Melbourne Now (visit the website here) is a wonderfully exciting initiative by the recently appointed Director of the National Gallery of Victoria - Tony Elwood - and of course his team. In the short period he has been with the gallery (he returned from the Queensland Art Gallery which he had revitalised) all sorts of things are happening in what was once a rather stuffy and rather predictable art gallery institution. Not any more! This is opening the doors of the gallery to more than just the usual gallery-goers and showcasing some of the enormous talent of this city. Since it opened in November (it closes 23 March) over 400,000 visitors have visited both the National Gallery of Victoria - International (St Kilda Road) and the Australia gallery (in Federation Square) through new and vibrant eyes.
|The famed waterwall as you have never seen it|
Of course the wonderful 'regular' collection is not forgotten and is often incorporated in some of the instillations but in the meantime there are activities aplenty going on in both the NGV International (NGVI) and also the NGV Australia (NGVA). What I found interesting was the number of young people who I have seen visiting the gallery and I suspect some are visiting for the first time. It has become an exciting place to be. It's quirky, interesting, challenging and fun. Seeing children (and adults!) threading, playing, drawing and just participating in so many activities at both galleries and in the lovely garden (a hidden gem of Melbourne) at the NGVI has been a joy.
|NGVI sculpture garden - overlooked by 'the city'|
You are welcomed at the NGVI with an instillation both outside the waterwall and continuing inside. This is the Community Hall - a place where a band can be playing, or set up for story time, or for artworks, or dance - and much much more. It's a hive of activity.
|The vibrant Community Hall in the gallery foyer - open to all-comers|
On the other side of the NGVI courtyard is an instillation of Ikea waste bins created into a goedesic dome. It's just another example of unexpected creativity.
|Just another use for an Ikea waste bin - the Bindow by Rory Hyde!!|
Then there are the sculptures in the garden, flags flying in the Great Hall. This is a coming together of artists, architects, designers, performers, then there is the threading of beads to be hung around the gallery. I was amazed at how participatory everything and everyone was in joining in the fun. With over 175 different individual and group presentations it really is hard to pick a favourite.
|Visitors of all ages - threading, hanging, messaging|
Perhaps one of the highlights was a video of Melbourne laneways. We popped in behind a curtain at NGVI and didn't want to come out! What a video journey we went on - we couldn't work out how it was done - clever Daniel Crooks. Do spend some time moving through the back lanes of the suburbs - and it's a great opportunity to rest your weary feet!
But it was at the NGVA on the ground floor that was the most fun for me. The renowned Hotham Street Ladies (visit their website here) have created a 50's living room and the 'remains' of a Christmas Day meal - all in icing! Even the dado's on the walls are made of icing. Now there would be some/many who would say that 'this is not art' but for me 'art is in the eye of the beholder' and this beholder thought it was fun!
|Hideous icing carpet, look for the icing sugar nickety nacks when you are there!|
|Imagine eating your way through this crocheted blanket!|
|A memorable Christmas lunch (all - yes all except the chairs and tables - icing)|
I could go on and on but I'm sure you have the message! There is loads to see, loads to do, loads to ponder, and loads to enjoy. It's not all fun and games but it has brought a vibrancy to an oft considered staid and rather intimidating institution. Try and allocate a couple of hours for each Gallery. I'll leave you with a Melbourne Now directions to the loos! It sort of sums up the quirkiness of this extraordinary event.