Regarded as a landmark exhibition in Australian art history, The Field was the National Gallery of Victoria’s inaugural exhibition at its new premises on St Kilda Road in 1968. With its silver foil-covered walls and geometric light fittings, this boundary-pushing exhibition was the first comprehensive display of colour field painting and abstract sculpture in Australia and opened to much controversy at the time.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary in 2018, The Field Revisited recreates this exhibition for contemporary audiences at NGV Australia at Federation Square. Reassembling as many of the 74 original artworks as possible, this exhibition has been co-curated by Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV and Beckett Rozentals, Curator, Australian Painting, Sculpture and Decorative Arts to 1980.
The Field boldly 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 thirty, with Robert Hunter the youngest at twenty-one years of age.
As a number of works from the original 1968 exhibition are known to have been destroyed, and the fate of six paintings and six sculptures still remain unknown, the NGV commissioned a number of artists, including Garrey Foulkes, Col Jordan, Emanuel Raft, Trevor Vickers and Normana Wight, to recreate their original works for The Field Revisited.
The remaining works from the original exhibition that are absent from 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 invaluable 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 fifty 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 fifty years.
The Field Revisited is on display from 27 April – 26 August 2018 at Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square. Entry is FREE. Further information is available from the NGV website: NGV.MELBOURNEDownload media release