Step back in time at AGSA’s Reimagining the Renaissance

Opening on 20th of July 2024, Reimagining the Renaissance is a sweeping and thorough exploration of one of the most crucial, famous and vibrant periods in art history. The free exhibition runs at the Art Gallery of South Australia until 13th of April 2025.

Drawn from AGSA’s important collection, alongside rarely seen private loans, the exhibition features over 140 unrivalled Renaissance works in a wide range of mediums from painting, sculpture, printmaking, coins, drawing and embroidery to printed books. Included are some works by the period’s most celebrated artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Pieter Breughel II, Hans Holbein and Benvenuto Tisi, who engaged with a wide variety of subject matter from religious themes to powerful aristocratic portraits; allegorical scenes and landscapes as well as beautiful objects of decorative art and design.

Throughout art history, the Italian Renaissance has taken centre stage and is regarded as one of the most important periods of artistic innovation and development, often overshadowing broader European art occurring at the same time. Reimagining the Renaissance explores the Northern and English Renaissance periods together with showcasing celebrated Italian masters. It provides an account of the revolutionary changes in art across Europe.

Traversing a long cultural rebirth, Reimagining the Renaissance draws out important ideas which allow us to continue to engage with this important, albeit distant, time in art and society. The exhibition tackles world-changing politics and power dynamics, religious reformation and the rise in secularism, myth and allegory and everyday life in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The Honourable Andrea Michaels MP, Minister for Arts says, ‘Travel back in time and experience the magic of the Renaissance era. This carefully curated exhibition from AGSA’s remarkable collection features stunning works of art that will transport you to a celebrated era. Bring your family and friends for a time-travelling experience outside of the classroom.’

Tansy Curtin, AGSA’s Senior Curator of International Art, Pre-1980 and curator of the exhibition says, ‘Reimagining the Renaissance will introduce and challenge visitors to the notion of what is the Renaissance and the power of art to influence the course of history. The European Renaissance witnessed profound artistic and cultural change, a rebirth following the devasting loss of knowledge in the so-called ‘Dark Ages’. This new and transformative period in art, notions of form, colour and perception changed fundamentally and an artistic revolution was born, most notably in the understanding of composition and realism and the rise of humanism.’

after Hans Holbein The Younger, born Ausburg, Germany 1497, died London 1543, King Henry VIII, c 1540s, London, oil on wood panel, 65.0 x 57.5 cm, 89.5 x 81.5 x 9.0 cm (frame); A.M. and A. R. Ragless Bequest Funds 1965, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Art Gallery Board Chair, Sandy Verschoor says, ‘Don’t miss this opportunity to see Reimagining the Renaissance, this exhibition showcases AGSA’s incomparable Renaissance collection and the incredible skills and craftmanship of its artists.’ 

AGSA is renowned for its care and conservation of the collection, with conservation playing a pivotal role in the exhibition. Tansy Curtin has worked extensively with the incredible team of conservators at Artlab to conserve and stabilise some of the rare and fragile works.  

A highlight of the conservation includes the cleaning of two 1480 marble angels, from the school of Mino da Fiesole. These carved marble reliefs were acquired for AGSA by H.D. Molesworth, a keeper (or curator) at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1950. Through research, it has become apparent that at least one of the reliefs was even older than the identified date.

‘The conservation of the works of art helps AGSA tell the stories behind the works, and aids in our understanding of the materials and techniques used by artists at the time. Through AGSA’s commitment to conserving works of art we can ensure that they remain in excellent condition and can be enjoyed by future generations,’ Curtin said.

Artlab’s Conservation Project Manager Abby Maxwell-Bowen enjoyed giving the angels a much needed clean to bring back some of their former glory.  She says, ‘It was a privilege to be tasked with working on AGSA’s angels, delicately removing years of dirt and grime to reveal their original beauty.’

Leading up to Reimagining the Renaissance is Grand Mix by Inook, part of City Lights at Illuminate Adelaide. AGSA’s Renaissance masterpieces are brought to life by the creative minds of France’s Inook. The light and sound experience takes well-known figures from Reimagining the Renaissance, lifts them off the canvas, and uses AI technology to bring them to life. During nightly collective karaoke sessions on the forecourt, experience paintings that sing and move across AGSA’s historic façade. Grand Mix runs from 5 to 21 July, 5.30–10.30pm.

Throughout the exhibition season, visitors will have the opportunity to participate in exclusive ticketed bespoke tours and drawing classes, led by respected Adelaide thinkers and artists. These unique experiences allow visitors to learn more about the history and techniques of Renaissance art. The drawing classes will be tailored to suit all skill levels, from beginners to advanced artists, ensuring that everyone can participate. Tickets for the bespoke tours and drawing classes can be purchased at

Reimagining the Renaissance is on display in Galleries 8­–11 at the Art Gallery of South Australia from 20th of July 2024 to 13th April 2025.

Hero image credit: Pieter Brueghel II, born Brussels 1564/65, died Antwerp 1637/38, The tax-collector’s office, c 1615, Antwerp, Flanders (Belgium), oil on wood panel, 74.5 x 106.5 cm; Bequest of Helen Austin Horn 1934, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

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