National Gallery of Victoria · Mid-Century Modern

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Thursday 3rd July 2014


Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design at The Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, Above, Clement Meadmore Reclining chair c. 1953 and Calyx standard lamp c. 1953, with Untitled Sculpture also by Meadmore,  1956. Photo – Brooke Holm.


Room recreation from Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design, featuring designs by Gerard Doubé, Grant Featherston, Clement Meadmore and RiteLite, with painting by John Brack and ceramic by Stacha Halpern. Photo – Brooke Holm.


H-Flex chair c. 1960 by Michael Hirst, with Outdoor Table, 1958 also by Michael Hirst. Photo – Brooke Holm.


Clement Meadmore Canvas sling chair c. 1955, with glass top coffee table also by Meadmore, c. 1952. Above,’The listening man’, gouache over pencil, 1956 by Helen Maudsley. Photo – Brooke Holm.

I don’t usually make a habit of promoting exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria and I really have no idea why.  Perhaps it seems like everyone already knows what’s on at the NGV, and it seems like it’s our job to uncover the slightly less obvious stuff!?  NONETHELESS, this show is right up our alley, and definitely deserves a little moment in the TDF Spotlight today!

As the name suggests, Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design celebrates mid-century Australian furniture design.  Since opening last month the exhibition has been well received (and much instagrammed!) and with good reason! We all know the American, British and Danish household name designers from this era, but it’s rather cool to be reminded of all the incredible furniture designed and produced right here in Australia in the 50’s and 60’s.  YES!  In fact it’s a friendly reminder to us all… I’m sure there are classic Australian design pieces languishing in grandparents’ garages across the nation… if this sounds familiar, it might be time to reacquaint yourselves with your long lost relatives, people!

Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design brings together an incredible collection of furniture, lighting, ceramics and artwork, from Grant Featherston’s iconic Contour range, to Clement Meadmore’s stunning welded steel pieces (my personal FAVES) and everything inbetween.  The exhibition also includes textiles from the period, as well as archival paint colour charts and interior magazines from the 1950’s and 60’s. Presented as a series of mid century interiors, complete with wall and floorcoverings, the exhibition also aims to highlight the relationship between classic architecture and furniture design.

‘In addition to items of furniture being displayed singly, like beautiful sculptural objects, we’ve created a series of interior vignettes and a beautiful room recreation to communicate a sense of what the mid-century interior was like’ explains Kirsty Grant, Exhibition Curator and Senior Curator of Australian Art at the NGV.  ‘Our primary motivation with the exhibition was to demonstrate how dynamic and diverse the field of furniture design was in Australia during these years, and to celebrate this aspect of Australia’s design history’ says Kirsty, whose research for the show including many hours spent absorbing mid-century editions of magazines such as Australian Home Beautiful and Australian House and Garden – ‘a fabulous and sometimes hilarious experience’ she says!

Aside from being a proud champion of Australian design, Mid-Century Modern is also a celebration of colour!  ‘From the outset of the design process for Mid-Century Modern, it was known that colour would play a key role to experiencing the works on display’ says NGV Exhibition Designer Peter King.  Bold colour is a key component of the show, and has been applied to various surfaces and backdrops throughout the exhibition.  ‘The aim was to complement the furniture, objects and artworks throughout, but also to focus the eye at a more domestic level within the larger gallery spaces’ Peter explains.

Unfortunately this show isn’t touring to any other states, so if you want to see it, you have to visit the NGV at Federation Square before October 19th!

Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design
30 May – 19 October 2014

The Ian Potter Centre
NGV Australia at Federation Square


Fred Lowen Aluminium shell chair, 1954, with Robert Klippel Boomerang table, c. 1955, Steven Kalmar screen c. 1955 and ‘Solar Components 1957’ oil painting by Dawn Sime, 1959.  Photo – Brooke Holm.


Expo Mark II sound chair, 1966, by Grant Featherston and Mary Featherston. Photo – Brooke Holm.

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Thursday 3rd July 2014


  • Bronwyn 2 years ago

    This is wonderful and so well put together Kristy. I wish I could experience it in person. I’m off to check out the insta tags!

  • Ruth 2 years ago

    Lovers of this design era should read Anna Buckley’s book, Awakening the Lost Woman. It is set in Melbourne with many references to art, food, sex and in particular mid century architecture and design.

  • The Yellow Dance Spot 2 years ago

    Your pics of this glorious exhibition are superb. Heading there tomorrow!

  • Donna 2 years ago

    This looks amazing… thanks for promoting!! ;)

  • Barbara Hermon 2 years ago

    Bravo NGV, yet another great exhibition!

  • Nerida 2 years ago

    Am so proud of my friend Kirsty, who curated this show and v happy that this story is featured today.

  • Jenny 2 years ago

    Highly recommended for a visit. I went last Saturday and it is superb. Trouble was I felt like sitting in the chairs! Beautifully and thoughtfully curated. Glad you covered this NGV exhibition, Lucy and team. It is good to be reminded of the story of great Australian designers and be proud of the talent of this period.

  • dana 2 years ago

    Very glad to read you enjoyed the exhibition and Meadmore is your fave Lucy!
    Meadmore and Hirst are our favourites from our collection, and its great to share the pieces with everyone…we get great joy, living with such extraordinary design.
    PS the catalogue is in its second printing now- incredibly, the first sold out in 3 weeks! Thanks for your support of Australian creativity.

  • m 2 years ago

    Its a shame you missed some very good Australian Designers for the show, its a nice show, the book is great, I am sure people will enjoy it who had no idea about what is out there.

    Well done

  • M 2 years ago



  • Kyle 2 years ago

    Love these contemporary pieces of furniture, a great read with a lot of top quality designed pieces.

  • Evie Chang 4 weeks ago

    Hello there, When I visited the mid century design exhibition this June, they were playing 60s and 70s pop songs at the gallery and I also noticed there was a sign board indicating certain songs described decorative-arts-inspired like ” Bohemian rhapsody”, ” Your song”, “Go your own way”, “Here comes the sun”, “Dancing queen”….etc. I am wondering what are the correlations among them? Any particular reasons making them inspired by the trend? Appreciate your help!

You might also like

Cassy Morris
Tuesday 27th October 2015
Jo Hoban
Thursday 29th October 2015
by Lucy Feagins
Tuesday 3rd November 2015
by Lucy Feagins
Tuesday 27th October 2015
by Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 28th October 2015
Jad and Hady Choucair
Tuesday 10th November 2015
Jad and Hady Choucair
Tuesday 3rd November 2015
Jad and Hady Choucair
Tuesday 17th November 2015
Jad and Hady Choucair
Tuesday 24th November 2015
by Lucy Feagins
Monday 2nd November 2015
by Lucy Feagins
Friday 6th November 2015
by Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 4th November 2015