The Gallery’s collection of Japanese art was initiated in the 1980s when a Rockhampton donor, Jessie Myles, gifted several items to the Gallery, including a large Imari ware lidded jar. In the spirit of international diplomacy, the Gallery also acquired gifts from Rockhampton’s sister city, Ibusuki, which included a collection of Hinamatsuri dolls. Japanese financial investment in Central Queensland, coupled with Japanese taught as a second language in many local schools, has also contributed significantly to the Gallery embracing and developing Japanese art as a collecting area.
In the 2000s, the Gallery actively enhanced the Japanese collection through acquiring quality examples of traditional Japanese art forms, including: a late 18th century Rinpa School eight fold screen, Autumn flowers and grasses; an 18th century Samurai suit of armour; a 17th century wood and gilt sculpture Kannon, the bodhisattva of compassion; and a 19th century boy's summer kimono. Adding diversity to the collection are early 20th century painted scrolls and kimono, and a pair of late Edo era lacquer boxes in the form of mandarin ducks. The Japanese collection also includes in a small number of wood block prints from artists including Chikanobu Toyohara and Hasui Kawase.
In 2008, Melbourne scientist and art collector Dr Douglas Kagi donated 157 modern British prints to Rockhampton Art Gallery. The collection showcases the diversity of British printmaking including screenprinting, etchings and lithographs from the 1960s to the 2000s. This gift enables to the Gallery to present regular thematic print exhibitions and to further develop its international collection in years to come.
The Kagi Gift comprises prints by such significant figures in twentieth century art as Henry Moore, Victor Pasmore and Graham Sutherland, modernists who first came to prominence in the 1930s and 40s. Also included are artists who made particularly important contributions to printmaking during the 1960s and beyond, including Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield, Allen Jones, Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi.