Art History: Exhibition of Australian Art, New York, 1931
Exhibiting a Nation: The All-Contemporary Exhibition of Australian Art, New York, 1931
This presentation considers the above exhibition from the perspective of cultural diplomacy to support the foreign policy and commercial aims of Australia in the United States of America at the height of the Depression. It is part of a larger project looking at the ways Australia sought friends and influence via the exhibition of the visual arts in international locations between the wars; exhibitions which aimed in a deliberate and highly mediated way to frame the nation as attractive, white and cosmopolitan for international audiences.
The frames, scope and objectives of cultural diplomacy can be viewed from many perspectives. The focus of this paper is an exploration of how Australian artists, commercial promoters and cultural institutions embraced this first nationally framed exhibition in the US, revealing a turn away from the realist representations of Federation and a preference for diverse, yet contemporary, practice. The presentation also examines the organising group, which included political actors in foreign affairs and in trade, international and domestic patrons and institutions. Australia in 1931 foreshadowed much of current international exhibition and cultural exchange practice.