On Tuesday 5 December, the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, visited the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne, Australia to launch the French-Australian Cultural Exchange Foundation in partnership with the NGV. On this occasion, the Minister also presented Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV with the medal of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (Knight of Arts and Letters), an Order that was established in 1957 by the French government to recognise individuals who have made significant contributions to furthering French art and culture.
The honour recognises Ellwood’s commitment to developing new and ongoing cultural exchanges between Australia and France. In his capacity as Director of the NGV, Ellwood has fostered partnerships with many major French cultural institutions, including the Louvre Museum, Musée d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Musée national Picasso-Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs and many more.
Under Ellwood’s leadership, the NGV has also developed and hosted a number of Australian-exclusive and world-premiere French exhibitions, including Pierre Bonnard (2023), The Picasso Century (2022), Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto (2021), Camille Henrot: Is Today Tomorrow (2021), The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture (2017), Degas: A New Vision (2016), and Monet’s Garden: The Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris (2013).
The NGV has also toured Australian exhibitions to France, sharing a rich and diverse array of Australian art and culture with the French public. These include Blak Rainbow: The Art of Dylan Mooney, which is currently on display at the Australian Embassy Gallery in Paris until 24 May 2024
‘Australia and France have a longstanding tradition of cultural exchange. Throughout my career, it has been my absolute privilege to share French art and culture with Australian audiences, as well as to introduce Australian and First Nation artists and designers to the French people. I am humbled to receive this prestigious acknowledgement from the French government and express my sincere gratitude to Minister Colonna for presenting this great honour.’ said Tony Ellwood, AM, Director, NGV.
During the ceremony, the French Minister announced the creation of the French-Australian Cultural Exchange Foundation, a major step in advancing cultural partnerships between France and Australia. The Foundation will be established in Australia as a non-profit organisation in early 2024, under the leadership of an Australian board. It is designed to be a meeting place for people and organisations who share a commitment to supporting and advancing French-Australian cultural projects and deepening the bilateral relationship between these two countries.
A flagship initiative of the Foundation will be the artists-in-residence program. The program will consist of several residencies across France and Australia, including the Pacific region, further strengthening the longstanding French-Australian cultural relationship.
‘Culture does not only address the minds but also the hearts of the people and that is why France takes pride in being the country of cultural diplomacy. Cultural diplomacy makes it possible to bring people into dialogue with each other by honouring other cultures. This is the whole point of the French-Australian Cultural Exchange Foundation: to be a powerful lever to boost and irrigate our friendship in all its facets, past and future.’ said Catherine Colonna, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
The French Embassy and the NGV also announced they will partner on the presentation of The Night of Ideas (Nuit des idées) in 2024. The event is a concept created by the Institut Français in 2016 and invites thought leaders, scientists, activists, performers, authors, journalists and academics to engage the public in discussion on a central question that addresses major, contemporary global issues.
The main theme for the 2024 Night of Ideas is “Fault Lines” (“Lignes de Faille” in French, in reference to Nancy Huston's 2006 novel) and will explore lines and separations. Through the lens of scientifical breakthroughs or deep societal changes, the event will explore how different "lines" and "divisions" can impact our everyday lives and our relationship with the world. The event will also include gallery talks, tours, music and performances.
The Public Galleries Association of Victoria (PGAV) acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the lands where our office is located, and all Traditional Owners of country throughout Victoria and Australia. We recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples enduring traditions and continuing creative cultures. We pay our respect to Elders past, present and emerging.