Lineage of legacies enrich city’s identity

THRILLED: Newcastle Art Gallery director Lauretta Morton in front of Brett McMahon's "Float", which has been donated by James and Jacqui Erskine. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
THRILLED: Newcastle Art Gallery director Lauretta Morton in front of Brett McMahon's "Float", which has been donated by James and Jacqui Erskine. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Newcastle Art Gallery’s impressive art benefaction program continues to go from strength to strength in 2019, underlining the significance of the collection to the city’s reputation and cultural identity.

Building on a lineage of generosity that dates back to the establishment of the gallery in 1945, THE ERSKINE PLEDGE: a gift to Newcastle is currently on display and will conclude on the Australia Day long weekend.

The groundbreaking SODEISHA: connected to Australia ceramics exhibition, supported by a $40,000 grant from the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation Exhibition Grant managed by Museums & Galleries of NSW, will run from March 2 to May 19.

And in August 2019, ROBERT DICKERSON: Off the Canvas celebrates more than 40 works donated from the estate of the Australian master.

“The level of new benefaction reflects the respect donors have for Newcastle’s Gallery and collection,” Gallery director Lauretta Morton said.

“Donors feel a great sense of pride when they see their much-loved works of art on display and shared with visitors to the Gallery.”

Newcastle’s collection presents a comprehensive overview of Australian art from colonial times to the present day, accentuated by several key pieces of historical importance, a diverse range of Indigenous bark paintings and the nation's finest collection of twentieth century Japanese ceramics and Australian ceramics.

The collection also reflects the artistic life and artists that have a strong connection to Newcastle such as icons Robert Dickerson, Margaret Olley, John Olsen, William Dobell and highly awarded contemporary artists such as James Drinkwater, Peter Gardiner, Jane Lander and Nigel Milsom that live and practise here,” Ms Morton said.

More than 90 per cent of the Gallery’s 6550 works   have been acquired through donation and benefaction.

THE ERSKINE PLEDGE: a gift to Newcastle showcases 12 works donated by art collectors James and Jacqui Erskine from artists Steven Harvey, Linde Ivimey, Chris Langlois, Brett McMahon, Peter Sharp, Dick Watkins and Karl Wiebke.

The exhibition also features 36 works of art donated from private collectors.

“The Erskine Pledge is the embodiment of what the Gallery stands for in terms of building relationships with benefactors and the altruism of donors to enable their collections and works of art to be shared,” Ms Morton said.

“It adds to a vast list of donations by new benefactors that we have built a strong relationship with, including many from interstate.

“Just last year over 179 works of art were acquired into the collection – 175 through donation from 26 different donors.

“We also have our incredible key stakeholders – the Foundation, Society and Guides – that work tirelessly in support of the Gallery’s collection to ensure that works of art displayed here for the first time will continue to be appreciated and enjoyed by future generations.”

The Sodeisha exhibition showcases 10 contemporary Australian and Japanese ceramic artists alongside the Gallery's remarkable Sodeisha collection.

“In 1979 the Gallery received a donation of 58 Sodeisha Japanese ceramics and this gift continues to be regarded as the most important collection of Sodeisha ceramics outside of Japan,” Ms Morton said.

“This exhibition provides the first opportunity for the Gallery to develop an international, cultural partnership project based on the city’s collection.

“A highlight of the exhibition is that we are bringing Satoru Hoshino, an original member of the Sodeisha group and exhibitor in the 1979 exhibition, to Newcastle to create a major installation and conduct a series of masterclasses.”

The Dickerson show in August celebrates a major new donation to Newcastle Art Gallery of 40 paintings by the Australian artist with works of art dating 1995-2005.

“Dickerson is one of Australia’s most renowned and recognisable artists, who was part of the seminal ‘Antipodeans’ art group active in the 1950s and 60s in Melbourne with fellow artists’ Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, John Brack and Clifton Pugh,” Ms Morton said.

“The exhibition includes signature figurative works of art and a number of paintings that directly relate ­­to Newcastle that will be displayed with over 55 works of art by Dickerson from the collection.”

Ms Morton believes Newcastle’s collection development, research and external loans program assures the Gallery’s position as a major public institution respected locally, nationally and internationally.

“Moving into 2019 we want the local community to be proud of their city’s collection, which is after all, a valuable cultural asset that they get to enjoy,” Ms Morton said.