As a volunteer guide for more than 50 years at the National Gallery of Victoria, Judy Davey has come across her fair share of interesting characters.
On one particular tour, she remembers introducing the “Angry Penguins” – a collective of artists during the modernist movement in Australia during the 1940s.
The group of tourists replied with earnest enthusiasm that they had seen the same angry penguins last night at Phillip Island.
But Davey doesn’t like to make fun of the “well-intentioned” questions of NGV visitors. The guides are there to make the art accessible, she said.
“People come to the gallery a bit scared, which is why we started [the tours] in the first place – to sort of humanise it a bit.”
Humanising the art extends beyond looking past people’s arguably silly questions.
The voluntary guides at the NGV have extensive training to create tours for all sorts of visitors.
There are tours in Mandarin, tours for people with Alzheimer’s, and tours for the vision impaired.
Since the 1980s, the NGV started taking the gallery on tour. Davey brings the gallery to rural areas, disability homes and nursing homes via a projector – and her knowledge.