QAGOMA previews ‘Falling Back to Earth’ in Shanghai

 
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Cai Guo-Qiang and QAGOMA Director Chris Saines on the Bund, Shanghai, 2013 | Photography: Jin Ou, courtesy Cai Studio

Last week, QAGOMA staged its first ever international launch and press preview for ‘Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth‘. Gallery Director Chris Saines was joined in Shanghai by artist Cai Guo-Qiang as they introduced Chinese press to the impending wonders and major new commissions to feature in Cai’s solo exhibition – the first in Australia, which opens at GOMA from November 23.

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Press conference for ‘Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth’ exhibition, Shanghai, 2013 | Photography: Jin Ou, courtesy Cai Studio

Following an introduction by Australian Consul-General in Shanghai Ms Alice Cawte, Chris gave attending media a brief history of our two-site museum, with a focus on the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT), the exhibition series  which helped forge the robust working relationship between Cai and the Gallery.

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Cai Guo-Qiang speaking at the press conference for Falling Back to Earth exhibition, Shanghai, 2013 | Photography: Jin Ou, courtesy Cai Studio

Cai spoke in detail about his history with the Queensland Art Gallery, dating back to his inclusion in the second and third APT exhibitions in 1996 and 1999. The latter included his contribution to the first ever Kids’ APT, and was a landmark for his own interest in contemporary art projects for children. This field of his practice has extended into many of Cai’s projects since, and an interactive children’s project will be an essential part of ‘Falling Back to Earth’ when it opens in November.

He also discussed the two breathtaking new installations that will debut in Brisbane: the wondrous Heritage, an assembly of 99  animal sculptures gathered around a watering hole, and Eucalyptus, a meditative response to the ancient trees of Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast hinterland.

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Cai Guo-Qiang being interviewed at the press conference for Falling Back to Earth exhibition, Shanghai, 2013 | Photography: Jin Ou, courtesy Cai Studio

Two of the 99 animals from the Heritage menagerie have already arrived in Brisbane, and a sneak peek of Cai working on some of the others can be seen here.

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Elements of Cai Guo-Qiang Heritage 2013 in Conservation workshop at QAGOMA | Photography: QAGOMA

We welcome incoming Director, Chris Saines

 
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Incoming Director, Chris Saines, CNZM

Incoming Director (QAGOMA), Chris Saines, CNZM was welcomed to the Gallery this morning by staff, Trustees and Arts Minister Ian Walker MP.

Following a Welcome to Country from traditional elder Uncle Des Sandy and a performance by the Burragubba Dancers, Chris was farewelled by a contingent from the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki’s board of Maori advisors, Haerewa.

Representatives Elizabeth Ellis, Mere Waihuka Lodge & Jonathan Mane-Wheoki travelled to Brisbane in honour of their longstanding friendship with Chris in his previous role of Director of the Auckland gallery, and warmly commended him to people of Queensland.

An historical perspective: Queensland Art Gallery

 

When the new Queensland Art Gallery opened on the South Bank of the Brisbane River in June 1982, it seemed that the hopes expressed at the Gallery’s initial opening in 1895 were at last being realized — that the beginning of the Gallery, though ‘small and humble… would be the beginning of a very fine one’.

Extract from ‘Queensland Art Gallery: An historical perspective’ by Janet Hogan in Retrospect and Prospect, published by The Fine Arts Press Sydney, 1983 to celebrate the opening of the Queensland Art Gallery’s new permanent home at South Bank on 21 June 1982

The Queensland Government acquired several art works by gift in the 1880s and early 1890s, conditional upon their forming part of a national gallery when established. Such acquisitions included a group of seventeenth century Dutch paintings ‘of considerable value’, bequeathed by Queensland pastoralist and politician, Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior, in 1892.

