February 12, 2018


One of the most famous masterpieces of medieval art, “The Lady and the Unicorn”, is now on exclusive display in Australia at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, through a loan from the collection of the Musée de Cluny- Musée national du Moyen Âge in Paris. Revered as a French national treasure, this 15th century ‘Mona Lisa of the Middle Ages’ will be in Sydney until 24 June 2018.

Prior to their Sydney exhibition, the six large scale tapestries, together measuring more than 20 metres in length, have only left Paris on two occasions, firstly being displayed New York in 1973-74 then Tokyo and Osaka in 2013.


The six tapestries, which are woven in wool and silk, are amongst the greatest surviving artworks of their kind. Showing a richly costumed lady flanked by a lion and a unicorn, surrounded by animals, trees and a millefleur (thousand flowers) background, five of the tapestries depict the senses with the sixth representing the heart or understanding. The sense of touch has the lady holding the unicorn’s horn while taste shows her feeding a bird and smell has her holding flowers. Hearing depicts her playing music and in sight she is showing the unicorn his reflection in a mirror. The sixth tapestry with the text ‘Mon seul desir’ (My only desire) depicts the lady emerging from a tent, held open by the lion and the unicorn.


Maud Page, The Art Gallery of New South Wales Deputy Director and Director of Collections, said “The tapestries are universally revered and are a portal to the past, but the lasting beauty of “The Lady and the Unicorn” is that it retains its mystique and its freshness after centuries, still inspiring awe in viewers today.”

I would recommend that it is well worth making a special visit to Sydney to view this beautiful exhibition              Sandra Tiltman    Photos: John Pond



November 27, 2017


The first major exhibition of Dutch masters in Sydney, featuring 78 exceptional works of art from Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, including a room dedicated to Rembrandt, is on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age showcases Dutch art and life during the 17th century, an era of wealth, power and cultural confidence. Dutch artists only began to depict distinctively Dutch landscapes in the 17th century, inspired by their unique environment with its terrain, windmills and abundant waterways. Scenes of everyday life, especially those set in the home, were incredibly popular during this time, with works portraying feasting and drinking with family and friends, children being cared for and people simply reading or sitting in quiet contemplation. The sea has always been a dominant factor in Dutch history, shaping the country’s life and commerce and during the Golden Age, marine painting emerged as another area in which Dutch painters excelled.


Landscapes, townscapes, architecture and interior scenes as well as marine scenes were the subjects of many of the era’s paintings. The Dutch Republic gave rise to a huge number of talented painters, but while most specialised in a single genre, such as portraiture, still life or landscape, Rembrandt painted almost everything.

Exhibition curator, Peter Raissis, said Vermeer’s “Woman Reading A Letter” (1663) and one of Rembrandt’s greatest works, “Self-portrait as the Apostle Paul” (1661), are at the heart of Sydney’s exhibition and are viewed by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year in the Rijksmuseum’s famed Gallery of Honour.


Alongside masterpieces by Vermeer and Rembrandt, where an entire room is dedicated with seven of his paintings and 16 etchings, are outstanding paintings by Jacob van Ruisdael, regarded as the greatest landscapist of the Golden Age and Jan Davidsz de Heem, renowned for his dynamic, colourful compositions of flowers and Judith Leyster’s painting of “The Jolly Drinker”.

It was customary for the affluent Dutch middle class to have themselves portrayed in paintings, whereas, in most European countries this was a privilege reserved for nobles and aristocrats. The exhibition’s portraits of merchants, scholars and artists reflect the increasing self-confidence and prosperity of the Golden Age’s society.


During the exhibition, a variety of educational programs are available for visitors of all ages. The Gallery will host a lecture series featuring local and international experts, late night programs, music, daily guided tours and many other events to give visitors the opportunity to enjoy interactions with the artworks.

The exhibition runs until 18 February 2018.

Words: Sandra Tiltman Photos: John Pond


July 23, 2017


Prior to the announcement of the Archibald Prize winner each year, I always look forward to learning which painting receives the honour of being awarded the Packing Room Prize. A cash prize of $1500, the Packing Room Prize is awarded to the best entry in the Archibald Prize, as judged by the Gallery staff who receive, unpack and hang the entries.


Steve Peters, the head packer at the Art Gallery of New South Wales for 35 years, pleased the crowd when he announced his final year judging choice for the Packing Room Prize was a portrait of journalist and television personality Lisa Wilkinson AM, painted by New South Wales Central Coast artist Peter Smeeth.

With 51% of the vote, Steve maintains that the Packing Room Prize should be awarded to a portrait, “that’s good and looks just like the sitter.” Steve said “I looked at the painting and thought, that’s a great likeness. It’s how Lisa looks every morning on the telly. She looks like she’s laughing at something Karl said!”


