John Curtin Gallery celebrates its re-opening with an exhibition
of significant works from the Curtin University Art Collection.

50fifty:2020 showcases a selection of 50 artworks acquired through the 50fifty Acquisition Initiative, which was launched in 2017 with the aim of rejuvenating the Curtin University Art Collection – one of WA’s most important public art collections. The works on display include paintings, photographs, mixed media, sculpture, ceramics, video and works on paper.

The Curtin University Art Collection traces its beginnings to 1967 and the commitment of the University’s founding leaders of the Western Australian Institute of Technology to develop a Collection for the benefit of its staff and students. 

Over the last 53 years, the Collection’s development has often reflected a mixture of the prevailing curatorial and socio-political concerns of the time. 

The works we have been fortunate to acquire include greatly admired works that have featured in recent exhibitions. Through building strong relationships with major contemporary artists that we have featured in our Exhibition Programs and welcomed to the John Curtin Gallery in recent years, we have been blessed by the generosity of several artists who have donated major works to the Collection, as well as our regular Donors who have provided the funds to enable us to purchase significant works, which has served to support to artists during this time.


A word from the former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Deborah Terry AO

Presented as part of Curtin University’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2017, it was my privilege to launch the 50fiftyAcquisition Initiative at the John Curtin Gallery with the goal of acquiring fifty significant artworks for the Curtin University Art Collection over three years.

By any measure, 50fifty has been a resounding success, with the acquisition of more than 200 artworks successfully rejuvenating the Curtin University Art Collection, as one of Western Australia’s most important public collections.

On the eve of my departure from Curtin, I will miss watching the Gallery flourish through the ongoing commitment of its dedicated supporters. So many of my experiences associated with the John Curtin Gallery are now deeply embedded memories I will carry with me wherever I go. They are reminders of the impact that this Gallery and Curtin can bring to the world. The John Curtin Gallery is not only an important cultural asset for the people living here in Perth, but also to audiences around the world.  Through the plethora of digital platforms that have proliferated during this year’s COVID pandemic the Gallery can extend its impact well beyond the physical.  In many ways we have never been more isolated, yet we have never been more connected to the world than we are right now.

Director, Chris Malcolm & Collection Manager, Lia McKnight

Since we launched the 50fifty Acquisition Initiative in 2017, the world has changed a great deal, yet also very little – though perhaps our individual perspective on our place within the worldwide community will never be the same. In the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, and its disastrous economic fallout, it is perhaps not surprising that from some quarters there seems to be an urgency to justify the relevance of art and art collections.

Many artists and arts workers have been profoundly impacted by the pandemic’s necessary isolation measures and the future of our industry seems more fragile than ever with limited industry support, and the cost of an Arts degree set to rise significantly from 2021. The wider public opinion of art seems to have fared little better and artists were recently deemed the most nonessential of all workers in a much-publicised but questionable COVID related survey. But in times of social and political turmoil, is art not needed more than ever? In the words of renowned durational performance artist, Marina Abramovic, “The function of the artist in a disturbed society is to give awareness of the universe, to ask the right questions, and to elevate the mind.”

Art Museums in turn, have the essential task to nurture and document the visual culture of our time.

A Message from the Director of Advancement, Natasha Allchurch

I joined Curtin in 2017 during the 50 year Anniversary of Curtin University, and one of the first fundraising projects I worked on was the 50fifty Acquisition Initiative. Aimed at expanding the Curtin University Art Collection by 50 major artworks over a three year period, the Initiative was a wonderful way to learn about the Collection, if somewhat of a crash course! I was astounded to find out that the majority of the collection had been gifted to the University.

As the custodians and managers of the Collection, The John Curtin Gallery have been an incredibly fitting choice to reach out to the wider community to build on the Collection during the Initiative. The Gallery is committed to invigorating the intellectual life of the community through innovative exhibitions, events and public programs that interrogate contemporary issues. I learnt very quickly how magnificently they deliver on this commitment. I also learnt how deeply they honour the responsibility of managing an art collection of such prominence and substance.

The passion and generosity of the art lovers and artists who contributed artworks or funds to the Initiative are helping to ensure that the Curtin University Art Collection remains one of the most significant university art collections in Australia.

Thank you so much to all who have contributed to 50fifty.


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