It rained today. Not heavily, but enough that I was a rather damp and frazzled looking man when I stepped into the Canberra Museum and Gallery. I felt a little out of place inside the rather neat and trendy looking foyer, but that’s how I feel every time I go someplace nice.
I realised that while I’ve been to CMAG many times over the years, often to meet with people or attend events, today would be the first time I had ever visited the galleries. I feel a little bit stupid as I asked the lady behind the counter where everything was what they had on, but she answered enthusiastically.
CMAG is located next to the Canberra theatre, on the corner of London Circuit & Civic Square. They are open seven days a week and entry is free. Really I have no excuse as to why I’ve never been.
Like most events in Canberra this year, all the exhibitions at the moment have a local theme. Across the five gallery spaces CMAG has collected a variety of stories, artefacts, and works exploring Canberra’s past and present.
Canberra Stories Gallery.
An ongoing exhibition full of varied artefacts from across Canberra’s history. The first exhibit I came across were several shelves containing antique teacups. While I was still riding high on excitement for my visit, I honestly failed to muster up any interest in the porcelain tea-set. However the next object I came across was a burnt out dishwasher, full of shattered plates and mugs. A relic from the fires of 2003 (was it that long ago?). This was something I understood, and suddenly I felt a connection to the exhibition and the sense of shared history it was trying to create. That connection was then strengthened by the blackened remains of the old ACT road sign that marked out border with NSW. I wandered about Canberra’s history for a while, enjoying some pieces of memorabilia, moving past others. I chuckled at seeing a Gregory’s Street Map from 1998 amongst the collection, but I’m not sure why.
Connected to Gallery 1 you can also find the Nolan Collection Gallery, containing some fantastic pieces by Sidney Nolan. Nolan’s caricaturised depictions of Ned Kelly are well known, even if you don’t recognise the man’s name, you would most likely recognise the iconic Kelly and Horse, or the somewhat slapstick Policeman in a Wombat Hole. Absolutely worth a look.
Gallery 2 & 3.
Finishes Sunday the 24th of March
Easily my favourite exhibit, Galleries 2 and 3 are combined together into a single space celebrating the work of three Canberran artists G.W.Bot, Anita McIntyre and Wendy Teakel. Inside is a wonderful selection of paintings, ceramics and sculpture that explore the landscape and feel of our little city and it’s surrounding areas. G.W. Bot’s work in particular I found fascinating, her bizarre shapes and glyphs seemed to paint Canberra as a place full of lost dark occult knowledge. Which is much nicer than painting it as a place full of lot public servants like most of us do.
I couldn’t find Gallery 4. I started to feel a little bit stupid again.
The Women Who Made Canberra.
Finishes Sunday the 17th of March.
Gallery 5 is a much smaller place and again I found myself strolling through artefacts, this time relating to the stories of various women whose lives have shaped Canberra in various ways. I felt little interest in the objects, but the stories written alongside them were quite interesting, as was the glimpse into Canberra’s past that it offered.
I went back downstairs and asked one of the nice ladies at the desk where Gallery 4 was. She directed me outside, where Gallery 4 was currently being used by ABC radio to broadcast a show as a kind of performance exhibition. Also on display were many old and interesting pieces of radio equipment, a few t-shirts which I assume have some historic relevance. The ACT exhibit is a cute idea, but unfortunately doesn’t make for a very interesting visit. I quickly moved on.
I walked away from the building and found myself in the centre of Civic, having spent just a little over an hour enjoying myself in a museum for free. Once again I questioned myself “Why had I never been before?” and secondly “Why there weren’t more people in there with me?”
I suggest you put a little time aside and go. As an activity is requires very little investment time wise, zero investment financially, and could not be more accessible location wise.
It’s also really good.
[Image courtesy of The Tate.]