The Art Gallery of South Australia is next door to the South Australian Museum (SAM). This art gallery has been around for almost 140 years and has been added to several times in the only state that received no convicts. Adelaide was started by free settlers instead of convict laborers from England. I wrote about SAM yesterday. While there, Ruth and I were lucky to get into a show that included the paintings of 25 mostly familiar, mostly French artists. Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay was closing at the end of July, 2018, and didn’t move somewhere else.
This temporary exhibit was fine, but it was this museum’s permanent collection that made stepping inside worthwhile for Ruth & me. Like SAM, this art museum was very crowded because people in Australia take art very seriously. This country, in fact, gives out 3 major awards every year for the best art works. The Art Gallery of South Australia works are interestingly displayed in themed rooms, so a Rodin might be near a very contemporary piece by Swiss sculptor Thomas Hirschhorn that is full of nails and screws or a silk Chinese dragon robe.
Upcoming from November 17 of this year until January 29th of next year, this museum will present Picasso’s Vollard Suite. I had never heard of this collection so enjoyed researching it. According to the experts, this is Picasso’s most celebrated series of etchings, which are definitely on the earthy side. Between 1930 and 1937 Pablo Picasso produced 100 etchings to honor the art dealer/publisher who gave him his first break. Ambroise Vollard had forevision of this artist’s greatness, individualism, and saleability and put on the first exhibition of his works in 1901 when Picasso was only 20 years old. There were once 230 complete sets of this series of etchings. I don’t know if the Art Gallery of South Australia will have a full set on display, but this year-end exhibit will be free. Several museums, like the National Gallery of Australia in Sydney, do have compete sets. Vollard came to a tragic end. With WW 2 approaching, he left for his cottage where 10,000 art works were in storage. The car skidded and somersaulted twice. He survived the crash but died the next day.
The Art Gallery of South Australia was the 1st big city museum Down Under to buy and display Aboriginal art. This didn’t occur until 1939. Several fine examples of its purchases are out. There are also examples of every major Australian artist on view somewhere in this diverse museum because its collection has grown to more than 38,000 eclectic items.
The Art Gallery of South Australia is so forward-looking that it was the only museum in Australia to offer Colours of Impressionism. The only other museum to have it was the National Gallery in Singapore, a city that is vividly on view in the very successful film Crazy RICH Asians.