Heide Gallery in Autumn

The redoubtable Sarah Palin is famously and erroneously noted for announcing  that she could see Russia from her porch.  Well, it’s not quite as exotic but if I had known that it was there, I would have been able to see Heide from our front porch as a child growing up in Heidelberg.  However, I was not at all aware that John and Sunday Reed lived on the hillside across the river until they were long gone and Heide Museum of Modern Art had been opened in what had been their homes.

Autumn is a lovely time to visit Heide.  The deciduous trees stand out against the bushland setting.

Heide Gardens, Bulleen May 2013

Heide Gardens, Bulleen May 2013

We’ve been to Heide several times but it’s always seemed that one or other of the three galleries has been closed either for construction or refurbishment.  But when we went last week, all three were open and bustling.

Heide I is a weatherboard farm house that the Reeds renovated in French Provincial style after purchasing the property in 1932.

Heide I

Heide I

At various times Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, John Perceval and Danila Vassilief joined them there.   Sidney Nolan painted his Ned Kelly series in the dining room.  The study has been left much as it was and it doesn’t take much imagination to picture the conversations, the wine, the cigarettes, the laughter, the arguments.  I wish that there were other photographs of the way it looked when they all lived there.

Rear view Heide I

Rear view Heide I

Heide I features an exhibition called “The Sometimes Chaotic World of Mike Brown”.  You can see a slideshow of his work here . The first image shows him painting the dining room at Heide I.  His work referenced pop lyrics, pornography, psychedelics, tribal art, Dadaism and garbage and he was the only Australian artist to be successfully convicted of obscenity.

In 1963 the Reed commissioned architect David McGlashan to build Heide II, a grey concrete structure with huge north-facing windows, a cantilevered staircase and mezzanine and a snug conversation space with open fire.  It was designed to be a ‘gallery to be lived in’  and small pictures in each room show the ways that it was used domestically while the Reeds lived there. There’s a display ‘Collage’ in Heide II.  The Reeds lived there until 1980 when  they sold Heide to the Victorian Government, and shifted back into Heide I.  They hadn’t been living back in Heide I before they died in December 1981 just ten days apart.


Looking out from Heide II

Heide III is a purpose-built gallery built of black titanium zinc and completed in 2006.  It is a striking building, but because it was designed as a gallery, it doesn’t have the same connotations of living-as-art that the other two buildings have.


Heide III

Until July 21, Heide III features an exhibition ‘Big Game Hunting’ by Fiona Hall.  Like the Mike Brown exhibition in Heide I, it is a very political exhibition with repeated themes of the threats of war-mongering and abuse of the environment.

The gardens of Heide are beautiful. Sunday Reed’s kitchen garden has been rehabilitated and now supplies Cafe Vue.  Her Heart Garden is now visible.

Kitchen garden adjacent to Heide I

Kitchen garden adjacent to Heide I

Entry to the Heide Galleries (I, II and III) costs $14.00 for all three.  The gardens and sculpture park are free.

[And of course, since you’re in the neighbourhood, you could visit the Heidelberg Historical Society Museum on a Sunday afternoon between 2.00 and 5.00 pm to see the Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin exhibition ‘Against the Forces’.  Cost $5.00.  I’ll write more about it soon]

7 responses to “Heide Gallery in Autumn

  1. Another historical exhibition to tempt me! Will it still be on in the July school holidays?

    • residentjudge

      Yes- all of them. The Fiona Hall exhibition closes on 21 July, Collage closes on 20th October and Mike Brown on 13 October. Heidelberg Historical Society’s Griffin exhibition is on until 8th December.

      • Excellent. I’ll put it in my calendar for the 2nd week of July after I have completed all my obligatory commitments (dentist, parents, school stuff etc) in Week 1:) I’m especially keen to see the Griffin one, have you read the Grand Obsessions bio by Alasdair McGregor? I was fascinated by this couple and what might have been, see http://wp.me/phTIP-31N

  2. The house was closed the last time we were there. I would have liked to see where they lived and loved and worked. Our neighbour, in the 1980s, Tucker’s sister, had some art work and correspondence of his and of course was a font of knowledge on the family history and scandal. I was young. I wish I had listened more and taken more notice.

    • residentjudge

      Yes, Heide I seems to have been closed several times. Sometimes I, too, feel like kicking my younger self when I realize that I have let opportunities go by to ask questions that have become important later on in life.

  3. artandarchitecturemainly

    I loved the role Heide played in Australian art, particularly between the wars. Albert Tucker, who you noted, was spotted by Sunday and John Reed, and Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Joy Hester were all there too. In particular I think the European emigrants found some comfort and friendship, especially Danila Vassilief and Yosl Bergner. And perhaps Noel Counihan as well. What a party!

    thanks for the link

    • residentjudge

      Thank you for the link- your Yosl Bergner posting on your blog is fantastic, and certainly adds to the way we look at Tucker and Nolan. The ‘Aboriginals in Fitzroy’ painting is particularly confronting on many levels.

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