Bowral battle of the Archibald winners

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Bowral battle of the Archibald winners

Postby Admin » Mon Jun 08, 2020 7:30 pm

Bowral battle of the Archibald winners

https://www.smh.com.au/national/bowral- ... 53cwk.html

A $6 million plan hatched by Archibald winner Ben Quilty to convert a former dairy into an art gallery at Retford Park, the former home of art-lover James Fairfax, is raising eyebrows in the Southern Highlands art set.

The 46-year-old artist-du-jour has been busy this month opening Quilty, a retrospective of his work at the Art Gallery of NSW, and on Tuesday Quilty: Painting the Shadows aired on ABC TV.


James Fairfax at the hand-over of his Bowral home Retford Park to the National Trust in April 2016.

James Fairfax at the hand-over of his Bowral home Retford Park to the National Trust in April 2016. Credit:Mindy Hindmarsh/Southern Highlands News

Last Sunday, he spoke at a fundraiser at the stunning property that Fairfax, the former chairman of publisher John Fairfax Ltd, bought from the Hordern family in 1964. Fairfax gifted the grand Italianate style residence to the National Trust in 2016, before he died at the “Gentleman’s Estate” in 2017.

Quilty has been working solidly for the past 18 months to get permission and financial support for the gallery, which he feels is a perfect fit for the property where Fairfax, an avid art collector, was famous for hosting some of the nation’s best artists, including Sidney Nolan, Margaret Olley, Colin Lanceley and Donald Friend.
The community day fundraiser last Sunday at the dairy at Retford Park.

The community day fundraiser last Sunday at the dairy at Retford Park.

In December last year, Minister for the Arts Don Harwin announced the NSW government would tip in $2.49 million through its Regional Cultural Fund. Before that decision, in 2017, Quilty – also a Trustee at the Art Gallery of NSW – gave Mr Harwin one of his works, valued at $4000, which the minister later declared according to the ministerial code of conduct.
Australian artist Ben Quilty.

Australian artist Ben Quilty.Credit:Edwina Pickles

The local Wingecarribee Shire Council has promised $2.5 million in operating costs over five years; former BT Australia banker and art collector Rob Ferguson, who chairs the working committee is believed to have pledged $2 million; and a recent dinner co-hosted by local Skye Leckie and art adviser Justin Miller has ensured the project has the cash to go ahead.

Last Sunday more than 600 locals gathered to celebrate, dining on local produce and sipping Southern Highlands wines and beers, while resident rocker Jimmy Barnes and his daughter Mahalia belted out tunes. But throughout the genteel, well-heeled district, not everyone raised their glasses in a toast.

Archibald winner Tim Storrier is said to be nonplussed. "I think it is a good idea, but the key for a regional gallery is to have it somewhere central, the success of a local gallery is all about location, location, location," said Janet Storrier, wife of Tim, who is also the 2017 Moran Portrait winner. Even art doyen and fellow Archibald winner John Olsen has reservations too.

"John Olsen was sceptical until he saw the place but now he will donate a painting," Quilty told PS. "It's a very ambitious project and we need a place big enough to host the Archibalds and other travelling exhibitions ... I got this up, I did it myself, I have funded staff, paid for a feasibility study and I am an artist. My wife has asked me why do I bother but I believe in this project."
Jimmy Barnes and daughter Mahalia sing at the fundraiser for the planned gallery in the old dairy at Retford Park.

Jimmy Barnes and daughter Mahalia sing at the fundraiser for the planned gallery in the old dairy at Retford Park.

The Southern Highlands is home to perhaps more Archibald-prize-winning artists and finalists per capita than any other part of regional Australia. But PS understands the gallery location, a few kilometres from public transport and downtown Bowral, has upset some small business owners. "You have to drive through a housing estate to get to it, which looks like Campbelltown," said one, who wished to remain nameless. "If Quilty helps the town by putting the gallery downtown, the town will help Quilty," said another. Many Bowral business owners were reluctant to speak to PS because this is the popular Quilty's passion project.

Others are unhappy about the way the project has been managed. They claim a lack of transparency from the local Wingecarribee Shire Council, which held an extraordinary general meeting, which was closed to the public, last year to discuss the funding. A lack of a promised business plan was also sited as an issue. A cloud also hangs over the relationship with the National Trust after the resignation of Retford Park manager Scott Pollock.

"At least eight sites were looked at in the region," says former Goulburn Regional Art Gallery director Jane Cush. "Retford Park as a gallery site has been an entirely Ben Quilty driven venue, which might explain why there is some friction in the community, they haven't had a say."

If Quilty helps the town by putting the gallery downtown, the town will help Quilty.
An anonymous local

Blue Mountains artist Ian Milliss, who worked on the establishment of a regional art gallery in Katoomba said: "You want an art gallery in the middle of the local shopping centre so it is accessible to everyone and so the local businesses benefit."

Others – such as former actresses and now Southern Highlands residents Noelene Brown and Geraldine Turner, who ran unsuccessfully for local council – would have liked an arts centre that incorporated theatre facilities, they told PS. But after a 30-year battle and the local theatre recently closing because of structural problems, they are glad to have at least something for regional arts. Some suggest the former Victorian Bowral courthouse and police station would be a better site. It is across the road from Corbett Park, which hosts the annual tulip festival and draws crowds of around 60,000. The Berrima Jail, which will become available next year, is being canvassed too. This may be an appropriate arts precinct as it is is the site where art was once produced in the form of wooden cuckoo clocks by former inmate and disgraced Corrective Services minister Rex Jackson.

Quilty, who fought to keep the National Arts School in the old Darlinghurst Jail, believes old Heritage-listed jails are not a great canvas to display artwork. He remains adamant the old dairy is a perfect site, and challenges his critics to see the location.
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