GIPPSLAND Art Gallery at the Port of Sale has broken all previous attendance records going back to 1965, with 39,500 visitors recorded for 2018-19.
The news caps off a spectacular year for the gallery, which has presented 53 exhibitions and has received 251 donations of artworks – another new record.
One-hundred and eighty of the artworks donated were ceramics, with three significant private collections being gifted to the gallery over the past year, from Mrs Pamela Weaver OAM, Dr James Baxter, and the Honorable Justice Robert McDougall.
Gallery director Simon Gregg said it had been wonderful to see the community embrace their new gallery in this way.
“Gippsland now has the most important ceramics collection anywhere in regional Victoria,” Mr Gregg said proudly.
“This is an incredible asset that now belongs to everyone in the community.”
The gallery has also received an important collection from Mr and Mrs Norman and Petah Creighton, much of which dates to the days of their Artworks Gallery in East Gippsland (1991-96), and includes key works from this golden age of art in Gippsland.
Many of the gifts received have been made through the Australian government’s Cultural Gifts Program, which provides incentives in the form of tax benefits.
Over the past year, the gallery has also seen a much more diverse audience and has worked with a greater range of artists.
From the regular exhibitions of kinder and primary school art and children’s workshops, to the Youth Art Prize and recent On Board skateboard art competition, through to the Art and Elders Program, the gallery has the community covered. “We believe that art belongs to everybody,” Mr Gregg said.
“It’s been wonderful seeing this confirmed in the range of visitors over the last year, whether they’ve come in to visit the perennially popular Annemieke Mein exhibition or they’re looking for the latest thing in art.
“There really is something for everyone”.
The art of Gippsland’s First Nations artists has been a strong focus over the new gallery’s first year, with a range of exhibitions and acquisitions made for the permanent collection.
“We’re passionate about promoting First Nations art and culture,” Mr Gregg said.
“It’s central to everything we do.”
Mr Gregg cited the recent NAIDOC Week residency by Ronald Edwards-Pepper as a recent highlight, as was the exhibition presented by the George Gray Centre artists, whose annual shows are among the most popular.
The gallery has also been the recipient of several government and philanthropic grants recently, including $15,500 towards the creation of a new role of ‘Indigenous Engagement Officer’, and $15,000 to digitise the gallery’s permanent collection of more than 2000 artworks, bringing them online and making them accessible for everyone.
According to Mr Gregg, the initiatives, made possible through Creative Victoria, will enable the gallery “to connect with audiences in ways we’ve never before seen”, and is part of a long-term plan led by the gallery to re-energise the visual arts and arts audiences across Gippsland.
The gallery has also been the recent recipient of a bequest from a local farming family to establish a dedicated collection of textile art, to be supported by a range of workshops and exhibitions.
With over a quarter of the gallery’s visitation comprising tourists from outside the region, the gallery is also delivering strong economic benefits to everyone within the shire – regardless of whether or not they even visit.
“While on one hand we’re showcasing the best visual art Gippsland has to offer, we’re also bringing new visitors to the region in droves through major exhibitions,” Mr Gregg said.
He is currently negotiating to bring the coveted Archibald Prize to Sale.
“The last year has been the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the gallery is able to achieve,” Mr Gregg said.
“New exhibitions such as Space, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and Fred Williams in Gippsland, are only one aspect of what we’re able to offer, which is really lifelong learning and life enrichment”.
To find out more about Gippsland Art Gallery, visit www.gippslandartgallery.com.
To learn more about the Cultural Gifts Program, phone Mr Gregg on 5142 3500.
Entry to the gallery is always free, and it is open seven days a week.