UOW Art Collection: The gift that keeps on giving

Over 50 years the UOW Art Collection has evolved to achieve international significance, with more than 5000 works breathing life into campuses.



Story By

Jen Waters

The University of Wollongong Art Collection (UOWAC) was founded with a vision of creating a widely accessible and lasting cultural legacy. Over 50 years it has evolved to achieve international significance, with more than 5000 works breathing life into buildings, open spaces and those who walk among them.

According to UOWAC Director Senior Professor Amanda Lawson, the next stage in its future is bursting with opportunities for philanthropists to make an indelible mark on the cultural landscape.

“UOW is in a stage of great development and with each new building we’re seeing art becoming a key element, where the collection works alongside designers, architects and project managers from the early stages of construction,” Professor Lawson explains.

Esme Timbery, Slippers

Slippers, Esme Timbery, 2011, Fabric, shells, glue and cardboard, University of Wollongong Art Collection, Copyright Esme Timbery/Copyright Agency, 2019

“There’s a wonderful opportunity for donors to have a profound influence on a space or building by contributing, for example, to the acquisition of a signature artwork that speaks to the purpose of the building, the research being conducted in it or the student experience.”

Gifts have played a pivotal role in shaping the UOWAC of today, which holds works to rival major Australian galleries from influential artists including Lloyd Rees, James Gleeson, Judy Watson and Emily Kngwarreye. Its key strengths lie in regionally significant works that reflect the rich history and culture of the Illawarra, contemporary excellence from Australian and New Zealand artists, and a flourishing specialisation in Indigenous works on paper.

The collection is a valuable resource for researchers and students well beyond the visual arts disciplines. The significant body of donated Redback Graphix prints and posters, which documents key aspects of the labour and feminist movements in the Illawarra and Sydney of the late 1970s into the 1980s, provides an illuminating example.

“The works have very distinctive typographic and design characteristics for graphic and web design students. They depict an extraordinarily rich history that is of interest to students of politics, sociology, history and regional economic history, and can inform studies in law, environmental and community studies and cultural geography. Other works in the collection speak to contemporary movements in health and wellbeing, where the positive role that art and colour can play is increasingly recognised.”

Max Dupain, Bass Point Jetty

Bass Point Jetty, Max Dupain, 1930s, Photograph, University of Wollongong Art Collection, Copyright Max Dupain/Copyright Agency, 2019

As the collection grows, the founding vision of accessibility remains at the fore – necessitating a greater investment in conservation, protection and display of the works. This is another area where donors can play an important role.

“UOWAC is unique in that a large proportion of our works are on display at any one time, often in high profile public spaces. Support for conservation, such as purchasing UV glass for photo-sensitive works and display cases for delicate pieces, means more works can be on display for longer periods and in more varied locations,” Professor Lawson explains.

“Financial gifts could also expand accessibility; for example, with $5000 we could cover copyright and digitisation to place 50 works online for all to see, while with around $6000 we could develop a tour guide leaflet to help people discover key works on our campuses.” 

To discover how you could to shape the future of the UOW Art Collection please contact us at art-collection@uow.edu.au or  or +61 2 4221 5414

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