Concurrently, public interest in art was increasing in Brisbane and various proposals for an art gallery were presented to the Government. In 1887, the Queensland Art Society was formed through the activities of the artists Isaac Walter Jenner, Oscar Fristrom and L. W.K. Wirth, and in 1895 a Gallery ultimately opened through the efforts of artist Godfrey Rivers, who arrived from England in 1889 and subsequently became Arts Master at the Technical College and President of the Art Society.

A supplement to the Queensland Government Gazette on Monday, 25 March 1895 announced that ‘His Excellency the Governor, with the advice of the Executive Council, has been pleased to establish a Public Art Gallery in Brisbane, to be called “The Queensland National Art Gallery”…’ On the following Friday the Gallery was opened to the public by the Governor, Sir Henry Norman, ‘in presence of a large gathering of ladies and gentlemen’.

Origin and Establishment of the Queensland National Art Gallery, 1895 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

The first premises of the Gallery comprised a large upper room of Brisbane’s then Town Hall, ‘placed at the disposal of the Trustees by the Municipal Council’. The collection initially under the control of the Trustees consisted of ‘thirty-eight pictures (many of which had been lent to the Gallery), one marble bust, and seventy engravings’. The first President of Trustees was the Chief Justice of Queensland, Sir Samuel Walker Griffith, and Godfrey Rivers acted as Secretary to the Trustees from their appointment. Rivers was also the first Curator, from 1898-1914/15.

Early gifts to the new Gallery included Jenner’s Cape Chudleigh, Coast of Labrador and Fristrom’s Duramboi, donated by the artists. The Gallery’s first purchase was a British work, Blandford Fletcher’s Evicted, in 1896, and its first Australian purchase was Josephine Muntz-Adams’s Care, in 1898. In 1899 the initial Government grant of £500 had risen to £1 000 and, by 1900, the Trustees had decided to appoint a committee in London to assist with the selection of works of art in Europe. However. by 1904-05 the annual grant had dropped to £100, which was insufficient to meet expenses, including the rent of £50.

The Gallery opened in 1895 in the now demolished Town Hall building. In a large upper room placed at the dlsposal of the Trustees by the Municipal Council / Reproduced courtesy: John Oxley Library, Brisbane
The opening display in the Queenslander, 13 April 1895 | Lagging well behind Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales, Queensland’s National Gallery opened more or less permanently to the public for the first time on Friday afternoon, 29 March 1895. The modesty of this exhibition makes an interesting comparison to the opening of Brisbane’s lavish new Cultural Centre on the city’s South Bank. Hung not in a costly new building complex but given temporary quarters in the upstairs room of the Town Hall, the Collection consisted of a curious mixture of Old Masters and contemporary works and included both copies and originals / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

At the same time, more adequate accommodation was being considered. In his speech at the opening of the Gallery in 1895, the Governor said he ‘hoped that it would not be long before it would be necessary to provide a more suitable building for the Gallery’. By July 1896, the Trustees reported that ‘the present location of the Gallery is… inconvenient, and we are strongly of opinion that its interest and usefulness would be much increased if a more easily accessible site were available’. These sentiments were repeated annually until the Gallery was relocated to the third floor at the newly constructed Executive Building in George Street (renamed the Lands Administration Building in 1971 and now an international hotel) and reopened on 18 December 1905.

On 18 December 1905, the Gallery reopened in a purpose-designed room the length of the third floor above George Street in the recently completed Executive Building where it remained until 1930. During construction it was known as the New Lands and Survey Offices. The renamed Lands Administration building is a four-storey building occupying a site bounded by George Street, Stephens Lane, William Street and Queens Gardens. The building currently forms part of the Conrad Treasury Casino and houses a five star hotel. The form and scale of the building complement the former Treasury Building and the former State Library located nearby. The building was designed by the Queensland Government’s chief architect Thomas Pye in the Edwardian Baroque style. The building was initially intended as offices for the Queensland Government’s Lands and Survey Departments, when finished and occupied in 1905 as the Executive Building, accommodating both the Lands and Survey Departments and offices of the Premier and Executive Council / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
‘The Queensland National Art Gallery — Entertaining the visiting Premiers and their friends’. The Queensland Art Gallery Collection in the former Queensland Government Executive Building, 1907 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
The Queensland Art Gallery Collection in the former Queensland Government Executive Building, 1916 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

During 1929-30 the former Exhibition Building Concert Hall, erected in 1891, was remodelled to house the Gallery which moved there in 1930, providing further room for its Collection. The Gallery reopened to the public on 11 February 1931 and was officially opened by the Governor. Sir John Goodwin, on 8 April.

