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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]