This morning , I drove an excited, though slightly hesitant 9 yr old to the National Gallery of Australia for his very first Art Scene Investigation. Detective Inspector Cleverpants and Officer Angelheart were waiting for us in the foyer.
After the 9 yr old and several other very keen young investigators had been suitable decked out for investigation….
… the Senior Detective and Officer gathered us around in a huddle.
There has actually been an absence of mysteries at present in the Gallery, they told us, so plans have changed. Let’s go to James O Fairfax theatre to relax and watch a feature instead.
We were slightly disappointed but everyone obediently traipsed along behind our fearless leaders.
After we crept down to sit at the front of the darkened theatre however, a spotlight came on, revealing a bundle of white material in the middle of the stage
along with a mysterious note: ‘Break a leg.’
What did this all mean? Mystery was suddenly afoot (see what I did there?)!
A video message came up on the detective’s iPad. This message, from the shadowy-yet-helpful Inside Man, told us that we had all the clues right here in the Gallery to solve the mystery.
Before setting off the children enjoyed duplicating a crime scene, using paint to create their own blood spatter effect.
Then the group of VERY eager investigators were let loose in the gallery.
We stopped at 3 very different paintings of actress Sarah Bernhardt by Alphonse Mucha which prompte discussion about how to conceal an identity, how actors can conceal their identity with costumes and how acting itself also disguises identity.
We noticed that the artist Rene Magritte concealed the faces of his subjects entirely in Les Amants (The Lovers )
This artist wanted to create art that made his audience ask ‘what does this mean’. And his answer to them was ‘It means nothing’.
Rene’s style was rejected and he became a forger.
The Investigators took a few minutes to practise the fine art of draping to conceal identity.
We had so many clues and ideas but needed clarity. So we got another clue from the Inside Man.
This cryptic clue took us outside into the Gallery gardens where we encountered a wrapped man who left us a large, wrapped package!
After refreshment, there were more clues and artworks that brought us to a gripping conclusion. I will not give it away of course!!! No spoilers here!
I CAN reveal that we looked at how Picasso portrayed Dora Maar and how she in turn portrayed him.
One of the investigators noted: It’s like he took her face apart and then put it back together a little differently.’
In the Pop Art Gallery with Jimi Hendrix (painting by Martin Sharp) looking down on them, the investigators drew their personalized depiction of their favourite singer.
And then somehow when that artwork was combined with the overlay of the ‘bloodspatter’, each child suddently had a piece of art remniscent of Martin Sharp’s image of Jimi Hendrix.
Art Scene Investigations are just one of the holiday events run for children by the National Gallery Of Australia.
I love how the kids in the group were gently drawn to delve deeper into the art they saw (with a dessert-sized spoon!) and encouraged to question everything and to explore. Energetic discussion was unfolding live as the adventure progressed. Detective Inspector Cleverpants and Officer Angelheart skillfully interacted with the questions, and whilst they meandered along with where the discussion and questions went, they were masters at herding the adventure back to where it needed to go.
As one of our fearless leaders concluded:
‘Artwork gives up all sorts of secrets if you look for it. Always ask questions. And now you are art scene investigators you will always be looking.’
Art Scene Investigation:
Price: $12 ($10 if you are a member)
Duration: 1 1/2 hours
National Gallery of Australia Website: http://nga.gov.au/Home/Default.cfm