The Palais Theatre
It’s impossible for Melburnians to think about the St Kilda Esplanade without visualising the Palais Theatre standing majestically against Port Phillip Bay. Its grand Art Deco façade is as iconic to St Kilda as the Pavilion on the nearby pier, Acland Street or the theatre’s "just for fun" neighbour, Luna Park.
It’s surprising to discover, then, that the Palais wasn’t always regarded with such affection. When the original building – a dance hall called the Palais de Danse – was being constructed in 1913, over 800 locals attended a public meeting to protest it being given a license. They voiced fears that it would lower the tone of St Kilda, “have a demoralising effect on young people", and be "common with a big C”. The battle was won by the building owners, the three Phillips brothers (American immigrants who also built Luna Park), and an entertainment venue has stood on the site ever since.
The Palais Theatre is a magical place for Melburnians. It’s where generations of us have danced cheek to cheek, watched movies in the darkness, screamed lustily at the Rolling Stones, thrown roses at the feet of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev, and given standing ovations to Dame Joan Hammond’s awe-inspiring soprano. Your grandparents probably had their first date there. Ask them about the Palais and watch them smile.
The theatre is underwent restoration in 2016-17, which preserved the heritage value of the site and ensured the Palais remains a live performance venue and cultural icon in St Kilda for many generations to come. The restoration was funded by the State Government of Victoria and the City of Port Phillip.
Melbourne is an expanding city, with a growing population and sprawling urban development. It is predicted that by 2056 an additional 4 million people will settle in Greater Melbourne, increasing the population from 5 million to 9 million people over the next 30 years (1). While some expansion is vertical, in the form of high-rise developments, much of this growth is across the peri-urban fringe, described simply as ‘areas on the urban periphery into which cities expand’ (2) or ‘which cities influence’ (3).
In Melbourne, these peri-urban areas of most rapid growth are currently the local government areas of Cardinia, Casey, Hume, Melton, Mitchell, Whittlesea and Wyndham. With population growth comes the inevitable expansion of infrastructure, services and transportation. As the fringes of the city continue to sprawl, what was once the urban fringe and green edge of the city has to be negotiated, as it is increasingly encroached upon.
The artists and photographers in Urban Fringe examine these spaces on the fringe of the expanding city of Melbourne, where urban and natural environments meet, clash and coexist. Beginning with white colonisation and the myth of ‘terra nullius’, these artists discuss the treatment of the Greater Melbourne environment over time, consider the cost of progress, and explore protest and the reclamation of space.
Getting it Right
There is a great deal of effort that goes into preparing a museum garment for display which the public never sees. This is especially true for historical items.
Most obviously, there is the core work that our textile conservators do examining and treating works so that they are safe to exhibit. Equally vital is the task of creating the appropriate underpinnings and padded supports which ensure a garment has a historically accurate silhouette, and that the fragile fabrics are supported during display.
During the nineteenth century a lot went on beneath women’s gowns. Victorian fashion relied on a variety of contrivances to generate form; corsets compressed the waist, petticoats, crinolines and later cage-crinolines made skirts wider and fuller, while bustles produced a cantilevered behind. Working in tandem with the garment, these structures performed both functional and aesthetic roles.
What’s Going On!
What’s Going On! was a groundbreaking exhibition presenting contemporary indigenous artists from the Murray Darling basin.
Taking Mildura as the centre, at the confluence of the Murray and Darling Rivers, the exhibition ranges from Menindee, Wilcannia and Broken Hill to the north and north east, Berri in the south west and Swan Hill to the east, dissolving State boundaries that fragment this distinct region. Uniting the artists in the exhibition are extended family networks and connections to country.
There is a much-loved story told by Aboriginal people on the Murray, that when you open out the swim bladder of a Murray cod, the tree-like forms of its skin reveal the place where the fish was born. Aboriginal children are sometimes told that this is the very same tree under which they were born. These various skin stories reveal the connection of people to the Murray Darling river system, where ‘everyone has a place under the tree’.
