NEW CHIEF: Rockhampton Art Gallery's new curator Gordon Craig is looking forward to working with the gallery's renowned collection and the ambitious new art gallery building proposal.
NEW CHIEF: Rockhampton Art Gallery's new curator Gordon Craig is looking forward to working with the gallery's renowned collection and the ambitious new art gallery building proposal. Kerri-Anne Mesner

'Ambitious' project catches new curator's eyes

GORDON Craig had only ever spent a total of four hours in Rockhampton before he readily accepted the curator's position at the Rockhampton Art Gallery.

With almost 20 years experience in the gallery world, Mr Craig is excited about working in the Beef Capital with the renowned art collection started by visionary former mayor Rex Pilbeam.

"The collection here is well-known outside Rockhampton," he said.

"I'd known about the depth of the collection and it was an opportunity to work directly with a collection... to get back to working with Australian contemporary art.

"I'm very impressed with the story of Rex Pilbeam and the way he built this collection is quite visionary, I wish it would happen more often."

Mr Craig worked with collections during his time at the QUT Art Museum in Brisbane - his first workplace after finishing studies in curatorships and art history.

But the collection was not the only drawcard for the new curator.

He said the proposed new gallery by Rockhampton Regional Council supported by the State Government was what really drew him to the job.

"They (new art gallery building projects) don't happen very often and this is quite an ambitious project too, so it's rare to actually get to work on a job of this scale. It looks fantastic, a great location and design," he said.

When Mr Craig first worked at QUT, the museum building was in the process of being built and he gained experience dealing with issues that "popped up from time to time" with engineers and others involved in the construction.

"I had the opportunity to work on the building design to a certain degree," he said.

His experience will be an added bonus to Art Gallery director Bianca Acimovic, who worked on the $10.5 million redevelopment project at the new Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) which opened in 2015.

READ: Meet the new Rockhampton Art Gallery director

Mr Craig said Rockhampton's new gallery would be a first-class facility allowing "bigger and better" exhibitions to come to the region.

READ: Rocky's $31.5M art gallery plan awaiting Federal Govt funds

READ: Premier's funding pledge to build $31.5m Rocky Art Gallery

READ: Qld Govt commits to Rocky's $31.5M art gallery dream

READ: New $31.5M Rocky Art Gallery to honour Pilbeam's legacy

EXPLAINED: Rocky council needs extra $20M for art gallery vision

Gordon's art history

Mr Craig's love affair with art started in high school in Brisbane where he learned photography from internationally renowned Queensland photographer Glen O'Malley.

He said he loved the idea of making art, and still does, but felt he didn't have the discipline to be a full-time artist.

So after art school, Mr Craig worked in a professional photography laboratory for two years before going back to study art history.

"After my first year (at uni) I got my first job - at QUT in 1997," he said.

"I was working on building the collection for the opening in 2000."

He also volunteered at the Queensland Art Gallery as one of many who worked on the second Asia-Pacific Triennial Contemporary Art Exhibition in 1996.

Mr Craig stayed on with QUT until 2008 working on collections and exhibitions.

He then moved on to work with Nick Mitzevich, who took up the director's role at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra this month, at University of Queensland Art Museum at the St Lucia campus in Brisbane.

When Mr Craig worked at UQ (2009-2018), he was exhibitions cordinator and then project manager.

"One of the biggest shows I worked on was at UQ - Robert Smithson: Time Crystals," he said.

The exhibition opened in March and featured works of sculpture, film, photography, drawing, and texts, most never exhibited in Australia before.

Mr Craig said items from America's Smithsonian Institution's archives were borrowed for the exhibition, including pages of his manuscript.

Robert Smithson, who died in a plane crash in 1973 aged 35 while surveying for a new work site, is most famous for his earthwork sculpture Spiral Jetty which was constructed in April 1970 in Utah.

Mr Craig's love of art stretches into his recreational life, which involved a recent overseas trip where he spent an hour looking at two famous paintings by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer including Girl with the Pearl Earring at The Mauritshuis museum in The Hague.

"They were on either side of the room," he said.

"I had the room to myself for 30 minutes."

Mr Craig also recently purchased his own press after teaching himself print making in 2008.

As for his photography passion, he said he carried out a "flurry of activity" between 2004 and 2010.

However, Mr Craig said he was forced to slow down that passion in recent times, as well as the print making.

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