November 2011 marks exactly 30 years since the former home of patrons and collectors John and Sunday Reed was opened to the public as the Heide Museum of Modern Art. Like all landmark birthdays, it’s a time for looking back on past achievements and making resolutions for the future. In the case of the Heide, the celebrations and reflections have taken the form of Forever Young, an exhibition of over 200 notable works dating from the 1930s to the present.
Before it became a museum, the complex was both a home for the Reeds and an incubator for the talents of the artists in their circle. Some of the most influential Australian artists of the twentieth century lived and worked there under the Reeds’ patronage; Sidney Nolan produced the bulk of his iconic Ned Kelly paintings in the Reed family’s living room.
Forever Young: 30 Years of the Heide Collection is the first ever exhibition to span the entire site, including Heide I, the carefully-preserved first home of the Reed family. Its loosely chronological structure allows visitors to observe the development of both individual artists and the collection itself, progressing from early works including intimate portraits of the Reeds and their friends to the many acquisitions made since their deaths in the early 80s.
The modernist collection in Heide I spans the 30s and includes notable works by Danila Vassilieff and photographs by Albert Tucker. Heide II, the radically modern later home the Reeds described as “a gallery for living in”, hosts works from the 50s through the 70s, including a selection of concrete poems collected by their adopted son and heir, Sweeney. Heide III displays revolutionary works of the 40s in one gallery, including paintings by Nolan and Joy Hester, and paintings, sculptures and interactive works from the 80s to the present in the other.
“The aim of the exhibition is to emphasise that Heide is a living, growing collection, and that we remain totally committed to contemporary art, and that what we do here is very much in keeping with what the Reeds did when they lived at Heide’ says director and CEO Jason Smith. “While we’re a museum of modern art, we’re not a mausoleum to modernism. We’re a very active agent in contemporary art, working with contemporary artists, and we hope that the exhibition signals to people that we are as dynamic and as innovative a museum as the Reeds would have hoped.”
To coincide with the exhibition, a major philanthropic partnership has been announced between the Heide and ANZ Trustees on behalf of the Truby and Florence Williams Charitable Trust. Over the next three years, the Heide will receive $690,000 to spend on conservation and acquisitions under the aegis of the Preserving, Presenting & Growing project. No doubt it’s a welcome birthday present for an institution tasked with staying youthful.
Forever Young runs until 22 April 2012, Tue–Sun 10am–5pm. $10–$14.
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