Australia & NZ
The Best Time to Visit The National Gallery of Australia is Now
The heart of the Australian Capital Territory gives the term “purpose-built” a good name and indeed, champions the cause of compromise. The idea of Canberra after all, was the acme of a spat between Australia’s two premier metropolises. With the end concession – one fine capital city – such a brilliant emblem for a proud, youthful nation, both Sydney and Melbourne were able to let go of any residual avarice over the snub (or so we like to hope).
Today of course, Canberra is the political and to some degree, cultural heart of Australia. As a hassle-free drive or ride from Sydney Central Station (double the distance from Melbourne), Canberra is accessible for all to enjoy and take advantage of. First and foremost, discard the notion that the city of 400,000 people is a chaste, cold power base for the political and bureaucratic machinery. With national parks, wildlife reserves and a meticulous, tidy urban plan, Canberra and the ACT rules.
The rich deluge of landmarks, museums and monuments in the capital includes the National Museum, National Library, National Portrait Gallery, Australian War Memorial, Parliament House, Shine Dome, National Zoo and Aquarium, Questacon (National Science and Technology Centre), National Dinosaur Museum, Australian National Botanic Gardens. Indeed, a model for other nations to follow, Canberra’s ensemble of superb cultural institutions is enough to induce vertigo. One notable omission from the list above and a museum visitors must not exclude from a tour of the ACT is the spectacular National Gallery of Australia.
National Gallery al fresco sculpture – Photo credit
The National Gallery was a staple in Canberra before the official completion of a major new wing in September 2010. Now however, the museum is the steward of the premier collection of Australian Indigenous art on the planet, with works that span some 40,000 years. The extraordinary Stage 1 complex is the culmination of a long, onerous effort to orchestrate a paramount repository of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art under one attractive roof. A remarkable facility, the most significant addition to the National Gallery since 1982 includes eleven distinct exhibition spaces, a multi-purpose function hall, and chic sidewalk cafÃ©.
As a space for art and paramount expression of architecture and design, Stage 1 is a beautiful union of both form and function. The New South Entrance and Australian Indigenous Art Galleries coalesce seamlessly with the natural environment in the inner Canberra suburb of Parkes and perhaps above all, allows for oeuvres on display to shine in singular fashion.
Every corner of Indigenous Australia has fair representation in Stage 1 and the National Gallery, from the Top End to the Western Desert. Another key facet of the new wing is the Australian Garden, whose lynchpin accent is a massive immersive installation by contemporary artist, and former MacArthur Fellow, James Turrell.
All in all, a thorough tour of the New Look National Gallery of Australia is a powerful, emotive and memorable experience. If you plan to visit the peerless museum anytime soon, peruse hotels in Canberra and the ACT beforehand.
Canberra aerial – Photo credit