The Elliott Collection
Mildura Arts Centre was founded on one of Australia's most remarkable and generous bequests.
Senator 'R.D.' and Mrs Hilda Elliott's collection of mainly British and Australian art has provided Mildura Arts Centre with intriguing and significant works by such artists as William Orpen, Edgar Degas, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, Glyn Philpot and Frank Brangwyn: artists, for the most part, from a world about to swamped by the tides of modernism and the avant-garde.
Amanda Ahmed and Mali Moir
An Eye for Eucalypts
In his hometown of Ararat, Stan Kelly (1911 – 2001) was known as an engine driver and as a talented painter of plants and flowers. A determined amateur, Stan painted at home on a small table and shared his talent by teaching botanical art in Ararat. Today, many Australians travelling overseas carry his artwork in their pocket.
Kelly is now recognised as one of Australia’s premier botanical illustrators, especially respected for his works on eucalypts. His first book, Australian Eucalypts in Colour, was published in 1949. His most celebrated work, Eucalypts Volumes I & II, was first published in 1969 and became a core reference for students of Australian botany.
Kelly received an Order of Australia Medal in 1980. In 2009, he was posthumously honoured when a selection of his botanical illustrations was adapted for the ‘N’ series Australian passport.
The Langi Morgala Museum in Ararat houses a permanent exhibit on Stan Kelly and his work, including a fine collection of his paintings.
A collection of over 500 of Kelly’s watercolour paintings is held by the National Herbarium of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.
Scoot is a location based game produced to explore mobile phone technology and as a playful way to engage with Melbourne’s key cultural institutions. Scoot was created by artist Debra Polson through the Queensland University of Technology and produced by ACMI in collaboration with various cultural partners.
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is a world leading cultural institution dedicated to celebrating and exploring games. As the first cultural centre in the world to have a dedicated games lab space, ACMI has been involved in the development and research of location based games.
Such location-based gaming allows for the development of relationships between people and spaces. Participant awareness of Melbourne’s cultural resources increases as they feel more comfortable engaging in the history and identity of the city via its arts institutions.
Artist and academic Debra Polson currently lectures in the field of interaction design at the Queensland University of Technology and is a project leader at the Australasian CRC for Interaction Design (ACID). Debra has worked as an interface designer on interactive games and various other multimedia productions and continues to design location-based games.
Her research interests lie in new immersive forms of game play that blur the edges between the digital and physical realms with a particular focus on the community interactions that emerge from these experiences and the potential for new multi-modal forms of entertainment and education within those communities.
Currently researchers and artists have been experimenting with ways to apply new forms of mobile technologies combined with digital media to examine new ways for people to interact in both physical and virtual spaces. Debra Polson has been particularly interested in how effectively they enhance the relationships between location, participants and cultural activities.
The Main Line Starter Clock: Keeper of public time
An authoritative presence on Platform One at Spencer Street Station for almost one hundred years, the Main Line Starter Clock stood over the people of Victoria from its installation in 1871 until 1960, when the station was re-developed and the clock was gifted by Victorian Railways to the Melbourne Museum.
This majestic artifact is now cleverly housed in a model ‘Museum Station’ in the new Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery.
Built by watchmaker Thomas Gaunt at his premises in Bourke Street’s Royal Arcade in consultation with Government Astronomer Robert Ellery, the clock weighs some 150kg and stands – as you can gauge from this image of Conservator Sarah Babister as she repaired paint loss and removed decades of accumulated grime from the face – an imposing 1820mm high by 1190mm wide.
A Snappy, Collapsible Hat
On the outside it appears to be an ordinary top hat, but hidden on the inside is a technological innovation at least forty years in the making...
Dame Nellie Melba
“...the voice, pure and limpid, with an adorable timbre and perfect accuracy, emerges with the greatest ease.” Arthur Pougin, in Le Ménestral (Paris), May 12, 1889.
