National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) - Under 4s: Subodh Gupta Review

Since little Miss was born, we have spent many hours at the NGV's galleries observing the art, interacting with kids' installations and playing in the sculpture garden. The NGV takes a proactive approach in including children as part of their exhibitions and programs.

Kate (@kateflatman) checked out the Under 4s program for us. The monthly program introduces children to a current exhibition and invites them to create art in response to the exhibition they have just seen and heard about. Thank you to the NGV for having us and thank you Kate and Arlo for the review and pics!

The next Under 4s program will be on Wednesday 8th of March and is titled 'The Language of Ornament', head to their website for more info.


Gone are the days of quiet pondering in art galleries. I have fond memories of visiting several of the world’s best galleries - Centre Pompidou (Paris), Tate Modern (London) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City) – hand in hand with the bartender, loosing track of time as we admired and appreciated the magnificent works of art on show.

Nowadays, galleries are no longer places of reverent observation and hushed whispers. With two active toddlers in tow, we are now exploring with the aim to expose the poppets to a variety of experiences and explore new things in a rich and educational environment.

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), NGV Kids presents a range of specially developed exhibitions, programs and publications for children and families.  Their monthly Under 4s program provides children and their parents or carers an introduction to the gallery and art through sessions that include a hands-on activity and storytime that connects to a work of art from a current NGV exhibition.


Having attended the Under 4s: Siu i Moana program in August, I was very excited to be returning this month with Arlo to explore the Subodh Gupta: Everyday Divine exhibition. This stunning exhibition of works by one of India’s pre-eminent contemporary artists, celebrates the visible traces of everyday life for many Indians. Having grown up in a devout Hindu household, Gupta elevates the objects found in domestic and street life to a position of spiritual worship. 

Entering the small gallery space on the first floor of the NGV International, we are instantly confronted with a great wave-like installation of stainless steel pots, pans and utensils; Hungry God, (2005-06).  “Uh oh, crash”, proclaims Master Arlo as he stops to stare at the cascade of items in front of him. 


We make our way towards the back of the gallery to the biggest work, Curry (2006), which takes over a whole wall and is made up of a vast number of kitchen tools.  It is at this piece of work where we meet Natalie who will be hosting our session this morning. Once seated on a cushion, Natalie begins by introducing us to this incredible installation which has five very ordered sets of shelves, with stainless steel utensils and crockery on them.  Natalie asks the children which items they can identify on the shelves and talks to them about the kind of food they may use them for. The little boy in the front row who suggests that we use plates for pancakes is already my favourite class member!   


We are then invited to follow Natalie to the Education Studio where the little ones will get to create their own object inspired by the stainless steel works in Gupta’s exhibition. The Eduction Studio is a fun space, brimming with all the right tools to unleash your creative side and home to a feature wall displaying a beautiful horse mural (which Arlo loved).

This morning the studio is set up with one long table down the middle which is filled with an assortment of shiny things, which naturally attracted the little ones attentions straight away!  Each place at the table is set with two pieces of aluminium foil, a silver round template and a small white cake box.  Down the centre of the table is a collection of objects covered with or made from aluminium foil (Arlo goes straight for the item that looks suspiciously like a cocktail shaker, I wonder where he recognises that from?).


Natalie encourages the children to use the sheets of aluminium foil to create their own object(s) which can then be taken home in the little box. After much exploration with the objects on the table, I offer to help Arlo make a plane (one of his absolute favourite things)) which instantly brings a smile to his face but unfortunately he's much too excited by all the shiny things to help me make it!  I quickly whip up something that resembles a plane and Arlo returns to his chair to decorate the wings and his box with the pretty shimmery markers that Natalie has brought out. 


We conclude the session with storytime on the play mat, where a few of the smaller participants have been playing with building blocks.  This morning Natalie reads Not A Box, written by Antoinette Portis.  Written as a celebration of every child’s creative spirit, this sweet picture book captures the wonder of looking at the ordinary and seeing the extraordinary.  A perfect choice to complement today’s session.


I really love that the Under 4s program allows children and adults to explore the galleries and studio together in an intimate setting to discover all that the National Gallery of Victoria has to offer. It is a program that sparks imagination, creativity and lifelong connections with art and encourages its youngest visitors to make the NGV a part of their lives for many years to come.

The upcoming program will be on Wednesday 8th of March and is titled 'The Language of Ornament' and coincides with the same titled NGV Collection, for more info and to buy tickets head to their site.

For more ideas and activities to do with the kids in Melbourne, head to our daily spots list and blog.