Culture Victoria

Arts Centre Melbourne

100 St Kilda Road MELBOURNE Phone: (03) 9281 8000 Visit Website

Sitting beneath one of our city's great symbols - our magnificent spire - Arts Centre Melbourne is both a defining Melbourne landmark and Australia's largest and busiest performing arts centre. Last year we staged more than 4,400 performances and events to more than 2.3 million people. For nearly 30 years, we have played a leading role in showcasing the best local and international performing arts. We are host and partner to the national and state music, opera, theatre and dance companies, together with local companies, festivals and a multitude of commercial partners. We undertake collaborations with major companies and creative development projects with independent artists and smaller companies, and we create programming that reflects Victoria's cultural diversity. From our Theatres Building boasting the intimate Fairfax Studio to the impressive Playhouse and State Theatre, to our transformed riverside Hamer Hall, to our fabulous outdoor Sidney Myer Music Bowl, together with the exciting mix of dining offers, tours and Sunday Market, there's something for everyone to enjoy every day of week!

Our Collection

The Performing Arts Collection is Australia's largest and most important collection of performing arts history and traditions. The Collection focusses on the live performing arts within five areas:: Circus: Comprises costumes, props, posters, designs, archives and photographs documenting many of Australia's traditional circuses including the Ashton family circuses, Holden Brothers', Wirths', Perry Brothers and Sole Brothers. The new circus movement is represented by Circus Oz (and its predecessor Soapbox Circus),, Women?s Circus and the Flying Fruit Fly Circus. Dance: Traces the history of dance in Australia from the late nineteenth century to today, encompassing many of Australia's major dance companies and individual performers whilst spanning a range of genres. Music: Documents popular performance from jazz and folk to pop and rock, from 1920s through to the present. Opera: Features the world's largest and most significant collection of material relating to the career of soprano Dame Nellie Melba, and the development of opera in Australia. Theatre: Represents many aspects of traditional and contemporary theatre including drama, comedy, magic, musical theatre, puppetry, vaudeville and variety; includes the J.C. Williamson Theatres Ltd Archive.

This Victorian State Collection is of international, national, and state significance as a resource for research, public education and entertainment.

Subcollections
Circus collection

As the official national archive to the circus industry, the collection plays a leading role in the preservation of circus material and traditions in Australia. Strengths and outstanding material include: costumes, props, posters and photographs representing many of Australia's best-loved traditional circuses including the Ashton family circuses, Holden Brothers', Wirths', Perry Brothers and Sole Brothers. Items such as Ashton's handwritten touring schedules and the Holden Brother's correspondence school notes provide a window into life on-the-road while sequined and spangled costumes speak of Big Top glamour. The new theatre movement is reflected in holdings donated by Circus Oz (and Soapbox Circus), Women’s Circus and the Flying Fruit Fly which provide insights into community operated enterprises, and training along with the export of Australian culture through Circus Oz’ commitment to international touring .

Dance Collection

This collection traces the history of dance in Australia from the late nineteenth century to today. The collection encompasses the work of many of Australia's major dance companies and individual performers whilst spanning a range of genres. The story of the growth of dance culture in Australia is particularly well documented by collections relating to the development of the Borovansky Ballet, Bodenwieser Ballet, National Theatre Ballet, Laurel Martyn's Ballet Guild/Ballet Victoria and The Australian Ballet. Influential international touring artists and companies including Anna Pavlova, the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev are also represented. The Dance collection is enriched by a major collection of stage designs illustrating the artistry and beauty of dance. William Constable, Anne Fraser, Kristian Fredrikson and Kenneth Rowell are just some of designers represented.

