By the time its season ends, some 200,000 people will have visited the 2013 Top Arts exhibition at the NGV at Melbourne’s Federation Square which, for 19 years now, has showcased the best work produced during the previous year’s VCE Art and Studio Arts program.

The exhibition is one of the gallery’s best attended year round and it’s been an excellent launching point for some promising talents and an annual reminder of the depth of our young artistic ability. 

Judging is exhaustive, a short list of 200 is whittled down from 3000 plus entrants before the 43 final exhibitors are settled on. Those selected for the exhibition this year are representative of the best work and a reflection of the broader profile of artwork entered.

Gina Panebianco, the NGV’s Head of Education says that the type of art seen mirrors the changing, increasingly digital environment.

“We’re seeing less of the traditional fine arts such as ceramics and oil painting. Entries these days are more likely to be video, photography and digital ink-jet prints, multimedia and installations,” Panebianco says.

Work is selected on effective execution, communication of ideas and  the breadth and depth of the student’s developmental work.

“The selection panel looks at what the student is saying and whether the work conveys that message, what the student is trying to do and whether that goal has been met. We look for work that has fulfilled the study design and also is innovative and stretches boundaries.”

Given its members’ calibre, the panel’s final decision is authoritative, it brings together state reviewers, educators, the NGV’s Curator of Australian Art and Coordinator of NGV Studio, David Hurlston and Gina Panebianco.

One of the panel’s favourites this year is the huge spray painted work Amulet by Oliver Reade who is the latest in a long line of precocious talents to be uncovered by Top Arts. The work featuring Reade’s teddy bear Rus is a tribute to the street art the artist encountered every day in inner city Collingwood and Fitzroy. 

Amulet has seen Reade, still to complete his year 12 studies at Collingwood College, attract international attention, selling pieces in New York and California through his Tumblr blog and Facebook page. He attributes the Top Arts program with getting his work off the street and into a more conventional exhibition space.

As much as a showcase the Top Arts program is also a great resource for students undertaking VCE Art and Studio Art. The exhibition is being held at the NGV’s student-friendly Studio space and is really the centrepiece for the NGV’s extensive student art initiatives.

“There are several programs which will give students insight into how A and A+ results were achieved in the previous year, students in Year 12 and younger students alike should gain a lot from attending,” Panebianco says.

The 14,000 students expected to attend the exhibition will be able to access several programs that aim to foster high achievement in the VCE. Recently launched, First Thursdays give visitors the opportunity, on the first Thursday of every month, to meet and interact with practicing artists and people involved in Melbourne’s art scene. A recent theme was Seen and heard: the latest on where and how to Promote Your Art.

More specific to the exhibition program, Top Arts Introductory Talk gives students insight into the practice of a range of exhibiting artists including discussion of support and development material and links to outcomes in the VCE Art and Studio Arts study designs.

Top Arts Folio and Support Material Viewing is a hands-on opportunity for current students to look closely at visual diaries, sketchbooks and folios completed by exhibiting students who achieved highly in VCE Art and Studio Arts.

In Art Raves, Top Arts exhibitors discuss their completed work and support material and share their experiences of VCE Art and VCE Studio arts, offering insights into tackling them successfully.

Top Arts and VCE Studio Arts explores how Top Arts exhibitors have interpreted exploration proposals and documented their progress towards developing a cohesive folio. 

Programs are well priced, it’s usually under $10 to get in the door, the exhibition has free admission and is open daily until 7th July.