Bursts of colour, dark and moody works and beautiful landscapes … ever wondered what goes into creating a major art exhibition?
As Latest & Greatest II, featuring many amazing pieces acquired into the Sunshine Coast Art Collection, opens at Caloundra Regional Gallery, its curator has shared some rare insights – literally taking us behind the scenes.
Sunshine Coast Council’s Art Collection Curator Nina Shadforth said the tight four-day changeover period between exhibitions was a frenzy of excitement and activity that required all hands-on deck.
“We have opened ‘Latest & Greatest II’ and our visitors are enjoying the serene space, marvelling at the works on show but blissfully unaware, as they should be, of the frenzy that ensued behind closed doors during the changeover,” Ms Shadforth said.
“For this very special exhibition, we had to gather the works from council buildings and libraries – where they may have been on display – and our collection stores, and then create a neutral backdrop to display them.
“The previous exhibition had charcoal walls, so once the works were pulled down, packed and collected, we rolled four coats of paint on the walls to return them to their usual neutral white.
“You never quite know what the final exhibition will be until you have all the works in the space— and while the layout is pre-planned on paper it is only when you see the works together and look at how they sit with each other, that you see how they sometimes clash and then you have to think on your feet to quickly come up with a new plan.”
What do people gravitate towards?
“In terms of where to hang pieces, Gallery 1 is considered prime real estate. This is the first section you see when you walk through the Gallery doors and it’s visible from outside.
“We tend to place key works in this space and those pieces are decided upon based on value, scale or simply what looks right,” Ms Shadforth said.
“That said, there is no set way to traverse the gallery. We can’t, nor do we want to, lead visitors. People will naturally gravitate to works that they connect with and that’s OK.
“With that in mind, in this exhibition, we’ve tried to highlight key works in the collection, selecting pieces that have broad appeal to the general visitor.
“Some visitors enjoy bursts of colour, others prefer dark and moody works or beautiful landscapes, but I think we can guarantee there’s something for all in this exhibition.
“We have some beautiful maquettes – these are little model versions of the public artworks that people may have seen in public spaces within the region – in our collection and the detail is quite exceptional.”
How you can enjoy this captivating exhibition
Latest & Greatest II is on show until March 19 at Caloundra Regional Gallery, 22 Omrah Avenue, Caloundra. Entry to the all-access gallery is free to enjoy. Opening hours are 10am-4pm Tuesday to Friday and 10am-2pm Saturday and Sunday. Information: gallery.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au
“A real highlight is a collaborative ceramic piece, Springbrook, by Errol Barnes and renowned contemporary artist Joe Furlonger valued at about $7000,” Ms Shadforth said.
”Anyone who’s ever tried wheel throwing will appreciate the size and form of the work. It’s really quite impressive.
“The potter, Errol, is a regular contributor to a lot of artists’ works. The decoration is by Joe Furlonger, who features strongly in this exhibition.
“This piece is one of our most recent additions to the collection and when it came to us in December 2022, unfortunately it wasn’t in a good state.
“The pot was covered in mould from being in storage in a shed, but thankfully Errol stepped in, re-fired the pot, and returned it to its original state.
First Nations works a major highlight
Another must-see is the collection of three works by Indigenous artist Joe Alimindjin Rootsey (1918–1963), recognised in his time as one of the first contemporary First Nations artists in Queensland.
“These works have been in one family and are beautifully preserved,” Ms Shadforth said.
“There aren’t many Rootsey works in such great condition as watercolours tend to break down over time, so we’re very lucky and this is their first public appearance.
“We accepted the works after the family literally walked into the Gallery, knowing we had a collection, told us they had three Joe Rootsey works and asked if we would we like them.
“We nearly fell over with excitement. To have these in the collection is a major coup and I’d encourage everyone to stop and really look at the works, which are stunning.”
Sunshine Coast Council Arts Portfolio Councillor Rick Baberowski said the Sunshine Coast Art Collection had quite rapidly grown to around 1000 items, which now had a value of around $1.4 million.
“In large part this is due to excellent work in securing donations from philanthropic collectors and building close relationships with artists who can also become important donors from their own body of work and collections,” Cr Baberowski said.
“Through this process our regional collection has become an increasingly impressive diverse range of works by renowned local, national and international artists.
“Most would agree that the core purpose of collections is capturing cultural heritage not economic gain, but it’s helpful to see both develop over time, so council needs to continue investing in the collection on behalf of the community.
“I’m particularly pleased to see that recent donors are listed in the exhibition; by working together we can ensure that future generations will have a genuinely significant collection to be enjoyably moved and challenged by.”