Destination Sydney is the result of the collaborative efforts of three of Sydney’s leading public art galleries – Manly Art Gallery and Museum (est. 1930), Mosman Art Gallery (est. 1998) and the S.H. Ervin Gallery (est. 1978) – to work together, along with luminary curator Lou Klepac, to create an exhibition on a scale that they otherwise could not achieve individually. The triangular connection of the three galleries, linked by the magical waters of Sydney harbour, encourages visitors to explore and experience each venue over the summer.
The genesis of the exhibition came from the inspiration that so many artists have drawn from Sydney. It presents a unique perspective on the exchange of selected twentieth century artists from inside and outside Sydney, from its unrivalled landscape and how their contributions have become synonymous with the visual culture of Sydney.
As the concept progressed, it became apparent that to respond to the brief in any meaningful way, the representation in depth of key artists was preferable to simply displaying one work from each possible artist. The artists selected were based on holdings in the collections of the three galleries, on their exhibition histories and following extensive discussion amongst the curatorium members.
Manly’s picturesque site makes it fitting for the iconic views by Brett Whiteley, the serenity and dream-like renderings by Lloyd Rees and the intuitive and painterly landscapes and interiors of Elisabeth Cummings. Mosman’s selection of John Olsen, Kevin Connor and Peter Kingston reflect those artists’ interests in the activities of Sydney and its harbour. Both Connor and Kingston have extended histories of working and residing in Mosman and neighbouring North Sydney, while Olsen’s recent gift of The rolling sea (2015), a painting which references Arthur Streeton’s Sydney Harbour (1895), reflects his close relationship with the gallery.
S.H. Ervin Gallery’s commanding position atop Observatory Hill, alongside the Harbour Bridge, made the inclusion of Grace Cossington Smith a must. One cannot think of the amazing Harbour Bridge that dominates the city, without thinking of one of the greatest paintings of this subject by the quiet and modest artist, Grace Cossington Smith, who produced a pictorial structure in oil almost as impressive as the one in iron and steel. Along with Margaret Preston, a masterful image maker and modernist icon and contemporary artist Cressida Campbell, whose technical virtuosity & sublime subject matter feature in her works, this selection continues the S.H. Ervin Gallery’s commitment in promoting the work of Australian women artists.
This exhibition is the start of future collaboration between the three galleries to bring major exhibitions and events to the people of Sydney. We hope you enjoy our city through the eyes and personal experiences of these nine magnificent artists.