The Queensland Centre for Photography collection at Rockhampton Art Gallery.
The Queensland Centre for Photography collection at Rockhampton Art Gallery.

Art Gallery to remain closed as new museum is constructed

THE ROCKHAMPTON Art Gallery will remain closed as construction of the new Rockhampton Museum of Art continues and staff look to focus on the development of the new facility.

The Rockhampton Art Gallery, located next to the Pilbeam Theatre, closed in mid-March following COVID-19 measures.

The gallery moved to online engagement for its public programs and has produced a fortnightly podcast with 13 online short films.

As the Pilbeam Theatre reopens, spaces at the Art Gallery will be used to support the COVID safe operational plan.

The gallery space will need to be clear of exhibitis and programs to accommodate backstage, technical and front of house staff to allow maximum isolation from performers and members of the public, reducing the likelihood of event delays due to suspected or actual infection.

Rockhampton Art Gallery view from Quay St.
Rockhampton Art Gallery view from Quay St.

The new art gallery, which is set to open in late 2021, will have a dramatic increase in floor space from 680 sqm to 4700 sqm to house and display Rockhampton’s nationally significant collection of art.

It is noted the increase in size and operational scale requires considerable preparation.

It was proposed at the council meeting the Rockhampton Art Gallery would remain closed to facilitate the transition to the new Rockhampton Museum of Art.

Rockhampton Regional Council Community Services spokesperson Cr Drew Wickerson said building a new museum of art was a substantial undertaking, and so too was preparing the nationally significant collection to undertake its greatest whole of collection move in its history.

“Remaining closed will enable staff to concentrate on the preparations for the move and establishment of Rockhampton Museum of Art,” Cr Wickerson said.

Staff are working on a variety of tasks in the lead-up to the move and the 2021 opening of Rockhampton Museum of Art, including:

  • Conservation work to ensure that the painting are ready to hang on the 4m – 7.8m walls.
  • Housing of the 3D collection particularly ceramic and glass to ensure that the artworks are safe in their short 1.3km move.
  • Documenting the artworks for visual observations and conditions to ensure they are ready for the move.
  • Cataloguing the collection in to a new collection management system, ensuring that all artworks are trackable and traceable, with the new system tracking via barcodes to make the outward and inward registration and movements increasingly efficient.
  • Supporting the construction team on the building systems, plant, electrical and mechanical so that the 4700 square metre building is not just a building, but is a leading regional museum of art in Australia, one that is efficient, smart, programmable, and purposeful.
  • Planning exhibitions, learning and access for Rockhampton Museum of Art’s first years of exhibitions.
  • One of the many considerable tasks is preparing collection for the move.
Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk, Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow and member for Rockhampton Barry O'Rourke with workers at the new art gallery.
Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk, Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow and member for Rockhampton Barry O'Rourke with workers at the new art gallery.

“All artworks need preparation before travel, whether that’s hundreds of kilometres, or just down the street, in our case,” Cr Wickerson said.

“Rockhampton has a sizeable permanent collection in excess of 2,200 works, including painting, works on paper, ceramics and glass, much of which is of national significance.

“Some of these artworks are older pieces or delicate due to their construction or materiality, and may require a degree of conservation and supports and housing prior to moving.

“All of the artworks require expert storage and handling in the moving process.

“The work that the team is doing now will put us in a much stronger position by the time Rockhampton Museum of Art opens to the public in late 2021.

“People who visit Rockhampton Museum of Art will have access to much more in depth information about the artworks and artists.

“Remaining closed will allow us some efficiencies not possible if Rockhampton Art Gallery were to be open with exhibitions and other activities.”

Rockhampton Museum of Art is funded by the Australian Government through the Building Better Regions Fund; the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and through the Building Our Regions program; and Rockhampton Regional Council.

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