Wednesday 29 January 2014

Melbourne Now - art for the people at the NGV

If you are in Melbourne and haven't been to our National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)'s Melbourne Now exhibition, you should go as soon as possible.  It is amazing!  So much fun.  Great for kids.  I have been there four times and may go again.  That is the joy of no whopping entry fees (which the NGV usually charges for major exhibitions).  There is so much to see that one visit isn't enough.  Nor are just a few photos.  I took heaps.
The last visit was to the NGV Ian Potter in Fed Square.  We had hoped to go to a Hotham Street Ladies workshop but got the day wrong.  A shame as their work is amazing.  Look closely at the above sign and there is a lot of buttercream icing (frosting) involved.

The same could be said of the top photo.  You might have thought it was an ordinary suburban scene.  Then you look closely and find that so much of the food and details are made of icing.  Those Frederick McCubbin pictures on the wall are painted with icing.  The cushions and flowers and beer labels and cigarette butts.

However what I really love is the little details.  The card table at the end of the table to accommodate more people at the table than usual.  It is what we always had at large family dinners in my childhood.

Likewise I love the lounge room with the crochet rug over the edge of the couch (made of icing).  And the little wood veneer coffee tables just like the ones we have at home.  I gather Picasso's Weeping Woman (painted in icing) in the loungeroom is a joke about the picture being stolen in the 1980s.

While the Hotham Street Ladies was my favourite of the exhibits, I love so much else in the exhibition that I can't cover it all in this post.  I can say that it is a great way to delve a little deeper into Melbourne's rich cultural tapestry. 

Some of the exhibits were amazingly physical.  I loved this blue room.  Sylvia and I had lots of fun on the blue exercise balls.  I quite like that the windows of this exhibit look onto the street.

As I mentioned above, the exhibition is lots of fun with kids.  Sylvia loved the colours of this artwork above.

Even more fun is this architectural exhibition.  On the shelf in front of Sylvia are little terracotta blocks.  The public is invited to create structures with them.  We had great fun with them.  I also liked seeing what others had done.

I had to show this artwork to prove that my bedroom floor is actually a work of art.  I chatted to a gallery security man about whether we could touch the clothes.  I thought it might be an interactive dressing up activity.  Alas it was not!  He told me he had a map of the items and had to check they stayed there.

The guard instead directed me to an area for kids which used recycled materials and found objects.  I particularly liked the wool noodles in the wok and the string of dried apricots.  We had fun in the sound tent.  Walking in barefeet and touching the strange metal shapes set off various music.

I was reluctant to leave this section.  I just wanted to run my hand through the piles of wool.  E and Sylvia decided they wanted to go to a cafe in the Atrium at Fed Square for a coffee and ice cream.  I kept going.

The Design Wall fascinated me.  It makes ordinary objects into an interesting piece of art.  Cisterns, brushes, crumpler bags, wetsuits, outdoor chairs, footballs, eskies, even those green handles you hang on to in the tram to stop you flying into someone's lap when the tram stops suddenly. 

I liked this work with its denim gloominess.  I especially liked the bottom left one.

A photo does not do this piece of artwork justice.  "The Aleph" is a small piece that is designed as an optical illustion.  Quite beautiful.  Far more to my taste than the disturbing gothic room of stuffed animals on serving platters among chandeliers and old masters paintings.

I found David Wadelton: Icons of Suburbia very moving.  His black and white pictures of Melbourne milk bars is a fine record of a disappearing icon of our city.  The addresses of each milk bar was given and it was fun to look up ones in streets that I know.

At first sight this iProtest seems a kitsch collection of figurines.  Look closer and you see that there are symbols of war and strife in our world. 

Most of my visits have been to the NGV on St Kilda Road.  Sylvia and her cousin Dash had lots of fun playing about on this coloured entrance.  I was entranced to watch this woman doing handstands on it.

Inside in the forecourt is this pod of computers in a Bin Dome of ikea bins sprouting plants.  I wish I had time to discuss how this reflects modern life.  I don't.  But feel free to write a 1000 word essay on the topic.

