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Bendigo Art Gallery announces ambitious new exhibit ‘Australiana’ for 2023

Words by Tehya Nicholas
Images supplied

Bendigo Art Gallery will soon be home to a major new exhibition, Australiana: Designing a Nation. Opening to the public in 2023, it is an epic curation of over 200 artworks and objects from key chapters in our country’s history and includes several Australian masterpieces.

The exhibition, which includes paintings, illustrations, furniture, jewellery, moving image, and fashion asks what defines Australian art — and by extension Australian identity and style. Viewed together, the broad curation of works takes the visitor on a tour through history, viewing how the notion of Australian identity has evolved across time: from the colonial, mythical “larrikin” iconography popular in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, to First Nation peoples culture and connection to Country.

“From the long-standing traditions of Australia’s First Peoples, to historic and modern moments of nationalistic fervour in the colony, the exhibition captures Australia’s social and cultural history and popular notions of identity and style,” says Bendigo Art Gallery Director Jessica Bridgfoot.

Including works by famed artists Vincent Namatjira, Ken Done, Jenny Kee, Kenny Pittock, Tom Roberts, Tony Albert, Sidney Nolan, Hilda Rix Nicholas, and Rennie Ellis, the exhibition acts as a series of time-capsules showcasing how these artists both viewed themselves and their country. What they saw as popular, critical and interesting is reflected in the work — which together weaves a rich tapestry of perspectives.

Two of the most recognisable works of Australian art, Tom Roberts’s iconic Shearing the Rams (1890), and Russell Drysdale’s Moody’s Pub (1941) will be on display, thanks to a partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria. The Australiana Fund collection, which is used to furnish the residences of the governor-general and the prime minister, is also a key supporter.

The vast exhibition—which is free to enter—balances history with humour, nostalgia with the new. In a playful turn, Kenny Pittock has been commissioned to make a new major sculptural installation for the exhibition titled 100 Australian Ice-Creams. While many contemporary works from Indigenous artists will be on display; a cornerstone of the exhibition overall. Important viewing for anyone wanting to see what the term Australia means today, Australiana: Designing a Nation is not to be missed.

WHAT: Australiana: Designing a Nation
WHERE: Bendigo Art Gallery
WHEN: March 18 – June 25, 2023
MORE INFO: Australiana: Designing a Nation

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