The Exhibition Building’s Concert Hall provided the Gallery’s premises from 1930 to 1974. The Old Museum was originally called the Exhibition Building and Concert Hall. It was built in 1891 for the Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association after Brisbane’s first exhibition building, which had occupied the land, was destroyed by fire on 13 June 1888. The new exhibition building was designed by the architect George Henry Male Addison (1857–1922). The style of the building may best be described as progressive eclecticism. In 1899, the Exhibition Hall became home to the Queensland Museum, with the museum remaining in the building until the museum’s relocation to the Queensland Cultural Centre in 1986 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
G H M Addison, Australia 1858-1922 |(Architect’s drawing of Exhibition Building, Gregory Terrace) c.1890 | Pen, ink and gouache on light-brown heavy smooth paper | Gift of Herbert S. Macdonald 1958 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
The Exhibition Building when it was occupied by the Queensland Art Gallery from 1930 / Reproduced courtesy: John Oxley Library, Brisbane
The Exhibition Building was occupied by the Queensland Art Gallery until 1974 | Reproduced courtesy: The Courier Mail / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

Agitation continued throughout the years for fine, adequate, permanent premises befitting the State’s Art Gallery and proposals were made for various sites – without success. However, on 23 December 1968 the Trustees presented a submission to the Government on the inadequacies of the Gallery’s facilities and on this occasion positive action resulted. The present site overlooking the Brisbane River at South Brisbane was approved for purchase in April 1969.

Meanwhile, the Gallery had moved yet again to its fourth temporary premises, in the M.I.M. (Mount Isa Mines) building in Ann Street, where it reopened on 25 March 1975.

Postcard highlighting the Australian School Galleries, Queensland Art Gallery, M.I.M. building / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

The Gallery remained in the M.I.M. Building until 1982. At the historic official opening of the new premises on 21 June 1982 the Minister for Tourism, National Parks, Sport and the Arts, the Honourable J. A. Elliott, said that he hoped the new Gallery would be a dynamic, ever-changing place that Queenslanders in the next century will come to for stimulation, spiritual replenishment and intellectual reward’.

A view from Queen Street c.1875, looking across the first Victoria Bridge to the site of the present Queensland Art Gallery | Reproduced courtesy: John Oxley Library, Brisbane / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
A view from Queen Street (date unknown, c. pre 1893), looking across the first Victoria Bridge to the site of the present Queensland Art Gallery / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
A view from Queen Street (date unknown, c. 1930s) looking across to the second Victoria Bridge to the site of the present Queensland Art Gallery. This bridge was officially opened on 1st October 1896. The first permanent bridge was washed away in floods in 1893 | Reproduced courtesy the John Oxley Library, Brisbane / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Elevated view of the second permanent Victoria Bridge spanning the Brisbane River looking toward South Brisbane, c. 1933. The second permanent bridge was demolished in 1969 after the erection alongside of another new structure. The new bridge which was opened on 14 April 1969, was needed to meet growing traffic demands. For a short period both bridges were open, each operating in one direction only / Reproduced courtesy: The John Oxley Library, Brisbane
Site for the new Queensland Art Gallery at South Brisbane, 16 March 1976 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Construction of the Queensland Art Gallery began August 1978 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Overlooking the Brisbane River from North Quay to South Brisbane, the Gallery’s first permanent premises were opened on 21 June 1982 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

 

Genesis of the Queensland Art Gallery

 
Queensland Art Gallery / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

 

From modest beginnings in 1895, the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) celebrates [30 years at South Bank on 21 June 2012]  its first permanent home after a series of temporary premises. This is the story of providing for the needs of the people of Queensland in all aspects of the visual arts.

