Destinations that worth a visit in Canberra, Australia.
National Gallery of Australia
The nation’s extraordinary art collection is showcased in a suitably huge purpose-built gallery within the parliamentary precinct. Almost every big name you could think of from the world of Australian and international art, past and present, is represented. Famous works include one of Monet’s Waterlilies, several of Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly paintings, Salvador Dali’s Lobster Telephone, an Andy Warhol Elvis print and a triptych by Francis Bacon.
Highlights include the extraordinary Aboriginal Memorial from Central Arnhem Land in the lobby, created for Australia’s 1988 bicentenary. The work of 43 artists, this ‘forest of souls’ presents 200 hollow log coffins (one for every year of European settlement) and is part of an excellent collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Most of the Australian art is on the 1st floor, alongside a fine collection of Asian and Pacific art.
Free guided tours are offered hourly from 10.30am to 2.30pm.
National Portrait Gallery
Occupying a flash new purpose-built building, this wonderful gallery tells the story of Australia through its faces – from wax cameos of Indigenous Australians to colonial portraits of the nation’s founding families, to Howard Arkley’s DayGlo portrait of musician Nick Cave. There is a good cafe for post-exhibition coffee and reflection.
Australian War Memorial
Canberra’s glorious art deco war memorial is a highlight in a city filled with interesting architecture. Built to commemorate ‘the war to end all wars’, it opened its doors in 1941 when the next world war was already in full swing. Attached to it is large, exceptionally well-designed museum devoted to the nation’s military history.
The entrance opens onto a commemorative courtyard, which encloses a pool of remembrance where eternal flame burns. The walls of the surrounding cloister are engraved with the names of Australia’s war dead. The Last Post ceremony is held here every evening at 4.55pm, just before the doors are shut for the night. Behind the courtyard is the Byzantine-influenced Hall of Memory, a spectacular space topped with a dome and encrusted with mosaics and stained glass. Beneath the monumental statues representing servicewomen and the three branches of the military lies the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, representing all Australians who have given their lives during wartime.
The museum has halls dedicated to WWI, WWII, and conflicts from 1945 to the present day, as well as a spectacular aircraft hall. Every 15 minutes a sound-and-light show is staged in either the massive Anzac Hall or the Vietnam Gallery, starting with Striking by Night, which re-creates a WWII night operation over Berlin (staged on the hour).
Free guided tours leave frequently from the main entrance’s Orientation Gallery. Alternatively, purchase the self-guided tour leaflet ($5). There’s also a free audio guide available for the WWI hall, where you can select from a range of themed tours.
To be continued…
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