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:email@example.com
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/
NGV and wildlife art 2014:
Art inspired wildlife sneaks past the gate keepers at the NGV. Not only selected but commisioned for Federation Court at NGV. You would think this would prompt an ‘about bloody time’ from me. However to choose this work as worthy for inclusion in the NGV just adds salt in the wounds. Of all the stunning wildlife sculptures and wildlife art available throughout the world the NGV chooses work that is more suited to a shop window, display Moomba float or a shopping center. Colleen chastised me for my condemnation of the work because I hadn’t yet read the artists statement. It may have contained a deeper meaning or explanation of the work. After reading the statement and viewing the work she endorsed my initial response.
I have a bit of a problem with a visual art needing an artists statement to explain or justify it. If the meaning or message of a visual work needs explanation in my opinion it has failed its prime objective.
The artist states: ‘You started it…I finish it also invokes an animistic, other-worldly spiritual wonder, coupled with a deep concern about the vulnerability of the natural world’
I would again call on the NGV to break its unofficial ban on ‘quality art’ works inspired by nature. Let’s see the best of the best, not this travesty of nature reduced to amusing soft toys.
Whilst I’m on the subject of no wildlife art in the NGV.
The attached painting was part of the Italian Masterpieces collection. Visited yesterday. A stunning collection of work. However among the buildings, people and farm animals that in the most part were wonderfully painted, apart from some dodgy perspectives, were some captive ‘wildlife’. This piece chosen from the collection displayed as a print at the exit to allow people to take photographs.
Andrea di Lione Italian 1610–1685 Elephants in a circus (Gli Elefanti in un circo) c.1640
oil on canvas
I do forgive the artist for his impression of elephants in this painting. I’m sure that if he had a real elephant to visit or dare I suggest a collection of photographs for reference the diabolical mess he has made of the elephants in this painting would not have occurred. If you do go to visit the collection keep an eye out for the lions that pop up in a couple of works. The artists gave it their best shot with inadequate reference but again giant fail.
NGV book shop revisited:
I made my usually inquiries about wildlife art books in the book shop. Result: The usual lonely book of how to paint wildlife aimed at children and raw beginners and the books depicted in the images attached. One on ‘amusingly’ dressed and mounted taxidermed creatures. Note cover of a stuffed elephant balancing on its trunk. High art indeed! One book with an encouraging image on the outside of a bird. The marketing department obviously recognized its wide appeal. The contents of the book did not reflect the cover. Not one book showing the best of what wildlife artists have to offer. They did find space however find a great deal of space for books and products better suited to a novelty shop.
NGV – Where is the art inspired by wildlife!