Behind the scenes at the National Gallery of Victoria

Earlier this month the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) invited a group of students to learn about the making of an international art exhibition with a behind-the-scenes tour of Van Gogh and the Seasons, the 2017 Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition. Van Gogh and the Seasons is the largest collection of Van Gogh’s artworks to ever travel to Australia, and explores the artist's profound connection to the seasons of nature through nearly 50 paintings and drawings.

The partnership between the University of Melbourne and the NGV is an important longstanding relationship that provides exciting opportunities for research, engagement, teaching and learning at Australia's most visited and oldest art museum.

The Faculty received many applications from students to participate in the tour, and the 36 successful applicants were selected for their interest in curatorship, arts management and the operations of a gallery.

Led by Exhibition Design Manager Ingrid Rhule and Exhibitions Coordinator Violette Vidal, the tour offered students exclusive access to the exhibition space to learn about the artwork loaning process, the development of the physical exhibition space, the installation process, and the design and technical side of exhibition management. It was a ‘top secret’ tour because the exhibition is in its final stages of installation in the lead up to the official opening on 28 April.

“It was a great opportunity to reflect on how ambitious we are when we pull a major exhibition together,” said Ingrid. “I think the students really got a sense of how we try to innovate with every detail: from the colour of the walls to the way we design a space to surprise each visitor. It was pretty special to be able to share our exhibition design and management process just before the first Van Goghs were installed.”

Master of Arts and Cultural Management student Gillian Jones is an aspiring artist and curator, and felt the tour would strengthen her knowledge of the different stages of bringing an exhibition to life.

“What became apparent in the briefing was the level of detail underpinning the design decisions for the temporary spaces the exhibition will occupy. For example, considerations such as what colour to paint the walls; how variations in the tone impact the feel of the space and the aesthetic of the work and also how subtle shades can be used to support key themes.  These insights will inform the way I view exhibitions from now on, taking the time to appreciate the space and its ‘physical features’ as much as the artwork and ephemera it houses; and it has given me a deeper appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes,” Gillian said.

The learning partnership between the Faculty of Arts and the NGV demonstrates a shared commitment to providing opportunities for students in the arts industry. This was the first tour of its kind, but Naava Lederman, Senior Account Manager, Corporate Partnerships at NGV is looking forward to offering similar opportunities to students in the future due to its success. “We’re delighted that the NGV’s learning partnership with the University of Melbourne for this exhibition has allowed us to provide such an enriching industry insight for the students.”

Van Gogh and the Seasons is on at the NGV from 28 April until 9 July 2017. Explore the special after-hours program, NGV Friday Nights, for talks, live performances, and food and drink designed to accompany the exhibition.

Main image:
Vincent van Gogh 
Dutch 1853–1890
A wheatfield, with cypresses early September 1889 Saint-Rémy (detail) oil on canvas
72.1 x 90.9 cm
National Gallery, London
Bought, Courtauld Fund, 1923 (NG3861)
© The National Gallery, London