Australian Fine Artist

Ballarat Art Gallery

Day Trip and Guided Tour
Part One

The Venue

Mid year holidays from my regular studies allow for not only catching up with domestic duties and chilling out a bit, they also offer me the opportunity to plan trips to places I have been wanting to investigate. This year I have decided that our Victorian Regional Galleries needed to go on the list. After a very interesting chat given at McClelland Gallery by the Curator and Gallery Director of a Regional Art Gallery in Queensland, I decided to look into how our regional galleries are run.

Unlike many larger galleries, or those run by councils exclusively, Regional Galleries are often the product of a group of people getting together and raising the money to have a gallery built. They usually run autonomously from any outside political interference so can set how they want to operate, what kind of art they show and choose the artists they want to exhibit in the space. In a lot of cases these are living Australian artists, which is great to see somewhere that supports artists who still need income to make a living. Not that I don’t like seeing work from the greats in our history, I do, as a matter of fact, I draw much of my inspiration from the Impressionists and Post Impressionists, but as  a living artists myself, I know that it is the emerging and practising artists living now that really need the most support to have a standard of living comparable to anyone else working at any other profession or business.

Ballarat was in the middle of the gold rush during the 1850s to 1880s. This huge rush of money from the goldfields meant that Victoria had a building boom. It can still be seen in the protected buildings in not only Ballarat but also Bendigo and even Melbourne City Centre. Ballarat Gallery was started in the nick of time during the 1880s as the 1890s produced a recession that sent many Australian artists overseas looking for sales and to further their education away from the depressed markets for art in Australia.

Clever planning meant that highly collectible artworks were obtained by the gallery by not only Australian artists, but some of the greats from overseas. The gallery collection as it stands at the moment and the building itself are presented in a manner that any viewer would find easy to follow and very enjoyable.

The beautiful entry with its grand staircase had me as soon as I walked in. We were met by a volunteer who was ready to start a tour, and as it happens, we were the only two people attending so I was very happy to have what felt like a personal tour of the collection that they have up at the moment. We began at the stairs which starts with paintings collected from overseas, we then moved to the first gallery where the Colonial period paintings were hanging. Following the history of art in Australia chronologically from room to room made perfect sense and I enjoyed talking about new artists I was discovering, how they resembled other artists that I did know, and finding artworks by artists that I admire that I hadn’t seen before or had only seen in a book.

We then moved on to paintings by artists living in or born in Australia. Then on to more contemporary works. From there we looked at Indigenous works, all the way stopping to talk about artworks that gained my attention. It was very engaging and a lot of fun.

As we moved from one room to the next, one other thing impressed me about this gallery. It has been extended from the original building and unlike other extensions I have seen where there is a shocking change of atmosphere and style from one room to another as you walk through the door, this place has none of that. The rooms may be lighter or less ornate, but they flow fluently from one to another. All the spaces are well-lit and the paintings hung to maximise the viewing enjoyment.

The staff was friendly and helpful and I had one of the best gallery tours I can remember.

Next Blog – about the tour: I want to talk about some of the artworks I saw at the gallery and why I picked them out as pieces that I particularly liked and the books I was able to purchase in the bookstore at the foyer of the gallery.


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