MEDIA RELEASE – 8 July 2010

 Life, Death & Magic, an exhibition that focuses on the art inspired by ancient Southeast Asian animist and ancestral beliefs, is set to open at Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia on 13 August.

For the first time in Australia key works from the National Gallery of Australia will be shown beside the finest animist art from world renowned collections in Asia, Europe and America. Masterpieces created to celebrate the region’s oldest religions – from prehistoric times to the 20th century will demonstrate the antiquity of shared art forms and their continued importance in remote communities of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam and the indigenous inhabitants of Taiwan and southern China.

Serenely beautiful objects made to give pleasure to the living and to ancestral deities will be displayed beside powerful and frightening forms which provided protection from danger. Created from fibre, stone, metal, wood and clay, works in the exhibition include monumental ancestral figures and fertility gods, fierce demonic masks, elaborate gold ornaments, and huge house-shaped sarcophagi in bronze and wood. Dragons and crocodiles, ships of the dead, heavenly birds and rain-bringing frogs are among the fascinating forms to appear on textiles, metal, wood and clay. Southeast Asian textiles from the Gallery’s renowned collection will also be on display for the first time beside much published favourites.

Works are on loan from such nation’s as far afield as Switzerland, France, USA, Indonesia, the Netherlands and Vietnam, and will demonstrate the richness and creativity of the arts of smaller and more remote communities which are usually ignored in favour of sculptures from the better-known classical Hindu-Buddhist civilisations such as Angkor, Ayutthya and Borobodur.

Tickets to the exhibition cost $15 for adults and $10 for concession and members. Children 16 years and under are free. For accommodation packages go to www.visitcanberra.com.au or contact the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre on 1300 554 114.

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