Expect the unexpected at three very different exhibitions in the national capital, from celebrities in various states of undress to rich cultural pieces that explore the supernatural and Indigenous items that have not previously been displayed.
The National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Bare: Degrees of undress, celebrates the candid, contrived, natural, sexy, ironic, beautiful, and the fascinating in Australian portraiture that shows a bit of skin.
Including more than 90 portraits from the Gallery’s collection, Bare investigates elements of nakedness, with personalities including Dame Edna Everage, Germaine Greer, Megan Gale and Billy Slater.
Curator of the exhibition, Penelope Grist, was fascinated to discover that almost all of the Gallery’s portrait sitters in varying degrees of undress are Australia’s foremost creative achievers or elite sportspeople, the majority being men with their shirts off.
‘Bare will be fun, whilst also interrogating our instinctive reactions to bareness,’ Ms Grist said.
‘Bareness is not as extreme as nakedness and not as refined as nudity. Bareness emphasises something about a subject’s identity as well as reflecting society. The decision to uncover part, or all, of the body in a portrait is at least as significant as a choice of clothing. Visitors to Bare will see these portraits in a completely new way.’
The Gallery has also created The Bare Game which visitors will be able to play online and in the gallery to discover their very own nude alter-ego from art history.
Next door at the National Gallery of Australia, visitors can encounter masterpieces of Papua New Guinean tribal art in Myth + Magic: art of the Sepik River.
The Gallery’s director Gerard Vaughan said the exhibition brings together extraordinary and rarely seen examples of traditional art created for cultural practices in the Sepik River region, one of the largest river systems in the world and home to communities with a rich visual art history.
‘Myth + Magic presents the greatest examples of Sepik River art held in the southern hemisphere and provides the best possible platform to acknowledge what these objects truly are – not only markers of a rich culture but powerful works of world art,’ Dr Vaughan said.
Featuring sculptures of supernatural beings, ancestral figures and masks, among other important works created for ritual and performance, Myth + Magic: art of the Sepik River is the first exhibition in more than 30 years to explore the art of the region, and focuses on objects which have never before been displayed, published or researched.
Amongst the 85 works to be displayed is a 6.3-metre cult crocodile, carved from a single piece of wood without the use of metal tools which dates back more than a century, and is leaving Papua New Guinea for the first time. This colossal sculpture takes the form of a saltwater crocodile, the most revered and respected animal inhabitant of Sepik River.
Just across the lake at the National Museum of Australia, the Kaninjaku: Stories from the Canning Stock Route exhibition takes highlights from the Museum’s groundbreaking 2010 exhibition Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route and combines them with 17 works that have not previously been displayed.
The Canning Stock Route is a track that was developed on Aboriginal homelands as mining and pastoral industries expanded in Western Australia. Kaninjaku tells the story of the Canning from the perspectives of the Aboriginal people whose country it crossed.
The Museum acquired the Canning Stock Route Collection in 2009 and regards it as one of truly national significance, providing a living archive of Aboriginal perspectives and experiences of shared history. It includes 116 paintings, sculptural works, contemporary cultural objects, documentary material, and oral histories by 60 artists who travelled along the Canning Stock Route on a return-to-country trip in 2007.
Bare: Degrees of undress is open to the public until 15 November, Myth + Magic: art of the Sepik River is open until 1 November and Kaninjaku: Stories from the Canning Stock Route is on show until August 2016. Entry is free to all three exhibitions.
Discover what else is on in Canberra this spring at visitcanberra.com.au.