Centenary of Canberra welcomes National Gallery of Australia’s 2013 summer blockbuster announcement

Centenary of Canberra welcomes National Gallery of Australia’s 2013 summer blockbuster announcement

Posted 18 May 2012 12:00pm

Centenary of Canberra Creative Director Robyn Archer AO has welcomed today’s announcement that the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec will feature in the National Gallery of Australia’s (NGA) summer blockbuster exhibition in 2013.

“I am over a Paris moon with the news that the National Gallery of Australia’s big summer show will star the incomparable Henri de Toulouse Lautrec,” said Ms Archer.

“The word iconic is over-used, but the paintings and posters of this exceptional artist have truly become the icons of a splendid era. His evocation of Paris nightlife at the French fin-de-siecle paints scenes of unmatched bravado, energy and invention.

“It is 20 years ago next year, that I directed my first festival, here in Canberra, indeed that I began that next stream of my career, and it was the first time that any woman had directed one of the major arts festivals in Australia. At the time of the invitation, I was also invited to give a talk at the National Gallery of Australia and I will never forget being taken into the stacks by NGA curators and shown the Lautrec prints and posters close-up. The curator said, “See that fold there, that’s where he would have folded …”. I nearly fainted; to think that Lautrec himself folded a piece of paper I was now touching with white-gloved hands.

“It makes me understand yet again that along with the pride we, as Australians, have in our National Gallery to be able to strike momentous deals around the world to bring in these treasures for us to experience, we should be equally proud of the fact that such works already exist in the permanent collection, and exhibitions such as this allow us to see iconic works which belong to every citizen in the nation, sitting alongside these special international treasures.

Ms Archer said the NGA exhibition will be complimented by a hive of surrounding activity as part of 2013 Centenary of Canberra celebrations.

“With regard to the Centenary there are many powerful aspects of this exhibition. There is little doubt that by the time Federation was achieved in January 1901, there was the expectation of a new capital for the new nation. Henri de Toulouse Lautrec died in September 1901, and painted ‘til very shortly before his death. It gives us a compelling historical link if we try to imagine that a new capital for a new nation was in its first stages of conception while this painter was alive and creating the works we will see in this exhibition at the start of the centenary year.

“In more straightforward ways, this exhibition makes an invaluable contribution to the Centenary of Canberra. The first few months of 2013 are jam-packed, in fact they are scones-cream-and-jam-packed, and we had always expected that the period from February to end-April would attract huge visitation.

From February Canberra will be host to a gathering of Indigenous cultural expression that will include the premiere of the stage adaption of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River as well as Craft ACT’s Selling Yarns exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Gallery. At the same time, the popular National Multicultural Festival will feature a special Indigenous showcase as part of this annual celebration of Canberra’s culturally diverse community.

Sport lovers will be spoilt for choice, from the prestigious Handa Australian Women’s Golf Championship to be held in Canberra for the first time, to an expanded Black Opal Stakes racing carnival featuring a Centenary Cup.  

No celebration of the national capital would be possible without the involvement of our national institutions, and alongside the National Gallery of Australia’s blockbuster, the Centenary will be celebrated throughout this period with special exhibitions on the Griffins at the National Library of Australia and opportunities to explore ‘your story, our history’ through the National Archives of Australia. 

In addition, the National Museum of Australia will take us back to 1913: Year of Dreams, while one of Australia’s favourite attractions, the Australian War Memorial, will host an Open Day.

Naturally, many of Canberra’s most loved local institutions are getting behind the celebration too, and there really will be something for everyone in the Summer-Autumn calendar. From exhibitions and workshops at the Canberra Glassworks to the weekend when the country comes to town for the ActewAGL Royal Canberra Show; from Summernats to the Balloon Spectacular; from the Canberra Heritage Festival to the CAPITheticAL exhibition at the Gallery of Australian Design; and much, much more.

One of the greatest highlights of the year for locals and visitors alike though, will no doubt be the 100th birthday weekend in March, where Lake Burley Griffin – the heart of the city – will be the centre of a huge participatory celebration. Imagine Canberra in so many words ... spelled out around the lakeside, the world premiere of Andrew Schulz’s Symphony No 3: Century, plus wild water craft, music, madness and of course, the highly anticipated Longest Bubbly Bars in the World.

“This is just a glimpse of what is yet to come, with a fleet of major sporting, business, science, environmental and cultural events to be announced at the major launch in September,” said Ms Archer.

“If ever there was a time for Australians to visit their capital city, and for Canberrans themselves to see what their city is capable of, this is it; and now this rich period is threaded through with an exhibition literally brilliant with colour, but also metaphorically with a blindingly colourful period when life was lived to the full and hang the consequences, many of which Lautrec also depicts.

“People coming to see this exhibition, in the way they have flocked to see Masterpieces from Paris and Renaissance, will in 2013 discover a Canberra quite unlike the city they think they know: it’s time to re-imagine the national capital,” said Ms Archer.

The year-long Centenary of Canberra program of events aims to showcase new and exciting activities alongside the best established events already taking place.

For more information, visit canberra100.com.au.