Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Community

Experts in Wills, Trusts
& Estate Planning

Canberra tales: Blue Poles at the Museum of Australia

By Paul Costigan - 30 December 2015 9

poles-P1150836

There is talk in the art world about the National Gallery of Australia’s (NGA) changes to their permanent collection galleries and how this has included the movement of the famous Jackson Pollock painting, Blue Poles, from its long historic position downstairs to the upstairs galleries.

So when we talk of Blue Poles, the connection is normally made with the NGA — but this painting has influenced some political movements elsewhere within the cultural arena.

I can remember the first time I heard about the planning for a garden to be included within the as yet to be built new Museum of Australia. It was not till much later that I worked out that this in fact was not to be a garden, but rather a large landscape artwork titled ‘The Garden of Australian Dreams’.

mainview-P1150823

view-P1150845

I have always had mixed feelings about this work – but at least it provides a talking point for those who get to walk around it.

However, there was a moment in the planning when this project was nearly censored due to the interference of the Prime Minister of the day.

Apparently, the Prime Minister’s office was alerted to the fact that within the final design there was a reference to the painting Blue Poles. As you would know, the NGA bought this painting with the very public blessing of the then Labor Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam.

So when the alert was raised with the Liberal Prime Minister’s office, the message was sent back that the design should be altered. The work was to be censored. The reason was that there was not to be any link to the former Labor mob within this commissioned artwork.

poles-P1150825

poles-P1150834

Somehow this political interference was resisted and the designers and the museum delivered the landscape design as commissioned.

So there’s another story to be told about The Garden of Australian Dreams.

The blue poles in question remain in the far corner of the landscape design work, not only as a reference to Blue Poles, but also as a subtle reference to the importance in Australia of resisting inappropriate political interference and censorship.

——————————————-

This is part of an occasional series, Canberra Tales, offering short stories, mostly true but including many urban myths, about intriguing aspects of Canberra. As with any story telling, we welcome other variations, accurate or otherwise, to these tales.

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
9 Responses to
Canberra tales: Blue Poles at the Museum of Australia
dungfungus 10:15 am 04 Jan 16

HenryBG said :

dungfungus said :

Paul Costigan said :

Greetings John

You are spot on – there was indeed much controversy about the possibility that the designers had snuck in the word ‘sorry’ onto the sides of the buildings using the Braille symbols. There were several stories about what those symbols said.

There are more stories from the subsequent years whereby members of the Howard appointed museum council tried hard to alter ‘The Garden of Australian Dreams’.

Another additional detail is that when it first opened, children were allowed to splash about in the water – this fun thing did not last for long.

The story about the blue poles came from someone involved with one of the design teams.

It all makes for good tales to be told and passed on.

“It all makes for good tales to be told and passed on.”
Just like the myth of the “stolen generations” itself.

Lefties certainly love their myths, hence their avoidance of making any kind of critical reading of the atrocious “Bringing Them Home” report.

Masquara said :

Forget the political juvenilia sneaked through on the braille on the walls – the Garden of Australian Dreams was the biggest fail at the Museum by far. And it was unfixable.By contrast, the outdoor spaces at the National Gallery are entirely appropriate, on song and fantastic.

This. Particularly the comment about the juvenile aspect of how the museum presents itself.
The Museum is atrocious from top to bottom.
A visitor from the Arts community in NT told me just yesterday what an embarrassment that building is to this town.

I totally agree.
Every visitor to Canberra that I have hosted to visit the place has left totally puzzled and underwhelmed.
It needs to be wrapped in a black armband to emphasize its message.

HenryBG 9:08 am 03 Jan 16

dungfungus said :

Paul Costigan said :

Greetings John

You are spot on – there was indeed much controversy about the possibility that the designers had snuck in the word ‘sorry’ onto the sides of the buildings using the Braille symbols. There were several stories about what those symbols said.

There are more stories from the subsequent years whereby members of the Howard appointed museum council tried hard to alter ‘The Garden of Australian Dreams’.

Another additional detail is that when it first opened, children were allowed to splash about in the water – this fun thing did not last for long.

The story about the blue poles came from someone involved with one of the design teams.

It all makes for good tales to be told and passed on.

“It all makes for good tales to be told and passed on.”
Just like the myth of the “stolen generations” itself.

Lefties certainly love their myths, hence their avoidance of making any kind of critical reading of the atrocious “Bringing Them Home” report.

