The National Gallery of Australia is celebrating the installation of Barnett Newman’s ground-breaking sculpture, Broken Obelisk, outside the Gallery’s main entrance in Canberra.

The display of this well-known, gravity-defying work reflects the dynamic and evolving face of Australia’s iconic national art institution and foreshadows American Masters, the NGA’s upcoming major exhibition of its unrivalled collection of 20th century American masterpieces, opening Friday 24 August.

“Barnett Newman is one of the most prominent figures in Abstract Expressionism,” said Gerard Vaughan, NGA Director.

“We are thrilled by the generosity of the Barnett Newman Foundation in lending this extraordinary sculpture to the heart of Canberra. The NGA is world-famous for its collection of 20th century American art, and it is fitting that this iconic sculpture has transformed the entrance to the Gallery as a signpost to the great treasures of the New York school installed inside.”

Broken Obelisk is one of four versions in existence. The first two sculptures, conceived in 1963 and produced in 1966–67, are on display at the Rothko Chapel, Houston and the University of Washington’s Red Square; the third version, made in 1969, takes pride of place in the open courtyard of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

A monumental sculpture created with rough weathering steel, Broken Obelisk represents the American artist at his best. The sculpture features an inverted obelisk with a broken shaft balancing—almost impossibly—on a pyramid. Technically and aesthetically impressive, this enormous work of art, which measures 7.5 metres in height and weighs 2.7 tonnes, is a feat of ingenuity and engineering.

George Baldessin’s beloved Pear – version number 2 will enjoy a new position in the Australian Garden after a brief hiatus. The relocation of Thankupi’s Eran has further reinvigorated the NGA Sculpture Garden.