Few landmark exhibitions come as significant as The Field Revisited, the inaugural exhibition of the National Gallery of Victoria held at the then ‘new’ premises on St Kilda Road in 1968.
Fifty years on, the stage is set for a restaging of the radical exhibition, with silver-foil covered walls and geometric light fittings, this boundary-pushing exhibition was in its day the first comprehensive display of colour field painting and abstract sculpture in Australia and resulted in much controversy at the time.
To commemorate its 50th anniversary in 2018, The Field Revisited recreates the exhibition for contemporary audiences at the NGV Australia at Federation Square. Gathering many of the 74 original artworks as possible, the exhibition has been co-curated by Tony Ellwood , Director of the NGV and Beckett Rozentals, Curator, Australian Painting, Sculpture and Decorative Arts to 1980.
The Field launched the careers of a generation of young Australian artists, including Sydney Ball, Peter Booth, Janet Dawson and Robert Jacks, many of which were influenced by American stylistic tendencies of the time. Eighteen of the exhibiting artists were under the age of 30, with Robert Hunter the youngest at 21 years old.
From the original exhibition, a number of works are unknown to have been destroyed, with the fate of six paintings and six sculptures still unknown. The NGV commissioned a number of artists including Garrey Foulkes, Col Jordan, Emanuel Raft, Trevor Vickers and Normana Wight to recreate their original work for The Field Revisited.
The remaining works missing from the original exhibition in the 2018 exhibition will be commemorated through a specially-designed silhouette on the gallery walls, their physical space marked out throughout the exhibition space to reinforce their importance and place in the 1968 exhibition. Where possible, the fate of these missing works will be noted in the exhibition wall text, allowing visitors an insight into the recent history of these works.
“When The Field opened it caused an incredible sensation by showing daring, abstract contemporary works by emerging Australian artists. By restaging the exhibition 50 years on, we hope to re-examine its impact and significance in Australian art history and allow a whole new generation to experience it for themselves,” said Tony Ellwood.
The Field Revisited is accompanied by a reprinted version of the rare and highly collectable 1968 exhibition publication alongside a new publication which reflects on the importance of this exhibition over the past 50 years.
Location: NGV Australia, Corner of Swanston Street & Flinders Street, Melbourne
Dates: 27 April – 26 August 2018
Time: 10am – 5pm daily