Sculptures in the National Art Gallery Garden.


Another impressive building of the architectural Brutalist style is the National Gallery.

The National Gallery building is in the late 20th-century Brutalist style. It is characterised by angular masses and raw concrete surfaces and is surrounded by a series of sculpture gardens planted with Australian native plants and trees.

The geometry of the building is based on a triangle, most obviously manifested for visitors in the coffered ceiling grids and tiles of the principal floor. Madigan said of this device that it was “the intention of the architectural concept to implant into the grammar of the design a sense of freedom so that the building could be submitted to change and variety but would always express its true purpose”. This geometry flows throughout the building, and is reflected in the triangular stair towers, columns and building elements.” (Wikipedia)

National Gallery

National Gallery

The front is softened by a row of gum trees

The front is softened by a row of gum trees


An oblong pond with bubbling fountains  sparkles and glistens in the sun

An oblong pond with bubbling fountains sparkles and glistens in the sun

Another sparkling Canberra day so before going inside we go round to explore the sculpture garden.

The Mountain created by Aristide Maillol, purchased 1978

The Mountain created by Aristide Maillol, purchased 1978

It is a magnificent display of sculptures in a setting of beautiful Australian natives on the edge of Lake Burley Griffen. A perfect photo opportunity and we spend a pleasurable hour trying to capture the feeling of tranquillity.

There are signs of spring every where. Nature moves on from winter.

There are signs of spring every where. Nature moves on from winter.

An office worker sits in the sun to have her lunch

An office worker sits in the sun to have her lunch

Mt Ainslie PC sx40 099_3000x4000

A very unusual sculpture, that fascinated me, was the “Fog Sculpture” jets of mist swirling around the Casuarina trees and across a small pond. It was cold, damp and eerie. Then I noticed the heads in the pond.

Fog sculpture

Fog sculpture

Mt Ainslie PC sx40 074_4000x3000

Mt Ainslie PC sx40 076_4000x3000

This sent shivers down my spine.

Time to find the restaurant for lunch.

That looks like people sitting in a restaurant.

That looks like people sitting in a restaurant.

This looks like the way

This looks like the way

Sitting in the sun with the view of the sculpture garden through the windows was a good place to enjoy lunch.

Now to see what is on offer in the gallery.

Unfortunately photographs are not allowed in the gallery, which is a shame as I would love to take photos of the interior of this huge, impressive building. I struggle to find words to describe it. In some ways it feels like an industrial building, the walls soar up to the ceiling and banks of lights, beams and geometric designs dominate the space above your head. It is spacious, the art work is not crowded and can be savoured and appreciated piece by piece. The gallery staff, all smartly dressed in dark suites and ties, stroll round unobtrusively, but when approached with a question are knowledgeable and friendly.

I did see “Blue Poles” the controversial centrepiece of the gallery painted by Jackson Pollock.

“Never had such a picture moved and disturbed the Australian public,” said renowned art historian Patrick McCaughey, one of the experts invited to address the symposium.

At the time Blue Poles was acquired for the Australian National Gallery (now the NGA) the gallery did not even have a building.

Then director James Mollison was determined to build a collection worthy of a national institution.

The gallery did not have the authority to sign off on purchases of over $1 million, so the purchase was referred to the Federal Government, and approved by then prime minister Gough Whitlam.

Going against political advice, he decided that the price paid for the artwork should be made public.

And so, a political ruckus was ignited.

‘$1.3m for dribs and drabs,’ raged one newspaper headline.

‘Barefoot drunks painted our $1 million masterpiece’, read another.” (Stroke of genius : The Blue Poles)

Bought for $1.3 million estimates of its current value range from $20 million to $100 million

I stood in front of it for quite a while and couldn’t really make my mind up about it, especially how much it is worth. I did like the colours, but would I put it on my wall? I don’t think so…

Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles still has the capacity to divide opinion.

In 2 hours we had only seen 2 of the 4 levels but time to head home and take Millie for her walk. We will be back again to see the other levels. 

Categories: Australia, Canberra, National Gallery, photos, Sculpture Garden | Tags: , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Sculptures in the National Art Gallery Garden.

  1. Oh! Oh! Oh! I wasn’t going to comment P but the heads above the water ‘hit me right there’! Creepy but the mist/light in the water is spectacular! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I so love your posts Pauline as I can travel to far and wonderful places and see the wonderful sights that you experience.. The Fog sculpture I can see why it gave the shivers.. Was the Fog a man made thing? to enhance the memorial?.. Cleverly done..
    And I agree with your conclusion on that piece of art.. Its true what the say.. Art is in the eye of the beholder..
    To me art is also skill.. and no matter how long I looked I couldnt see the skill or the theme in it.. or its message.. Except an expression of colour..
    Wonderful post

    Sue x


  3. Those misty photos were ethereal and I love all the flowers!


  4. I’m sure it was the National Gallery that I went into on my visit to Canberra in 2000, they had a wonderful Aboriginal Art exhibition on at the time, but I completely missed that sculpture garden! If I ever get back there I shall definitely look it up.


    • Yes they do have a great display of Aboriginal art Jude and we also missed the sculpture garden in 2011 when we were last here. Definitely worth a visit next time you are here.


  5. That’s a really huge gallery. Pauline. The ‘Heads from the North’ sixty-six sculptures are really chilling indeed. How very sad, but so glad these victims are remembered here. $1,3m seems rather over the top for that mess of paint on a canvas. I think the artist must have been laughing all the way to the bank. 🙂


  6. poppytump

    You know Pauline …sometimes I just don’t ‘get’ artists statements Lol
    Love the Sculpture Garden !
    How amazing it’s open 24/7 – couldn’t imagine that for one minute home here . How terrific that would be for some night photography .. playing with light …brilliant …


    • Some night photography would be very interesting Poppy, unfortunately I am not very good at night time driving and being in the middle of town I would be a bit nervous.


  7. I like the post It was a pity about the ban no photography inside the building.
    I agree with your comment on Pollock’s Blue Poles.
    Both Gough Whitlam and Pollock got a lot of publicity.
    Their is no bad publicity as it gets attention.
    As Oscar Wild said ‘There is only one thing worse than being talked about, that’s not being talked about.
    Of all the wonderful art work you went to Google for Pollock’s preposterous poles.
    A lot of art work to day is novelty and promotion.
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,so it is all good, depending on how you look at it.


    • I do find it very hard to believe that “art” can be worth so much. Well we will see what else they have on the other 2 floors when we go back


  8. I must say that I was disappointed with the selection of artworks on display at the National Gallery when I was there last year. (Bad timing, perhaps!) I did, really enjoy the National Portrait Gallery! I look forward to hearing your comments on that. The “Brutal” architecture is better on the inside than out and the soft tree plantings, fountains and sculptures are essential in cloaking the harshnes of these buildings! keep up the good work!AS


    • G’day Al, We still have 2 more levels of the gallery to look at, the areas we saw first was mainly modern art and I must admit a bit difficult to understand. I will reserve judgement on my opinion until we have seen the older paintings.


      • I struggle with a lot of modern art too. How can something which looks like it has been done by a bunch of five year olds be worth so much? I often think it is a case of ‘the emperor’s new clothes’ syndrome.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Good comment Jude, I often think it is in the marketing and hype that surrounds some of these works, more than the actual value of them.


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