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Face the Music

Daily from Monday 15 August 2005 until Sunday 13 November 2005

Australia has become recognised for the range and talent of its musicians, composers, conductors and celebrities in general associated with the music industry.

Paul Kelly, 2004 Jon Campbell
Paul Kelly, 2004 Jon Campbell

The National Portrait Gallery’s current exhibition, Face the Music, provides insights into some of these key individuals and groups who have impacted on Australian music over the past four decades. Drawn from the Gallery’s permanent collection, the exhibition explores the remarkable talents and achievements of these people and their significant contributions on the local and the international music scenes.

Diverse in its outlook, Face the Music includes a range of subjects from the renowned opera diva Dame Joan Sutherland, Johnny O’Keefe, Australia’s first rock ‘n’ roll star of the late 1950s, alto saxophonist Bernie McGann, who is widely regarded as one of the most creative Australian jazz musicians, to songwriter and cabaret performer Peter Allen. More contemporary subjects include Mandaway Yunupingu, lead singer of celebrated Indigenous band Yothu Yindi, and singers Christine Anu and Natalie Imbruglia.

The breath of musical styles, adopted by Australian individuals and collectives is manifest throughout the exhibition. Country music stars including Slim Dusty, Troy Casser-Daly and Kasey Chambers are captured in the photographs of John Elliott. Australia’s best-known composer Peter Sculthorpe is depicted through Eric Smith’s painting and eminent jazz musician Don Burrows is illustrated playing his clarinet in a painting by Barry Walsh. Both Sculthorpe and Burrows have been declared living treasures of Australia. Highlights from Australia’s rock history are also captured including the 1970s band Sherbert, seen here posed naked for POL magazine in a photograph by Lewis Morley, as well as long time TV series Countdown presenter and prominent music critic Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum with headgear, naturally, in a recent photograph by Robin Sellick.

25 portraits

1Natalie Imbruglia, 1999 Polly Borland. 2Sherbet, 1974 (printed 2002) Lewis Morley. 3Nick Cave, 1999 Howard Arkley. 4Michael Hutchence, 1997 Polly Borland.
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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia


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The National Portrait Gallery of Australia (NPGA) acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.