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The Herald Art Show


Before WWI, a young journalist was employed by David Syme of The Age and part of his job was to help increase the circulation of The Age in the �establishment� eastern suburbs. We have told the story in our 7 Journalists of Melbourne of how this young Keith Murdoch was by the 1930s to become proprietor of The Sun, The Herald, 3DB and as a result, one of the most powerful men in Australia.

This rich and powerful man then surprised everyone by marrying an attractive girl many years his junior. Of course nobody said anything publicly but you can imagine many thought it would never last. This young girl recently only recently died at the age of 102 and still spoke with enormous respect and affection of their long and happy marriage. Keith always had an interest in the arts, but Elisabeth pushed this along a number of steps. The Herald became the arts newspaper rivalling and often surpassing his old employers at The Age. Keith sought out expert advice for his own art collection and then in the late 1930s put together an audacious project.

He arranged for over 200 �modern art� works to be brought from Europe for a touring exhibition. These included works by the likes of Gauguin, van Gogh, Braque, Cezanne, Bonnard and others. The National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales would have nothing to do with it, but that didn�t worry Keith. He hired the Melbourne Town Hall and in Sydney, horror of horrors, he used a department store � David Jones. Keith had deep pockets but a venture this size did require an admission charge. That was not a problem. On the whole artists and the public lapped it up and queued around the block. Some major gallery establishment figures railed against it describing the art and artists in highly derogatory terms. That was just grist to Keith�s mill. He owned a major newspaper and instead of covering up their opinions he quoted them in large type. As his son Rupert was to do in later years, he relished taking �establishment pronouncements� head on. The exhibition did not have to be confined to the public service hours of the time and for nigh on two weeks over 40,000 people of Melbourne queued until 10 o�clock at night to see these paintings in the flesh. Some conjectured that this was more than had passed through the doors of the main establishment gallery in a year. It remains as one of the most influential arts events to occur in Melbourne�s short history and as such, we suspect deserves the label of �Bigger than the Beatles�.

Seven Melbourne Events that were Bigger Than The Beatles - overview

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