Clare Tom, Equiibrium' 2014 (cropped)

Skulls and all their meaning will be examined in the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s latest exhibition, Romancing the Skull.

A celebration of all things related to skulls, the exhibition highlights the powerful symbol they represent not just of death and danger but also as a sign of rebellion, defiance and ‘devil may care’ view of life itself.

At the core of the exhibition will be skulls and skeletons as they are featured in Australian contemporary art, but the exhibition will also have some of their historical meaning and imagery, including the medieval Dances of Death, pirate flags, poison bottles and tattoo art, says Gallery curator Julie McLaren.

“The skull has always been an iconic symbol, and it is frequently featured in art. This tribute to the skull puts the question, ‘why has it been so fascinating for so long to so many people?’”, she says.

This exhibition will coincide with the ‘Day of the Dead’ celebration, (Dia de los Muertos) Festival going from Federation Square in Melbourne to Ballarat on 4 November. Skulls are an iconic symbol of the ‘Day of the Dead’ celebrations in Mexico.

To complement this, the exhibition has more than 20 prints by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada (1852–1913) – long connected with the Day of the Dead – whose work will be on show for the first time in Australia.

Other exhibition highlights include a woodcut print from the renowned Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493 depicting one of the earliest Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) images, and Australian artist Shaun Gladwell’s Virtual Reality work, Orbital Vanitas 2016, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Featuring a range of specially commissioned work for the exhibition by Fiona Hall, Rekko Rennie and Sally Smart, and works by contemporary Australian artists Sam Jinks, Rona Green, and Ben Quilty. The exhibition will host a number of events, talks and educational programs, for a full list see the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s website.


Location: 40 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat.

Dates: 14 October – 28 January 2018

Time: 10am – 5pm daily

Cost: Adults $16, Concession $12, Student $10, Child 5-15 $5, Family $35, Show us your skull tattoo $10

For more info visit the exhibition website here.

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