Ben Quilty’s first survey exhibition in a decade heads to Adelaide

The Art Gallery of South Australia will be the first to host a major exhibition by one of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists.

Archibald Prize 2011 winner Ben Quilty will present his first major survey exhibition in a decade in Adelaide in 2019 before the collection tours to Queensland and New South Wales.

Titled Quilty, the exhibition will feature a career’s worth of works including Ben’s early reflection on the initiation rituals performed by young Australian men, his experience as an official war artist in Afghanistan and his campaign to save the lives of Bali nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who were executed by firing squad in 2015.

Ben mentored and became a friend to Sukumaran during his years on death row, inspiring the prisoner’s love for art and encouraging creativity behind bars.

Also included in the survey exhibition will be works inspired by Ben’s visits with Australian author Richard Flanagan to Lebanon, Lesbos and Serbia, his revisions of the Australian landscape, and portraits of himself, his family and friends.

Ben Quilty, Australia, born 1973, ‘Self-portrait after Afghanistan’, 2012, Southern Highlands, New South Wales, oil on canvas, 130.0 x 120.0 cm, private collection, Sydney, courtesy the artist.

“My work is about working out how to live in this world, it’s about compassion and empathy but also anger and resistance,” Ben says.

“Through it I hope to push compassion to the front of national debate.”

Quilty will be presented as part of the 2019 Adelaide Festival and curated by Art Galley of SA co-acting director Lisa Slade.

“The exhibition presents a portrait of a socially engaged contemporary artist who is committed to art’s capacity to instigate change,” Lisa says.

“Quilty’s subjects are never objectified, but always rendered through the lens of personal experience.

“For most of this century Quilty has been delivering urgent visions of our time in history.

“An unlikely activist, he wields paint to draw our attention to our responsibility as critical citizens in an increasingly fraught world.”

Ben Quilty, Australia, born 1973, ‘The Last Supper no.9’, 2017, Southern Highlands, New South Wales, oil on linen, 265.0 x 202.0 cm; courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries.

In 2011, Ben’s portrait of legendary Australian artist Margaret Olley was awarded one of the country’s most prestigious accolades, the Archibald Prize.

He then travelled to Afghanistan as Australia’s official war artist and in 2013 presented the Australian War Memorial’s major touring exhibition, After Afghanistan.

Art critic John McDonald says Ben is willing to go where many people wouldn’t otherwise step foot.

“Quilty’s radical humanism has lured him outside the sedate spaces of the art gallery into war zones, refugee camps, and the Bali prison where Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed,” he says.

“Not many of us would willingly undertake such journeys, which reveal Quilty’s compassion for the victim, his determination to use his skills (and increasingly high profile) to make a difference.”

Quilty will be unveiled at the Art Gallery of SA on March 2, 2019, running until June 2.

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First female director appointed to Art Gallery of SA

The Art Gallery of South Australia has appointed its first female director in its 137-year history.

Brisbane-born Rhana Devenport will step into the role in October, after moving on from her place as director of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in New Zealand.

She is replacing Nick Mitzevich who is now leading the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

Rhana, who was this year appointed an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the arts, is the first woman to take on the director’s role in the art gallery’s history.

The announcement comes just days before the Art Gallery of SA’s exclusive exhibition Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay wraps up on Sunday, July 29.

The paintings are from the renowned collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and chart the revolution of Impressionism, a 19th Century art movement known for its vibrant techniques and colour.

Claude Monet, Water lily pond, pink harmony, 1900, oil on canvas, 90 x 100 cm; Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France. © Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt.

The Art Gallery of SA says the impressionist exhibition, featuring masterpieces by famous artists Monet, Cézanne, Renoir and Pissarro, among others, is on track to break the gallery’s record for ticketed attendances.

The previous record is 124,000 attendances, set by The Chinese Exhibition in 1977.

The Art Gallery of SA attracts more than 800,000 people per year.

Rhana brings with her 25 years’ experience in collection development and exhibition presentation across a number of national and international platforms, with her career allowing her to forge significant connections with artists, donors, benefactors and sponsors.