Music Collection

The Arts Centre's commitment to collecting and documenting popular performance is well illustrated by its music collection. From jazz and folk to pop and rock, the collection has significant holdings ranging from those documenting ladies dance bands of the 1920s and 1930s through to The Kenn Brodziak Beatles Australian Tour Collection, the Troubadour Folk Music Collection and the Sunbury Festival Collection - each collection exploring a diverse aspect of popular music and culture. The history of rock and pop, however, forms the core of the collection with photographs and costumes providing a potent reminder of live performances. Popular music from the 1970s to today is well represented through posters, photographs and costumes donated by performers of the day. The Collection is home to significant collections documenting the careers of Kylie Minogue, Nick Cave, Peter Allen, Split Enz and Skyhooks amongst others.

Opera Collection

This collection features the world's largest and most significant collection of material relating to the career of soprano Dame Nellie Melba. The development of opera in Australia can be traced through the Centre's extensive programme and photography collections. Highlights in this area include a rare carte-de-visite photographic album featuring opera stars of the 1850 and 1860s, and silk programmes from the 1860s and 1870s documenting performances by the Lyster Grand Opera. Company and personality collections continue the story from the J.C. Williamson Theatres Ltd Archive, which documents Williamson-sponsored opera tours between the 1920s and the 1960s to collections documenting the careers of Stella Power, the 'Little Melba'; Dame Joan Hammond and Gertrude Johnson and the National Theatre. Arts Centre Melbourne has a formal agreement with Opera Australia to document the company’s significant contribution to Australian performing arts.

Theatre Collection

This collection is the largest and most diverse part of the Performing Arts Collection. It represents many aspects of traditional and contemporary theatre including drama, comedy, magic, musical theatre, puppetry, vaudeville and variety. At the centre of the theatre collection is the J.C. Williamson Theatres Ltd Archive, a vast photographic and paper-based collection generated by what was the largest commercial theatre enterprise in the Southern Hemisphere for almost a century. Other large collections highlight the contributions made at both a personal and company level to Australian theatre including Barry Humphries, Dame Edna Everage and Reg Livermore, and companies such as Bell Shakespeare, Gordon Frost, Playbox and Handspan.

Broadcast and popular entertainment collection

This collection includes some of the popular broadcast entertainment areas of film, television, radio and recording. In recognition of the individuals that cross over multiple performance disciplines, the collection also includes supporting collections of photographic, textile, and paper-based items relating to performers who have worked in the film, radio, recording and television industries.

Design Collection

This collection reflects changing tastes in theatrical presentation in Australia from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first centuries. Designs are a common theme represented in the collecting areas of Dance, Theatre, Opera and Music. Comprising over 7,500 items, the Collection includes costume and set design drawings, technical plans, set models created by some of Australia's most influential designers.

Photography Collection

This collection spans decades of Australian entertainment history. Comprising over 106,000 images in print, negative, transparency and digital formats (based on current electronic records available), these photographs are collected primarily to document and provide an insight into all aspects of the performing arts: images of people - performers, directors, designers, technicians and audience members - of performance venues, productions and behind-the-scenes moments, all capture static glimpses of an industry that centres on the transitory and intangible moment of the performance.

Programmes Collection

This collection documents the rich history of all performance types and provides detailed information to researchers about repertoire, public taste, performers and venues spanning the 19th century to the present day in Australia. Programmes are an informative resource in the Performing Arts Collection, with over 83,000 items in the General Series arranged primarily by production title - each containing many individual programmes. These popular souvenirs of performances also appear throughout the separate collections of personalities and companies.

