Art and The PM’s Lodge

NGA art on the walls of the PM’s Lodge


Have a look at the photograph above – taken from the Canberra Times.

The article was all about praising the art chosen by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and his wife for decorating the lodge – being the Canberra residence for the Prime Minister.

Artwork in the National Gallery of Australia’s (NGA) collection is stored and hung in very strict conditions. When the works are on display, security will ensure that you do not get near the paintings for fear of accidentally damaging them. If works are on loan, the normal processes are very strict about how they are to be exhibited and what the room conditions are.

Many galleries are unable to borrow works of art from the NGA because the gallery concerned do not have their exhibition galleries controlled according to the very strict requirements that involve museum condition controls of room temperature and humidity etc.

At times this can annoyed or frustrate some curators trying to bring exhibitions together. But the restrictions and requirements are there to protect the works of art that the NGA holds and has paid for on behalf of the people of Australia.

So knowing all this, I am a bit puzzled as to how such valuable works as we can see in the photo have been allowed to be hung in that particular room.

It means that people will have to pass close to them. On the right people will end up backing into the work or brushing past. The work on the left will be very close to where food will be served from. At either end of the room it too could be bashed by a passing guest – possibly the Prime Minister himself.

One can only wonder what strings were pulled to have the usual strict loan conditions negated.

Then there is the matter of the curatorial choices. The works to the right and left need to be viewed from afar to be fully appreciated.

I wonder why anyone who understands such important works would chose them for such a narrow room. Was it simply to impress – as one does with trophies?

It would have been far better for all sorts of reasons for the works in this room to have been smaller works and for them to be behind protective glass. A set of prints or photographs that could be replaced would have been most appropriate.

I think the reviewer of the collection choices should have picked up the fact that these national collection items are now in danger of being damaged, are not being loaned out according to the usual requirements (that apply to everyone else) and that the choices for this particular room are very ill considered- and naive.

Paul Costigan

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