Gallery comes alive with ‘outstanding’ masterpieces

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NGA director Nick Mitzevich with Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”, 1888.

“STAFF can’t get the smiles off their faces,” said co-ordinating curator Sally Foster to a crowd at this morning’s (March 3) preview of “Botticelli to van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London” at the National Gallery of Australia. 

“These paintings are absolutely radiant. They light up the room,” Foster said.

Not just that, the gallery seemed alight with hundreds of fresh sunflowers arranged around the entrance, a tribute to the centrepiece, Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”, 1888.

NGA director Nick Mitzevich said it was thrilling to see the 61 paintings on the walls of Australia’s own National Gallery, saying: “Simply, these works are outstanding – this exhibition is a 500-year slice of artistic excellence from some of the greatest creative spirits of all time.”

Gallery entrance filled with sunflowers.

He acknowledged the exhibition partners, Art Exhibitions Australia and the National Gallery, London, whose director Gabriele Finaldi could not be here but sent a message hoping the exhibition would “inspire and delight” Australian visitors.

Because of COVID-19, Mitzevich reflected on how “cultural pilgrimages” had been curtailed, proposing that the line-up of works by Europe’s most admired artists including Titian, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Canaletto, Turner, Renoir, Cézanne, van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin, would set the gallery up as a pilgrimage destination, and a very much more attractive one following a recent $5 million renovation.

Nick Mitzevich, left, with Vinesh Bhindi.

Seeing the legendary paintings face-to-face proved beyond a doubt that the live art experience was “something that can’t be emulated by reproduction”, he said.

“Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London”, at the National Gallery of Australia only, March 5 to June 14. Special events will include in conversation between Geraldine Doogue and exhibition curator Bart Cornelis, from the National Gallery, London, 5.30pm-7.30pm, March 6. To book a timed ticket and for special events, visit

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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