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History

This timeline is an introduction to the rich history of arts and cultural activities of the region that led to the Murray Art Museum Albury as it is known today.

1947

Albury Art Prize Established

Eager to invest in arts and culture, Albury City Council offered 75 pounds towards a new acquisitive art prize. One of the oldest municipal art prizes in the NSW, the Albury Art Prize was originally more valuable than the Archibald Prize.

At first, the Albury Art Prize was managed by the Council for the Encouragement of Music and Art (CEMA). This organisation, founded in Britain during WW2, was transplanted to the newly-minted city of Albury. The Albury branch of CEMA would later become the Albury Arts Society. Harold Twomey, a popular Albury artist and solicitor, was instrumental in starting the Albury Art Prize Society, arranging and hanging the paintings. Prior to starting the prize, he held small exhibitions in his solicitor’s rooms. In 1973 the responsibility for the Albury Art Prize moved to Albury City Council.

1948

The National Interest in Post War Cultural Enrichment

Border Morning Mail Fri 3 Sept, 1948. “Inquiries for entry forms for the Albury Art Prize competition have come from as far as Perth, Darwin and Hobart," states Mr F. V. Taylor, secretary, of the committee. One inquiry was addressed somewhat prophetically, to "Albury Art Gallery." Including an anonymous donation, the art prize fund now stands at £56. Arts Group of Albury Arts Council are organising a cabaret at the Gala on September 24 to augment the fund.

1951

Art Prize Exhibition in the Plaza

Albury Art Prize secretary, Mr H. Twomey, is favorably impressed with the quality of the 60 pictures which will be hung at the: Plaza for the Art Prize, 1951, Exhibition. He said yesterday that the paintings would please the public.

Prizes of £75 and £25 are being offered by City Council and: Albury Arts Council for the best oil painting and water color respectively.

The winning entries will be selected by Mr E. Buckmaster, a Melbourne painter, and results will be announced at the opening of the exhibition on Wednesday next,- November 14, at 8 p.m. by the Mayor (Ald. Bunton).

- Border Morning Mail, 9 November, 1951, p. 7

1956

Bill Franken becomes President of the Albury Art Society

The Prize selection criteria were revised once Bill Franken, a cultivated Austrian of Jewish descent, became President of the Albury Arts Society, which organised the Albury Art Prize. In 1967, Franken initiated the Albury Purchase Award enabling works by Roger Kemp, Fred Williams and Elwyn Lynn to be purchased when Tony Tuckson was judge in 1968.

Tony Tuckson on a lecture tour for the Australian contemporary art exhibition, Albury, NSW, c1950-2.

Tony Tuckson on a lecture tour for the Australian contemporary art exhibition, Albury, NSW, c1950-2.

1961

280 entries at Albury Art Society exhibition in the Civic Theatre

The irrepressible Bill Franken, President of Albury Art Society comments in Border Morning Mail on 30 September, 1961 about the time required to hang 280 paintings, “12-15 workers from 9am to midnight or later”, and the unsuitability of the venue. “The Civic Theatre does not exactly lend itself to at Art Gallery atmosphere. The Albury Art Society is looking forward to the day when the new concert hall is ready and we can use the part to be made available for an art exhibition in the real sense’’.

1964

Albury War Memorial Civic Centre Opens

Albury City Council had announced that the Centre should provide for the spiritual, cultural and administrative needs of the people, with buildings in a garden setting around a central square, known as the Civic Centre and, more recently, as the Cultural Precinct. Now know as Albury Entertainment Centre.

GRAND PLAN: BMM's1969 included a Parish Centre (6), proposed Town Hall/Council Chambers (8), the new Civic Theatre (9), a new police station (11), a proposed court house (12) and proposed State Government offices (13).

GRAND PLAN: BMM's1969 included a Parish Centre (6), proposed Town Hall/Council Chambers (8), the new Civic Theatre (9), a new police station (11), a proposed court house (12) and proposed State Government offices (13).

