Developed as part of Australia’s Centenary of Federation celebrations, the exhibition explores the symbols used to promote Australia's national identity in the 20th century. It is the first Powerhouse Museum exhibition to tour the United States.
The New York opening follows its inaugural showing at the Embassy of Australia gallery in Washington DC where the exhibition received over 1000 visitors.
Celebrating Australia: identity by design includes familiar symbols like the kangaroo and Sydney Opera House, but also new and surprising cultural iconography such as David Lancashire’s Peace Roo poster and Mambo’s Mambo faith posters of the late 1990s, says Anne-Marie Van de Ven, curator of the exhibition.
The exhibition looks at how our national cultural identity has been promoted through graphic design and incorporated into posters, artworks, magazines, photography and film from the 1930s to now.
The exhibition is structured into seven major themes: Australia’s unique environment; Indigenous contribution to Australian identity; selling significant sites; cosmopolitan part of the world; festivals and celebrations; enduring popular identities; and towards the future.
Highlights of the exhibition include Balarinji’s Wunala (kangaroo) Dreaming a Boeing-747 painted Qantas aircraft design of 1994; Ken Done’s AUSTRALIA letters for World Expo ’88 and Sydney Design 99 collage for the World Design Congress; and a proposed Australian flag design by the 'Great Artist from Warmun' (name withheld due to cultural sensitivity) of 1995.
Posters from the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and reproduction drawings which Chicago architects Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin submitted to the Commonwealth of Australia's Federal Capital competition in 1911, are also featured.
Celebrating Australia is a particularly important exhibition as it showcases the contribution Indigenous art and culture has made to Australia’s national identity, says Dr Kevin Fewster, Director of the Powerhouse Museum.
It also reveals the impact iconic symbols, such as the crescent shape of the Australian continent, motifs drawn from our natural environment, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Southern Cross constellation, Australia's beach culture and the country's most important national emblem, the Australian flag, have had in shaping our national and international image.
Australian artists and designers featured in the exhibition include Eileen Mayo, Kurwingie (Kerry) Giles, Kevin Butler, Leonie Lane, Douglas Annand, Dahl Collings, Gert Sellheim, Chris O’Doherty (aka Reg Mombassa), Adrian Feint, Martin Sharp, Richard Beck, David McDiarmid, Paul Worstead, Carol Wilson and Marie McMahon among others.
Celebrating Australia: identity by design is supported by the National Council for the Centenary of Federation and sponsored by Qantas who generously freighted the exhibition to the United States of America aboard its Balarinji-designed Wunala Dreaming aircraft.
Sydney 2000 Olympic Games poster,Peace Roo,
offset lithograph on paper,
designed by David Lancashire, Melbourne, 1999.