Arthur Boyd’s ‘hidden’ art collection to get a new, safer home

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Nowra 2541
(ABC Illawarra: Gavin Coote) ABC Illawarra

By Gavin Coote

Posted

June 30, 2018 08:16:18

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Deborah Ely from Bundanon Trust oversees the home and collection of Arthur Boyd.
(Supplied: Bundanon Trust Collection)
Artists from across the globe have made the pilgrimage to Bundanon to take part in residencies, with alumni as diverse as rock band Crowd Control and 103-year-old dancer Eileen Kramer.Visual artist Merryn Sommerville from Bega on the far south coast has just returned from a residency at Bundanon, but her connection with the place went much further back.It was an educational visit to Bundanon as a high school student that originally convinced her to become a full-time artist.”It really rejuvenated my artistic practice, returning there was really important for me, and I don’t know if there are any other residencies in Australia that offer facilities like that,” Ms Sommerville said.”They were generous to me in letting me view the collection while I was there for a month. (Supplied: NSW Government)
The NSW Government has today announced it will provide $8.5 million for the project, which Ms Ely said would ensure Boyd’s original vision was realised.”Arthur planned right from the very beginning to put a gallery at Bundanon,” she said.”It was the main reason he get all the artworks, he wanted to see them, and see them here in the Shoalhaven where many of them were made.”At the moment it’s quite difficult, you can see one or two big Boyd artworks at Bundanon at a time on Sunday, where in the new gallery we’ll be able to do some new curated exhibitions.”Boyd gallery to inspire public, emerging artistsThe NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin said the gallery would bring “Arthur Boyd’s gift” to the wider public and inspire future generations of Australian artists.”It will make a remarkable collection available, and it’s just going to delight people who are able to see his work and legacy,” Mr Harwin said. (Supplied: Kerstin Thompson Architects)
Bridge-inspired design sparks debateThe unique design at Riversdale which will see the new gallery embedded in the landscape is inspired by the flood bridges across regional Australia, but it has drawn some criticism.Four Australian architects Brit Andreson, Richard Leplastrier, Peter Stutchbury and Lindsay Johnston penned an open letter two years ago expressing their concern about the design.They argued the plans were not in the spirit of the Boyds’ original wishes, but Deborah Ely from the Trust said it would be among “the most recessive and quiet” galleries imaginable.”Arthur didn’t have a specific vision for the appearance of an art gallery in any case, but this literally lives within the landscape and privileges the landscape,” Ms Ely said.”People who might have had concerns that we would build something that was horrible in terms of the appearance should be very reassured, because it’s a very low-key gallery.” It very much felt like going through a treasure trove where you would have to move one work to access another.”I think this new facility will really allow for the preservation of this Australian treasure, but it will also allow artists like me to go and view it in a really accessible manner.”The steep, narrow roads that wind through the bush to Bundanon present other access challenges, and former local councillor and nearby resident Lynnette Kearney said upgrades would be vital.She said it was also important that the wider region benefitted from the prospect of a new major tourist attraction.”It’s not a very wide road, because Illaroo Road that goes up to there is not a really major road,” Ms Kearney said.”This new plan’s going to be wonderful for Bundanon, but we need to make sure that it is Shoalhaven, not just Bundanon that’s being advertised.”But the State Government said the Trust and Shoalhaven City Council were working to address these issues.”They’re looking at working on a road to make sure that the potential is captured in terms of cultural tourism,” Don Harwin said. Photo:
Arthur Boyd and then-Prime Minister Paul Keating at Bundanon in 1995. Photo:
Arthur Boyd is considered among Australia’s most accomplished landscape painters. Photo:
The $28.5 million art gallery will house up to 4,000 works including those by Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan and Brett Whiteley. The precious collection of work by one of Australia’s most famous artists has been largely hidden from the public for decades, but a major new project will see it brought out into the public eye permanently.Nestled amongst bushland on the banks of the Shoalhaven River in NSW, the property of Bundanon is home to more than 1,200 works by Arthur Boyd, who died in 1999.Boyd fell in love with the property in the early 1970s after spending a decade in England, and it was his decision to gift the site and his collection to the Australian public that led to the formation of the Bundanon Trust in 1993.Its CEO Deborah Ely said while the collection continued to grow in value, now worth $43 million, its storage was precarious because of its sheer size.”It’s in quite a remote place and we really feel that the constant threat of bushfire means that we should bring the collection storage to a more defendable place,” Ms Ely said.In what will become a permanent, fire-proof home for the collection, a $28.5 million contemporary art gallery will be built into a hill on a nearby property owned by the Trust known as Riversdale.Half-buried into the hill, it will showcase Boyd’s work along with those of his contemporaries Sir Sidney Nolan, Brett Whiteley, John Perceval and Charles Blackman.