Tag Archives: National Gallery Victoria

Fashion Exhibitions

There is a museum of textiles in Lyon, a museum of fashion in Brussels, in Antwerp there is a gallery of fashion with a very contemporary style, and in Bath another museum of fashion. In Melbourne the National Gallery of Victoria on St. Kilda Road and at Federation Square both have galleries devoted to fashion. They are not a large spaces considering Melbourne’s fashion industry but the NGV does strive to put on a varied program of exciting temporary exhibitions on fashion.

Melbourne also has many fashion and textiles students who regularly exhibit their work, generally at the end of the year exhibitions. I often see exhibitions by RMIT fashion and textiles students, especially at First Site gallery at RMIT. Fashion photography is another way in which fashion enters the art gallery and exhibitions of fashion photography are common – I must see one or two a year without searching them out.

Galleries in Melbourne often have exhibitions where art, jewellery and textiles meet, especially during Melbourne Fashion Festival and Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. Every year both fashion festivals have a program of associated events that takes fashion into the art galleries and exhibitions into fashion boutiques and other venues. There is often has several fashion photography or jewellery exhibitions along with other fashion associated art.

This year the programme of exhibitions associated with the Spring Fashion Week has included exhibitions at the NGV and State Library. There is an exhibition by The Age, “The Age of Fashion” in the square at the QV centre featuring fashion photographs from The Age’s archives and 5 mannequins displaying designer labels. It is an elaborate temporary exhibition made up of plinths, vitrines and platforms. On a different scale of exhibition and funding are the exhibitions: “Sue Barnes Studio” and “Black: an Exhibition”. “Sue Barnes Studio” is a small display of 8 photographs of fashion images, advertising and logos on the street at the Journal Bar viewing space, a vitrine near the café’s door. “Black: an exhibition” is contemporary all black jewellery by Vikki Kassioras and black ink drawings by Katherine Bowman. The temporary cardboard gallery space created for the exhibition in the Nicholas Building was elegant and functional. (See Melbourne Jeweler for a review of Black: an exhibition).

Considering all of these temporary exhibitions and temporary exhibitions spaces, the regular fashion exhibitions in Melbourne both at the annual fashion festival and during the rest of the year, it appears that Melbourne needs its own gallery of fashion and textiles with room for both permanent and temporary exhibition a gallery devoted to fashion. This would bring Melbourne in to step with other fashion capitals and add to the city’s cultural attractions.


European Masters @ NGV

European Masters 19th to 20th Century from the collection of Städel Museum at the National Gallery of Victoria on St. Kilda Road presents a history of modern art. All the familiar modern art movements are represented from Classicalism and Romanticism to Cubism, along with a few less well-known styles and groups of artists. There is art by 70 German, French, Dutch, Belgian and Swiss artists. And although the exhibition is mostly paintings there are a few sculptures by Rodin, Degas and Renior, There is plenty of variety to see in this exhibition – this variety of styles, trends and tastes is a reflection of the modern predicament.

It was not the introduction of photography that motivated modernism – it was the end of the accepted subjects for art, history or classical and Biblical themes. The great artists of the 19th and early 20th century could have painted anything, so why did they choose to paint these images? What is the subject for art when your world has changed – transformed by revolutions, industry and urbanisation; and expanded by exploration and tourism? One of the first paintings in the exhibition depicts the German writer, Goethe in the Roman Campagna by Johann H.W. Tischbein. What to paint when traditions and values are under question? For Tischbein the answer was simply a return to classicalism.

The problem of what to paint was a problem for artists at end of the 19th century and early 20th century. It is interesting to see what solutions these European artists proposed for these problems because we can learn about how we can approach similar contemporary problems. The Symbolists have similar quest for spiritual values to our New Agers. The Orientalists, like Eugène Delacoix painting Arabs, have their contemporary analogues in the world travellers photographing the 1001 places you must visit before you die. The Nazarene artists are comparable to contemporary religious fanatics or, given the Nazarenes long hair, 60s Jesus freaks.

And if religion and exotic travel doesn’t interest you what else is of any value? There are Romantics, like Caspar David Friedrich contemplating the environment. Rural landscapes – urban dwellers still dream of a simpler country life in a cottage painted by Van Gogh early in his career. Or, you could have a simple breakfast with the Monet family, which for me was, one of the highlights of the exhibition.

Why be so serious? Why not just paint amusing genre scene with a psychological comic insights? Why not go and join the circus? Or, dance the night away at Café d’Harcoart in Paris with the one of the stars of the exhibition, Henri Evenepoel’s lady in red?

Everyone will have heard of some of the famous artists who have work included in this exhibition. Seeing the exhibition is a way for you to judge for yourself if the European art history books have been praising good artists or emphasising the most important trends in modernism. Perhaps it is time to revise your opinions of artists that you have only read about and seen a few illustrations. Even if you know next to nothing about art history this is a good place to see it for yourself.

There is a small focus in the exhibition on the art of Max Beckman with several of his paintings hung in a gallery painted dark grey. The dark grey emphasises their dark lines dividing the bright areas in his paintings.

Thanks to Alison and the NGV for the free tickets to the exhibition.

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