Recognising the power that institutions hold in social change, the first exhibition in Campbelltown Arts Centre for 2019 confronts and celebrates the role that a collecting gallery can have in pushing for social change. Entitled Borrowed Scenery, the show reframes the contribution of women in art from being the subject of the male gaze, to the creators of art forms.
Curating the exhibition is Jasmine Kean, collections officer at Campbelltown Arts Centre, who noted that, “it's really exciting for us to launch the 2019 program with a collection show.”
For Kean, the show is not so much about leaving visitors with an explicit message, but rather allowing contemplation and reflection through the artworks on display, “I've tried to keep away from proscribing too much meaning onto the works and I’m allowing them to breathe and talk.”
Campbelltown Arts Centre, which was established in 1988, has a collecting history back to 1962, with the current collection standing at more than 1460 works. Within this collection, which focuses primarily on contemporary Australian art after 1950, there is evidence of both the way institutions have framed women as the objects of art, but also how women have transcended these frameworks.
As Kean highlighted, “We have to recognise that gender disparity exists, and unless we're going to do something about it, it's going to continue to exist.” According to Kean, the exhibition Borrowed Scenery seeks to celebrate those artists who changed the art world through their careers. This can be seen in the work of Gloria Petyarre, whose now distinctive large canvases were first acquired and supported through the collections policy at Campbelltown Arts Centre.
Reflecting on the show, Kean emphasised how this is a moment to review the collecting practices of Campbelltown Arts Centre as well as other art institutions.
“It's a way of being able to stop and reflect, to look into our future to make sure we've got the right policies set up so in the next thirty years we can look back and have a snapshot again of that time, and say ‘Yep, that's where thing change.’”
One way in which Kean and Campbelltown Arts Centre are extending this change beyond just the exhibition of works from the collection is by engaging the Countess Report to do a full audit of the Campbelltown collection. Previously, the Countess Report have collected and published data that has shown the disparity between the earnings and representation of female artists in the Australian art world.
Describing on the process of working with Countess, Kean commented, “I wanted to make them feel like we weren't hiding things from them. We were happy to be confronted with the facts of their findings.”
Audiences will be able to take away documentation of the findings as part of the show, and Kean hopes that this encourages other galleries and institutions to reflect on their own methods of collecting and engaging with their collection. “Maybe other institutions can do the same, and do a proper count on their collections. I think it's be great to see all institutions do an all-female show a year in their program. I don't see why not!”
Borrowed Scenery opens on January 2, 2019 and runs until March 10. To see the full list of artists on show, click here: http://c-a-c.com.au/borrowed-scenery/