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Discover one of the most significant public collections of Australian visual art outside the major state galleries.

Explore this extensive collection of paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photography and textiles by some of Australia's most significant visual artists.

The Public Art Collection reveals the intersection between the visual and the performing arts. Do you ever feel inspired listening to a piece of music? So did artists such as John Olsen and Roger Kemp. Discover how some of Australia's most noteworthy visual artists used music, dance, theatre, opera and the creativity of performance to influence and motivate their work.

 

Spotlight


A room in Heide Museum of Modern Art, painted deep green, that has multiple panels of 'Paradise Garden' installed across three walls. There is a table in the middle of the room, propped on two trestles, that has a green top and several artist books displayed under glass. 

 

Paradise Lost, Paradise Found

Take a journey through Sidney Nolan’s Paradise Garden, from concept to its placement today.

 

Read Paradise Lost, Paradise Found

 

Detail: John Olsen, 'Largo al Factotum: Tribute to Rossini' - a painting with a gold background and lots of twisting lines of various dark colours that almost look like a tangle of veins.

 

John Olsen: A Celebration of Opera

Read about the creative intersections between the visual and performing arts, between opera and the paintings commissioned by renowned Australian artist, John Olsen.

 

Read John Olsen: A Celebration of Opera

 

Stories


Details: Act Drop, State Theatre curtain - the beautifully hand-painted red curtain that hands in the State Theatre. 

'Act Drop – State Theatre' curtain

The Act Drop – State Theatre curtain is quite possibly the hardest working object in the Public Art Collection. If you've ever been to the magnificent State Theatre to see a performance you will have admired the Act Drop – State Theatre curtain on the stage. Discover the stories behind this incredible object and the delicate care taken to preserve it.


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Arthur Boyd's Centenary 

Arthur Boyd's Centenary

On 24 July 1920, celebrated Australian artist Arthur Boyd was born. Read more about Boyd’s life and his 16 artworks in the State Theatre Foyer in this story by Arts Centre Melbourne’s Art Curator, Steven Tonkin.

Arthur Boyd, Detail of Starry Night - Shoalhaven River, 1984
Commissioned in 1984. Gift of Lewis Construction
Reproduced with the permission of the Bundanon Trust
Art Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne


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'Act Drop – State Theatre' curtain

Watch this time-lapse showing the temporary removal of the spectacular State Theatre curtain to mitigate any risks of damage during structural works to the theatre.

 

On Display

Explore significant artworks and sculptures from Australian artists in the Public Art Collection.


Alive with Movement 

Alive with Movement

Robert Owen and Electrolight’s sculptural piece Silence provides another layer of meaning to architect Roy Grounds’ and designer John Truscott’s exploration of geology as a conceptual basis for the original Hamer Hall. Silence consists of seven geometrical sculptural forms made of stainless steel and covered in thousands of Swarovski crystals. The suspended work pulses and moves, flickers and shines, reactive to the environment and its own movement. It is cell-like, molecular, crystalline and transparent.

Robert Owen and Electrolight, Silence, 2012
Commissioned through the Maxwell and Merle Carroll Bequest
Art Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne


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Ancient Songlines 

Ancient Songlines

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (1932 – 2002) is recognised as one of the masters of the Western Desert art movement. His monumental canvasses of the late 1970s are drawn from Central Desert traditions of ground design and ceremonial body painting. Others have been likened to vast encyclopaedic ‘maps’ of country. Arrungu Dreaming at Ulyitjirrki depicts ceremonies performed by Arrungu ancestors at Ulyitjirrki in Anmatyerr country. These ceremonies were performed at numerous sites along the Wallaby’s songline, from Port Augusta in South Australia to Karlu Karlu (the Devils Marbles), near Tennant Creek in the north.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Arrungu Dreaming at Ulyitjirrki, 1984
Gift of The Sportscraft Sportsgirl Group
Art Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne


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An Allegorical Actor 

An Allegorical Actor

Arthur Boyd’s The Actor is one of his greatest allegorical paintings. The Actor captures the conflicting roles of the performer – holding power on the stage and yet at the mercy of his audience. The imposing figure of The Actor is oversized – a character half regal (wearing a crown) and half vagabond (with red nose and caricatured face). The actor has one eye open and one eye closed, looking inward and outward at the same time. The cockerel, its death a symbol of doom, is draped around the actor’s neck, while the ANZAC insignia gives the work an Australian context.

Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd, The Actor, 1984
Gift of Lewis Construction
Reproduced with the permission of the Bundanon Trust
Art Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne


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A Monumental, Much-loved Icon

 

A Monumental, Much-loved Icon

Inge King’s Forward Surge is located between the Theatres Building and Hamer Hall – its wave-like forms acting as a powerful visual connector between the two buildings. King has described Forward Surge as ‘an environmental sculpture, which encourages the spectator to explore it by walking around and through the arches, as well as viewing it in its entirety.’ In 1973 the Building Committee of the Victorian Arts Centre commissioned Forward Surge after seeing a small-scale maquette in a solo exhibition of the artist’s sculptures in Melbourne. King completed the work in 1976, but it was not installed in its current location until 1981.

Inge King, Forward Surge, 1976
Gift of the William Angliss Art Fund
Art Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne


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