A Bison Abroad| Melbourne: City of Art

National Gallery of Victoria brings many creative artists to light

Melbourne is a vibrant, multicultural city. You can feel it around every corner. You can experience it just walking down the street as you hear people speaking different languages from all over the world. 

In such a diverse place, Melbourne’s art galleries, and especially the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), strive to reflect this and showcase the beauty the city has to offer. Since its founding in 1861, the NGV has been dedicated to curating works of art that represent the ideas and passions of countless creatives across any medium imaginable.

The NGV spans across two locations in Federation Square, the beating heart of downtown Melbourne, and St. Kilda, a beachside suburb, divided to feature both Australian and international art. Together, they house over 70,000 pieces from both modern times and the distant past, traversing back hundreds of years. 

One of the highlights of the Australian work at the NGV is the photography of Melbourne-based artist, Darren Sylvester. His exhibit, “Carve a Future, Devour Everything, Become Something,” combines the relationships people share with one another and the neon nightmares that pop culture and advertising can sometimes be. These ideas combine to create photos of unusual people in unusual situations, but all capture emotions that are universal: isolation, worry, desire for authenticity and real connection.

Another standout exhibit is “From Bark to Neon: Indigenous Art From the NGV Collection.” This section of the gallery is brimming with paintings, photographs, sculptures and mixed media artworks from major indigenous Australian artists.

Crossing decades, “From Bark to Neon” covers many important movements in Australian art history from an indigenous perspective. What perhaps makes this exhibit special is the wealth of voices that are featured. “From Bark to Neon” spans across a good portion of NGV Federation Square’s third level, and each work by each new artist represents that artist’s craft, outlook, message and what indigeneity means to them.

The NGV Federation Square experience is made complete by the work of Rebecca Baumann in “Intersections and Notions.” Crossing between exhibits, gallery visitors pass through Baumann’s art: stained-glass walls and windows lining hallways that glow in the sunlight from the Melbourne summer. 

In the intersections between exhibits, visitors are illuminated by bright colors, in the warmth of the sun and encouraged to consider how the works of the different Australian artists featured in the NGV may intertwine with one another.

This stained-glass artwork is built into the architecture of the NGV, perhaps a reminder of how the diversity and different identities found in Melbourne are weaved into the very fabric of the city.

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