Extract from the publication ‘Queensland Art Gallery’ presented by The Courier Mail and published for the official opening of the Queensland Art Gallery’s new permanent home at South Bank on 21 June 1982

December 23, 1968, was a fateful day in the cultural history of Queensland. On that day, a submission on inadequacies of art gallery facilities in relation to the cultural needs of the state were presented by the gallery trustees to the Minister for Cultural Activities.

This submission, compiled after decades of recognising the need for an art gallery, was the genesis of the Queensland Art Gallery today. It culminated many years of moves to have the gallery built.

At last the dreams of the art enthusiasts of Queensland looked like becoming a reality.

This became even more apparent on the next fateful day — 14 January 1969. On that day State Cabinet decided to appoint a committee to select a site for the new Queensland Art Gallery.

This was refreshing, stimulating news.

For decades it had been apparent that the existing art gallery facilities were inadequate, outmoded. There had been much talk about building a new gallery. Nothing more. But in 1969, with the appointment of the site selection committee the State Government took a giant, decisive cultural step.

The choice of a site narrowed to three — the area once proposed for a Catholic cathedral in Ann Street, next to Centenary Park; the site then occupied by a Tramways Department depot in Coronation Drive; land on the south bank of the river next to Victoria Bridge.

Site for the new Queensland Art Gallery, 16 March 1976 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

After an in-depth investigation by an inter-departmental committee the riverside site on the south bank was the choice. State Cabinet approved this decision and acquisition of the land began.

On 28 July 1971, a steering committee for the new art gallery project was established.

The then Assistant Director of the Queensland Art Gallery, Mr Raoul Mellish, undertook a study tour to the United States and Europe as part of the 1973 Churchill Fellowship. The basic purpose of this tour was to gather data in selected various overseas art galleries in relation to the requirements of the proposed Queensland Art Gallery.

While overseas he established contacts with internationally recognised experts in various specialised fields of art gallery operation. This report presented to the Steering Committee on 10 January 1974, contains information on all aspects of Art Gallery planning.

Eight months after its formation the Steering Committee had completed a comprehensive and detailed report and brief which was submitted to State Cabinet.

After decades of inaction, the culturally refreshing move towards building a new Queensland Art Gallery quickened pace.

Only five days after receiving the committee’s report and brief, Cabinet approved it.

The report included the idea that the architect for the new gallery should be selected by a two-stage competition. The architects were then invited to submit entries.

From the 10 entrants three were invited to participate in the Second Stage of the competition. They were: Bligh, Jessup, Bretnall and Partners Pty Ltd; Robin Gibson and Partners; Lund, Newell, Paulsen Pty Ltd.

On 16 March 1973, the winner — Robin Gibson and Partners — was announced.

The assessors described the winner: “The winning design exhibits great clarity and simplicity of concept and relates admirably to the environment and site.”

By now the prospect of a new Queensland Art Gallery was exciting the state’s art lovers. But more stimulating news was to come.

On 8 November 1974, State Cabinet decided that a Cultural Centre comprising the Art Gallery, the State Library, the Queensland Museum and a Performing Arts Centre should be built on the riverbank site.

With an alacrity that would have amazed the Art Gallery enthusiasts of a few decades previously, State Cabinet, on 14 January 1975, approved the appointment of a Cultural Centre Planning and Establishment Committee.

Soon the riverbank site was cleared of old buildings by the wreckers and bulldozers and the site was prepared for the greatest advance in Queensland’s cultural history.

Early in 1977 the first section of Stage One was completed at a cost of $1.5 million. This included the spectacular Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Fountain in the river, riverbank rock walls and landscaping, access pontoon and walkways.

