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Opening of the Nolan Gallery



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PRIME MINISTER

FOR MEDIA 3Ϋ SUNDAY, 2 MARCH 1930

OPENING OF THE NOLAN GALLERY

For many reasons, it is a great pleasure to be here, I am

sure Γ share with, you the delight of reaching the gallery '

today by passing through a rural landscape as beautiful and as significantly Australian as many Australian paintings which depict it.

We are surrounded here by a notable part of Australian history. Now* classified by the National Trust, this group of buildings dates from 1836. They remind us of much of our past, reaching back, to convict labour, bush rangers and the great pastoral , holdings of the last century. . .

Indeed the bell tower was built by Lanyon's founder, James Wright, to call the convicts- and Aboriginal shepherds from the fields. . . ' Fortunately, all the original Lanyon is preserved here in such” · a way that It is very much, an embodiment of Australia's history

and spirit. .

What better place could there be than this to reaffirm our commitment as- a nation to the preservation of Australia's natural and man-made heritage. And how fitting it is that Lanyon should be a museum for this gift to the nation of 24 Sidney Nolan paintings which mirror a significant period in our history.

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This- ceremony today officially gives the paintings a new home. ■ They nave been transferred as you know, from the homestead not only because the paintings require controlled atmosphere and top security, but also because the paintings and the viewers deserve ample space and adequate lighting. Without Interfering with the fabric of the. homestead, these objectives could not be m e t . Now- we may have the best of both worlds. In the coming .

months·, the homestead will be progressively refurnished in the style, of its period and, in the meantime, this gallery is designed tc house more extensive art exhibitions in addition to the Nolan paintings. ' . .

The siting of the gallery in this setting is testimony to the fact that art is part of the community and its experiences; an integral part of Australia's heritage. We all have a responsibility to the preservation of that heritage.Our country and its institutions must strive to protect our natural.environment and record our history;

to enjoy the cultural richness which emanates from these; to enhance the national identity which they develop. National Identity progressively takes the shape with national development. And national development Involves the cultivation of all the nation's

resources - natural, physical, Intellectual and spiritual.

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Australian art has an undeniable contribution to make towards this. But like all development, Australian art cannot flourish, without. community encouragement and involvement. For some-time our artistic endowments were an aspect of our national wealth which ' we tended either to play down or ignore. But n o w , a new pride .

in them is evident. A rich artistic and cultural talent today complements our national performance. Indeed for a country of 14 million- people we have an enviable record of success in the ' world of the .arts. More importantly, our self-consciousness has

disappeared.' '

Australians are participating more and more in Australia's artistic development. Our enjoyment is being extended; our appreciation is being refined; and, because of all of these, our national awareness is being sharpened. Australian art has been a. great chronicler of our distinctive past. Originally, the artisitic. . role was that of documentor of the images of our beginning. As our country developed, the documentary continued., capturing the flavour of the gold fields and nurturing Australian nationalism by reminding Australians of our dependence on the land.

Later it was our artists who reminded us of the heroism of .

Australians at war. And following the war, they introduced us to the. modern era. The contribution of Sidney Nolan's powerful, imaginative and intensely inventive work has been ' unique in this process. · ·

The richness of Sidney Nolan's art is a consequence of his rich . and varied life. OHe of Nolan's forebears was a trooper in the .

Kelly.-era. Sidney Nolan grew up as a boy during the Depression. · He struggled as a young man with the problems posed by World War II and battled as an artist, unrecognised, as Australian artists were th

His early art recalls scenes of childhood pleasure„ Growing up in Melbourne, it was the St. Hilda Pier with its swimming baths and roller coaster that Nolan found especially exciting as an artist.

He also engaged in portraiture; the bewidered soldier going off to war, the farmer of the Wimmera, with a lifetime of hardship reflected in his face. . ' ■ a

His background and an extraordinary imagination, helped Nolan to find in the Kelly saga, an appropriate symbol of post-war Australian independence. These works were seen by art critics around the world as the most striking narrative paintings to come out of Australia.

Mr. Nolan, your presence here today brings us into the company of a distinguished /Australian. It is fitting that part of Sidney N o lan3 stary of Australia should now find a permanent home in the Nolan '

Gallery. And this gallery evidences again Australia's commitment to the art s .

