Category Archives: Australia

Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great


Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great

Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great showcases one of the world’s greatest art collections. Featuring works by artists including Rembrandt, Rubens, Velázquez and Van Dyck, the exhibition offers more than 400 outstanding works including one of the finest groups of Dutch and Flemish art to come to Australia.

The Premier of Victoria, the Hon. Daniel Andrews MP said, ‘Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great showcases treasures from one of the largest, oldest and most visited museums in the world. Another major event for Melbourne, this exhibition provides visitors with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see first-hand the extraordinary personal collection of Catherine the Great, drawn from the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.’

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said, ‘This exhibition celebrates the tenacity and vision of a true innovator in the arts. Catherine the Great’s inexhaustible passion for the arts, education and culture heralded a renaissance, leading to the formation of one of the world’s great museums, the Hermitage.’

‘We are delighted that we have the good fortune of bringing one of the world’s most important collections to Australian audiences. Masterpieces from the Hermitage is a rare opportunity to be immersed in the world of Catherine the Great and her magnificent collection of art,’ Mr Ellwood said.

Catherine the Great’s reign from 1762 to 1796 was known as a golden age and is remembered for her exceptional patronage of the arts, literature and education. Of German heritage, Catherine the Great was well connected in European art and literature circles. She saw herself as a reine-philosophe (Philosopher Queen), a new kind of ruler in the Age of Enlightenment. Guided by Europe’s leading intellectuals, such as the French philosophers Voltaire and Diderot, she sought to modernise Russia’s economy, industry and government, drawing inspiration both from classical antiquity and contemporary cultural and political developments in Western Europe.

A prolific acquirer of art of the period, Catherine the Great’s collection reflects the finest contemporary art of the 18th century as well as the world’s best old masters of the time, with great works by French, German, Chinese, British, Dutch and Flemish artists. Notable in this exhibition are entire groups of works acquired from renowned collections from France, Germany and England representing the best collections offered for sale at the time. The exhibition features four Rembrandts, including the notable Young woman trying on earrings, known as one of most intimate images Rembrandt ever created. The exhibition also includes 80 particularly fine drawings by artists including Poussin, Rubens, Clouet and Greuze.

Exquisite decorative arts have come to Australia for the exhibition, including 60 items from the Cameo Service of striking enamel-painted porcelain
made by the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory in Paris. Commissioned by Catherine the Great for her former lover and military commander, Prince Grigory Potemkin, the dinner service features carved and painted imitation cameos — miniature works of art — based on motifs from the French Royal collection.

Director of the Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, said, ‘These outstanding works from the personal collection of Catherine the Great represent the crown jewels of the Museum. It was through the collection of these works and Catherine the Great’s exceptional vision that the Hermitage was founded. Today it is one of the most visited museums in the world. We are very pleased to be able to share these precious works with Australian audiences at the 250-year anniversary of this important institution.’

Visitors to the exhibition can immerse themselves in Catherine the Great’s world evoking a sensory experience of a visit to the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. The exhibition design has rich treatments of architectural details, interior furnishings, wallpapers and a colour palette directly inspired by the Hermitage’s gallery spaces. Enveloping multimedia elements give visitors a sense of being inside the Hermitage, evoking the lush and opulent interiors. The foundations of the Hermitage Museum were laid in 1764 by Catherine the Great and the museum has been open to the general public since 1852. With 3 million items in its holdings, the Hermitage is often regarded as having the finest collection of paintings in the world today. In 2014, the Hermitage celebrated its 250-year anniversary and opened a new wing with 800 rooms dedicated to art from the 19th to 21st centuries.

Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great is organised by the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg in association with the National Gallery of Victoria and Art Exhibitions Australia. The exhibition is supported by the Australian Government International Exhibitions Insurance (AGIEI) Program. This program provides funding for the purchase of insurance for significant cultural exhibitions. Without AGIEI, the high cost of insuring significant cultural items would prohibit this major exhibition from touring to Australia. The NGV and AEA also acknowledge the support of Victorian Major Events Company and Mazda Australia for their assistance in realising this important exhibition.

Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great is at NGV International from 31 July – 8 November 2015 and will be presented alongside David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image as part of the 2015 Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series.

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From 31 July – 8 November 2015

James Turrell: A Retrospective

James Turrell

James Turrell Raemar pink white 1969 Shallow space construction: fluorescent light 440 x 1070 x 300 cm Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles, California Image: National Gallery of Australia

One of the world’s greatest contemporary artists unveils his blockbuster exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia

James Turrell, an indisputable leader of global contemporary light art, has arrived in Canberra for the opening of his retrospective at the National Gallery of Australia.

Turrell uses light and colour as his materials and this exhibition surveys works from every decade in his 50-year career. The Canberra retrospective follows an extraordinary response to exhibitions throughout 2013 in Los Angeles, New York and Houston. The US President, Barack Obama, awarded James Turrell the National Medal of Arts earlier this year.

‘James Turrell is one of the most fascinating artists of our time and Australians have never before seen an exhibition like this,’ said National Gallery of Australia Director, Dr Gerard Vaughan.

The exhibition includes projection pieces, installations, holograms, drawings, prints and photographs – works spanning Turrell’s career. There are 50 works in the exhibition, including 10 installations.

‘I am delighted to open this exhibition in Canberra – it is one of my best,’ said James Turrell. ‘I am very happy with the quality of construction and how the exhibition has turned out. Visitors will see pieces from the early days to very recent works.’

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the Perceptual cell, Bindu shards. A premium ticket buys an experience into this immersive installation that only allows one viewer every 15 minutes. Entering a large, spherical capsule, we experience a light cycle, a kaleidoscope of colour, described by the artist as ‘behind the eyes’ seeing. Currently, tickets for the Perceptual cell have sold out until January, 2015.

‘The work of James Turrell challenges and confronts our perceptions of art, light and space. Everyone will have a very personal reaction to this exhibition,’ said Lucina Ward, curator of the exhibition and International Painting and Sculpture at the National Gallery of Australia.

The Ganzfeld, Virtuality squared, is one of Turrell’s largest to date. Once inside, visitors are saturated in colour, uncertain of their surrounds as the space feels endless, with no visible edges or corners.

The National Gallery of Australia today also announced the acquisition of six major works by James Turrell.

  • Joecar (red) 1968
  • Shanta II (blue)1970
  • Orca 1984
  • After green 1993
  • Bindu shards 2010 (Perceptual cell)
  • First light 1989-90 and Still light 1990-91

The National Gallery of Australia acknowledges the contribution of its Presenting Partner, the ACT Government through VisitCanberra. The Gallery would also like to acknowledge its Principal Partners: ActewAGL & Actew Water, National Australia Bank and Nine Network along with its Major Partners: Qantas, National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, Palace Cinema, Molonglo Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Gallery of Australia’s Council Exhibition Fund.


James Turrell: A Retrospective is organised in association with Los Angeles County Museum of Art.