Australia’s new cultural cathedrals
Finally, there is the new National Portrait Gallery in Canberra which opened in 2008, a low-slung building dominated by two cantilevered concrete blades that complements the brutalist architecture of its neighbour, the High Court of Australia. Critics, like Catherine De Lorenzo of the University of New South Wales, have celebrated its “assured presence”, suggesting that it “reveals a new architectural maturity in Canberra and, perhaps, the nation”. Australia’s bush capital has never really gone for grand, monumental architecture – visitors can literally clamber over its new parliament building on the turf that covers its roof – and the Portrait Gallery is typically understated.
Like all the other galleries, though, it is a welcome addition. “The Great Australian Emptiness” is a thing of the past. Just look at the artistic landmarks peppering its cultural landscape.