Friday 31st July 2020
Good evening and welcome to New England Regional Art Museum,
I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we now stand, the Anaiwan People, and pay my respect to elders past, present and emerging and welcome any members of community who are with us tonight.
I am truly excited to welcome you all to this launch of the 100% NERAM program. Tonight, all six of NERAM’s galleries are displaying various highlights selected from our four outstanding art collections: the Howard Hinton, Chandler Coventry, NERAM and Armidale City Collections. These Collections are the foundation and heart of what makes NERAM such a unique and exceptional arts institution. They not only reflect the progression of art in Australia from the late 19th century to current contemporary art practices, including many of Australia’s seminal artists, they also reflect an exceptional history of arts philanthropy, generosity and community support.
Many people have contributed to the NERAM collections through the donation of artworks. The Museum has always relied on the generosity and vision of its supporters to grow and thrive and has been greatly aided in this endeavour by the example and legacy of our two original great patrons, Howard Hinton and Chandler Coventry.
HINTON: Treasures of Australian Art remains a signature exhibition that acknowledges and honours Hinton’s generosity and cultural legacy. It is a point of pride for NERAM and for New England, that such a magnificent collection found its home here and inspired a continuing culture of arts appreciation and cultural giving in the region. You may notice tonight that several works are missing from the salon hang. These works are currently with International Conservation Services in Sydney receiving a range of preservation treatments, thanks again to the generosity of our community who have supported our Adopt-An-Artwork program.
Tonight, it is my great pleasure to open COVENTRY, an exhibition highlighting the dynamic and eclectic taste of respected gallerist, collector and NERAM patron Chandler Coventry AM. Featuring diverse and avant-garde Australian and international artwork, this exhibition is a bold and stunning display of a truly dynamic and at times mercurial collection. I have to say that I am so thrilled to see this collection take centre stage and demand the attention and esteem it deserves. This is the first major showing of the Coventry Collection since I came to NERAM and I think that it is a magnificent representation of the collection’s scale, range and significance. I would like to congratulate Belinda Hungerford for her excellent curation of this exhibition.
To coincide with the exhibition is a new COVENTRY catalogue which highlights the collection and discusses Chandler Coventry’s history and legacy. I would like to thank Bryan Hooper and Angus Nivison for their contributions to the catalogue and Angus for also loaning NERAM two portraits of Coventry for the exhibition one of which was painted at the very end of Channy’s life and has never before been publicly exhibited.
MAKING YOUR MARK: Works from the NERAM Collection has been curated by previous NERAM Director and current Arts North West Executive Director, Caroline Downer OAM. This exhibition focuses on the fundamental language of art – mark making and does an excellent job in illuminating some of the most outstanding artworks from the NERAM collection.
In 2017 celebrated Australian artist Elizabeth Cummings donated 76 of her prints to the NERAM Collection and this donation is the catalyst for The Elisabeth Cummings Gift, curated by former NERAM Director, Robert Heather. This exhibition also connects to NERAM’s extensive collection of prints which feature throughout all four of NERAM’s collections.
The Armidale City established an art collection in 1963 and over the next 30 years amassed more than 300 works of art, a selection on which feature in ART IN THE MIX: Works from the Armidale City Collection. In 2016 the collection was transferred unconditionally to the New England Regional Art Museum and contains one of my favourite artworks Elaine Haxton’s Bell Collars 1950, which normally resides in my office.
FORM: Sculptural works from the NERAM Collections explores NERAM’s small but compelling collection of sculpture. The exhibition explores the viewer’s sensorial response to the physical and material nature of the sculptural form and has been curated by NERAM’s Collection Manager and former National Art School sculpture student, Jennifer Taylor-McRae.
Together these six exhibitions provide a sensational introduction to the NERAM Collections, and it is only an introduction. With over 5000 artworks to choose from, what is currently on display is a mere fraction of the entirety of what the NERAM Collections have to offer. I hope that you find these exhibitions to be revealing, inspiring and challenging.
If you are a new visitor to NERAM, I hope you are surprised and impressed by the range and quality of our art collections, and I hope you will feel the need to return often to see what else we might put up on the walls. If you are a member of our community then I hope you see something new and surprising on display, something that you haven’t seen before or that appears in a different light. I also hope you feel a sense of celebration and pride to see so much of these collections presented at one time. They really are fantastic!
I would like to thank our guest curators Caroline Downer OAM, Robert Heather and the Armidale Regional Council.
Thank you to Angus and Caroline Nivison, Bryan Hooper, Christopher Hodges and Deslys and Peter Hunter for their contributions, loans and assistance for COVENTRY.
Thank you to Elisabeth Cummings and everyone who has donated artwork to the NERAM Collections including the fabulous Packsaddle who have donated over 70 artworks to NERAM.
The 100% NERAM program has been supported by the Friends of NERAM. You can also support NERAM by becoming a member and joining Friends today. I thank all of our Friends for their support.
Thank you to our funding bodies The Armidale Regional Council, Margaret Olley Art Trust and Create NSW.
I would like to thank the outstanding NERAM Staff: May, Alexis, Belinda, Bill, Jen, Fahi, Emily and Leah for all their work, talent and enthusiasm and the many NERAM volunteers who make all that we do possible.
Tonight is a celebration, although we remain observant of current restrictions and health advice which has limited our usual hospitality. We are celebrating the fact that we are open after a prolonged period of closure, we are celebrating our magnificent collections and the community of people who built and continue to support NERAM. Thank you for celebrating with us. I hope you enjoy your evening.
See you again soon at NERAM.
P.S. Tonight we also launched UNESAP Let’s Hang It! online via the NERAM website. To see the talent of the region’s next generation of artists and to view the winner announcement visit https://www.neram.com.au/unesap-2020-online-exhibition/