With international travel excluded, the National Gallery of Australia is hoping Australians will make a cultural pilgrimage to Canberra this fall to see the new blockbuster Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London.
An occasion of four years of preparation, this is the first time that the National Gallery, London has put an exhibition on the road containing their collection as usual they would only lend one or two objects at a time.
Open from Friday March 5 to Monday June 14, Botticelli to Van Gogh is an exhibition of 61 masterpieces by 56 artists spanning over 500 years of Western European art.
The collection of works arriving in Canberra coincides with a unique event in 50 years where these paintings are not exhibited at the National Gallery in London.
“We took the opportunity to be able to borrow the works during their own period of renovation, so once every 50 years they would come loose from the permanent walls,” said NGA Director Nick Mitzevich. . Canberra Weekly.
“One of our guiding principles is to bring the best of art to Australia… These artists are on the walls because they changed the history of art.”
Meeting amid the disruptions COVID has had on international travel, Mitzevich said the Gallery has “worked very closely to define and orchestrate every step of the movement to work going to the wall” with their colleagues in London.
“At the heart of it all was making sure we could move the work safely,” he said.
“Every step of the way from the work that comes out of the walls of the National Gallery [London] to be placed in an ordered crate that transports the work, to ensure that each element of this work does not vibrate or move.
The exquisite paintings are expertly lit by new lighting installed in the Gallery’s temporary exhibition space as part of a $ 5 million renovation.
“We felt that if it was appropriate to bring an exhibition of this magnitude to Australia, we ourselves had to be able to present them in the best possible way,” said Mitzevich.
Botticelli to Van Gogh a story, a narration and a masterclass
Botticelli to Van Gogh takes visitors on a journey through Western European art history through seven themed rooms.
“Each work leads to the next, it’s a story and a narrative, but also a masterclass defining time and place,” said Mitzevich.
“When you visit this exhibition, you don’t need to have any knowledge of art history, we hope to introduce you to the main points of history and time.”
The first room is a showcase of early Italian Renaissance painting, where the innovation and metamorphosis of this era can be seen.
Then comes the room of Dutch paintings. Showcasing portraits, still lifes and landscape paintings, it includes one of the most recognizable works in Western European art, Rembrandt’s Self-portrait at 34.
“I feel like I’m looking into the eyes of the artist,” coordinating curator Sally Foster said of the work.
“You see the power of the subject, how painting and canvas can come to life in three dimensions. This portrait is unmatched in the history of art.
Following is a British portrait room. It was through these commissioned works, says Foster, that the British aristocracy built an image of prestige and status that many still hold to this day.
At this time, around the 17the and 18e centuries, the British aristocracy would make a “grand tour” of Italy, often bringing back an exquisite painting of itself.
“People wanted to come back with great memories; they’re not postcards, that’s for sure, ”smiles Foster.
The next room presents their collection of Spanish art. Described as “an acquired taste”, Foster and Mitzevich both pointed to the influence of Spanish art on neighboring French artists of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist era.
Landscapes follow, with large and magnificent paintings masterfully depicting panoramas ranging from Roman ports to the northern European countryside.
“This piece is a revelation,” said Foster. “I love these great beautiful European landscapes.”
Botticelli to Van GoghThe final room, France and Modern Art, features one of the best-known and revered works in the exhibition, the work of Van Gogh Sunflowers from 1888.
“Sunflowers defines that moment when art moved from religious iconography to defining status, ”Mitzevich said.
Hanging and presented in a way where the painting appears backlit, the real experience of seeing Sunflowers up close was a profound experience for the Museum staff involved in the creation of the exhibition.
“When we opened the checkout, everyone in the room felt moved,” said Foster.
Participants are invited to pre-book their tickets online for a time slot allocated through Ticketek.
Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London is on display at the NGA from March 5 to June 14; nga.gov.au/masterpieces
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