I am rather fond of Patrick Pound's Gallery of Air.  It is a room that reminds me of an old fashioned museum except it has a theme.  Every item, whether painting, LP album or Georgette Heyer novel has something to do with Air.  He calls it a "wunderkammer".  It was one of the first things I saw in Melbourne Now when my mum and I visited briefly when we had some time to kill.

The second time I visited, Sylvia and I went to see a workshop by the Choir of Hard Knocks.  She spent most of it colouring in.  I quite enjoyed it.

Sylvia was more interested in the jewellery making area.  It gave kids, big and small, a choice of tags, some threading and some colouring in.  On the way was an exhibition of what others had done.

When my mum and I first went we saw the Trugo room and decided my nephew Dash would love it.  The game originated among railway workers and consists of trying to hit a roll with a mallet to hit some chimes.  The kids had lots of fun with it when we came here with Dash, Chris and Fergal.

One of my favourite exhibits was this wall of tea towels.  Jon Campbell's DUNNO (T. towels)  My mother in law would have loved it.  She collected tea towels and helped me embrace my tea towels.  These tea towels on the wall had signs over them that reflected Australian culture.  Hurrah for kitsch kitchenalia!

The exhibition was full of the unexpected around each corner.  This dance floor was lots of fun.  The great thing about it was that you had to go across it to continue moving through the exhibition so everyone had to step out!

I couldn't help notice how many people were close up to this artwork.  Otherwise I might have walked past.  Up close it has incredible detail (see below) based on the artist's life.  So many exhibits had lots of detail that I could have spent a lot of time with each alone.  Hence the need for repeated visits.

Below is a wall where an attendant gave out stickers of bird silhouettes to add to the wall.  And there were lots of other fascinating works of art that I haven't included here.  A Laneways video, an architectural exhibition, a table of slides, cards with locals' vision for Melbourne, a visual map of Melbourne, a waving cat and a table of disturbing stuffed animals in silver serving dishes.

It is a wonderful exhibition, showcasing some of the great art of Melbourne and encouraging you to look at the city in a different way.

Melbourne Now
National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
Ian Potter gallery and St Kilda Rd gallery
Melbourne city
22 Nov 2013 - 23 March 2014


  1. What a fantastic exhibition - I can see why you've been four times now!

  2. Oh I really need to go see the rest of this exhibition! I saw most of the exhibit at the NGV on St Kilda Rd, and I haven't been to the Ian Potter yet. My favourite thing so far would have to be the continuous video loop of Melbourne lane ways linked together.

    1. Thanks Reanna - I loved that video loop of the laneways - very mesmerising to watch but hard to watch for long with small children :-)

  3. Amazing Johanna! What a fabulous family friendly place! I can't tell you how much I appreciate you sharing each and every one of these pictures. And Sylvia, oh my how she has grown. Thank you so much for sharing, Johanna...

  4. true to form, this is one of those things I intend seeing with the kids but as always, I forget/get sidetracked and end up missing out or going at the end when it's packed with other people like me who have left it to the last minute! I looove your last photo!!!

    1. Thanks veganopoulous - you still have 2 months and now that they school holidays are over it should be less crowded - though I didn't find the crowds too much - not like exhibitions where you pay exorbitant fees and have to shuffle past each painting in a huge queue. Hope you get along

  5. It looks great! I haven't seen it yet.

  6. Gosh, what an amazing exhibition. Like you say, so much to see! It's great that it is free for the usual reasons, but given how much there is to get through, nice that people can take their time and utilise repeat visits.

    1. Thanks Kari - I think it is good that it is so dispersed throughout the two sites too - I think it stops crowds being concentrated in one place

  7. This museum looks pretty cool! I would want to see everything!

  8. Whoohoo, “homey” exhibitions! I love all sorts of exhibitions…thanks for the suggestion! I need to go visit Melbourne, I must have said this a thousand times on your blog :( I really like The Design Wall, that was my favorite photo and that Bin Dome looks amazing! Thank you for sharing the tour…

  9. This sounds like such a fun exhibition - I must give it a look!


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