Art Collection

This significant collection of paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photography and textiles, celebrates performing arts through the work of some of Australia's most significant visual artists. Comprising almost 800 works, the current collecting focus builds upon the original intention - to acquire works that explore the intersection between the visual and the performing arts. In particular the collection looks to the ways in which artists are inspired by music, dance, theatre or opera and the creativity of performance. Contemporary: The Contemporary Collection comprises donations, commissions, purchases and other works of art acquired by the public art collection after the initial acquisition period of the early 1980s. There is a particular emphasis from late modernism to contemporary art. The focus of this collection is to acquire paintings, sculptures, installations, digital works, works on paper and textiles that speak of and to the performing arts and the creativity of performance. The collection includes works by artists such as Vernon Ah Kee, Robert Jacks, Anne Zahalka, Jon Campbell, Wendy Sharpe, Natalya Hughes, Clinton Nain and Judy Watson. Foundation Collection: The Foundation Collection comprises works of art of cultural, social and historical significance to the Arts Centre Melbourne. It includes art that was specifically commissioned, purchased or actively sought during the foundation period in the 1970s and early 1980s, and is integral to the interior design scheme of John Truscott. Works in the collection are on display throughout Hamer Hall, the Theatres, Sidney Myer Music Bowl and Arts Centre Melbourne's environs. Many of these works are site specific and deemed to be of heritage significance for the organisation. When the Victorian Arts Centre (as it was then known) opened its doors to the public on 29 October 1984, visitors made their way through buildings brimming with a vibrant collection of new paintings and sculptures from some of Australia's most important 20th Century artists. The Foundation Collection includes works by major twentieth-century artists, including painters Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, John Olsen, Jeffrey Smart, Roger Kemp, Colin Lanceley; sculptors Inge King and Clement Meadmore; as well as a key collection of Western Desert paintings. Paintings: This collection is a rich and vibrant selection of paintings forms the basis of the Arts Centre's Public Art Collection. Hamer Hall and the three performance venues in the Theatres building are all home to paintings by some of Australia's greatest post-war artists. The State Theatre foyers boast superlative suites of paintings by Arthur Boyd, John Olsen and Roger Kemp. The imposing Landscape with Dog and The Actor by Arthur Boyd were commissioned for the large upper circle wall, and provide and anthology of Boyd's mythological interests. They are complemented by 14 landscape paintings of Boyd's beloved Shoalhaven River. John Olsen was commissioned to paint a series of works based on operatic themes. His style is well suited to the atmosphere of music and the complexity of narrative, and Olsen found that opera provided sumptuous motifs and rich inspiration. Roger Kemp is represented by six large paintings. His works in the stalls foyer of the State Theatre show parallels and opposites, rhythms and tensions, simultaneously commenting upon the complexity of human experience and imparting an imposing sense of occasion. While the State Theatre was designed as a traditional opera house, the Playhouse has a distinctly Australian Aesthetic. Intended to create a sense of the Australian outback, the earthy colours of the foyers are teamed with an outstanding selection of paintings by aboriginal artists from the western desert. Through the generous assistance of the Sportscraft Sportsgirl Group, thirteen paintings were commissioned from Papunya artists, including Clifford Possum Tjapaltijarri and Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula. They are rich in ceremony and history. Celebrated expatriate artist Jeffrey Smart is represented by the outstanding Container Train in Landscape, a gift of Marc and Eva Besen, and located in the Potter Foyer of the George Fairfax Studio. Donald Laycock's paintings for the Melbourne Concert Hall (now Hamer Hall) employ a musical format; their smooth abstract surfaces resonate like the early church music that inspired them. The Public Art Collection also includes paintings by Fred Williams, Anne Marie Graham, Charles Blackman, John Coburn, Rick Amor, Wes Walters, Asher Bilu, Kevin Lincoln, Colin Lanceley ,David Rankin and Robert Owen to name a few. Sculptures: This impressive collection of sculpture came into being over several decades. A number of significant works were acquired through the William Angliss Art Fund, created by Diana Gibson in memory of her grandfather. Through the Fund, Inge King was commissioned to complete Forward Surge, the vast sculpture located on the lawn between the Theatres Building and Hamer Hall. . The William Angliss Art Fund also provided for