It’s official: Toulouse-Lautrec for Canberra!

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THERE’LL be more than a little bit of Paris in Canberra from December 14, when the National Gallery of Australia’s new summer exhibition, “Toulouse-Lautrec: Paris and the Moulin Rouge” opens, as first reported in “CityNews” on May 9.

In a formal announcement by ACT Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Tourism, Andrew Barr, gallery director Ron Radford said that more than 120 key works from private and public collections would go on show in a major exhibition that had been three and a half years in the making.

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As in several previous exhibitions, the ACT Government had injected $500,000 into the exhibition for marketing and promotion interstate because, as Mr Radford said:  “We do have a large population in Canberra and we have to work very hard to get the audiences we feel we deserve.”

In addition, he said, the exhibition, a Canberra-only show, would be indemnified by the Federal Government. Nodding towards the Canberra Centenary’s creative director, Robyn Archer, he  said  it would be a fine beginning to the Centenary.

Mr Radford said it has not been easy pulling together this exhibition, as many of Toulouse-Lautrec’s works were painted or drawn on poor quality materials and he had died early, aged 37.

But with the show in mind, under the guidance of curator Jane Kinsman, a French art expert, the gallery had been purchasing posters and other works by the artist for several years and had also been able to borrow from 35 galleries around the world, including the Musee D’Orsay, the Tate, the Museum of Modern Art and the El Museo de art Thyssen Bornemisza in Madrid.

Ms Kinsman said this would be a broadly-focused exhibition, unlike the recent smash hit for the Courtauld Institute in London, which focused on Toulouse-Lautrec’s favourite subject, “Avril”.

Mr Radford said the artist was “widely appreciated by Australians, with his poster images of café society, bohemian Paris, and even brothels”.

Apropos of that, he said to a round of laughs, he hoped the family activities room being sponsored by the Yulgibar Foundation wouldn’t be a house of ill fame.

Art was not the only subject canvassed by speakers. Michael Costello, the CEO of  the principal sponsor ActewAGL, said they had been motivated in part by the obvious fact that “the Canberra community really gleams when it comes to its love of culture and the arts”.

Referring to the current crisis at the ANU School of Music, which he described as “a great and wonderful institute of this city”, he praised Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Chris Peters for stepping in with a positive suggestion of how to  source needed funding.

Mr Radford weighed in too. “Australians don’t think of themselves as a cultured country…but you just try and take away their cultural achievements,” he said.

“Toulouse-Lautrec:Paris& the Moulin Rouge”, at the National Gallery of Australia, December 12 to April 2, 2013.

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