This section was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth on 11 March 1977.

Queen Elizabeth at the Queensland Art Gallery site, 11 March 1977 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Fountain celebrations at the Queensland Art Gallery site, 11 March 1977 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

On 11 August 1978, the art lovers of Queensland had good cause to rejoice. On that day a $19.1 million contract to build the new Queensland Art Gallery was signed.

At last a world-ranking art gallery of which Queensland could be immensely proud was on the way.

Decades of procrastination had become a forgettable shadow of the past.

Soon after the contract signing the south bank of the river next to Victoria Bridge became alive with the roar and clatter of the builders.

Construction of the Queensland Art Gallery began August 1978, this photo taken 11 June 1979 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

It was an exhilarating development in Queensland’s history.

Now the Queensland Art Gallery not only provides an inspiring centre for people to visit, it also lifts Brisbane’s and Queensland’s prestige throughout the world.

Queensland Art Gallery, June 1982 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

 

People are the pulse, the breath, the life of the Queensland Art Gallery

 

The Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) celebrates its 30th anniversary at our South Bank site on June 21 this year. Over the coming weeks, we will look back at the Gallery’s history, delve into our archives and share some of our stories.

Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

The Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) celebrates its 30th anniversary at our South Bank site on June 21 this year. Over the coming weeks, we will look back at the Gallery’s history, delve into our archives and share some of our stories.

The current QAG building (the first stage of the Queensland Cultural Centre) was officially opened in 1982 at a cost of $28 million and was designed by renowned Queensland architect Robin Gibson. The building was awarded the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Architecture in 1982.

The move to QAG’s first permanent home took place in three stages, and all sections occupied the building at South Bank, South Brisbane by 8 March. The transfer of the Collection was completed by 13 May.

On 21 June, the new building was officially opened. The official opening ceremony was attended by over 900 guests and an estimated 8 000 visitors attended the gala public opening celebrations that evening, as we opened to the public in our first permanent home after some eighty-seven years.

The public response to the opening was overwhelming, with approximately 50 000 visitors in its first 10 days. In its first opening year, QAG had over 850 000 visitors and has attracted more than 13 million visitors since it opened.

For the opening, works from the Gallery’s Collection were on display, as well as five major international exhibitions drawn from important art museums in the United States, Japan and Britain, these were Japan – Masterpieces from the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo; Kandinsky on loan from the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Town, Country, Shore and Sea: British Drawings and Watercolours from Van Dyck to Nash from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Renaissance Bronzes from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and Renaissance Bronzes and Related Drawings from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; and The World of Edward Hopper from the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Transcript from the publication ‘Queensland Art Gallery’ presented by The Courier Mail and published for the official opening of the Queensland Art Gallery’s new permanent home at South Bank on 21 June 1982

Queensland Art Gallery, June 1982 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

People. Boilermakers, housewives, bus drivers, dressmakers, clerks, students, typists, children, teachers. People are the pulse, the breath of the Art Gallery.

Their presence, their interest, their movement make the building live.

The Art Gallery is not designed merely as a vast repository of paintings and sculptures. Every metre within its halls projects a quality of space, of light.

The atmosphere of the city flows into it. Even the environs provide a fascinating art study — the planes and angles of the city as seen through the windows on the river side  — the arcs and sweeps of the hills and the Merivale Bridge as seen through the western windows.

This is the feeling of the Art Gallery. It is an extension of the life of the city and certainly not a remote, stiffly compartmented art storage.

People give it life and soul. Their presence, their movement provide a kinetic effect.

This is an Art Gallery with an appeal to every Queenslander. It offers a rich collection of art displayed in exceptionally fine surroundings. It heralds a stimulating era in Queensland culture.

Most importantly, it belongs to the people in substance and in lore.

The Art Gallery is yours. Enjoy it.

Queensland Art Gallery, June 1982 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library