Melbourne Now

A new exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is a snapshot of Melbourne’s cultural identity.

Artist Profile spoke to NGV Director Tony Ellwood about this ambitious project.

Has Melbourne Now been a longstanding idea of yours and where did it originate?
The idea for the exhibition came as a result of moving back to Melbourne last year and the recognition that this city has such a rich and diverse community of artists and designers whose work should be celebrated. While this is something we all know and often talk about – perhaps we even take it for granted – I realised that there hadn’t been an exhibition that focused on this for a very long time and this seemed like a remarkable opportunity for the NGV.

What are your hopes for the exhibition and initiative?
I hope that Melbourne Now will highlight the great creativity and talent that exists in Melbourne and bring it to the attention of visitors to the gallery, both locals and visitors from interstate and overseas. I hope that it might also attract new audiences to the gallery. We have developed an ambitious program of events in association with the exhibition, as well as a series of interactive projects with contemporary artists and designers that are specifically for children. t’s a cliché but there is literally something for everyone in this show and I’m really looking forward to seeing our visitors engage with everything on offer at the NGV over summer.

Melbourne Now covers a lot of different media and disciplines. How have the curators approached coordinating the works into a cohesive display?
We have used a new model for this exhibition in which a group of 20 or so curators from various specialist areas across the gallery collaborated on the selection of artists and designers for inclusion within the exhibition. In the final process of allocating spaces within the gallery for the display of their work, particular themes have emerged that reflect trends within current practice. Like all exhibitions the decisions about how these are brought together and the balance between continuity and contrast within the show has been a combination of letting the art lead the way, as well as introducing our own aesthetic judgement.

Melbourne Now covers a lot of different media and disciplines. How have the curators approached coordinating the works into a cohesive display?
We have used a new model for this exhibition in which a group of 20 or so curators from various specialist areas across the gallery collaborated on the selection of artists and designers for inclusion within the exhibition. In the final process of allocating spaces within the gallery for the display of their work, particular themes have emerged that reflect trends within current practice. Like all exhibitions the decisions about how these are brought together and the balance between continuity and contrast within the show has been a combination of letting the art lead the way, as well as introducing our own aesthetic judgement.

What will interstate and overseas visitors find noticeably different about the Melbourne art scene in relation to other parts of the art world?
It’s hard to anticipate this, but I think any visitor who does not know Melbourne well will discover something new in the exhibition, whether it’s the focus on contemporary jewellery that exists here, the number of designers and makers of bespoke footwear this city can boast or the variety of art produced by contemporary Indigenous artists resident in and around Melbourne.

Tell us about the activities and programs attached to the project and their aims.
We’ve developed a vast program of activities in association with Melbourne Now, including a Kids Festival that will run from 18 to 26 January, as well as the Community Hall, a structure within NGV International designed by McBride Charles Ryan which will form the hub for a changing program of activities and events. There will be talks, performances and interactive activities across both buildings throughout the exhibition so I’d really encourage people to look at our website in the lead-up to the opening to get the full picture

You’ve mentioned this will be the first time the NGV has profiled a significant Australian design agenda within a visual arts context, highlighting the dynamism of our city’s cultural identity. Was there a particular brief for the artists to capture that feeling?
While the NGV has always collected and exhibited certain aspects of design within the areas of fashion and textiles and decorative arts, this broader engagement with the great breadth of design practice is a new initiative for the NGV that comes out of the interdisciplinary practice that exists in Melbourne where you find visual artists and designers working together or aspects of visual art crossing over into what has traditionally been classified as design and vice versa. We haven’t asked the participants in Melbourne Now to respond to a particular brief but, rather, by bringing individual approaches together, we look forward to being able to visualise the big picture.

Melbourne Now
22 Nov to 23 Mar, 2014
National Gallery of Victoria

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