Collection

Decorative Arts & Design

Introduction | Essay | Support | Ballets Russes

The National Gallery of Australia began building a decorative arts collection very early in its history, and its presence is now well established with a dedicated department encompassing the Australian and international collections. 

The Gallery has significant holdings of Australian colonial decorative arts, which provide a solid foundation for charting the development of decorative arts and design in this country.  In particular, collections of ceramics, metalwork and furniture are well represented from this early period.  Latterly the focus has been on acquiring more contemporary works, in line with the resurgence of interest in the crafts from the early 1960s.  In 1980 the Australian Crafts Board collection was given to the National Gallery, and this collection, together with more recent acquisitions, has allowed the artistic progression of work by several leading Australian craft practitioners to be clearly shown.  Examples of this can be seen in the Gallery’s collection of ceramics by Milton Moon, Alan Peascod, Les Blakebrough and Mitsuo Shoji, glass by Nick Mount and Klaus Moje, jewellery by Marion Hosking, Susan Cohn, Helge Larsen and Darani Lewers, amongst others.

The international decorative arts collection was established with the purchase of the Ballets Russes costumes in 1973.  The Gallery has continued to acquire the work of leading designers and craft practitioners who have influenced design and the decorative arts since the late nineteenth century.  Important acquisitions of ceramics, glass, metalwork and textiles represent the major art movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – Design Reform and the British Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau and Jugendstil, the Vienna Secession, the Bauhaus and Art Deco.  Later twentieth century works are also being acquired, and the scope of collecting is being expanded to encompass developments in new media and technology within the craft and design field.  

Jun Kaneko 'Untitled triangle Dango' 2004 stoneware, glazed, Collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Acquired with the assistance of Raphy Star, © Jun Kaneko 2005 Jun Kaneko Untitled triangle Dango 2004 stoneware, glazed, Collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Acquired with the assistance of Raphy Star, © Jun Kaneko 2005 see this work in Transformations
Jun Kaneko 'Untitled triangle Dango' 2004 stoneware, glazed, Collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Acquired with the assistance of Raphy Star, © Jun Kaneko 2005 Toots Zynsky Pennellata 2004 glass 'Filet de Verre' glass: fused and thermoformed canes Image rights: © Toots Zynsky

Special focus

Related exhibitions

Recent publications

all works are National Gallery of Australia publications unless otherwise stated

  • Building the collection Pauline Green, editor, 2003
  • Material culture: aspects of contemporary Australian craft and design Robert Bell, 2002
  • Transformations: the language of craft, Robert Bell editor, 2005
  • for more National Gallery of Australia publications visit the library catalogue online



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