A touring exhitibition featuring multi-million-dollar collection of works by some of Australia’s most renowned artists is currently on show at the Tweed Regional Gallery near Murwillumbah.
Works by John Perceval, Arthur Boyd, Charles Blackman, Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, John Brack, Clifton Pugh, Sam Fullbrook, Margaret Olley and Fred Williams are some of the highlights of the new national touring exhibition, Cream: Four Decades of Australian Art.
The works are some of a total collection of 400 such works housed by the Rockhampton Art Gallery, thanks to an unlikely fundraising drive in the 1970s in what organisers say lifts the lid on ‘one of the greatest art stories of regional Australia never told’.
The touring exhibition chronicles the development of modernism in Australia from 1940 to 1980.
Rockhampton Art Gallery’s collection was conceived in 1976 when the mayor of Rockhampton at the time, Rex Pilbeam, devised and implemented a fundraising campaign to establish a significant art collection for the city of Rockhampton.
Despite the economic recession of 1975, some $500,000 was raised (today, close to $2.7 million) through public subscription, subsidies from Rockhampton City Council and a substantial grant from the federal government’s Australia Council.
A gallery press release says that ‘with great bravado, the gallery’s art acquisition committee cannily snapped up works at a fraction of what they are worth today’.
Fred Williams’ painting Burning Tree at Upwey is one example, purchased for $6,000 and is now worth more than $1 million. Rockhampton Art Gallery’s entire collection is now valued at more than $14 million.
The Cream of Rockhampton’s collection has hit the road thanks to an Australia Council Visions of Australia Touring Grant of more than $150,000. The project has also received financial support from the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, Gordon Darling Foundation, Regional Arts Development Fund and Rockhampton Regional Council.
Rockhampton art gallery director Tracy Cooper-Lavery said that one of the reasons she took on the role of gallery director in 2011 she ‘knew Rockhampton had a reputation of owning a fantastic collection – but I hadn’t seen it’.
‘Once I arrived, saw what was here and began to research the story behind the collection, I knew this was a unique and remarkable body of work by some of Australia’s greatest artists. It deserved wider recognition, both within the region and the Australian arts community,’ Ms Cooper-Lavery said.
Cream: Four Decades of Australian Art will be on display at Tweed Regional Gallery from 20 February to 12 April.
Meanwhile, young art fans have an opportunity to participate in Art Play sessions from 9.30am-10.30am (DST) on Fridays, 13 March, 27 March and 10 April.
Children aged six months to five years are invited to join artist Helle Jorgensen in a guided art play session, using a variety of toys inspired by works in the Cream exhibition. Numbers are strictly limited and bookings essential.
Contact the gallery on 02 6670 2790 to reserve a place.