Care and conservation for BCEC’s world class art collection

Treasures from Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre’s celebrated art collection are currently off display, some for the first time in the Centre’s 29-year history, while they undergo specialist conservation work.

The paintings are being conserved as part of the Centre’s ongoing care and custodianship of its collection, which comprises more than 60 works by leading First Nations and contemporary Australian artists. Spanning painting, sculpture and site-specific commissions, the collection was brought together to furnish the building in the lead-up to its opening in 1995.

This collection includes national treasures from Papunya in the Northern Territory, the birthplace of the contemporary Aboriginal art movement in the late 1970s, originally commissioned for display at Expo ’88.

It was a visionary decision back then. The collection today is a unique and valuable cultural asset for BCEC, showcasing the works of well-known artists such as John Olsen, Joe Furlonger, Gordon Bennett and Judy Watson, throughout the venue as well as in the Centre’s dedicated Plaza Gallery.

Popular with conference organisers and delegates visiting Brisbane, the Centre also makes its art collection accessible to visitors and members of the public as part of a long-term commitment to showcasing and supporting Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian art.

Art works and sculptures from the Centre’s collection will receive specialist conservation treatment during the next few months, with the first 20 works already in the hands of some of Australia’s leading conservators in both Brisbane and Sydney. The larger art works, some over two metres in height, are undergoing treatment in Sydney due to their size.

Specialist art conservators were on site recently to prepare two of the most sensitive pieces in the collection for conservation by applying Japanese tissue paper to prevent any damage during travel.

Innovations such as the Plaza Gallery, a dedicated art gallery space which houses a museum quality collection of paintings by first-generation Central Desert Indigenous artists, including Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, have increased the profile of the collection, reflecting greater community awareness and interest in the art of Australia’s First Peoples.

The Plaza Gallery hosted world leaders who used the gallery as a private meeting space during the G20 World Leaders Summit in 2014, and in recent years, has proven a popular event space for First Nations organisations.

While some works are temporarily off display, there is a new addition to the collection, located on Plaza Level. In 2022, BCEC engaged Jody Rallah, a Yuggera, Biri Gubba and Warangu emerging artist with connections to Brisbane and Bowen regions, to produce an artwork for the Centre’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Ingredients to Wealth (2022-2023) reflects the unique environmental and cultural heritage of the Kurilpa site on which the Centre stands.

General Manager of the ASM Global managed BCEC, Kym Guesdon says that the quality and scale of the art collection sets BCEC apart from other meetings and events venues. “The Plaza Gallery is a highly valued space, particularly for international conferences, whose delegates are keen to engage with and learn about Australia’s Indigenous history and culture.” 

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