Proposed Art Gallery set to expand Rockhampton’s art collection

Published on 28 February 2018


The Rockhampton Art Gallery (RAG) collection is regarded as one of the finest in regional Australia.

In the later 1970’s Rockhampton Mayor Rex Pilbeam built a representative collection of modern Australian art that has formed the guiding principles for the growth of the collection.

As well as being of high aesthetic significance, the collection also has historical significance, with early depictions of Rockhampton. It is the only regional gallery in Queensland to hold a representative collection of the works of the 'greats' of Australian modernist painting of the second half of the twentieth century, including artist Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, Charles Blackman, John Brack, and Jeffrey Smart.

Rockhampton Art Gallery Director Bianca Acimovic says active collecting maintains the Rockhampton Art Gallery’s reputation as one of Australia's leading regional galleries; however, limited storage capacity poses a challenge for its future.

“In 2016, a Significance Assessment of our collection was undertaken and highlighted that our storage is inadequate for our current collection. So as we continue to expand our collection and actively collect, addressing our storage needs is only becoming more critical,” Mrs Acimovic said.

“A key recommendation from this Assessment is to follow through with a Preservation Needs report which will look at our storage needs and specific preservation issues in the collection. The design stages of the new Rockhampton Art Gallery are reviewing storage as a key consideration.

“Much of our collection not only requires space, but controlled environments to preserve our nationally significant collection.”

Kerry Clare of Clare Design said her team is working through concepts that will ensure decades of future collecting in the new Gallery.

“The project’s main objective is to create a vibrant centrepiece for the cultural precinct to increase opportunity for cultural and social activity. It will complement and re-energise the heritage precinct around Customs House,” Ms Clare said.

“The new building will expand RAG’s capacity to conserve and exhibit its internationally significant collection - including important representative works of the ‘greats’ of Australian modernist artists.

“Large gallery spaces with high ceilings and adaptability will increase the gallery’s loan capacity so that, like GOMA, many diverse exhibitions can be undertaken where other galleries would not be able to host them. 

“The gallery will provide inspiring new spaces for artists and the public and support ongoing creative endeavour and engagement over time.” 


The story of Rockhampton Art Gallery’s enviable art collection is a remarkable tale of imagination, philanthropy, hard work and cultural pride. In less than five years in the 1970s the Rockhampton Art Gallery's collection was augmented by around 400 new works of modern Australian painting.

Using money from donations, local government and the recently established Australia Council for the Arts, Gallery committee members, including then Mayor Rex Pilbeam, architect Neil McKendry, Gallery Director Don Taylor, and the Bishop of Rockhampton, Right Reverend John Bayton, selected and purchased important mid-twentieth century paintings, sculpture and works on paper, adding works from just about every significant figure in modernist Australian art to the Gallery's collection. The four men 'had the vision to create what is arguably the finest collection in regional Queensland and one of the best in regional Australia'.