1966

Exhibition at St Matthew’s Parish Centre

The Albury Art Society 20th Annual Prize Exhibition was held at St Matthew’s Parish Centre and judged by Brian Finemore. ‘Due to lack of space, entries on this occasion are limited to a total of two paintings per artist in this exhibition’.

1967

Exhibition at Murray River County Council building in Volt Lane

This Albury Art Gallery Society Exhibition was judged by Robert Campbell OBE, Director of National Gallery of South Australia and held in the Murray River County Council building in Volt Lane, Albury. Entrants included well-known artists like Grace Cossington-Smith and Donald Friend. The exhibition was non-competitive. The paintings accepted for purchase were in order to “achieve the acquisition of a representative collection for the future Art Gallery of the city of Albury.” Bill Franken, President of the Albury Art Gallery Society.

1973

Albury Arts Society transfers Albury Art Prize Collection to Albury City Council.

The Whitlam government, NSW and Victoria agree to establish Albury-Wodonga as the first National Growth Centre. Cultural offerings such as Albury Art Gallery, the Murray River Performing Group and the Fruit Flies Circus are intended to contribute to promoting a culturally rich lifestyle to potential National Growth Centre residents in the 1970s.

1974

Official Opening of the City’s New Art Gallery Building.

The official opening took place in May 1974 at the Civic Centre by the Hon GF Freudenstein, NSW Minister for Cultural Activities and Conservation at a cost of approx. $100,000. The City’s New Art Gallery Building housed approx. 150 award-winning paintings. ‘The council has always been vitally interested in the promotion of art… supported and encouraged annual art exhibitions since 1947 when a public meeting was then convened to establish an Art Gallery Committee to organise an annual Art Exhibition for the city’. Quote from the Opening-Program.

1975

Jack Bennett Memorial Exhibition at Albury City Art Gallery, Civic Centre

Jack Bennett studied with Albury artist HG Twomey. His first exhibition was in AMP Building in Albury in 1949 and Bennett was short-listed for the Archibald in 1949. He won the Albury Art Prize in 1953, 1957 and 1958 and taught Auriel Alford, Kath Ortiz, M. Bates and Ms M Avery.

Jack Bennett Self-portrait oil on board  80 x 55 cm  Image courtesy the artist's estate

Jack Bennett
Self-portrait
oil on board
80 x 55 cm
Image courtesy the artist's estate

1980

A New Vision and a New Home for the Collection

Audray Banfield is recruited in 1980 to the position of Director of what will become the new Albury Regional Art Centre. The Art Centre was Council’s long-held vision to create a public art gallery and permanent home for the growing collection. Albury Town Hall, now vacant after the municipal offices and Council Chamber were relocated to new premises on Kiewa Street in 1976.

Gough Whitlam with Albury Regional Art Gallery director Audray Banfield in 1989.

Gough Whitlam with Albury Regional Art Gallery director Audray Banfield in 1989.

Together with architect Rob Stynes, Banfield creatively redesigned the interior of the Town Hall for it to become suitable for use as a gallery, including modern features such as air-conditioning, exhibition lighting, and even an internal sculpture garden. The historic façade remained untouched.

In a major change, Banfield refocused the Collection acquisition strategy on the emerging medium of photography, along with regional artists that have gained national significance. The Albury Art Prize was also adjusted to be non-acquisitive. It was at this time that Sir Russell Drysdale was identified as a key artist to collect, having lived and worked in Albury for a significant part of his creative life. The collection holds over 40 artworks by Drysdale, as well as Drysdale memorabilia. Audray Banfield continued to lead the gallery for 25 years.

Friends of the Gallery

The formal establishment of Friends of the Gallery (the Friends), a group of like-minded community members interested in the arts. The inaugural meeting of the Friends was on Wednesday 22 October, 1980

The Friends acted as volunteers, secured guest speakers, assisted with catering, fund-raised and hosted events. The Friends started the Acquisitive Art Prize enabling the beginning of Albury’s collection and leading to a permanent gallery.

