Celebrating 15 years of children’s exhibitions

 
21st Century: Art in the First Decade QAG publication
Coinciding with the ’21st Century: Art in the First Decade’ exhibition 21st Century Art for Kids 2010 profiles art works, childhood images and stories by more than 15 contemporary artists from around the world whose works are held in the Collection.

On Friday 26 July, the Gallery’s Children’s Art Centre marks 15 years of presenting exhibitions for children and families with our current exhibition ‘Gordon Hookey: Kangaroo Crew’. Here are some of the highlights of what has become an extensive and important part of the Gallery’s programming.

It is extraordinary to consider that more than two million young people have visited and enjoyed the Gallery’s exhibitions for children and families since 2000. This year, we celebrate the milestone of 15 years since our first children’s exhibition, ‘Portraits are People Pictures’ in 1998. Since then, the Gallery has strived to develop innovative and interactive ways for children to share in the awe-inspiring art experiences that adult visitors have —considering their visitation not only necessary to its future but also valued in its own right. These offerings, and their social and educational possibilities, are breaking down outmoded stereotypes about the types of experiences that can be had by visitors to art museums.

Collaboration with contemporary artists has driven much of our programming for children and families, with more than 170 national and international contemporary artists developing interactive projects, large-scale installations, online multimedia activities, workshops and books for children and families, by working closely with Gallery staff. It is especially rewarding to see the immense national and international growth in other museums who are now working with contemporary artists to develop interactive projects. Generations of Gallery staff have grown with the Children’s Art Centre and have contributed greatly to its evolution. Indeed, many younger staff members were visitors as children, and had their first taste of art via the exhibitions and projects developed here.

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Surrealism for Kids, 2011 was launched to coincide with ‘Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams’, an exhibition of key surrealist works from the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris. Based on a selection of the word and image games drawn upon by the surrealist artists, the publication explores the ideas and approaches behind Surrealism in a series of activities.

The physical presence of the Children’s Art Centre exhibition spaces, which opened with the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in 2006, has greatly assisted the Gallery in presenting an ongoing program of exhibitions and projects. However, these also appear in exhibition spaces across the two sites: many visitors will recall In-flight: Project Another Country 2009, a plane-making project by Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan; or children’s programming during exhibitions such as ‘Andy Warhol’ (2007–08) and ‘Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams’ (2011). The Children’s Art Centre may have fully materialised through its exhibition spaces at GOMA, but its concept was also a driving force behind the establishment of a second site for the Queensland Art Gallery many years prior. Each of today’s Children’s Art Centre projects expands on philosophies that were developed and refined by earlier approaches to such programming — about the importance of learning through active participation, the role of contemporary artists’ ideas, and children’s roles in the future of the museum itself.

My Art Journal publication
Drawing Life for Kids: My Art Journal, 2011 was developed for the Gallery’s younger audiences, to coincide with the exhibition ‘Matisse: Drawing Life’. Inspired by artist Henri Matisse’s love of drawing – a daily activity for the artist – the publication contains over 100 pages of drawing activities and facts about key artists who used drawing as a means of visual communication.

Looking back, the Gallery’s early children’s exhibitions, such as ‘Play’ (2001) and ‘Colour’ (2003), deliberately shifted towards the audience-focused exhibition model that today seems natural to both visitors and arts professionals. Presenting thematic exhibitions was part of a broader international shift in museum curating at the time, interested in breaking down old art historical chronologies by providing new, unexpected juxtapositions and interpretations, bringing sensory material into the exhibition space and creating interactive components. Alongside these exhibitions, Kids’ APT(1) broke new ground by acknowledging children as a key audience for an international contemporary art event. In addition to major projects for children by artists such as Cai Guo-Qiang, the Gallery has also worked with Yayoi Kusama, who developed The obliteration room for APT4 in 2002. This major installation is now one of the Collection’s key works, one that has been re-exhibited several times and appeals to visitors of all ages. In 2012–13, more than 143 000 children experienced Kids’ APT7 via interactive artist projects and the APT7 exhibition. The shared vision of major supporters, such as the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, has been central in making artist projects and collaborations possible, and enables increasingly ambitious innovations in programming.

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Portrait of Spain for Kids, 2012 introduces some of the most significant artists represented by the Prado’s collection through ten selected art works with information about the artists, fun facts about Spanish history and culture, as well as instructions for at-home activities such as Spanish recipes.

