Regarding the arts, Victorians – and Melburnians, in particular – are extremely fortunate, as they enjoy unparalleled access to the oldest and most visited gallery in Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, or NGV. Divided between two buildings, NGV Australia and NGV International, this public treasure trove hosts a wide range of local and international artists, exhibitions, programs and events. This range includes contemporary art to major international historic exhibitions, fashion and design, architecture and sound and dance. Founded in 1861, the NGV houses the most significant collection of art in the entire region, a collection containing more than 70,000 individual works which spans thousands of years and a wealth of ideas, styles and disciplines. Furthermore, it is a collection that belongs to the people of Victoria – a cultural super-enhancer, if you will – and the only prerequisites to enjoying all that the NGV has to offer are an inquisitive mind and the effort to find one’s way to 180 St Kilda Road. Currently, of course, visiting the physical gallery is not an option, unfortunately; however, access to the beauty and magic contained within the NGV’s collection is very much a possibility via an extensive menu of online virtual events. Some of these events are detailed below, and they are a very effective means of expanding one’s emotional and intellectual horizons at a time when physical horizons are a bit restricted.

On Saturday, 4 September, 2021, from 12pm to 12:20pm AEST, lose yourself in the ‘Insights: Longer History’ program. Hosted by NGV Curator Sophie Gerhard, you will have the opportunity to discover the hidden stories from the ‘She-Oak and Sunlight: Australian Impressionism’ exhibit. Gerhard will encourage innovative contemplations of Australian Impressionism by looking at Australian First People’s experiences and depictions of the landscape. The event is free, and bookings are not required. Email reminders are available via attendance registration. 

For primary school students in years 5 and 6, ‘Colony to Nation’ will take place on Wednesday, 8 September, 2021, from 9:30am to 11am. Students will be introduced to the idea of learning about Australian history through art. They will be encouraged to consider whose perspectives are represented and whose perspectives are absent. NGV educators will guide the young audience on an exploration of Australia’s past, from first contact and colonisation through to Federation. Artworks from current special exhibitions will be utilised to bring history to life through visual analysis and storytelling and to explore both Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives. A discussion on the impact of colonization on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will feature. Students will then compare and contrast a variety of artworks from a range of cultural perspectives. Bookings are required for ‘Colony to Nation’. 

A highlight of the NGV virtual series will undoubtedly be ‘Ancestral Connections’, a program that will discuss the continuation of Aboriginal art and cultural practices as a vital part to the ongoing resistance to colonisation in Australia. Since colonisation, particular practices have been historically denied and disrupted, resulting in the knowledge of many techniques having been lost. Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung artist and designer Maree Clarke has proven to be pivotal in reviving many south-east Australian Aboriginal art and cultural practices. Specifically, Clarke creates artworks and places them in conversations with contemporary art practices and ideas. Her current exhibition, ‘Ancestral Memories’, is on show at the NGV. A panel discussion, including Clarke and hosted by author Tony Birch, will explore the strength and resilience of traditional Indigenous art and storytelling, the role of the creative community in reviving culture and the role that the research, interpretation and curation of Indigenous art plays in protecting that knowledge from colonisation. ‘Ancestral Connections’ is scheduled for Thursday, 16 September, 2021, from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. Bookings are essential. 

Take this opportunity to learn, grow and expand. The NGV’s online programs are very real reminders that human beings are essentially creative beings. It is through this creativity that genuine freedom and appreciation are possible. Sharpen your mind, and enjoy yourself during the process. For a comprehensive list of the NGV’s virtual events, head to its website.       

Kay & Burton is a proud supporter of the NGV.

Artwork image c/o the NGV website. William Barak. Figures in possum skin cloaks 1898 pencil, wash, charcoal solution, gouache and earth pigments on paper 57.0 x 88.8 cm (image and sheet) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, 1962 1215A-5


Artwork image c/o the NGV website. Marlene Gilson. The landing 2018 synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 100.7 x 120.5 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2019, 2019.199


Artwork image c/o the NGV website. Maree Clarke​​. Ancestral Memory ii 2019, ​​​​National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Purchased by Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2020​, © Maree Clarke. Image courtesy The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

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