Geelong Gallery is currently one of the smallest regional galleries in Victoria considering that Geelong is Victoria’s second largest city. The declining city of Geelong is planning on attracting both sporting and cultural tourism and planning for a more substantial art gallery is well underway.
Geelong has good possibilities for cultural tourism, well preserved buildings from different eras of Australian architecture from the colonial, art deco to modernist brutalism and contemporary. It is only a short train trip away from Melbourne with the Geelong Art Gallery only a block from the train station. It also has a charming beach front on the bay.
The objective of the Geelong gallery redevelopment is to “triple the number of annual visits from around 60,000 to up to 200,000” by having space for “major (‘blockbuster’) ticketed exhibitions, increase the percentage of collection items on display, provide education, interactive workshop and lecture facilities and develop its shop offering and a café/restaurant.” (Geelong Gallery—Proposed redevelopment)
Currently the Geelong Gallery has a modern entrance with amenities and a gallery shop built on the back of the original gallery that was established in 1897. The gallery has turned around, so that the original palladian facade entrance is now redundant apart from providing views of the park outside.
Aside from its current size Geelong Gallery is worth seeing because of the thematic hanging of the collection that mixes modern, contemporary and nineteenth century paintings in the same galleries. The thematic hanging brings art together in an intelligent and insightful manner. For those who think that contemporary painters lack the technique of nineteenth painters you can see, hanging side by side, that the paintings of Jim Thalassoudis, Peter Daverington and Sam Leach are clearly the equals of painted by Eugène von Guérard.
Also hanging side by side two very large paintings both titled “A Bush Burial” one by Frederick McCubbin (1890) and the other by Juan Davila (2000). McCubbin’s sentimental nineteenth century mood is contrasted with Davila’s iconoclastic and anti-sentimental. The painting techniques are very different; the dark shades of McCubbin compared to the bright sun drenched colours of Davila’s palette.
There are three smaller galleries that are used for temporary exhibitions. When visited I was pleased to see an exhibition of artist books, “By the Book.” It showed the same curatorial vision as the hanging of the permanent collection, showing other insightful objects from the collection along with the books. There was also a contemporary exhibition of neon light art, “Written in Light” with work by Janet Burchill, Jennifer Mccauley, Jon Campbell, Sanja Pahoki and Kiron Robinson. Although the work is attractive and witty the use of neon as medium seemed dated.
For more on the visual arts in the Geelong area see the blog Artin’ Geelong.