National Gallery of Australia to loan Ned Kelly series to Irish Museum of Modern Art

The National Gallery of Australia announced a major international loan: the iconic Ned Kelly series by Sidney Nolan will travel to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Dublin. Interest in exhibiting this ground-breaking, popular series in Ireland began several years ago, inspired by the dramatic nature of the works at the National Gallery in Canberra.

Sidney Nolan, Ned Kelly 1946. Enamel on composition board, 90.8 x 121.5 cm. National Gallery of Australia , Canberra. Gift of Sunday Reed 1977.

This interest was driven in part by the Irish connections of Nolan and Ned Kelly and also by the remarkable impact of the 26 works. The series will form the centrepiece of an exhibition titled Sidney Nolan, Ned Kelly Series presented by Etihad Airways and will be on display from
2 November 2012 to 27 January 2013.

The paintings, set in the Australian landscape, tell aspects of the dramatic story of the nineteenth-century rebel-reformer and outlaw Ned Kelly and his gang. Not only does this series reflect an important part of our social history, but the works also represent a breakthrough for Sidney Nolan and a defining moment in Modernism and Australian art history. As such, the works have been shown in recent times in a dedicated space at the National Gallery of Australia.

‘After years of negotiation, the exhibition in Ireland represents a chance to engage in connections between Irish and Australian culture and the rich stories that we share. While we will very much miss the series when it is away, we are also keen to share the best of Australian art with the rest of the world’, said Ron Radford AM, Director, National Gallery of Australia.

‘It is a privilege and a pleasure to see these paintings make the journey to Ireland. The exhibition in the IMMA will provide a welcome opportunity for Irish audiences and visitors to Ireland to connect with and enjoy these iconic works. Sidney Nolan had a close attachment to Ireland, the land of his ancestors, and left a permanent legacy there when he donated paintings from his Wild Geese series to IMMA at its founding in 1991. The series, its artist and subject – Nolan and Kelly – highlight once again the deep historical and cultural links that bind Ireland and Australia. But the universal themes that inform these works also ensure their relevance and appeal to the widest audience’, said Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia, Noel White.

‘In the Ned Kelly series Nolan gave us fresh and highly distinctive ways of thinking about place and the stories that inform the fabric of our nation. His works transport the viewer on a journey with humour, irony and pathos, and great artistic bravura’, said Deborah Hart, Senior Curator of Australian Paintings and Sculpture post -1920.

The loan also represents the opportunity for the Gallery to exhibit another highly significant group of works, Albert Tucker’s powerful series Images of modern evil painted in the 1940s, around same time as Nolan’s series. The Gallery is the main repository of Images of modern evil, which takes as its subject the tumult in Australia caused by the Second World War. This series will be shown in the space usually occupied by the Ned Kelly series at the National Gallery of Australia. –

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