The Children’s Art Centre is committed to showcasing the work of contemporary Australian artists. Since 2009, an annual presentation of large-scale solo exhibitions for children has showcased specially commissioned installations by artists such as Callum Morton, Anne Wallace and Gordon Hookey. We are also proud to have developed an annual touring program in collaboration with the Gallery’s Regional Services staff. These initiatives enable children and families from regional and remote Queensland greater access to their state gallery. In 2010, the Children’s Art Centre began providing ‘take-home’ experiences of its exhibitions and projects by initiating a dedicated publishing program. Publishing has become a key part of the Children’s Art Centre, designed to enrich young visitors’ experiences and ensure their ongoing engagement with contemporary art, artists and ideas. With six publications to date, several of which have won national and international publishing, design and educational awards, this aspect of the Children’s Art Centre is firmly embedded in the Gallery’s programming. It’s another way of fostering connection between artists and audiences.

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Hahan and Friends, 2012 was launched to coincide with the ‘7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’. Emerging Indonesian artist Hahan (Uji Handoko Eko Saputro) develop this richly illustrated book that explores the artist’s life and art works and provides art-making activities for children to complete.

Coming up this summer, the Children’s Art Centre will present a major project in collaboration with contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang, to be featured alongside the exhibition ‘Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth’ at GOMA. Cai’s exhibition has an increased poignancy for the Children’s Art Centre, with the artist being among the first to collaborate with the Gallery in developing an interactive project for children.(2) Visitors to this major exhibition will be delighted to see for the first time, or perhaps re-experience, Cai’s unique visions of the world through new installations, as well as activities developed in collaboration with the Children’s Art Centre.

In its curatorial and display approaches, and through initiatives such as children’s publishing, the Children’s Art Centre is interested in the ways in which contemporary art and artists’ practices can be enhanced through the creative process of developing their ideas for children. This process of development and discussion, and the activation of the works by children both through research trials and during the exhibitions, makes the Children’s Art Centre and its work exciting for everyone involved.

Endnotes
1 Kids’ APT was first launched in 1999 as part of the third Asia Pacific Triennial.
2 Cai Guo-Qiang’s project featured in the Gallery’s inaugural Kids’ APT program in 1999.

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To coincide with the ‘Kangaroo Crew’ exhibition, the Gallery published The Sacred Hill, 2013. The story book features Gordon Hookey’s own narrative and 25 paintings, introducing young readers to four kangaroos who once lived together on the sacred hill. When their home is threatened by the arrival of the myna birds, the kangaroos are forced to leave and must work together to return home. The Sacred Hill follows the kangaroos on their journey, showing that courage and friendship can go a long way.

Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado — La Sala del Prado

 

To complement the exhibition ‘Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado’ we want to take visitors on a trip to the old Madrid illustrated in some of the magnificent paintings in the exhibition, and share the feeling of today’s Madrid — a bustling international city known for its cutting-edge design, technology, food and culture.

American writer Ernest Hemingway loved Madrid. He had this to say about the city in the 1930s… ‘If it had nothing else than the Prado it would be worth spending a month in every spring, if you have money to spend a month in any European capital… It makes you feel very badly, all question of immortality aside, to know that you will have to die and never see Madrid again.’

‘When you get to know it, it is the most Spanish of all cities, the best to live in, the finest people, month in and month out the finest climate… It is in Madrid only that you get the essence.’ [Death in the afternoon by Ernest Hemingway (1932)]

The Gallery’s twenty-first century approach will be expressed through La Sala del Prado — the ‘Prado lounge’ — a large-scale lounge environment adjacent to the exhibition, especially built to house multimedia interactives for all ages, drawing activities, cafe and a host of programs and events, including Prado Up Late evening events, during the exhibition.

Madrid-based design studios Studiogaas and Estudio Manuel Carmona have collaborated with the Gallery to create designs especially for the furnishings and decor of La Sala del Prado. Taking inspiration from Spanish textile patterns, lace motifs and craft techniques, the studios have brought a contemporary aesthetic to this interactive space.

In La Sala, you’ll learn about how Spanish culture influenced art of the time, from the symbolism of portraiture to the significance of fruits, vegetables and other produce in still life painting and get a sense of why the Prado is one of the world’s best museums, situated in one of the most exciting cities.

