Displaying Renaissance Art in Melbourne
In 2014 the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia embarked upon a redisplay of its Italian fifteenth and sixteenth century holdings. Inspired by recent art historical scholarship exploring the materiality of family life in the Renaissance casa the new displays depart from the traditional museum ordering principles of geography and chronology in favour of groupings of artworks structured around themes like marriage, domestic devotion and the Humanist scholar. Such thematic displays not only make best use of the museum’s collections which, whilst including many works of great distinction, are by no means comprehensive in scope, but also open up new avenues of audience engagement. By replacing the interpretive apparatus of traditional connoisseurship with an interest in the role of objects in performing and memorialising the rituals surrounding key life events of fifteenth and sixteenth century Italian families, as well as exploring the role of consumption in self-representation, connections are forged with the lives and interests of the contemporary visiting public.