Centre 5: bridging the gap

Inge-King-AM-1915–2016-Forward-Surge-Arts-Centre-MelbourneMcClelland is exhibiting seminal works from the Centre Five group of modernist Melbourne sculptors who defined local artistic practice in the 1950s and 1960s and represent a significant place in the Gallery’s collection and development.

Centre Five: bridging the gap will feature works by Vincas Jomantas, Julius Kane, Inge King, Clifford Last, Lenton Parr, Norma Redpath and Teisutis Zikaras.

The exhibition is guest curated by Dr Jane Eckett, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Melbourne, who has written extensively on Centre Five and modern sculpture.

Eckett is the editor of On Bunurong Country: art and design in Frankston (McClelland, 2022) and with Harriet Edquist co-editor of Melbourne Modern: European art and design at RMIT since 1945 (RMIT Gallery, 2019).

The Centre Five artists were key contributors to Australian sculpture’s coming of age in the 1960s. This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of Centre Five’s formation.

Sculptor Julius Kane instigated the group in Melbourne in January 1962, formalising a collegial alliance that emerged in the 1950s with émigré artists Inge King, Clifford Last, Vincas Jomantas, Teisutis Zikaras, and Melbourne-born Norma Redpath and Lenton Parr.

Deriving their name from a five-point program, Centre Five aimed to bridge the gap between artist and public through exhibitions, lectures, and media interviews; seek better representation in public collections; foster a closer relationship with architects; promote a percent-for-the-arts scheme for public buildings; and lobby for sculpture-specific scholarships and fellowships.

“The need for a Centre Five survey exhibition transcends the marking of anniversaries. While Centre Five are regularly cited as key agents of change in relation to Australian sculpture, very few opportunities exist to view their work together as a group,” said Dr Jane Eckett.

“This exhibition therefore focuses on works made during Centre Five’s years of activity, from 1962 to 1974, as well as some earlier examples from the 1950s when Kane, King, Last, and Redpath began showing together as the Group of Four.”

“It’s a rare chance to retrospectively assess their work as a group. McClelland is the perfect setting for the exhibition, having been designed specifically for the sympathetic display of sculpture and having energetically supported and promoted sculpture for the past fifty years,” said Dr Eckett.

Centre 5 has been integral to McClelland since the gallery’s inception in 1971. Clifford Last and Lenton Parr both served on the McClelland art advisory committee and their guidance, as well as personal friendships among the group with inaugural director Carl Andrew and lifetime benefactor Dame Elisabeth Murdoch AC DBE, helped create an exhibiting environment uniquely sympathetic to sculpture.

Centre 5: bridging the gap celebrates this connection, both inside and outside the gallery, showcasing key examples of their work made during the group’s most active years, from 1958 to 1974 – when they last exhibited at McClelland.

The exhibition has been supported generously by Plenary Group and loans of works from the Arts Centre Melbourne, Ballarat Art Gallery, Geelong Gallery, Mildura Art Gallery, NGA, NGV, State Library of Victoria, University of Melbourne, and private collections.

Centre 5: bridging the gap
McClelland, 390 McClelland Drive, Langwarrin
Exhibition continues to 5 March 2023
Entry fees may apply

For more information, visit: www.mcclelland.org.au for details.

Image: Inge King AM, 1915–2016, Forward Surge, maquette (Sculpture for a city plaza), 1972, painted steel, 43.5 x 158.0 x 114.0 cm – Collection of Arts Centre Melbourne