Conserving Arts Centre Melbourne’s Public Art Collection

Conserving Arts Centre Melbourne’s Public Art Collection

For decades Arts Centre Melbourne has welcomed thousands of culture-seekers and theatre-goers through its doors to enjoy an array of arts experiences each year.

As well as its spectacular theatres and venues, Arts Centre Melbourne also houses one of the most significant public collections of Australian visual art outside the major state galleries.

Now for the first time in 40 years, more Australians will have the opportunity to view some of these spectacular artworks outside of their usual display in the State Theatre foyers. Ahead of the upcoming State Theatre works as part of the Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation, the artworks in the State Theatre foyers are being carefully relocated on loan to another gallery or placed in secure storage.

The State Theatre foyers currently display paintings by acclaimed historical Australian artists, including Arthur Boyd, John Olsen, David Rankin, Sidney Nolan, and Roger Kemp. Fourteen landscape paintings by Arthur Boyd will be going on loan to Bundanon Art Museum near Nowra, New South Wales, marking the first time the collection will be situated in the environment they depict.

Other artworks will be carefully boxed and conserved in storage. John Olsen’s Aida – a tribute to Verdi’s beloved opera – was painted on a specialised curved board to fit the curved walls of the State Theatre foyer. Due to its considerable size, this artwork cannot be removed from the building and will be securely boxed and stored with a protective casing during the State Theatre upgrades.

The methodology for removing and preserving the artworks was conducted with and approved by Heritage Victoria, as well as specialist contractors.


“We hope this makes patrons think about how valuable and important our Public Art Collection is,” Arts Centre Melbourne’s curator art and design Steven Tonkin said.


“We also want to make sure everyone is aware that the works will be coming back, and we will be installing them exactly where they were, once the State Theatre reopens so they can be enjoyed for generations to come”.

Following a final performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by The Australian Ballet on Tuesday, March 26, the State Theatre will close for major upgrades. Arts Centre Melbourne’s package of works includes new backstage spaces, technology improvements, an expanded loading dock, improved accessibility, as well as new dining and hospitality outlets.

While the State Theatre is closed, the rest of Arts Centre Melbourne remains open, including the Fairfax Studio and the Playhouse in the Theatres Building, Hamer Hall, and Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Venues throughout the Arts Precinct will also stay open for business and welcoming visitors throughout the transformation. The artwork displayed in the image includes Midday – Shoalhaven River Bank, Morning – Pulpit Rock and Dark Cloud – Shoalhaven River by Arthur Boyd in the State Theatre foyers.

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Caption: Photo: Mark Gambino, courtesy of Arts Centre Melbourne.

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