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Paris treasures draw bumper crowds -

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Paris treasures draw bumper crowds

Broadcast: 01/02/2010

Reporter: Emma Griffiths

The National Gallery in Canberra is currently hosting the most valuable collection of art that's
ever been shown in this country. The priceless collection of Van Goghs, Cézannes, and Gauguins - to
name but a few - is set to become the country's most popular art exhibition ever, too.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: The National Gallery in Canberra is currently hosting the most valuable
collection of art that's ever shown in this country. A facelift at the famed Musee d'Orsay on
Paris' Left Bank has opened the way for the show with the cream of its post-Impressionist paintings
shipped overseas while the renovation work is done, and the priceless collection of Van Goghs,
Cézannes and Gauguins, to name but a few, is set to become the country's most popular art
exhibition ever. Emma Griffiths went to take a look.

RON RADFORD, NGA DIRECTOR: There are so many I love and so many I've known for so long that I never
thought I'd see them all together in Australia.

PATRON: We get to see them without having to go all the way to Paris, although Paris was wonderful
and I'd like to do it again, but it's so easy. And it's just a wonderful idea to use them and not
just put them in the basement.

EMMA GRIFFITHS, REPORTER: What do you think of Van Gogh?

SOPHIE: He's very, very talented.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: You're pretty excited at seeing this.

SOPHIE: Yes, I'm very excited.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: It's a genuine summer blockbuster with all the big names, the million dollar price
tags and a wow factor that's pulling in the crowds.

PATRON II: That's a once-in-a-life opportunity to see this art in Australia.

PATRON III: Most things you only get to see in books or calendars and things like that, so it's
nice to be able see them in person.

PATRON IV: We've been to the Louvre in Paris, but here's a collection of all the French paintings
in one place.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: In the first six weeks, 100,000 people have lined up, sometimes for hours, to see
these masterpieces from Paris, and they just keep coming. Australian attendance records are set to
break.

RON RADFORD: We don't, in Australia, own many post-Impressionist works. There are no major
Gauguins, no major Van Goghs, only three Cezannes, one Cessare, which we own, and unfortunately, we
never will own them, 'cause they are so valuable. It's why this exhibition has been the most
valuable exhibition to come to Australia, 'cause these works bring the highest price, these artists
bring the highest prices, and we'll never be able to afford them in Australia.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: It's an international coup for gallery director Ron Radford.

What did you have to do to convince the Musee d'Orsay that this was the place to exhibit them?

RON RADFORD: I had to sleep with them, bribe them - no, you better ask that again. (Laughs).

EMMA GRIFFITHS: In fact, it took months of hard work and intense lobbying.

RON RADFORD: The Musee d'Orsay in Paris is the greatest collection of post-Impressionism, and the
fact that they're lending for the first time so many of our treasures and to Australia, we're just
very privileged.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: Of the 112 treasures, some have never before left Paris, others are so popular
they're sought-after by galleries around the world and are bound to be familiar to even the most
casual of observers, like The Wall of Van Gogh's.

Eight-year-old Sophie can't believe her young eyes.

How do you think he's feeling?

SOPHIE: Very, very serious. And I think he's trying to get someone and trying to convince someone
into doing what he wants to do.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: This budding art connoisseur first saw Van Gogh's works in books at school, but
she's travelled from the Blue Mountains for the face-to-face experience.

SOPHIE: These are like the flowers that I did, but only we did sun flowers.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: Ron Radford has a first love among the pieces too.

RON RADFORD: I suppose it has to be the Tahitian Women by Gauguin, and I've known that work since I
was 10 years old. It was on the wall of my primary school when I was at the age of 10 in Warrigal
Gippsland, Victoria.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: Each of the paintings is worth millions of dollars, but their cultural value is far
greater. Ron Radford feels the weight of having them in his care.

RON RADFORD: They are great works and they've travelled a great distance from home and we have to
take great care of these great treasures. 'Cause they're not only treasures in the sense of the
Musee d'Orsay, they're treasures of the world, and it's a tremendous responsibility to look after
them.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: Have you taken some special measures for this exhibition?

RON RADFORD: Yes, yes.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: What sort of measures?

RON RADFORD: Well if I tell you, I would have to then kill you, because it's all very private.

EMMA GRIFFITHS: The only possible downside for Ron Radford is that he's set a new bar for
exhibitions in Australia, and eventually he'll have to find some way to top it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Emma Griffiths with that report.