the acquisition of Clement Meadmore's Dervish, a work that is expressive of the artist's interest in forcing geometry to create beautiful, highly evolved forms. Les Kossatz's Coming and Going, Vlase Nikoleski's Megapolis and Marc Clarke's Portal were also purchased through the Fund. A work by Michael Meszaros commemorates the merchant and philanthropist Sidney Myer, and was installed to mark the completion of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl's refurbishment in 2001. Other external sculptures include Col Sopov's Family of Man, a pair of figurative works on the upper terrace of the Theatres Building; Hand of God by Carl Milles; and Sculptor Tom Merrifield's dancing Dragonfly. . A more recent commission created by Anna Eggert, Dame Nellie Melba (2008) was funded by the Maxwell and Merle Caroll Fund. The work was inspired by an original garment in the Performing Arts Collection's which was worn by Dame Nellie Melba. Also supported by the Carroll Fund Robert Owen’s Fine Art Services in collaboration with Electrolight were commissioned to create two sculptural works Silence and Falling Light to mark the re-opening of Hamer Hall in 2012. Textiles: This collection includes seven tapestries, all of which were woven by the world renowned Victorian Tapestry Workshop. Three of them are based on paintings from the Papunya Tula artists' co-operative. These tapestries began as the vision of the architect of the Victorian Arts Centre, Sir Roy Grounds, who saw an early exhibition of Papunya sand paintings and was taken by their texture and imagery. The first tapestry produced, The Winparrku Serpents by Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, was created at a time when the Western Desert art movement was beginning to emerge as a powerful new voice in contemporary international art. The second in the series, Snake and Water Dreaming, by Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungarrayi is based on a rare, early Pintupi painting now in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungarrayi was an authority on ceremonial matters and one of the first Pintupi to explore painting with western materials. Charlie Tarawa Tjungarrayi, one of the founding artists of the Papunya Tula movement, was fascinated by The Winparrku Serpents tapestry when it was taken to Papunya in 1978. The artist visited the Victorian Tapestry workshop to see his work Tingari Dreaming at Lake Mitukatji in progress, and he sang the Dreaming associated with the work to the weavers. Mary Macqueen contributed designs for four tapestries, in response to and artwork commission brief for the Theatres Building's ANZ Pavilion. The commission sought a suite of tapestries that would reflect the leafiness and bright open spaces visible through the nearby windows. The Pavilion Suite portrays the urban Australian outdoors with a fresh vitality, and complements the Papunya tapestries, which contain powerful symbolic representations of the Australian desert landscape. Two unusual, and very large, textiles also form part of the Art Collection. The Act Drop Curtain for the State Theatre was designed by Graham Bennett, featuring Victoria's Lyre-bird, a rich bouquet of Australian flora and Victoria's coat-of-arms painted in gold. It was executed by Paul Kathner. The Playhouse Act Drop Curtain (no longer in use) was designed and completed by Ann Greenwood. It is woven from wool bouclé with copper wire. Works on Paper: This extensive collection complements Arts Centre Melbourne's fine holdings of paintings, sculpture and textiles. Among these works is a comprehensive suite of drawings of musicians, composers, performers, and conductors by Melbourne artist Louis Kahan. A gift of the ANZ Bank, the collection comprises over 100 works and dates from 1947, when Kahan arrived in Australia from Vienna. The result of the artist's lifetime love of performance, these drawings feature some of the luminaries of twentieth century music-making, including Isaac Stern, Dame Joan Sutherland, Igor Stravinsky, Jacqueline Dupre and Yehudi Menuhin. A highlight of the Collection is a set of 33 etchings by Fred Williams, from his celebrated Music Hall series. These works were conceived during Williams' London period in the mid 1950s, when he spent many evenings in music halls watching and drawing the successive acts of comedy, magic, music, acrobatics, song and mime. A series of etchings by George Baldessin also explores the theme of performers on stage. Sidney Nolan's Paradise Garden is the largest and most complex work in the collection. Comprising 1336 individual works displayed in 230 frames, it is testimony to the artist's vision and prodigious industry. The title of the work takes inspiration from Frederick Delius' orchestral interlude, The Walk to Paradise Garden. The series looks closely at the germination, growth and decline of Australian flora, used by Nolan as a metaphor for life. Nolan is also represented by a series of lithographs on the subject of Leda and the Swan, and a startling pastel drawing inspired by the opera Phaedre.

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