Celebrating 150 years of life for the Melbourne Town Hall

Melbourne Town Hall illuminated for the royal visit, 1954. Photographer unknown. City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection.

A new exhibition has opened celebrating Melbourne Town Hall’s 150 years anniversary, being at the heart-centre of city life.

Featuring new commissions from artist Patrick Pound and rare archival footage and photographs in the refurbished City Gallery, the exhibition is now on, showing from the 30 November to 19 March 2021.

The exhibition brings cherished memories and poignant historical moments back into the public eye, alongside stunning new artworks and a ground-breaking musical commission heralding the milestone.

With the new works, archival film, photographs and ephemera from the City of Melbourne’s vast art and heritage collection, the City Gallery exhibition You Are Cordially Invited examines the Town Hall’s 150 years of civic life, governance, politics and culture.

Images: Unknown, Maintenance of Town Hall’s clock, undated (left), Edwin G. Adamson Fire-damaged TownHall, 1925 (right). Photographic paper, City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection.

At the centre of the exhibition in the refurbished City Gallery – housed in the Town Hall – are the specially commissioned new works by Melbourne artist Patrick Pound, surveying the Town Hall at the epicentre of Melbourne’s collective psyche.

Using found images sourced through auction houses, Pound has created a work based around tourism postcards of the Melbourne Town Hall – many of these returned from the overseas destinations to which they had been posted. Pound looks further afield with his other two works for the exhibition – exploring town halls of Australia and from around the world.

Patrick Pound will be having a collection involving tourism postcards of the Melbourne Town Hall.

Exhibition curator Andrew Stephens says the Town Hall has been a vital cultural hub since 1870, hosting an extraordinary array of celebrities and events – from ABBA and The Beatles to Queen Elizabeth II, Dame Nellie Melba and Nelson Mandela, from Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Lionel Rose to Elizabeth Taylor.

“Not only have there been the expected council events and mayoral balls but there’s also been everything from musclemen displays and hairdressing competitions to spiritualist evenings, radical art shows and even a circus. All manner of protests, parades and demonstrations by passionate Melburnians have been held in the streets on its doorstep. This exhibition is a fresh look at how so much important local history implicates the Town Hall.”

Other artworks and objects in the exhibition include archival footage of the Queen, ABBA, Elizabeth Taylor and boxer Lionel Rose during their visits to the Town Hall, extraordinarily progressive health promotion posters from the 1920s depicting the scourge of venereal disease as well as contemporary art works by Destiny Deacon, Fiona Foley and Nusra Latif Qureshi.

A peek into the City Gallery.

The City of Melbourne has also commissioned a stunning new composition by Melbourne electronic composer Ehsan Gelsi to be performed on the Town Hall’s Grand Organ to mark the anniversary in March 2021.

This new composition incorporates the mammoth grandeur of the ten thousand pipe acoustic Organ whilst exploring the full extent of the instrument’s computer control capabilities. His ground-breaking hybrid composition will traverse classical organ music, vintage prog rock and contemporary electronica.

See the Melbourne Town Hall like you've never seen it before in You Are Cordially Invited, on till the 19th of March 2021!


Dates: 30 November 2020 – 19 March 2021 Location: City Gallery, Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston Street, Melbourne Times: 9am - 5pm

Cost: Free City Gallery Website