Year of Melbourne | 1861

As the National Gallery of Victoria celebrated its 150th birthday in February 2011, it emerged that many important events took place in Melbourne during 1861..

-:- Melbourne Museum of Art (National Gallery of Victoria) - Australia's first public gallery
-:- Dame Nellie Melba was born
-:- First Melbourne Cup was held
-:- Melbourne's population reached 125,000
-:- Princes Bridge Hotel (Young & Jacksons) opens
-:- Australia's first stock exchange opens in Melbourne
-:- Junction Hotel, Preston opens
-:- First Tour by the English Cricket team (later Ashes)
-:- Post Office was opened at Box Hill
-:- Victorian Court of 1861 Melbourne Exhibition
-:- Melbourne City Abattoirs commenced
-:- Formation of Victorian Acclimatization Society.
-:- Musical Society of Victoria (MSV) was founded


NGV turns 150


Orange is the colour as NGV turns 150

THE National Gallery of Victoria celebrated its 150th birthday in February 2011 - and orange was the colour of the day. Giant orange balloons adorned the forecourt, roving waiters served cup cakes topped with thick orange icing, and the day's big announcement, a new art donation, was cloaked in a shiny orange sheet.

There was no obvious reason for the orange, but a colour theorist might suggest that it could have been to keep the guests awake during the interminable speeches.

Allan Myers, president of the NGV Council of Trustees spoke. NGV director Gerard Vaughan spoke. Victorian Premier and Arts Minister Ted Baillieu spoke. The lord mayor, Robert Doyle, spoke. So, too, did Peter Edwards, grandson of one of the gallery's greatest benefactors, Loti Smorgon.

Advertisement: Story continues below But on an occasion such as this, loquaciousness can be forgiven. It's not every day that a grand old dame turns 150.

The NGV's actual birthday is on May 24, and it's no coincidence that the date is also the birthday of Queen Victoria. A portrait of the imposing monarch has been prominently rehung in the NGV as part of the 150th celebrations.

To mark the anniversary, Dr Vaughan revealed several new acquisitions and donations, notably the one lurking under the orange silk. It was yet another gift from the generous Mrs Smorgon, whose donations to the gallery over the years, with late husband Victor, amount to a remarkable $40 million.

Her grandson unveiled the gift - a bronze by Italian sculptor Marino Marini of a horse and rider, titled Cavaliere (Rider), from 1945.

It was just a little something that Mrs Smorgon picked up in London one day during a rushed outing to a buy a raincoat. She never did buy that raincoat. But the sculpture was added to her personal collection, and displayed in the family home.

''Underneath [the horse] was the favourite place for the kids to play,'' Mr Edwards said.

Dr Vaughan also announced that the gallery has been promised Ron Mueck's striking sculpture Drift, by its American owners John and Amy Phelan. Currently on tour, the sculpture was shown during the highly popular Mueck exhibition at the NGV last year.

The gallery has also acquired a high Renaissance 16th century painting by Francesco Francia, Virgin and Child with the young Saint John in a garden of roses - but still needs to raise another $400,000 to $500,000 to cover the cost.

Neither the Mueck nor the Francia are yet on display, but another new acquisition, Queen of the Night, by contemporary Irish artist Sean Scully, is. The artist gave the NGV a significant discount on the work, thus enabling its purchase.

In 1861, the NGV became Australia's first public gallery and today is the country's most visited.

Yesterday, history buff Ted Baillieu noted that 1861 was also the year that the great Nellie Melba was born, that the first Melbourne Cup was held, and that the city's population reached a mighty 125,000.

The lord mayor added a few historical gems of his own: it was the year that Young and Jacksons opened - and that his great, great, grandfather, Robert Bennett, became mayor of Melbourne. ''So I feel very blessed to be here purely by accident 150 years later,'' Mr Doyle said.

At the end of the proceedings, Mr Doyle got to hear his favourite Scientologist, Kate Ceberano, sing happy birthday to the NGV, accompanied by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

A blessed man indeed.

Orange is the colour as NGV turns 150
Gabriella Coslovich
February 3, 2011


❊ Web Links ❊


Year of Melbourne | 1861 

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