Masquara said :

Forget the political juvenilia sneaked through on the braille on the walls – the Garden of Australian Dreams was the biggest fail at the Museum by far. And it was unfixable.By contrast, the outdoor spaces at the National Gallery are entirely appropriate, on song and fantastic.

This. Particularly the comment about the juvenile aspect of how the museum presents itself.
The Museum is atrocious from top to bottom.
A visitor from the Arts community in NT told me just yesterday what an embarrassment that building is to this town.

switch 1:51 pm 01 Jan 16

Masquara said :

The issue with the Garden of Australia Dreams was that it was based in over-larded contempt by two inner-urban-boutique designers who couldn’t stand mainstream Australian anything. It was a “heavy hipster irony” aesthetic and the “garden” – which should have been an outdoor spot for visitors to the Museum to enjoy – was impossible to view, enjoy or sit down in. Its commission should never have been interpreted as a smartypants sculptural installation. You would think that designers working for a “national” Australia museum would have had some respect for the iconic Australian backyard. Forget the political juvenilia sneaked through on the braille on the walls – the Garden of Australian Dreams was the biggest fail at the Museum by far. And it was unfixable.By contrast, the outdoor spaces at the National Gallery are entirely appropriate, on song and fantastic.

Agreed. The place is horrible to spend any time in, either cold, windswept and barren in winter or too hot and glarey like now. A kiddies pool would have been a nice idea with a bit of shade (and a nod to Australia’s beach culture) but the Fun Police had kittens and rubbed their hands with glee at the thought of closing off the water area instead.

The edges of the National Museum around the lake side are slowly being improved. Perhaps they could demolish the Garden and replace it with something a bit more appropriate to Canberra’s weather.

Masquara 12:06 pm 01 Jan 16

The issue with the Garden of Australia Dreams was that it was based in over-larded contempt by two inner-urban-boutique designers who couldn’t stand mainstream Australian anything. It was a “heavy hipster irony” aesthetic and the “garden” – which should have been an outdoor spot for visitors to the Museum to enjoy – was impossible to view, enjoy or sit down in. Its commission should never have been interpreted as a smartypants sculptural installation. You would think that designers working for a “national” Australia museum would have had some respect for the iconic Australian backyard. Forget the political juvenilia sneaked through on the braille on the walls – the Garden of Australian Dreams was the biggest fail at the Museum by far. And it was unfixable.By contrast, the outdoor spaces at the National Gallery are entirely appropriate, on song and fantastic.

dungfungus 3:42 pm 31 Dec 15

Paul Costigan said :

Greetings John

You are spot on – there was indeed much controversy about the possibility that the designers had snuck in the word ‘sorry’ onto the sides of the buildings using the Braille symbols. There were several stories about what those symbols said.

There are more stories from the subsequent years whereby members of the Howard appointed museum council tried hard to alter ‘The Garden of Australian Dreams’.

Another additional detail is that when it first opened, children were allowed to splash about in the water – this fun thing did not last for long.

The story about the blue poles came from someone involved with one of the design teams.

It all makes for good tales to be told and passed on.

“It all makes for good tales to be told and passed on.”
Just like the myth of the “stolen generations” itself.

Paul Costigan 1:58 pm 31 Dec 15

Greetings John

You are spot on – there was indeed much controversy about the possibility that the designers had snuck in the word ‘sorry’ onto the sides of the buildings using the Braille symbols. There were several stories about what those symbols said.

There are more stories from the subsequent years whereby members of the Howard appointed museum council tried hard to alter ‘The Garden of Australian Dreams’.

Another additional detail is that when it first opened, children were allowed to splash about in the water – this fun thing did not last for long.

The story about the blue poles came from someone involved with one of the design teams.

It all makes for good tales to be told and passed on.

Lazy I 11:12 am 31 Dec 15
HenryBG 10:29 am 30 Dec 15

So the landscaping contains an homage to a foreign piece of “art” belonging to a dated fad for non-representational work with very questionable aesthetic properties.

Why?

John Moulis 9:41 am 30 Dec 15

I think Paul has it wrong about the Howard government censoring the outside garden artwork. From my recollection, the “censoring” had nothing to do with Blue Poles or the Whitlam government, it concerned part of the Braille component which spelt out the word Sorry. Howard was dead against an apology to the Stolen Generation and there was talk of obliterating that part of the artwork.

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au | www.thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site