Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
National Gallery Victoria opened its doors fo -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

The National Gallery Victoria opened its doors for the first time 150 years ago tomorrow.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: 150 years ago tomorrow, Australia's first public art gallery opened its
doors in Melbourne, on Queen Victoria's birthday. Today, the National Gallery of Victoria remains
the nation's largest art gallery. Through its colourful history, the NGV has accrued an
internationally enviable collection, but should it still retain its provocative title as the
National Gallery of Victoria? Greg Hoy reports.

GREG HOY, REPORTER: The National Gallery of Victoria claims a kaleidoscopic collection of some
70,000 artworks from centuries past to many of the great icons of Australian art to the most
modern, all housed under stringent security across two imposing buildings and 19,000 square metres
of exhibition space, taking pride of place in the very heart of Victoria's state capital.

PETER CLEMENGER, BENEFACTOR: In terms of icons in this city, I guess it ranks very highly. It may
not be number one because the Gee, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, is probably the number one venue
in the city, but I put the gallery number two behind that.

GERARD VAUGHAN, DIRECTOR: It's very often said that Melbourne is the cultural capital of Australia.
And there's no doubt that the National Gallery of Victoria is this nation's great encyclopaedic

GREG HOY: Consistently the nation's most visited gallery, on average 1.5 million visitors a here
flock to see its exhibitions and a permanent collection now valued at more than $3.5 billion. Two
thirds of which, thanks to the legacy of one man, a bachelor businessman by the name of Alfred
Felton, who died back in 1904, but whose legacy lives on.

GERARD VAUGHAN: The other half of course of the income from his foundation went to good causes,
particularly to do with women and children. So we only got half of the income, but that half has
bought us works of art that today are valued way above $2 billion.

GREG HOY: Alfred Felton's riches enabled NGV to outbid the world's biggest art institutions for
masterpiece such as Tiepolo's now-invaluable Banquet of Cleopatra, Rembrandt's 'Two Old Men
Disputing', Monets, Manets, Poussin's epic of the 1630s, 'The Crossing of the Red Sea', now
undergoing a meticulous year-long restoration.

GERARD VAUGHAN: Anyone who knows the collections of the NGV and anyone who knows values of works of
art would be aware that the Poussin here is one of the most valuable paintings at any gallery in
the country.

GREG HOY: The Felton bequest has now purchased 15,000 works for the NGV and the philanthropic
generosity continues to flow from Melbourne's great business dynasties. Almost all of the gallery's
collection has been donated.

PETER CLEMENGER: Melbourne people have historically been generous to many causes. Art's been one of

GREG HOY: NGV benefactor Peter Clemenger's family's Clemenger Communications Group has now grown
into an international conglomerate of 46 companies.

PETER CLEMENGER: Art definitely is the forerunner of change in many ways that we live. Artists see
things perhaps before many other people do.

GERARD VAUGHAN: We have in our collections many of the visual icons of the Australian nation.
Pictures by which we measure our sense of nationhood. And that might be a landscape of the
Grampians by von Gerard painted in the 1860s. It might be Tom Roberts' 'Shearing the Rams'. There's
a poster of that in almost every schoolroom. It might be Fred McCubbin's 'The Pioneer', the
immigrant experience, for example and the growth of Melbourne as a city, to the all-time favourite,
which of course is fascinating - it's John Brack's 'Collins St, 5pm'.

GREG HOY: So a century and a half and some 70,000 acquired artworks later, the NGV is quite plainly
proud of its prominent place on Australia's cultural landscape; such that in the face of inevitable
interstate rivalries, it defiantly defends its claim to the name of the National Gallery of

GERARD VAUGHAN: It is a conundrum, but we've had this name since the 1860s, and I think we're very
happy to go on being the National Gallery of Victoria.

PETER CLEMENGER: To change the name would cause real problems around the world. This gallery is
recognised around the world as being a very important gallery. Why would you change the name?

LEIGH SALES: Greg Hoy reporting.