• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Flickr
  • Youtube
  • eNews



Queensland Art Gallery


Gallery of Modern Art

The Queensland National Art Gallery was opened by the Queensland Governor, Sir Henry Wylie Norman, on 29 March 1895. The establishment of a state gallery followed successful advocacy by artists Isaac Walter Jenner and R. Godfrey Rivers. Rivers had persuaded the Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Robert Fraser, to provide a room in the now-demolished old Town Hall building in Queen Street.

The Gallery's inaugural Collection comprised 38 pictures (many of which had been lent to the Gallery), one marble bust, and 70 engravings. Early gifts to the new Gallery included Jenner's Cape Chudleigh, Coast of Labrador and Oscar Friström's Duramboi, donated by the artists. The Gallery's first purchase was Blandford Fletcher's Evicted, in 1896, and its first Australian purchase was Josephine Muntz-Adams's Care, in 1898.

In December 1905 the Gallery was relocated to the third floor of the newly constructed Executive Building (Land Administration Building) in George Street. The former Exhibition Building Concert Hall at Gregory Terrace was remodelled during 1929–30 to house the Gallery, which reopened there in 1931.

The Gallery's first full-time curator, James Watt, was appointed in 1915, and it was not until 1949 that the first Director, Robert Campbell, was appointed. Campbell was succeeded by Robert Haines (1951–60), Laurie Thomas (1961–67), James Wieneke (1967–74), Raoul Mellish (1974–86), Doug Hall (1987–2007), Tony Ellwood (2007–12), and Chris Saines from 2013.

Recognising the importance of encouraging children's exploration of art, the Gallery instituted the Trustees' Children's Creative Art Class in 1941, with Vida Lahey as the first tutor. In 1953, an exhibition of 150 drawings from these classes was the first children's exhibition to be displayed at the Gallery. More than 60 years after these first classes, the Children's Art Centre continues the Gallery's focus on children.

The present site on the Brisbane River at South Brisbane was approved for purchase in April 1969. A two-stage competition was staged to select the architects for the building, and in April 1973 Robin Gibson and Partners were nominated. In 1975, during construction of the south bank site, the Gallery moved to its fourth temporary premises in the M.I.M. building in Ann Street. Gale force winds during Brisbane's 1974 floods had forced the closure of the Exhibition Building premises.

Construction of the South Bank building began in March 1977 and the new Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) was opened in 1982 (Stage 1 of the Cultural Centre) at a cost of $28 million.

In 1979 the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation was established, and the first work acquired was the fifteenth-century painting Virgin and Child with Saint James the Pilgrim, Saint Catherine and the Donor with Saint Peter by The Master of Frankfurt.

A second site, the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), opened in December 2006 and complements the Queensland Art Gallery building. Situated at Kurilpa Point only 150 metres away, GOMA focuses on the art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Suggested reading
Queensland Art Gallery: Retrospect and Prospect. [Special issue of Art and Australia, vol.4, Winter 1983]. Fine Arts Press, 1983.
Queensland Art Gallery: Selected Works. Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane, 1982.
Queensland Art Gallery Collection Souvenir. Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane, 1996.
Bradbury, Keith and Cooke, Glenn R. Thorns and Petals: 100 Years of the Royal Queensland Art Society. Royal Queensland Art Society, 1988.
Cooke, Glenn R. A Time Remembered: Art in Brisbane 1950 to 1975. Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane, 1995.
Cooke, Glenn R. (ed.). Art Off Centre: Placing Queensland Art, 1995 [conference papers]. Queensland Studies Centre, Griffith University, South Brisbane, 1997.
Ryan, Patricia L. (Patricia Laurie). Friends for Forty Years: History of the Queensland Art Gallery Society, 1951 to 1991. Queensland Art Gallery Society, Brisbane, 1993.
Seear, Lynne and Ewington, Julie (eds.). Brought to Light: Australian Art, 1850–1965, from the Queensland Art Gallery Collection. Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane, 1998.