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Royal Academy of Arts, London

21 September – 8 December 2013

The NGA's Director Ron Radford had been campaigning for an exhibition of Australian art to be held in London, and when Kathleen Soriano, who had worked in Australia andhad a good appreciation for Australian art; was appointed Director of Exhibitions at the Royal Academy, Ron proposed that she come to Australia and visit our major collections, with the intention of partnering with the NGA to mount an exhibition in Britain.

I helped Kathleen keep track of the rapidly changing list of works and lenders being proposed during her visit, developed an MOU between the NGA and the RA and became the Australian Exhibition Project Manager.  

Since the checklist continued to change right up until the exhibition was being packed, I worked very closely with the Royal Academy’s Exhibition Manager,  with Kathleen as RA Curator and the three Australian curators from the NGA - Ron Radford; Anna Gray, Head of Australian Art and Franchesca Cubillo, Senior Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. I negotiated and managed: the exhibition contract; Australian budget; loans from the 20 Australian lenders; freight sponsorship, consolidation of the Australia works, the couriers and transport logistics; and oversaw the unpacking, condition reporting and installation; and was responsible for mediating and achieving agreement between the four Curators on the exhibitions layout during installation.

The exhibition featured many of the nation’s iconic works by our best known Australian artists: Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington Smith, Arthur Boyd, Russell Drysdale, Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Sidney Nolan, whose iconic Ned Kelly painting adorned the exhibition posters plastered on the walls of London Underground stations. Of the 145 artists included in Australia, more than half had never been included in any previous exhibition in London.

 The exhibition also provided the opportunity for Australian artists to talk to the British public. Imants Tillers, Shaun Gladwell and Christian Thompson all presented public lectures and G.W.Bot and Kathy Temin gave papers at the Australia: land and landscape Symposium at Australia House. 

 

I also participated and featured in the documentary 'Hanging Australia', a film that surveyed the behind-the-scenes complexities involved in delivering an international blockbuster exhibition.

 

While London's notoriously tough art critics were divided, the British public responded very enthusiastically to the exhibition. Attendances to the show were high, with the RA reporting that visitors were pouring into the exhibition, and that the exhibition was an extraordinary breath of fresh air, providing a large body of work that people in Britain have never seen before

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The AUSTRALIA exhibition catalogue

Sidney Nolan's, Ned Kelly painting

was plastered on the walls of

London Underground stations

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