The Commonwealth Government has an important role in fostering and giving impetus to a sustained artistic awareness. A measure of its success will be the extent to which its initiatives are .

complemented by a similar commitment at State and local government level and within the private business community. .

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Pleasingly, there is increasing evidence of this happening. Some of our finest travelling exhibitions in recent times have been sponsored by private enterprise. In its support of- the arts in Australia, the Government is aiming principally at two goals -

the promotion of excellence and the widening of community involvement,

Because our artisitic and creative activity is part of the preservation of our history and our heritage; because it contributes to our national identity and cohesiveness; for these reasons, the rewards from this activity must increasingly be shared amongst all Australians. .

For this to happen, access for all Australians to Australian works of art must continue to be extended. Museums must be living things. The Government's efforts in the past have been substantially directed to this end. It has encouraged a broader involvement in the arts at the community level through the Community Arts Board.

In a major initiative, the Government has liberalised tax benefits to encourage owners of older collections to contribute them to public institutions.

As part of the continuing programme to promote community appreciation of the arts, I announced in my election policy speech, in November 1977, a commitment to consult with the States in the development of an art bank scheme to bring Australian art out of the galleries and

into the community. Art Bank will shortly come into operation. It will allow wider public enjoyment of Australian art. By placing the Australian works on display in public areas of government buildinc/s, institutions and offices, it will be actively promoting Australian art, artists and craftsmen. It will release from back

rooms and storage spaces, works of art which galleries have been unable to show. '

In the first instance, Art Bank will operate as a Commonwealth programme. But I have written to all State Premiers and the Chief ■ Minister of the Northern Territory inviting the participation of their governments in the scheme. Such participation would ensure -

the maximum impact of this initiative throughout the Australian community, . s ■

The Government pursues its goals in respect of the arts through, many avenues. But 'no single achievement better illustrates the Government’s commitment to the goals of excellence and access than . the. National Gallery. ' · ' I

I am happy to announce that it is scheduled to open to the public in Autumn 1983.Planning for the. installation of works of art in. the. new building is well advanced, and preparations are underway

for opening day exhibitions. A feature of the. opening is expected to be. a comprehensive historical survey- of Australian art, on a . scale unlike any seen in Australia before. Australian art will be a primary focus of the. new gallery. Displays in the gallery will be easily accessible. Through its collections and its displays . the gallery will communicate to the public what there is to know

about the. visual media in Australia. , .

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While the permanent home of the collection is being completed, the gallery has engaged in travelling exhibitions throughout ' the country and makes works available on loan wherever possible ' to other institutions. The travelling exhibition, 'Aspects of Australian Art 1900 to 1940' is the most ambitious touring- programme undertaken by an Australian gallery. When it concludes

its tour this year, it will have travelled over 25,000 kilometres in 2 k years and visited over 20 centres all arourid Australia.

'Genesis of a Gallery Part T w o 1 concluded its Australia-wide tour in. December 1979 and the selection of works is now underway · for ’Genesis Part Three'. . .

.Apart from this activity, the National Gallery continues to make contributions to exhibitions organised by other art ' : ' institutions. Last year over 260 works were lent to 40 different Australian institutions and exhibitions, and the gallery continues - to receive and meet -wherever" possible requests' from major American

and European museums for the loan of works of art.

The National Gallery is. greatly assisted in its task of developing a truly national collection by a number of generous . gifts, like that by Sidney Nolan» His gift to the new Nolan Galler* documents a significant phase·, not only in the development of Sidney Nolan as an artist, but also in the development of Australia! art history. · _ . ·

In what now c.= n properly be- called ! The L any on Group, of Paintings', there is a summary exposition of Sidney Nolan's first full decade of activity. ' - '

Our quest, for excellence in, and community access to, Australian works of art. has developed hew momentum through the achievements of artists like Sidney Nolan; through the efforts of government,

business- and private individuals; and-through the generosity of - : benefactors. . "

Let us enjoy the products of these efforts, for enjoyment of .

the artist’s work is his highest reward. Thank you for your s invitation today. It is only fitting that we should now look forv/ard to Sidney Nolan opening the new Nolan Gallery. .

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