Australiana: Designing a Nation

Ken-Done-Sydney-Sunday-1982-96-x-192-cm-oil-on-canvas-Collection-of-the-artistOn display from March 2023, a major new exhibition curated by Bendigo Art Gallery surveys the iconography of Australiana in art and design from key chapters in our history through to the present day.

Australiana: Designing a Nation identifies the distinct traditions that have reflected and changed with popular notions of Australian identity and style.

Encompassing the rich expressions of culture and connection to Country of First Nations artists and designers, to explorations of national and personal identity by others, this exhibition illuminates a local vernacular.

Through the use of native materials and motifs, playful remixes of popular culture, and incisive reflections on nationalistic sentiment, the visual language of Australiana celebrates – and interrogates – who we are.

Presented exclusively at Bendigo Art Gallery in partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria, this expansive exhibition showcases works by over 200 artists and designers including many Australian masterpieces.

Bendigo Art Gallery Director Jessica Bridgfoot said the exhibition highlights the way artists and art movements have sought to capture what was uniquely Australian through different time periods.

“From the long-standing traditions of Australia’s First Peoples, to historic and modern moments of nationalistic fervour in the colony, the exhibition captures Australia’s social and cultural history and popular notions of identity and style,” said Ms Bridgfoot.

“Included are two of the most recognisable works of Australian art, Tom Roberts’s iconic Shearing the Rams (1890), and Russell Drysdale’s Moody’s Pub (1941), as well as and several other masterpieces from the National Gallery of Victoria.

“In addition, we have been able to access works from the Australiana Fund collection, which furnishes the four official residences of the Governor-General and Prime Minister of Australia and includes many highly significant works of Australian art and design, as well as works by international artists that feature Australian motifs.

Brought together, pieces from such important collections such as the Australiana Fund and the National Gallery of Victoria tell a fascinating story about Australia’s ideas about nationhood,” said Ms Bridgfoot.

Tony Elwood AM, Director of the National Gallery of Victoria said he was delighted to work closely with Bendigo Art Gallery so that many significant Australian works from the NGV collection could be included.

“This is an expansive exhibition that interrogates the way art and design have influenced our sense of national Identity,” he said.

Australiana: Designing a Nation features visual and decorative arts as well as photography, illustration, furniture, jewellery, moving image and fashion.  Highlights include:

  • Several works by Ken Done. A household name in Australia, Done’s bold and joyful depictions of both the natural and built iconography of Australia have been expressed through his enduring career as a painter and have been successfully translated into popular product designs.
  • Bush magic dress and gumnut cap by renowned fashion house Romance was Born, which pays homage to the much-loved Australian children’s author May Gibbs.
  • Girramay/Yidinji/Kuku Yalanji artist Tony Albert’s epic installation Clash 2019, which draws from his collections of ‘Aboriginalia’ – kitsch souvenirs and domestic items that depict caricatures of First Nations people and appropriated motifs – in an expression of reclamation and resistance.
  • Hilda Rix Nicholas’ In the Bush (Dorothy Richmond on horseback) 1927. Ballarat-born Hilda Rix Nicholas (1884-1961) returned from European travels at the end of World War 1 with a palette inspired by French painting but fuelled with a nationalistic desire to depict aspects of rural Australian life.
  • Works from the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive, which capture over three decades of Australian life, celebrity and culture from the 60s onwards.
  • Marrithiyel artist Paul McCann’s Saltwater Crocodile gownPink Water Lily gown and White Ochre gown (all 2022), unique garments which the artist calls ‘bling bling faboriginal’, which were featured in Vogue Australia and recently acquired by Bendigo Art Gallery.
  • Melbourne artist Kenny Pittock’s Melted Bubble’O, 2020. Pittock has also been commissioned to make a playful new sculptural installation for the exhibition titled 100 Australian Ice-Creams.

Australiana: Designing a Nation
Bendigo Art Gallery, 42 View Street, Bendigo
Exhibition: 18 March to 25 June 2023
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Ken Done, Sydney Sunday, 1982, 96 x 192 cm oil on canvas – Collection of the artist