual Arts

National collection gems out of sight

Sasha Grishin has written an opinion piece on his blog on the current situation of visual arts in Canberra – many of his thoughts I share.

While I wish that the national cultural collecting institutions could do more together, I doubt that it would be any more than the occasional effort – as with Starstruck.

At the moment they collect for different reasons and largely show works that sit within their main objectives (more or less).

The reasons a photograph is collected by the NGA can be quite different to the museum, to the national library and the archive. Having identified such an issue (that divides), one wonders what would it take to have them work more together on the visual arts exhibitions.

Is it some form of overriding national collections council – that would ensure cooperation on exhibitions and collections? The danger being that we are talking the visual arts here – and not all the cultural institutions have the visual arts in mind when they collection – being possibly more about historical, heritage and archives.

I am not holding my breath waiting for a federal collections and exhibition approach that would deliver continuous collaboration on national exhibitions.

However the other big issues that Sasha politely comments on is that the NGA has enormous collections of fabulous visual arts and is adding to it almost daily. Yet the more recent ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions have been more about entertainment than exhibitions based on their collections.

I agree with his comments on the current blockbuster. And the next one being advertised is about expensive jewelry. Not sure how to react to that.

Sasha’s point about the Picasso print exhibition and how its value was seen by the AGNSW could be applied to what seems to be a growing concern, that the NGA collection exhibitions are being relegated to second tier exhibitions – which is demonstrated in how they are promoted.

I would strongly recommend a visit to the NGA to see the collection exhibitions  – any time of the year.

There is some great stuff on show and the exhibitions change often. And if they do not – then enjoy these magnificent works while you can – and each time you visit take your time with a different selection.

These NGA collection exhibitions are free to enter (if you discount the parking fee that applies during the week).

I think Sasha’s heading for his blog is in itself a valuable point. Is the NGA’s focus always on being the national collecting visual arts institution or does it sometimes get distracted and put too much on capturing the local (provincial) audience at the cost of its national/ international scholarly role?  Another blog on that topic maybe someday?

There’s a lot more to be said about the current state of national collections and research based, scholarly exhibitions.

One issue being the lack of a dedicated photography gallery at the NGA; another time maybe.

Meanwhile –  for Sasha’s opinion piece on his blog – click here.




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