This monolithic structure with its dull, grey frontage wouldn’t be out of place in North Korea, but don’t let its ugly exterior put you off: It’s a lot more user-friendly once you get inside.
I went specifically to see the exhibition of Neo-Impressionist art called “Radiance” ($20 entrance fee for adults) but I also took the time to wander around the Asian and European galleries as well. It’s full of interesting artefacts and exhibits that have been carefully and thoughtfully laid out in an easy to follow style, with narrative panels on the walls. I especially liked the fact that the information provided dealt not only with the objects themselves but also the political and economic context in which the works were made. The huge wall chart showing the political developments in China in parallel with developments in the west was especially well presented and informative.
The gallery is a spacious and airy place, not overcrowded and perfect for just wandering around at your leisure.
The serious part of my visit was of course the exhibition of Neo-Impressionist art and I was not disappointed. It contained 72 paintings by all the luminaries of this movement which arose in Paris after the debacle of the Franco-Prussian War and the chaos that followed. The main artists featured included Georges Seurat, Theo van Rysselberghe, Max Luce, Henri Cross and the eventual leading light and driving force behind the movement, Paul Signac. I took the free tour which started at 2.15pm. Our guide, Sue, was pleasant, entertaining and knowledgeable and her tour was conducted in a relaxed and informal style. I especially liked the fact that she took the trouble to cover at least a third of the paintings in the exhibition rather than just a few.
But if all you want to do is browse the permanent collection then there is no charge to enter. There are no cloaking charges either which makes a pleasant change from the London galleries where a 2 pound or more charge for storing just one bag is “de rigueur”.
Even if you’re only in Melbourne for a few days, I wouldn’t miss this attraction, especially since it’s so easy to access. You can get here on foot from Fed Square – it’s about 15minutes at a leisurely pace - or the free red shuttle bus passes by here as well on its circuit around the city. And that of course is the joy of visiting Melbourne. Everything is accessible, and this attraction is no exception.
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