The NGV has a diverse collection of shoes, clothing, furniture, sculpture and paintings in a range of media and subject matter. However none where wildlife is the subject! It appears that the NGV has decided that no matter how well the wildlife is painted, the skill of the artist, their international reputation……… if it has wildlife it is not considered art by the NGV. Previous enquiries at NGV had me directed to the museum!
Founded in 1861 it has not found one opportunity to collect or display the best of what wildlife artists have to offer as part of its collection. You can paint collections of fruit, a photorealist painting of the grill of a car, completely blank canvases, an arrangement of blocks, even some pretty ordinary portraits of some obscure person in history and get collected and shown. You can even get shown if you strip of the skin of a creature or slice it in to sections and pop it in a tank. But if you capture the magic of a wild creature in any media you can mention, you’re ‘banned’.
Now I know that the odd creature has made it past the gate keepers at the NGV. If a great master painted the odd creature, hunting scene, if it’s part of a still-life or if it is dead and laid out on a table ready for the pot it might sneak through. Where are the paintings featuring live creatures in all their glory?
The NGVs collection exclusion policy is also extended to the bookshop which has a diverse range of books on ‘all’ things art. Tables full of knick knacks, many with dubious links to anything to do with art and more about money making. However after an extensive search and asking for directions to books on Wildlife Art I could only find 1 book on sketching wildlife, even this was absent at subsequent visits.
Whilst the gallery has many regular visitors and attracts large crowds to ‘block buster’ exhibitions. I’ve wandered through exhibitions of any number of collections over the years that were devoid of other visitors. In my opinion there is a large percentage of the population that has little interest in large sections of what the gallery has to offer. The vast majority of people however are interested in wildlife and the natural world. Why is the NGV allowed to ignore these people?
Go into any school in the nation and look at what is the preferred subject matter for our children’s art and you will find wild things everywhere! The gallery neither displays work to inspire these artists of the future or offers programs to encourage their passion. I would suggest that for them an exhibition of great wildlife art would be fascinating, enthralling, popular and inspiring and dare I say more relevant to these children.
Maybe the gallery curators are more interested in reinforcing their ‘unchallengeable’ position as those best to decide what we should be looking at! Great wildlife art might be too popular, able to be enjoyed and appreciated by the great unwashed, those without a PHD in fine art and enjoyed just for what it is! Great art, depicting the natural world.
Let the NGV know what you think! Send your views to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
A reply to my above submission to NGV:
Thank you for your enquiry:
We have many works in our collection depicting animals and landscapes – some more abstract than others. The NGV has a vast collection of both International and Australian work – we therefore cannot have all of our work on display at any given time.
What sort of “wildlife” art would you like to see more of in the gallery? Perhaps if you are after anatomical or botanical drawings you may be best contacting the Museum or the State Library? Another suggestion would be for you to fill out a visitor comment form suggesting the gallery considers putting together an exhibition of artworks that depict animals.
Unfortunately your suggestion: ‘Perhaps if you are after anatomical or botanical drawings you may be best contacting the Museum or the State Library?’ reflects the attitude of all gallery representatives I have contacted over a number of years. I am inquiring about ART WORKS, not illustrations or dissection drawings. Art work depicting wildlife created by ARTISTS who choose wildlife as their subjects!
You suggest that there are works depicting wildlife in the collection. Can you list these and tell me how often they have been shown? Can you tell me if there has ever been an exhibition featuring wildlife in the gallery and when?
Eagerly awaiting reply! Not expecting that the NGV will find many if any examples of wildlife art in the gallery. Not even holding my breath for a response. Unless, of course, an avalanche of emails are received from my readers demanding answers to the indefensible and disgraceful exclusion of wildlife as a subject for art in National No Wildlife Art Gallery Victoria!
Cartoon that follows the theme!
Oslo Davis ‘I have no idea what those two people in that Overheard were talking about, sorry. I just picked up on one quirky little thing they said, without hearing what else they said.’
I read all sorts of meaning into this cartoon that was not intended by the artist. It might worth the NGV curators taking note that serious painters do paint animals. When will the NGV give them the recognition that they are worth.
If these two people were looking for books on the subject they have no hope! They might however find something on cake decorating!
Cartoon used with the kind permission of Oslo Davis http://www.oslodavis.com/