SEATED SANCTUARY James Turrell’s 2010 outdoor work ‘Within Without’ at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.
Danny does an art gallery in 15 minutes
HAVE you ever run around an art gallery? I hadn’t – at least, not since I was four years old – until last Wednesday, when I arrived at the National Gallery of Australia just 15 minutes before closing time. Handed a map and a list of nine pieces of ‘must-see art’, my mission was clear: See all of them.
Did I succeed? Well, not quite, but as Meatloaf didn’t quite say, eight out of nine ain’t bad.
The Aboriginal Memorial near the entrance, Claude Monet’s ‘Waterlilies’ and Sidney Nolan’s depictions of Ned Kelly were quickly located and ticked off my to-do list.
Jackson Pollock’s ‘Blue Poles’ and a sacred bull dating from the 11th century were each allocated exactly 30 seconds. Dashing up to the top floor and out of breath, I very nearly flopped down on a convenient chair – until I spotted that the seat was, in fact, a 94-year-old exhibit. The 1918 specimen once belonged to Walter Burley Griffin, the architect who designed Canberra, the city in which I found myself. “Strewth!” I said aloud, sounding (to my own ears at least) dangerously like ‘Home and Away’ character Alf Stewart.
Two more pieces of the jigsaw fell into place as I spotted Arthur Streeton’s landscape ‘Golden Summer, Eaglemont’ and Grace Cossington Smith’s colourful picture of the construction of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Unfortunately, I got only a fleeting glimpse of the Surrealists, who might have looked fondly on someone sprinting around an art gallery.
Arriving downstairs to collect my rucksack, I found myself in line behind a woman who had lost her bag tag. This prompted the cloakroom attendant to call her supervisor via walkie-talkie, announcing herself with the James Bond-esque code ‘Alpha 49 to Alpha 7’. I kid you not.
Time constraints meant I had to forego Constantin Brancusi’s ‘Birds In Space’ on the lower ground floor. But given that it looked (based on the photograph in my leaflet) like two vertical feathers, no tears were shed. If I was the curator, Dennis Nonna’s work on the ground floor would also be on the must-see list, but then I’m a sucker for sculptures of armoured soldiers on top of crocodiles.
As the front doors closed, I finished with a trip to the garden and James Turrell’s 2010 outdoor work ‘Within Without’, a Newgrange-esque mound that you can enter. Best of all, there was a seated area inside. Artwork one could rest one’s legs in! I’d never heard of Mr Terrell, but he’s now officially my hero.
Feeling quite proud of myself, I sat contentedly and took out my guidebook. It was only then I noted that the National Gallery contains 100,000 works of art. Thanks for bursting my bubble, Lonely Planet.
Daniel Carey, a Mayo News reporter, has taken a year out to travel the world. His addiction to the keyboard remains, however, and this column will carry his reports from life on the outside.