Saving and giving: Art Gallery of Ballarat Director, Louise Tegart, said sponsoring an artwork for restoration is way to preserve art history. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

Donate to save history

September 20, 2019 BY

ANYONE in the community could breathe new life into history through the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s Adopt an Artwork program.

Established in 2009, the program encourages financial donors to sponsor a work in the gallery’s collection in need of desperate conservation work, whether that be cleaning, repairs or general maintenance of ageing mediums.

Gallery Director, Louise Tegart said the program has raised $400,000 and has conserved 100 works in the last 10 years.

But the AGB’s current Adopt an Artwork exhibition, showing fragile works by Sidney Nolan, Louis McCubbin, Margaret Preston and beyond, is the first time the project has been visible to patrons.

“Before, the works were just online and people could go online and see, so this is unusual. The gallery’s putting their worst foot forward,” she said.

Rather than simply asking the public for donations to collection conversation, Ms Tegart thought it important for people to come in and see the works in their current state.

“Next to the artworks, we’ve provided a synopsis of work that needs to be done by the conservator and then the value of that work,” she said. “Conservation is a really expensive and timely process. The works have to go off-site because we don’t have a conservation lab.”

The reasons for the works needing some TLC differs.

“It’s not that we’re not looking after the works,” Ms Tegart said. “Sidney Nolan, for example, he used house paint which hasn’t stood the test of time as a medium, so then there’s inherent issues with the painting itself.

“A lot of early 20th century works were coated with vanish, and over time that’s yellowed. Once you see a work with its vanish removed, it’s completely different, it’s striking.

“Over time, some canvases have buckled. Other works, there’s been poor handing somewhere along the way, or they might have had insect damage, so we’re dealing with issues from the past.”

AGB receives no council funding for conservation, raising money purely through donations from the public or from philanthropic foundations.

“People can just donate and it will grow until one work can go off to conservation, or people can come and adopt the entire work,” Ms Tegart said. “If people pledge for an entire work, when it goes on display, they’ll have their name next to that work, which is a really nice thing.”

Over the next few months, the gallery will bring out other fragile works from storage as those hanging are adopted and taken for restoration.