A celebration and showcase of Australia’s female artists from 1900 to present, the first instalment of the National Gallery of Australia’s new flagship exhibition Know My Name features more than 350 works spanning an array of forms and genres.
The Gallery’s head of Australian art, Deborah Hart, said the exhibition aspires to make the art of women better known in the wider community.
“We are here for artists, artists are the lifeblood of what we do,” she said.
“Given the number of significant women artists past and present, this exhibition can only be partial; it is not an endpoint or separate from other endeavours, rather it is part of a continuum and an ongoing reassessment.”
The works of the exhibition are grouped together thematically under seven different brackets, meaning lineages and connections between the art is made across time and form.
Spectacular large-scale modern dot paintings in one room lead to pop-art in another, modernist and abstractionist pieces in the next – with each space built around a focal sculpture or sculptures.
The art featured in Know My Name includes new commissions, performances and works drawn from the national collection, as well as collections from across Australia.
The Gallery’s first major exhibition launch of the year, Know My Name was first announced in May 2019 and delayed from its planned launch in May 2020 due to their pandemic closure.
Silver linings of the delay include that it allowed for additional planning to be invested in the exhibition, resulting in an expanded and more comprehensive display.
In addition, it meant the exhibition launch coincided with the also delayed NAIDOC Week 2020, which is fitting given the extraordinary lengths the exhibition goes to profile and highlight Indigenous female artists.
“When we started planning, we had no idea NAIDOC Week or Know My Name would move,” Gallery director Nick Mitzevich said.
Ngambri-Ngunnawal elder Aunty Matilda House, of whom a photographic portrait by Brenda Croft is on display as part of Know My Name, was on hand at the launch.
According to Mitzevich, their latest flagship exhibition marks an “important”, “long-term step” toward gender equity at the institution.
When they started work on the exhibition over a year ago, only 25% of the Gallery’s national collection was work by female artists.
This will change under a new long-term strategy outlined at the Know My Name opening and has begun with the acquisition of over 40 major works by female artists.
Large in scale, Know My Name takes up a significant footprint throughout the level one Australian Art galleries and the level one foyer – formerly a permanent shop.
This is the first time the Gallery’s level one foyer has been used as an exhibition space in the building’s 38-year history.
Mitzevich said he plans to open more of the building up to the public as the structure approaches its 40th birthday in 2022.
Know My Name is on display until the second instalment opens on 1 July 2021.