New exhibition offers time capsule of international and Australian art

An extraordinary exhibition that travels through time opens today (22 March) at the QUT Art Museum. Highlights include artworks by internationally acclaimed artists John Olsen, Sally Gabori, Vida Lahey, Archie Moore, Cressida Campbell, Sidney Nolan and Grace Cossington Smith.

William BUSTARD Farm in the valley n.d.

Decades: 80 Years of Collecting (22 March 2024 – 9 June 2024) brings together works from the QUT Art Collection, acquired since its inception in 1945. Curator Katherine Dionysius said the diversity of the paintings, sculpture, ceramics and works on paper on display, which represent a small sample of more than 3000 art objects collected, highlighted how trends, ideas and values had evolved.

“Visitors to Decades: 80 Years of Collecting will be surprised and intrigued by this compilation of well-known and rarely seen works by significant Australian and international artist,” Ms Dionysius said.

Sidney NOLAN Kelly I 1965, colour screenprint.

QUT Art Collection. Purchased 1967

“An art collection typically comes together somewhat spontaneously, assembled from disparate sources, and this is no exception. The acquisition of the works is its own story and what we have put together for this show reveals hidden patterns and unexpected connections forged over nine decades.”

QUT Art Museum Director Vanessa Van Ooyen said the QUT Art Collection had a unique and colourful history.

“The Collection was founded on the desire to foster the visual arts within the community – both as a teaching resource and part of the institution’s civic responsibilities,” Ms Van Ooyen said.

“Established in 1945, the Collection precedes the Art Museum by 55 years. It developed organically from the different collecting activities of several vocational education and technical training institutions in Brisbane.

“Acquisitions were often based on selections from staff, including significant individuals such as legendary arts administrator Betty Churcher, who became director of the National Gallery of Australia, Queensland sculptor Mervyn Muhling and William Robinson, once an influential art teacher now considered one of Australia’s most distinguished contemporary artists.

“As a result, the artworks collected during the 1960s and 70s reflect the distinct personalities of different individuals, as well as the practical constraints of collecting and displaying works within small teaching institutions.”


Wildflowers in a bucket 1947

Ms Van Ooyen said the Collection highlighted an adventurous commitment to contemporary art with many works dating from the 1960s onwards.

“The early collections were rationalised in the 1980s following several institutional mergers. In 1990, the resulting collections, now more substantial in quality and depth, were brought together under the unifying patronage of QUT,” she said.

“As a still relatively young tertiary institution, and with a reputation for being nimble and adaptable, QUT seeks to build a unique Collection that reflects the diversity and agility of the institution.

“We hope to fill a void in Australian art collections, rather than mirror the collecting patterns of other institutions. QUT’s Collection is an important thread in the fabric of Queensland as well as national art collections – it is one part of a broader story of Australian art.”

Decades: 80 Years of Collecting runs from 22 March 2024 – 9 June 2024.

Also opening today at the QUT Art Museum is Current: Gail Mabo, Lisa Waup, Dominic White (22 March 2024 – 9 June 2024) from Victoria’s McClelland Gallery. It showcases new and recent work by three First Nations artists, developed with a mentorship program for three emerging First Nations curators, and a major catalogue featuring First Nations writers.

Gail MABO Ma-rap Sau 2023

Photograph Christian Capurro

The three artists, Gail Mabo (Meriam), Lisa Waup (Gunditjmara/Torres Strait Islands), and Dominic White (Palawa/Trawlwoolway), are known for practices which affirm their powerful connection to their lands, waters, and ancestors.

The exhibition title, Current, refers at once to the vital contemporary practices of these three multidisciplinary artists, and also to the movement in the passages of water along the eastern coast of Australia which connect the land and people of the far north to the south.

Touring Australia throughout 2024 and 2025, the Current project has been assisted by the Australian Government’s Visions of Australia program, the Besen Family Foundation, and the Gordon Darling Foundation.

/University Release. View in full here.