Dame Nellie Melba (1861 – 1931), was Australia’s opera superstar, performing in the great opera houses of the world - the Paris Opera, La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera House, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where she became prima donna, returning season after season.
The extensive Melba Collection at the Victorian Arts Centre includes costumes, records, accessories, letters, programs, photographs, opera scores and other personal effects. Other holdings of interest include 78rpm disks at the State Library of Victoria.
Sound in Space
Music always interacts with the architecture in which it is heard.
Melbourne has some wonderful acoustic environments. Often, these spaces were built for other purposes – for example the splendid public and ecclesiastical buildings from the first 100 years of the city’s history, and more recent industrial constructions.
Exploiting ‘non-customized’ spaces for musical performance celebrates and explores our architectural heritage.
For 30 years, the concerts of Astra Chamber Music Society have ranged around Melbourne’s architectural environment. Each concert has had a site-specific design that takes advantage of the marvellous visual qualities, spatial possibilities, and acoustic personality of each building.
The music, in turn, contributes a new quality to the perception of the buildings, now experienced by audiences as a sounding space - an area where cultural issues from music’s history are traversed, and new ideas in Australian composition are explored.
In this story take a tour of some of Melbourne’s intimate, hidden spaces and listen to the music that has filled their walls.
For further information about Astra Chamber Music Society click here.
State Film Centre
Designed to collect and maintain a film library for general public consumption, the State Film Centre was established in 1946.
It became a leading cultural institution for not only the archiving of Australian and international cinematic works but in supporting the Victorian production industry, providing regional lending services and broadening audience reach through the use of mobile projection units.
With technological change, the Centre adapted to new media platforms and broadened its collections focus to include emerging filmmakers and student works. It evolved from a collection-based institution to a hub for screening and advocacy and increased its role as an invaluable education resource.
Into the 1990s work commenced on plans to establish the Australian Centre for the Moving Image as part of the Federation Square project and on January 1, 2002, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image was officially established by the Film Act 2001 (Victoria).
Images of Melbourne
Explore Melbourne through selected works from the National Gallery of Victoria.
These artworks capture phases of the city's development, and offer a portrait of the people, places and streetscapes that define it.
The Last Yarn
The Last Yarn, a digitisation project, has supported the photography of key nineteenth-century works in the NGV’s Australian fashion and textiles collection for access through our online collection database.
Giving the garments a life beyond the archive, the project acknowledged the appeal of recent exhibitions such as Australian Made (2010) and Fashion Detective (2014) which investigated aspects of historical dress.
Now over 50 additional works have been catalogued, given new underpinnings, photographed and uploaded so that audiences elsewhere in the world can discover the local dressmakers, tailors and retailers who defined early Australian style.
TV50 Anniversary of Television in Australia
Television broadcasting arrived in Australia in 1956. At the end of that year only about 5% of Melbourne households had a television set. That figure is now closer to 99%.
Fifty years have seen many much-loved shows and celebrities come and go. The technologies of production have changed. Our televisions are no longer the bulky furniture items that once dominated the lounge room.
In 2006 the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) celebrated the 50th anniversary of Australian TV with an exhibition dedicated to its rich heritage.
TV50 brought together iconic objects from the ACMI collection, the television networks and memorabilia accrued in private collections.
Many significant objects were acquired by ACMI from Mr Bob Phillips, whose career as a floor manager/producer - and collecting passion - began in the still pioneering days of the early sixties.
Set and costume design
By exploring aspects of the J. C. Williamson Archive at the Arts Centre, and interviewing scenic artist Paul Kathner, we get a sense of the behind the scenes work involved in creating the visual effect of theatre.
Curator Margaret Marshall introduces us to a Williamson scenebook from the 1920s, and to costume designs from the late 19th and early 20th century, and Paul invites us to explore his craft and his career with major theatre companies for the past 50 years.