Heide Museum of Modern Art began life in 1934 as the home of John and Sunday Reed and has since evolved into one of Australia's most important cultural institutions.
Soon after purchasing the fifteen acre property on which Heide stands in 1934, founders John and Sunday Reed opened their home to like-minded individuals such as artists Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, John Perceval and Danila Vassilieff. They nurtured a circle of artists, writers and intellectuals who contributed to Heide becoming a place for the discussion, creation and promotion of modern art and literature.
John and Sunday made a lasting contribution to Australian culture through their support of creative endeavours in the visual arts, literature and architecture. In the mid-1950s the Reeds established the Gallery of Contemporary Art and in 1958, with the assistance of friend and entrepreneur Georges Mora, they re-launched the gallery as the Museum of Modern Art of Australia. This eventually led to the formal establishment of the museum.
Amassing an outstanding collection of the contemporary art of their time, the Reeds outgrew their original farmhouse, now known as Heide I, and in 1964 commissioned the construction of a ‘gallery to be lived in’ from David McGlashan. This modernist architectural icon eventually opened as a public art museum in November 1981 following its purchase by the State Government on behalf of the people of Victoria. Although the Reeds lived to see their vision fulfilled of Heide as a public museum, they both died shortly afterwards in December 1981, ten days apart. They are remembered as champions of modern art and literature and remain two of Australia's most important art benefactors.
Having presented almost 300 solo, group and thematic exhibitions of modern and contemporary art since becoming a public art museum in 1981, Heide has a gained a national reputation for artistic excellence and established a unique position in the overall artistic and cultural history of Australia.
The work of modernist artists of the ‘Heide circle’ has featured in the exhibition program since the inaugural exhibition Ned Kelly Paintings by Sidney Nolan in 1981, and continued with exhibitions of works by Sam Atyeo, Arthur Boyd, Charles Blackman, Joy Hester, Mirka Mora and Albert Tucker.
In keeping with the Reeds’ support of the artists of their time, Heide is dedicated to promoting the work of living artists. Solo contemporary artist exhibitions have included Susan Norrie, Rick Amor, Kathy Temin, Fiona Hall, Stephen Benwell and Emily Floyd.
Since 1996, Heide has also shown a series of small project exhibitions by emerging artists including Dylan Martorell, Charlie Sofo, Louise Saxton, Paul Yore, and Siri Hayes.
Ground-breaking historical surveys have included Modern Times: The Untold Story of Modernism in Australia (2009), Cubism & Australian Art (2009–10) and most recently Less is More: Minimalism and Post Minimalism in Australia (2012).