“I am deeply honored by this appointment, the Art Gallery of SA has forged an excellent reputation for its ambition, its outstanding collection, and a dynamic exhibitions program,” she says.

“I am thrilled to be leading this strong and innovative cultural organisation into the future.

“Great art museums are the heart of great cities and reflect how a city considers itself in the world and how it contributes to self-discovery, empathy and shared knowledge.”

The Art Gallery of South Australia’s new director Rhana Devenport.

Art Gallery of SA chair Tracey Whiting describes Rhana as an international arts leader.

Rhana’s arts history includes being the director of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Zealand and leading the development of the Len Lye Centre.

SA Premier Steven Marshall says Rhana brings a wealth of experience, leadership acumen and a genuine commitment and understanding of the role art plays in people’s lives.

“SA has a proud history of championing the role and contribution of women across all sectors of our community – from politics and Indigenous affairs, to science and the arts – and this appointment continues that legacy,” he says.

Rhana will relocate to Adelaide with her husband, multimedia artist Tim Gruchy.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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‘Most important exhibition’ headed for Art Gallery of SA

The Art Gallery of South Australia has secured an exclusive exhibition of impressionist masterpieces in a coup set to draw art lovers to the state.

More than 65 works by Monet, Cézanne, Renoir and Pissarro, among others, will be on show at the gallery from March 29 – July 29, 2018.

The paintings are from the renowned collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and chart the revolution of Impressionism, a 19th Century art movement known for its vibrant techniques and colour.

Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, 1875, oil on canvas, 84 x 60.5 cm, Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France, ©photo Musée d'Orsay / rmn

Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, 1875, oil on canvas, 84 x 60.5 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France, ©photo Musée d’Orsay / rmn

Director Nick Mitzevich says the exhibition, titled Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, is the most important to ever be held at the Art Gallery of SA.

“With so few Impressionist works held in Australian collections, the exhibition presents a rare opportunity for Australians to see the movement’s radical evolution of colour,” he says.

“I would like to thank the Musée d’Orsay for sharing this remarkable collection with Australia.”

For the first time ever, the Art Gallery of SA will hold the exhibition in its Elder Wing which will recall the “light filled interior of the former metro station that now houses the Musée d’Orsay”.

One of the exhibition’s highlights will be Monet’s celebrated snowscape piece La Pie (The Magpie) painted by the revolutionary artist in the late 1860s.

Claude Monet, The Magpie, 1868 – 1869, oil on canvas, 89 x 130 cm, Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France, ©photo Musée d'Orsay / rmn

Claude Monet, The Magpie, 1868 – 1869, oil on canvas, 89 x 130 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France, ©photo Musée d’Orsay / rmn

In 1869 the artwork, featuring a “novel palette of pale and lustrous colours”, was rejected by the Paris Salon, an esteemed annual exhibition.

Works by Cézanne, Monet and Pissarro reflect rich green and blue hues of the French countryside, while fellow leading painter Édouard Manet’s works feature darker tones.

The rosy pigments of Renoir and Morisot’s female figures will also trace the development of Impressionism.

SA Premier and Arts Minister Jay Weatherill says the exhibition is bound to be popular among art loving Australians who would “welcome the chance to see such an extensive display of Impressionist works in their own backyard”.

Berthe Morisot, The Cradle, 1872, oil on canvas, 56 x 46.5 cm, Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France ©photo Musée d'Orsay / rmn

Berthe Morisot, The Cradle, 1872, oil on canvas, 56 x 46.5 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France ©photo Musée d’Orsay / rmn

“This exhibition is a real coup for our gallery, and the Musée d’Orsay have been extremely generous in the selection of works of art they are sending to the Southern Hemisphere, with a number of them coming here for the very first time,” he says.

The Colours of Impressionism exhibition was curated by Marine Kisel and Paul Perrin of the Musée d’Orsay for the Art Gallery of South Australia, in partnership with Art Exhibitions Australia.

For tickets click here.

Header image: Claude Monet, The Water Lilies Pond, pink harmony, 1900, oil on canvas, 90 x 100 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France, ©photo Musée d’Orsay / rmn