National Gallery of Australia shares Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly Series with Perth at AGWA

NGA director Nick Mitzevich and AGWA director Stefano Carboni.
NGA director Nick Mitzevich and AGWA director Stefano Carboni.

NATIONAL Gallery of Australia director Nick Mitzevich is still counting in days how long he has been working in his new role.

The total was at 25 when in Perth for a whirlwind 24 hours to open travelling exhibition Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly Series at Art Gallery of WA and he feels privileged by the responsibility.

“What I think is really compelling about looking after the National Collection is that you have a national dialogue with art and the rest of the country,” he said.

“One of the most important mandates of the National Collection is to share it with Australians, regardless of where they live.

“This Nolan exhibition is a great example of us taking something that is an iconic part of the collection and putting it on the road. It will be shown in five venues across Australia over the next 12 months and we’re proud to launch it in Perth.”

Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly Series features 27 artworks acquired by NGA; the first was Death of Sergeant Kennedy at Stringybark Creek (1946) in 1972.

“Then great benefactor to the National Gallery, Sunday Reed, donated many (25) works and we started growing our Nolan collection,” Mitzevich said.

“We have hundreds of Nolans in our collection but this is the iconic series. Nolan was an extraordinary storyteller and he took historical information and weaved that with legend and myth to create this evocative series that celebrates an anti-hero, an outlaw.

“It’s a fascinating document that captures a moment of Australian history through this evocative lens.”

Mitzevich said Kelly’s fame came out of the Australian love of the underdog.

“What’s interesting is that you’re not sure of Nolan’s moral stance on whether Ned Kelly was the hero or the criminal,” he said.

“I think we’re all fascinated by the human condition and how people think and feel. When you look into his eyes in that helmet, they look kind of sad and Nolan depicts Ned Kelly in some ways as a tragic figure.

“We’re drawn in to that story and want to know more and what Nolan gives us is all this detail. That’s what a great artist does and that’s what’s so beautiful about scrutinising this collection of 27 works.”

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly Series

Where: Art Gallery of WA

When: until November 12

Tickets: www.artgallery.wa.gov.au