The US Studies Centre convened a two day symposium in association with the National Gallery of Australia, to celebrate the birth of American abstract expressionist greats Jackson Pollock and Morris Louis one hundred years ago.

The symposium, titled Action. Painting. Now., brought new scholarship to bear on Australia’s only significant collection of 1940's and 1950's American art. This event marked the first time the Chicago-based Terra Foundation, a leading promoter of exhibitions and research into historical American art, supported an Australian institution.

The symposium featured leading American scholars Richard Shiff, Ellen Landau, Michael Leja and Branden Joseph, who joined Australian experts Rex Butler, Anthony White, Christine Dixon, and Chris McAuliffe to explore the development, reach and influence of abstract expressionism.

Jackson Pollock is known in Australia for his masterpiece Blue Poles, which was controversially purchased by the Australian government in 1973 for $1.3 million. Roger Benjamin, the US Studies Centre’s professor of art history, says Blue Poles is regarded as one of Pollock’s most important paintings and the acquisition is now seen to be a masterstroke.