TAASA Review Issues

September 2003

Vol: 12 Issue: 3
Collections
Editors: Sandra Forbes & Jackie Menzies

Image Cover
Ceremonial cloth and sacred heirloom (dodot), Coromandel coast, India (traded to south Sumatra, Indonesia), l 7th-18th century. Handspun cotton, natural dyes, mordants, mordant painting, 282 x 207 cm. Among the many magnificent textiles on display until 6 October in Canberra in the exhibition Sari to Sarong: Five hundred years of Indian and Indonesian textile exchange. Collection National Gallery of Australia, gift of Michael and Mary Abbott 1988.

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Editorial

Jackie Menzies, Guest Editor

TAASA Review’s first colour issue, in March 1998, was on major public collections of Asian art in Australia. This issue on collections revisits some of the institutions mentioned in that issue as well as others not previously covered. In the five years since that issue, several public collections have attracted major donations, while others are in the process of significant extensions that will ensure the display of more Asian art. It was in view of these exciting changes, many of which are evident this year, that we decided to do another Collections issue.

New or lesser-known collections introduced in this issue include the recent gift to Wollongong City Gallery, and the National Museum of Korea (NMK) loan collection of Korean ceramics at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Similarly, while the Berndt Collection of Aboriginal Art at the University of Western Australia is well known, the scope and depth of the Berndts’ large collection of Asian art is still to be assessed.

Public collections of Asian art continue to grow in scale and stature as knowledge, appreciation and philanthropic gestures bring more into the public domain. The outstanding example of this is the magnificent collection of textiles at the National Gallery of Australia, a small proportion of which is now on show in the impressive Sari to Sarong exhibition. Purchases and gifts from the collection of Robert J. Holmgren and Anita E. Spertus have been the latest additions to a stream of generous benefactions to the NGA, the most significant of which has been those from Michael Abbott QC and Mary Abbott. It was another large gift of textiles from Michael Abbott to the Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery that prompted the exhibition Speaking with Cloth: Cerita dalam kain. This sensitive and considered exhibition was a salutary exercise in how curatorial research into objects can be used to reinstate lost knowledge and traditions within their original culture while also enriching the broader community’s understanding and appreciation of unfamiliar traditions.

These two recent exhibitions of textiles, as well as several other recent public and commercial shows, have elicited a near-frenzy degree of interest, reflecting the emergence of a uniquely Australian taste and appreciation that seems to outstrip an earlier passion for ceramics. Certainly textiles are still available, whereas the price of Imperial Chinese porcelains now excludes many collectors; and even the Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese trade ceramics which were readily available a few decades ago are now relatively scarce.

It was the showing of the above collections, plus the forthcoming architectural extensions to several public art museums, that prompted the focus of this issue of TAASA Review. The first of these new upcoming extensions to open will be that at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where architect Richard Johnson has ingeniously added a whole new wing on to the Gallery within its existing footprint to provide not only a shimmering Asian pavilion, but a new restaurant, enlarged upstairs Gallery and new conservation laboratories that include a dedicated scroll-mounting studio.

The AGNSW’s new extension, due to open on 25 October, will be followed by a new Asian gallery space at the National Gallery of Victoria, opening later this year. In a few years Queensland will have its splendid new building that will enable a more sustained showing of the Gallery’s growing collection of contemporary Asian art.

The growth in collections and display space feeds a growing community desire for knowledge, as we see in the constant growth in attendance at conferences and seminars where both familiar and new speakers are presented. It is with this demand for knowledge and good speakers that the Art Gallery of New South Wales, as one of its many opening events, will be bringing Pratapaditya Pal back to Australia in October to give two lectures – one on new Indian acquisitions at the Gallery where Dr Pal is an Honorary Advisor. Similarly, TAASA is planning a seminar on China Trade at the Gallery, with popular overseas guest Valery Garrett, in early November.

Table of contents

EDITORIAL: COLLECTIONS – Jackie Menzies

A LANTERN ON THE DOMAIN – Jackie Menzies

ASIAN ARTS ON STAGE AT THE NGV INTERNATIONAL – Mae Anna Pang

A RESOURCE FOR CULTURAL REVIVAL: TEXTILES AND THE MAGNT – Joanna Barrkman

10  THE WONDER THAT WAS INDIA’ – A MEMOIR – Pamela Gutman

12  COLLECTIONS WITHIN COLLECTIONS AT THE NGA – Robyn Maxwell

14  VICTORIA’S REGIONAL RICHES – Kate Brittlebank

16  SIX YEARS ON: THE POWERHOUSE’S ASIAN GALLERY – Christina Sumner

18  NEW DIRECTION FOR WOLLONGONG – Peter O’Neil

19  ADELAIDE’S ABHINDANATHA – Dick Richards

20  KOREAN CERAMICS IN AUCKLAND – Louis Le Vaillant

22  ‘TWO SITES, ONE VISION’ IN QUEENSLAND – Suhanya Raffel

23  PRIVATE MADE PUBLIC: THE BERNDT COLLECTION IN WA – John E. Stanton

24  FILM REVIEW: TELLING AND TIMELY SPRINGTIME IN A SMALL TOWN – Freda Freiberg

25  WHAT’S ON Compiled by Ann MacArthur

26  TAASA NOTES AND MEMBERS’ DIARY SEPTEMBER – NOVEMBER 2003

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