An Archibald finalist three times, artist Peter Smeeth, who won the Sulman Prize in 2011, is a regular entrant to the Archibald Prize, having entered for the past 34 years, which is almost as long as Steve Peters has been awarding the prize.

Lisa Wilkson said she was thrilled that Peter Smeeth had won the Packing Room Prize and humbled that she was the subject of his work. “I love the Art Gallery of New South Wales, adore the Archibald and as a big fan of portraiture I was taken with Peter’s portrayal. He got me. A particular thank you to head packer, Steve Peters, who picked this portrait, and who, I am told, is retiring after 40 years on the job. Go well,” Lisa commented.

In 2018 the Packing Room Prize mantle will be handed to installation officer Brett Cuthbertson who replaces Steve Peters as head packer.

Sandra Tiltman      Photos: John Pond

Photo Titles:

Peter Smeeth’s Winning Portrait

Steve Peters & Brett Cuthbertson in front of Lucy Culliton’s portrait of Steve and Peter Smeeth’s winning portrait of Lisa.

Lisa Wilkinson


October 17, 2016


Every summer The Sydney International Art Series brings the world’s most outstanding exhibitions exclusively to Sydney. This summer, as part of the Sydney International Art Series 2016-17, Sydney will be hosting two exceptional art exhibitions, Nude: Art from the Tate Collection at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect with Everything at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Nude: Art from the Tate Collection will showcase the story of the nude across two centuries, with more than 100 artworks loaned from Tate, London’s distinguished collection. Many of the works will be exhibited in Australia for the first time, including one of the world’s most iconic images of erotic love, Rodin’s marble sculpture, The Kiss (1904).

Nude is a journey through many major art movements, including romanticism, cubism, expressionism, realism, surrealism and feminism, featuring works by some of the world’s most celebrated artists including JMW Turner, Auguste Rodin, Pierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Cindy Sherman and Ron Mueck.

The exhibition includes paintings, sculpture, photographs and prints.


Program highlights include free daily guided tours as well as lectures, artist and curator talks plus a series of fiction readings by some of Australia’s finest writers including Christos Tsiolkas. Late night openings will be available on Thursdays and Fridays in January.

Nude: Art from the Tate Collection will be on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 5 November 2016 until 5 February 2017.

Tatsuo Miyajima is a leading contemporary artist in Japan, known for his immersive and technologically driven sculptures and installations. He draws inspiration from Buddhist philosophy with its exploration of life, death and renewal. Central to his practice are numerical counters that count from 1 to 9 repeatedly using light emitting diodes, then go dark momentarily. The repetition of numbers, along with the shift from light to dark, reflects the importance of time.

Tatsuo Miyajima

Tatsuo Miyajima

Miyajima has held solo exhibitions in Japan, the United States and Europe. He represented Japan at the Venice Biennale in 1999 with the installation Mega Death and more recently Arrow of Time (Unfinished Life) at The Met Breuer, New York.

The exhibition includes key sculptures and installations from his career.

Sandra Tiltman with MCA Gallery Head, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE

Sandra Tiltman with MCA Gallery Head, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE

Curated by MCA Chief Curator Rachel Kent, this exhibition is a Sydney exclusive and is the artist’s first major survey exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere.

As well as free daily guided tours and late night openings on Thursday evenings, there will be Japanese inspired workshops every Thursday evening in December, plus a Japanese menu at the MCA Café and a pop-up Cherry Blossom Bar with Japanese bites and exclusive cocktails.

Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect with Everything will be on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art from 3 November 2016 until 5 March 2017.

Purchase a Sydney International Art Pass to see both exhibitions and save 20%.

Sandra Tiltman




July 30, 2016
Louise Hearman's "Barry"

Louise Hearman’s “Barry”

The announcement of the winners of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes is one of the most exciting and eagerly awaited events in the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ calendar.

This year’s exhibition features 51 portraits of fascinating Australian personalities from George Calombaris, Toni Zeltzer, Linda Jackson, Garry McDonald, Peter Weiss AO and Wendy Whiteley plus 34 works for the Wynne Prize and 25 works for the Sulman Prize.

Ester Stewart's Sulman Prize winning "Flatland Dreaming"

Ester Stewart’s Sulman Prize winning “Flatland Dreaming”

Each year, the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW judge the Archibald & Wynne, but invite an artist to judge the Sulman.

