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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11727

Address at the Official Opening of Federation: Australian Art & Society 1901 -2001, National Gallery - Canberra

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 08/12/2000

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 11727

Subjects: Federation Exhibition


Thanks Kerry Stokes the Chairman of the Gallery Council, Peter McGauran, Brian Kennedy, John McDonald, Betty Churcher all the other Gallery Council members, ladies and gentlemen. I first say how nice it is that the launch of this great Centenary of Federation Exhibition should coincide with the retirement of Kerry Stokes as Chairman of the Gallery Council. I want on behalf of the Government to thank him for his tireless and very skilful chairmanship of the Council over the last seven years. It's a very large slice of the 18 year period that the Gallery has been open and it has become a very important focal point of the artistic life of Australia. And it is just so appropriate that his retirement should coincide with opening of what I think will be a wonderful part of a year long celebration of our centenary.

In many respects, ladies and gentlemen, this exhibition is the first major event in Australia of the celebration of the centenary. And as Betty Churcher said it's a wonderfully varied exhibition and if you walk around you see many of the famous Australian paintings. You also as Betty said see many that nobody virtually has seen before. It depicts the happy times of the last 100 years it depicts the sad times of the depression, the challenging tragedy of drought, it depicts war, it depicts sport, it has a strong indigenous perspective at so many points. It reminds us of the immigrant roots of this country, it is therefore, I think a marvellous representation. It contains some of the most iconic paintings of our 100 years as a nation such as the Longstaff, Menin Gate. I noticed as I passed that is even pairs together the famous Whitely and Drysdale paintings depicting a certain game that a few of us follow very closely. It is the sort of exhibition that I think will reach out to so many Australians and remind us of who we are and what we've been through over the last 100 years. It will remind us of the various stages through which the visual arts have passed over that period of time. It will remind us of the great artists that this country has produced. It is in that way the ideal point an which to open in earnest of the celebration of the Centenary of Federation of the Australian Nation.

And may I say to Betty Churcher and Tony Eggleton and Rodney Cavalier who are representing the Council here tonight, how wisely they have invested in this exhibition. And what's good about it is it will travel around Australia. One of the things that all of us have wanted to do is to take art to the people. It sounds cliche, it sounds very trite but it's very important in a country as large as Australia that we endeavour to do that.

I want to thank, and mark my congratulations to John McDonald for the work that he's done as curator of the exhibition. I think the way in which it's been put together, the different categories and the emphasis within those categories and the mixture of the old and well known with the less well known and less orthodox. I think he's achieved an extremely fine mix.

It is a remarkably large exhibition I understand something of the order of 270 different works of art. And perhaps the largest the gallery has had. I think it will be a wonderful focal point for the celebration of the centenary. I think it will attract people in their tens of thousands and it will do great things for the credit of this great national institution. And to all of those who are associated and particularly you Brian can I take the opportunity of again saying what I believe to be the marvellous job that you do as Director of the Gallery. You have brought a great deal of zeal and energy to the job and the Gallery has well and truly burgeoned under your direction. I think it is entirely appropriate that Betty your predecessor who did so much for the Gallery should also be associated with this opening. I therefore have very great pleasure in declaring the exhibition open. I believe it is a marvellous launching pad of our celebration of our centenary, I think it does remind us very much of our uniqueness as a people, what we've been through over the last 100 years. I think it will be a huge success and bring great credit to this Gallery. Thankyou.

Transcript 11727