NGV International celebrates 50th anniversary

NGV 50th Anniversary Display - photo by Sean FennesseyThis week marks the 50 years since the opening of the National Gallery of Victoria’s new St Kilda Road building designed by Sir Roy Grounds. Now known as NGV International, Grounds’ bluestone building is widely regarded as a cultural landmark of Melbourne.

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of this milestone, the NGV will present a series of exhibits that pay tribute to those who played a role in the creation of the building, including Grounds, the interior designers Grant and Mary Featherston, and artist Leonard French, who created the gallery’s iconic and much-loved glass ceiling.

“The fiftieth anniversary is an opportunity to revisit the many stories and talented artists, architects and designers behind the creation of the NGV St Kilda Road building and reflect on our achievements over the past 50 years,” said Tony Ellwood, Director NGV. “NGV International is one of Melbourne’s most inspiring and stimulating civic spaces and we are pleased to reveal even more about its creation through these richly curated displays.”

Highlights of the displays include Grounds’ never-before-seen original architectural plans and sketches, as well as rarely seen photographs and footage relating to the building’s construction. The display will offer audiences an insight into Grounds’ design, which fused historical architectural elements, including Italian palazzo and oriental design principals, with a striking modern sensibility that created a dramatic new gallery for all Victorians.

The interior of the gallery will also be celebrated through a focussed display spotlighting the work of interior designers Grant and Mary Featherston, who were enlisted to fit out the entire gallery. The display will include a recreation of a curator’s original 1968 office, including desk, chair and tables and other fittings designed by the Featherston’s exclusively for NGV, revealing their renowned and pragmatic approach to designing modular furniture.

A further display will explore the creation of Leonard French’s cut-glass ceiling for the NGV’s Great Hall through TV interviews, exquisite samples of the coloured glass and magazine covers featuring the design. Emulating the kaleidoscopic effect of light filtering through trees and comprising approximately 10,000 pieces of glass, French’s fifty metre-spanning design remains the largest cut-glass ceiling in the world.

A small selection of fashion images by fashion photographer Henry Talbot will also be on display. Talbot, like many fashion photographers in the 1960s and 1970s, used the new National Gallery of Victoria building as a setting for a fashion shoot, employing the distinctive bluestone walls as a dramatic backdrop.

“From the moat, to the waterwall, to Leonard French’s glass ceiling, NGV International is an icon of Melbourne,” said Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley. “For 50 years it has welcomed in generations of Victorians to explore the world’s most exciting art and design. This mighty building laid the foundation for the Melbourne Arts Precinct, and it has played a central role in its evolution, and in the cultural life of our city.”

“I thank and applaud the work of successive NGV directors, staff and volunteers who have all contributed to this important milestone. I look forward to seeing the next chapter unfold for this building, the NGV and our vibrant world-class arts precinct.”

Exhibits celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of NGV International are on display until November 2018. Entry is free. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: NGV International 50th Anniversary display – photo by Sean Fennessey