To build a collection of artworks with an identity recognised throughout Victoria is the aim of Shepparton Art Gallery director Keith Rogers.
And to help achieve this, he this week opened a subscription scheme offering gallery membership to Shepparton district contributors.
Mr Rogers said adult members would be asked to contribute $5 a year.
Family membership was being offered at $7 a year.
The suggested fees would entitle members to attend private previews of all exhibitions at the gallery, free of charge, and enable them to participate in gallery activities, both educational and social.
Mr Rogers said the gallery was allowed $3000 a year to spend on exhibitions and acquisitions.
He said: ‘‘This is a reasonable amount compared with other district galleries, but because all exhibition funds come from the acquisition account, it is hard to strengthen our permanent collection’’.
‘‘I would rather have a strong permanent collection here than large exhibitions which could only be shown for a few weeks.’’
People in Shepparton wanted to identify with their gallery, and it would give greater impetus to the public if there was an important permanent collection here.
‘‘With a little more money we could build a significant Australiawide collection,’’ Mr Rogers said.
‘‘The subscription scheme came into being because of the tremendous attendance at exhibitions, and I don’t think most people would mind paying $5 a year if they knew the money was going towards the acquisition of works for the Shepparton collection.
‘‘The amazing thing is that we have had some avant garde exhibitions by artists in special fields, and people attending while these works were on exhibition have said they would like Shepparton to have an example of this person’s work.
‘‘They saw how it could be correlated with the rest of the collection here.
‘‘By subscribing, people can help us to acquire such works.
‘‘The last two sizeable purchases by the gallery were a drawing by Louis Buvelot, and a semi-abstract by George Baldessin.
‘‘Buvelot was one of Australia’s leading oil colorists for many years. He arrived here in 1865, and this particular drawing was done in 1869. It cost $200. It was a page out of his sketch books and refers to the most important work of Buvelot.
‘‘The latest purchase, an untitled drawing by Baldessin, cost $250. It is a semi-abstract figure study.’’
The total insured value of works in the gallery now is $50 000.
The gallery has prominent works from Sir Arthur Streeton, James Quinn, John Longstaff, Frederick McGubbin and Hans Heysen.
Eleven works by Sidney Nolan have been loaned by the artist’s mother in Melbourne.
‘‘When the gallery began in the ’ 30s, some major works were purchased, but we need many more to correlate an overall picture of Australian painting,’’ Mr Rogers said.
He said this year it was planned to invite important lecturers and artists to Shepparton to speak on the collection here and their own ideas.
Subjects to be discussed would range from archaeology to modern pottery.
‘‘We need an assured response from a section of the community to justify the expense and effort of securing the attention of important artists and writers,’’ Mr Rogers said.
He said the gallery would concentrate on acquiring drawings this year. Mr Rogers said later this year there would be an exhibition of wall hangings in textiles.
Ceramics also would be on display.
The gallery has a very good collection of ceramics.
The Caltex Oil Company has given $400 for a ceramics award, and would contribute a further $150.
Mr Rogers said ceramics and wall hangings formed a ‘‘department’’ of their own, as did prints and drawings.
He was trying to strengthen these departments.
‘‘Swan Hill with its folk museum draws a tremendous amount of people,’’ Mr Rogers said.
‘‘Shepparton has in its gallery a very fine collection of ceramics and this also draws people from all over Australia.
‘‘This is one way in which we are attempting to encourage tourists to stop in Shepparton.
‘‘If they hear we have good collections of ceramics and contemporary Australian prints, they will want to stay and see them.’’