Although this not-to-be-missed offering from the National Gallery of Victoria has been billed as a ‘two-part exhibition’, it is a much more complex entity than that. In the words of the three lead curators – Cathy Leahy, Judith Ryan, and Susan van Wyck – it ‘explores different perspectives on Australia’s shared history in two complementary exhibitions’. I recommend you stay long enough to see both exhibitions on one day; but then you’ll need to go back, ideally several times. (For Colony: Australia 1770–1861, on the ground floor, you can buy an unlimited-entry season pass. Entry to Colony: Frontier Wars, upstairs, is free.)
There are many hundreds of objects on display: extraordinary treasures from collections and archives across Australia, many of them fragile works on paper that rarely emerge from storage boxes; paintings, prints and drawings, maps, sketchbooks and journals, photographs, weaponry, funerary, and other cultural objects, clothing, metalwork, furniture, mixed media installations, video, and other contemporary artworks.