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How does NGV’s ‘Shifting Gear’ Exhibition stack up?

Cars are the stars at Australia’s very first automotive exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, as Annie Reid discovers.

How does NGV’s ‘Shifting Gear’ Exhibition stack up?


April 8th, 2015



It’s the first time an art gallery has thrown open its doors to the work and achievements of the Australian car industry, as Shifting Gear: Design, Innovation and the Australian Car launched on March 6.




The exhibition celebrates 100 years of ingenuity and design featuring 23 iconic vehicles, including the family car, racing car, sports car, concept cars never intended for production and an insight into where it all began – with the large tradition of coach vehicles.




Some of the rare cars on display include the futuristic Holden Hurricane (1969), a ground-breaking concept car designed by Don Daharsh; the Holden Efijy (2005); and the Brian Tanti-designed FR-1, a 21st century hotrod.





“The collection records this fantastic history we have in Australia,” guest curator Harriet Edquist, director of the RMIT Design Archives says. “They are all national treasures and we need to treasure these cars.”

The exhibition also features accompanying sketches, photographs, archival material and illustrations through several gallery spaces, carefully arranged around each car on pedestals.




Tony Ellwood, NGV’s director, says: “As part of the NGV’s commitment to showcasing design, this exhibition will uncover how the modern automobile is far more than simply a means of transport; it is a sophisticated design object that reflects contemporary aesthetics and social values.”

Another highlight is the Ford coupe utility or ‘ute’, which was designed by Lewis Bandt in 1934 following a request from a Victorian farmer’s wife for a vehicle suitable to attend Sunday church as well as carry livestock.

“Our Ford Ute, manufactured in 1934, was a barn find from a paddock in Gippsland,” Edquist said.




And while the exhibition looks to the past, it’s forward thinking as well. It explores the ongoing role of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) and touches on the global future of the Australian industry as the large car manufacturing plants are set to close by 2017.

“As Australia mourns the loss of an industry that has underpinned its prosperity for a century and helped identify it as a nation, it also faces a new century of possibility,” Edquist concludes in the accompanying book, available from the NGV.

Shifting Gear: Design, Innovation and the Australian Car
March 6 – July 12
NGV Australia: The Ian Potter Centre
Open 10am-5pm, closed Mondays.


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