Here’s a taste of what’s in store:

| Spanish still life | Especially for visitors to La Sala del Prado, a rich display of fruits, produce and spices has been inspired by Spanish still life painting and the myriad of items that entered Spain during periods of travel and expansion of the Spanish Empire. We invite you to take up pencils and draw from the display using paper templates provided, or use the multimedia drawing application.

| Multimedia interactives | The powerful symbolism encoded in historical Spanish portraiture meets the twenty-first century in Prado Portraits, a multimedia interactive that enables visitors to put themselves in the picture to become a Spanish royal subject, a cherub or even a mythological god, and learn about the original subject’s accessories and dress, before sending the resulting image to friends and family via social media.

A comprehensive guide to the period on which the ‘Portrait of Spain’ exhibition focuses is provided in a multimedia timeline and family tree, tracing the reign of Spanish monarchs from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, the artists they each supported, the major political and cultural events of the period, and the evolution of the Prado museum.

For younger visitors, a multimedia quiz, Pepe’s Great Escape!, uses playful games and lively animations to bring to life a host of historical facts relating to art works in the exhibition, including some of the fashions of the sixteenth-century royal court, what a Spanish peasant could expect for dinner, and the significance of the cacao bean.

| Bringing Spain to plate and glass at the Sala cafe | Spanish cuisine is richly steeped in history and origin. Many of the world’s gastronomically-focused cultures have grown from historical periods of expansion, which introduced olives, almonds, citrus fruits and fragrant spices to the Spanish menu. Tomatoes, chillies, peppers and potatoes also make up the base of new world influences to create Spain’s staple flavours of today.

The Sala menu celebrates these vibrant tastes, bringing together fresh local produce, including poached pickled mackerel in saffron escabeche, with crispy deep-fried leeks and shredded Serrano, buttered asparagus, boiled egg and baby globe artichoke.

Beautiful Spanish wines represent the most distinctive Spanish grape varietals, including but not limited to, Cava, Albarino, Verdejo, Tempranillo and Granacha from the regions of Penedes, Rias Baixas, Rueda, Rioja and Toro respectively.

With our friendly and informed staff, let us guide you through the flavours and essence of Spanish cusine at the Sala Cafe.

So, be inspired by the lively cultural traditions of Madrid – the home of the Museo Nacional del Prado — and enrich your experience of the ‘Portrait of Spain’ exhibition in La Sala del Prado. ‘Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado’ is on display at the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) until 4 November 2012. This ticketed exhibition is an Australian first and exclusive to Brisbane.

Up Late with Sam Amidon

 
Sam Amidon © Reiner Pfisterer

“Sam Amidon sees no difference between a 19th-century folk ballad and a 21st-century avant-garde instrumental suite. In bridging the very old and the very new… he has managed to meld the rural and the urban, the organic and the synthetic, the oral tradition and the written score” — Pitchfork

Sam Amidon is in Australia playing songs from his most recent record I see the sign and supporting his occasional collaborator Beth Orton at shows throughout the country to critical acclaim.

Born to folk musician parents in Vermont in the early eighties, Amidon was a child prodigy who learned to play the fiddle at the age of three. He released his first album at 20, and now has four under his belt, mostly made up of hundred-year-old North American folk songs re-worked in a style with few contemporary comparisons. He might claim to have ‘never actually written a song’, but his ‘recompositions’ (as Pitchfork called them) are as unique as the originals he breathes back to life. Sam makes the old sound new.

Video: Sam Amidon at the 2011 SXSW festival

Amidon’s latest release, I See The Sign, was recorded in 2010 in Iceland with Valgeir Sigurðsson, whose production credits include Feist, Múm, Björk, Kate Nash, and Australia’s own Machine Translations. Listen to I see the sign online and watch for his version of R. Kelly’s ‘Relief’.

“I don’t think of my albums as folk music at all, they’re very much personal albums that reflect my life over the last few years – the musicians I’ve encountered, the melodies I’ve heard.”

Having previously performed for gallery-goers at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) last year, Sam Amidon joins a cast of Australian and international musicians performing at the Gallery of Modern Art on Friday evenings until 2 March as part of Up Late in conjunction with ‘Matisse: Drawing Life’.  Sam plays on 27 January, and tickets are available via qtix.