Arts Centre Melbourne’s Australian Performing Arts Collection has welcomed the acquisition of a number of prized possessions from the collection of Dame Olivia Newton-John’s AC DBE including two gowns, design sketches, scripts, tour music and a prestigious award. In honour of Newton-John’s birthday tomorrow, this acquisition is even more reason to celebrate her incredible legacy.
The items – including an embellished white chiffon gown worn by Newton-John for her television special Olivia (ABC, 1978) with Andy Gibb and ABBA – were among 500 television, film and live performance costumes, ensembles, gowns, memorabilia, awards and accessories auctioned at the end of 2019 by the four-time Grammy award-winning singer and film star to raise funds for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre.
The custom made gown designed by one of Australia’s most iconic music fashion designers – Melbourne-based Fleur Thiemeyer – features rows of silver bugle beads, sprigs of pearlised sequin flowers and a plunging back. The Australian Performing Arts Collection also acquired Thiemeyer’s original costume design.
The second gown – Olivia Newton-John’s Royal Charity Concert gown currently on display in the Australian Music Vault – features ruby red sequins, bugle beads and iridescent glass in a foliate motif. It was worn by Olivia Newton-John when meeting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh on 27 May 1980 at the Sydney Opera House.
The gown was also worn while performing ‘Suddenly’ with Sir Cliff Richard on The Midnight Special (NBC) in 1980. The garment was also designed by Thiemeyer; the designer behind Newton-John’s style in the 1970s and 1980s. The gown is accompanied by a concert program from the event signed by Newton-John and a pair of images of her wearing the dress.
These items are the first the Australian Performing Arts Collection has acquired from the Olivia Newton-John Collection.
“I am thrilled that some of my stage clothes and sketches that my friend costume designer Fleur Thiemeyer created, which I wore during the height of my career in the 70s and 80s, are now on display after all these years! I am so proud of her and delighted that they will become a permanent part of the Australian Performing Arts Collection at Arts Centre Melbourne. It’s wonderful to know that they will be carefully preserved for future generations to see,” says Newton- John.
“It is such a thrill for Arts Centre Melbourne to acquire these items including the beautiful ruby red dress that was worn by Olivia Newton-John on two iconic occasions. We have loved having it on loan in the Australian Music Vault for a display that honours contemporary Australian music and now permanently in the Australian Performing Arts Collection,’’ says Arts Centre Melbourne CEO Claire Spencer AM.
Other items acquired by the Australian Performing Arts Collection include a signed Physical tour music portfolio containing handwritten sheet music for ‘Physical’, the Royal Charity Concert script, Olivia television script and an Australian Gold Record Award for the single, ‘Banks of the Ohio’.
The acquisition was made possible through generous philanthropic donations to the Australian Performing Arts Collection from the Maxwell and Merle Carroll Bequest, David Richards Gift, a Gift in memory of Barry John Murnane, Frank Van Straten AM and Adrian Turley, John Frost AM and the Minogue family.
To learn more about the incredible life of Dame Olivia Newton-John’s AC DBE, you can read the Australian Music Vault story here.
Arts Centre Melbourne is the proud custodian of the Australian Performing Arts Collection, which is dedicated to the collection, preservation and interpretation of Australia’s circus, dance, music, opera and theatre heritage. Collecting began in the late 1970s and two early major acquisitions were the J. C. Williamson Theatre Archive and the Dame Nellie Melba Collection. Today, the Collection holds over 700,000 objects, including major acquisitions from Kylie Minogue, Nick Cave, Barry Humphries, Bell Shakespeare and The Australian Ballet. In addition to exhibitions, displays and a searchable online catalogue, the Australian Performing Arts Collection is accessible through a dedicated Research Centre.
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