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Federation: Australian art and society 1901-2001

8 December 2000 - 11 February 2001

Alfred Deakin, one of the architects of Federation, said that the deed was accomplished only "by a series of miracles." Today we can barely imagine how hard it was to forge six quarrelsome colonies into a single nation. John McDonald, curator of the exhibition, argues that it is still debatable whether those issues that unite us as Australians outweigh those that divide us.

Federation: Australian Art and Society 1901-2001 is an exhibition that confronts such questions. A mosaic of the past century, Federation looks at the entire sweep of Australian history and culture, from the opening of the first parliament to the vibrant and diverse society we have become. The exhibition is both a celebration of one hundred years of nationhood, and a critical survey of our achievements.

To tell the story of the twentieth century some 270 works of painting, sculpture, photography and the decorative arts have been assembled. The list of participating artists features many of the most distinguished names in Australian art, including Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, Margaret Preston, Russell Drysdale, William Dobell, Grace Cossington Smith and Max Dupain. Celebrated 'icons' will be set alongside lesser-known works that enrich our appreciation and understanding of the more famous pieces.

Among the highlights of the show are several major paintings from the National collection, that have never been previously exhibited, including George Lambert's restored masterpiece, The Old Dress (1906); John Olsen's Sydney Sun (1965), purchased recently; and Keith Looby's Resurrection (1964), a gift of James Fairfax AO.

The exhibition has been divided into seven sections:

The Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Dr. Brian Kennedy said that 'It is fitting, as we approach one of the most significant moments in the history of Australian nationhood, that we pause and reflect upon these great images. In this exhibition viewers will discover the splendid visual representation of what it means to be Australian'.

The exhibition is supported by the National Council for the Centenary of Federation, as one of the central events of the anniversary festivities. After the show concludes in the national capital in February, it will tour to Melbourne, Townsville, Newcastle, Perth, Darwin and Launceston - a program that should enable as many Australians as possible to experience this historic collection.

Federation: Australian Art and Society 1901-2001 will be opened by the Hon. John Howard MP, Prime Minister of Australia on Friday, 8 December at 5 for 5.30.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 270 page, fully-illustrated catalogue, which will retail for $29.95 during the course of the exhibition.

The National Gallery of Australia gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the Seven network.

For further information please contact Public Affairs, telephone (02) 6240 6431, fax (02) 6240 6561 or email helen.power@nga.gov.au.