The Field 1968

There have been progressive moments in Australia's post-settlement history. At the turn of the twentieth century Australia was leading the world with workers rights for an eight hour day, the suffragette or women’s rights movements and film production. Similarly in the 1960s-70s there was free health and education and a move for equal pay for women. Perhaps the most symbolic event for Art in Australia at this time was the purchase of Jackson Pollocks' Blue Poles in 1973 orchestrated by the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. 

The staging of 'The Field', 1968, for the opening of the new National Gallery building in St Kilda Road Melbourne is now legendary as a time when 'cutting edge' made its way into the mainstream. The exhibition showcased then avant-garde, hard edge colourfield abstraction.

The Field, NGV, 1968.

‘The biggest Australian artists of the time — such as Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and John Brack — were all conspicuously absent from the 1968 exhibition. 

Instead, curators John Stringer and Brian Finemore selected works by young and emerging contemporary artists. Eighteen of the 40 artists included were under the age of 30, and some had never had a solo show. 

These young artists were rejecting the conservatism of the Australian art scene and turning away from Europe, looking instead to the avant-garde art coming out of New York. 

So were the curators: inspired by what he'd seen at Andy Warhol's Factory, Stringer had fitted out the exhibition with silver foil-covered walls and geometric light fittings. It was the first instance of a 'designed' show at the NGV.’ Hannah Reich, ABC.