1981

Albury Regional Art Gallery Opens

The Gallery is opened in the city’s former Town Hall building, under the governance of Albury City Council, by Premier Mr Neville Wran June 29. Built in 1908, the building is inspired by late Victorian ‘wedding cake rococco’ style and offers a fitting permanent home for the City's Collection. The first Director, Audray Banfield, set the focus on the museum’s collection as photography, and regional artists with a national reputation.

Old Town Hall Facade from Dean St, 2015.
Photo Simon Dallinger.

Building Exterior_Old Town Hall Facade from Dean St, 2015. Photo Simon Dallinger. Copyright MAMA

1983

National Photography Prize Established

Following the decision to begin actively collecting contemporary photography, the first National Photographic Purchase Award was established, with Gael Newton and Helen Ennis jointly selected the work for purchase. Amongst the first works purchased were prints by Max Dupain, Mark Strizic, Richard Woldendorp and Philip Quirk.

1988

Albury-Wodonga Regional Art Foundation Established

In 1988, the Foundation begin with a vision to establish a significant art collection for the city and to enrich the cultural life of the city. Officially launched in 1989 by the Hon. Gough Whitlam AC, the Foundation worked to encourage sponsorship and bequests to the Gallery and utilise the interest from its investments for acquisitions, conservation and major exhibitions.

Mr. L Gordon Darling AO CMG inaugurated the Foundation with a donation of $50,000. Other generous patrons including Mr. Justice J.F. Nagle AO QC and the late Dr Stan Jackling were instrumental in establishing the financial stability of the Foundation.

The Foundation has continued its important philanthropic work, actively fundraising, managing donations, gifts and bequests on behalf of the Museum. The Foundation remains the primary supporter of the biennial National Photography Prize.

2000

John & Margaret Baker Memorial Fellowship Established

The $5000 Fellowship is offered to one emerging artist from among the field of finalists in the biennial National Photography Prize. Established by the Baker family, this Fellowship was established in memory of John & Margaret Baker, who were killed in a tragic aeroplane accident along with four friends in 1998. Margaret, assisted by her husband John, was an expert and imaginative photographer. First offered in early 2000, the Fellowship has been managed by the MAMA Art Foundation (previously Albury Regional Art Foundation). Previous recipients include Glenn Sloggett, Maylei Hunt, Melissa McVeigh, Emily Portman, Nat Ord, Ioulia Terizis, and Hayley Millar-Baker.

2002

Susan Moorhead Memorial Award Established

Championed by Charles Sturt University Visual Arts Faculty in 2002 in memory of artist Susan Moorhead (1947-1990). The award serves to support local emerging artists in developing their practice. This award serves to honour Susan Moorhead’s life of commitment to the arts. During her short but distinguished professional life Susan was an art teacher, exhibiting artist, designer, sculptor and master crafts person.The biennial award assists local artists in the development and realisation of their professional career. The award seeks to promote conceptual intelligence and original thinking, contemporary relevance and professional execution. Since 2009 the Award has been held in trust by the MAMA Art Foundation.

2014

Albury Regional Art Gallery closed for redevelopment

2015

Murray Art Museum Albury opens

On 2 October 2015 the redeveloped museum opened its doors. The new museum was led by Director Jacqui Hemsley, and experienced a bumper opening few months. The expanded facilities enabled kids programs, art classes and workshops, rooms for hire, and a busy schedule of exhibitions in the 6 – 8 gallery spaces. The museum launched with a new energy and vigour that reshaped the identity of the museum in the minds of the local community. It was now ready to embrace its vision of being the most significant arts and cultural venue in the Murray Region which ranked amongst the best cultural venues in Australia.

The first exhibition was Wiradjuri Ngurambanggu (On Wiradjuri Country) and featured the work of contemporary Indigenous artists Jonathan Jones, Brook Garru Andrew, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, Karla Dickens and Nicole Foreshew.