Women artists have taken all three awards this year, with Melbourne artist Louise Hearman winning the 2016 Archibald Prize for ‘Barry’, her portrait of iconic Australian Barry Humphries. The Ken Family Collaborative (Tjungkara Ken, Yaritji Young, Maringka Tunkin, Freda Brady and Sandra Ken) won the Wynne Prize for ‘Seven Sisters’ and Esther Stewart the Sulman Prize for ‘Flatland Dreaming’.

Michael Brand, Art Gallery of New South Wales Director, said this is the first time that all three prizes have been won by women artists only. Of the 51 finalists in this year’s Archibald Prize, 25 were women artists. Lucy Culliton actually had works in each of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes.

First awarded in 1921, the Archibald Prize for the best portrait painting, is perhaps Australia’s best known and most prestigious art award. From politicians to celebrities, sporting heroes to artists and anyone else in between, the portrait subjects are a who’s who of Australian culture.


The Wynne Prize is awarded to the best landscape painting of Australian scenery or figure sculpture while the Sulman Prize is awarded to the best subject painting, genre painting or mural project in oil, acrylic, watercolour or mixed media.

A week prior to these announcements, Melbourne artist Betina Fauvel-Ogden, with her portrait of renowned chef, restaurateur and MasterChef Australia judge George Calombaris, won the Packing Room Prize. This prize is awarded to the best entry in the Archibald Prize, as judged by the gallery staff who receive, unpack and hang the entries. The head of the Art Gallery of New South Wales packing room, Steve Peters, with 51% of the vote, gets the final say.

On display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until 9 Oct 2016.

Sandra Tiltman      Photos: John Pond


July 11, 2016

IMG_9457 (1)

One of the most exciting events in the Art Gallery of New South Wales calendar is the announcement of the Packing Room Prize winner. The cash prize of $1500 is awarded to the best entry in the Archibald Prize, as judged by the gallery staff who receive, unpack and hang the entries. The head of the Art Gallery of New South Wales packing room, Steve Peters, with 51% of the vote, gets the final say.

Bettina Fauvel-Ogden with George Calombaris

Bettina Fauvel-Ogden with George Calombaris

The 2016 winning portrait of renowned chef, restaurateur and MasterChef Australia judge, George Calombaris is by Adelaide-born Melbourne artist, Betina Fauvel-Ogden. It is the first time that Betina, who paints urban landscapes and occasionally portraits, has entered the Archibald Prize.

Last year she set her sights on a portrait of Calombaris, despite at that stage never having met him. Betina said “I was always interested in

Steve Peters, Head of Packing Room

Steve Peters, Head of Packing Room

George Calombaris as a subject as I felt there was an intensity to his character and after eight months pursuing him, George gave up his valuable time to allow me three sittings. I wanted to paint him in his chef’s white jacket and black apron. In choosing the pose, George felt most comfortable with his hands on his hips. I kept the lighting simple and focused on capturing the determination in his eyes. I had always envisaged a vibrant yellow background for the portrait. When George gave me his cookbook ‘Greek’ with its bold yellow cover, as a gift at the first sitting, that clinched it”.

Sandra Tiltman     Photos: John Pond



November 3, 2015


Sydney is in for another Summer of Arts with the opening of “The Greats: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland” at The Art Gallery of NSW on 24 October. This is one of the most significant collections of old master paintings ever seen in Australia and is presented as part of the Sydney International Art Series 2015-2016.

IMG_7340Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, El Greco, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner, Monet, Degas, Gauguin and Cézanne are just some of the famous names that are on view at the exhibition.

Spanning a period of more than 400 years from the Renaissance to impressionism, the exhibition comprises over 70 of the greatest paintings and drawings from the National Galleries of Scotland, based in the beautiful capital city of Edinburgh.

This is the first time all but two of the artworks have been exhibited in Australia. Botticelli’s “Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child (c1485)” has not been exhibited outside of the United Kingdom in 169 years.

Visitors to The Art Gallery of NSW will experience the Scottish National Gallery’s famous interior, as part of the exhibition space is inspired by the Edinburgh gallery’s octagonal rooms, IMG_7345with their fabric walls of sumptuous red, the traditional colour on which to hang old master paintings. This installation will serve to accentuate the grandeur of the paintings.

A variety of associated public and education programs are also on offer to visitors of all ages and the Gallery will host daily guided tours, lecture series and late night programs.

Visitors to Sydney wanting to view the exhibition, can combine a luxurious stay at Sofitel Sydney, just a short walk from the Gallery, with their ‘So Culture’ package which includes an overnight stay in a classic room, two tickets to the exhibition, a two-course dinner for two with some of the finest Scottish food, plus breakfast in Sofitel’s Garden Court Restaurant.

The exhibition runs until 14 February 2016.

Sandra Tiltman     Photos: John Pond