Newcastle Art Gallery's collection is one of the finest in regional Australia with its quality and breadth is recognised as a significant cultural asset. The collection includes over 5,000 works of art, and presents a comprehensive overview of Australian art from colonial times to the present day. In addition, the Gallery has a significant collection of Indigenous bark paintings and one of the nation's finest collections of twentieth century Australian and Japanese ceramics. In recent years, the gallery has also developed a bold collection of contemporary Australian art.
In the early years the Gallery’s first director Gil Docking procured the donation of key works including William Dobell’s Portrait of a strapper 1941, described by the artist as one of his finest portraits. Former director David Thomas’s scholarship on Rupert Bunny resulted in exceptional purchases and donations. Thomas also procured the works of early Modernists including Grace Cossington Smith, Margaret Preston, Roland Wakelin and Jack Noel Kilgour among others.
The presence of industry and the mandate to meet the cultural needs of a working class city resulted in substantial donations including the Nagano Japanese ceramics collection, which derives its name from Shigeo Nagano, the former chairman of Nippon Steel. This collection paved the way for subsequent gifts of Japanese ceramics including the landmark gift of the avant-garde Sodeisha collection. The Gallery Society’s presentation of Gwyn Hanssen Pigott’s major installation At the gates continues the focus on sculptural ceramics.
The establishment of von Bertouch Galleries, the City’s first commercial gallery, in 1963 greatly enhanced the cultural life of Newcastle. Anne von Bertouch introduced many significant artists and their work to Novocastrian audiences. Her stable included Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, Lloyd Rees, Judy Cassab, Margaret Olley, Donald Friend and John Coburn. Her quest to make Newcastle the “art capital of Australia" was furthered in 2003 when she bequeathed her own private collection to the city.
Arguably the Gallery’s most loved painting is Summer at Carcoar by Brett Whiteley. Commissioned by Newcastle resident and collector Dr William Bowmore, this massive painting condenses all of Whiteley’s stylistic trademarks and influences. In 1978 Whiteley won the Wynne Prize with Summer at Carcoar, along with the prestigious Archibald and Sulman prizes in the same year. Bowmore has also been responsible for the donation of much of the international collection including important bronze sculptures by Jules Dalou, Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Auguste Rodin.
Acquisitions of contemporary art attest to the gallery’s charter to reflect the finest examples of Australian art making practice. An unlikely mascot for contemporary art is Patricia Piccinini’s Surrogate (for the northern hairy nosed wombat). A recent acquisition, this beguiling sculptural installation invites audiences to consider the implications of biological and scientific tampering and reminds us that contemporary art is a state of encounter.
Following the success of the exhibition of the Laverty collection of Indigenous art, recent acquisitions have included paintings by Bidyadanga artists Jan Billycan and Daniel Walbidi, as well as Arnhem Land artist Galumbu Yunupingu.
Works in the Collection that are not on display can be made available for viewing. A minimum of two weeks prior notice to the Gallery is required.
Unauthorised reproduction of images is not permitted. For all enquiries relating to reproduction rights, please contact the Curator on 02 4974 5100.