Taking art off the walls and into the regions

Living Well | Words: Clare Barry | Photos: Christian Capurro | Posted on 15 December 2020

RACV’s art collection is coming off the walls and into the community to help build connections in Victoria’s regions.

Just as Victorians revive old freedoms and explore the state with fresh eyes, RACV’s art collection is making its first foray into regional Victoria.

RACV is lending works from its collection of Australian contemporary art to a regional gallery for the first time, sharing 20 pieces with Benalla Art Gallery as part of a new exhibition, Re-gathering.

The exhibition is part of RACV’s focus to support regional Victoria and share its contemporary art collection more broadly to help build connections and start conversations.

David Ralph, Indoor Holiday, 2006, oil on canvas, 181 x 135 cm. Courtesy the artist, photographer Christian Capurro, RACV Art Collection.
David Boyd, Dreamland, 1971, oil on composition board, 45.2 x 60.6 cm. Gift of Wooleen Pty. Ltd., 1980, 1980.13, © Estate of David Boyd / Copyright Agency, 2020, Benalla Art Gallery Collection

Left: David Ralph, Indoor Holiday, 2006, oil on canvas, 181 x 135 cm. Courtesy the artist, photographer Christian Capurro, RACV Art Collection. Right: David Boyd, Dreamland, 1971, oil on composition board, 45.2 x 60.6 cm. Gift of Wooleen Pty. Ltd., 1980, 1980.13, © Estate of David Boyd / Copyright Agency, 2020, Benalla Art Gallery Collection.


Recently RACV made the collection accessible to all in digital form, via an online portal launched in August, and is now rolling out a program events, exhibitions and talks to engage regional communities in art.

In Benalla, the local community has been involved from the beginning in shaping the Re-gathering exhibition, which talks to the region’s shared experience of COVID-19.

“It’s using art as a way to express what people went through during the pandemic,” explains RACV’s head of visual arts Mardi Nowak.

In developing the exhibition, the Benalla community shared experiences from their lives in lockdown – what they missed, what they rediscovered, what they learned about themselves. The responses, Mardi says, were touching, at times sad, and heartening.

“This has been a moment in time and it’s a collective moment,” says Mardi. “It’s quite powerful to see others out there experiencing the same thing. It helps to bring us together.”

The community responses helped inform the selection of works for the exhibition – David Ralph’s Indoor Holiday was an obvious choice, along with David Boyd’s playfully bucolic Dreamland, and a selection of portraiture – “lots of solo faces”, says Mardi. Each answer has also been incorporated into a screen-based work created by the Benalla Art Gallery team as a key piece for the exhibition.

Heidi Yardley, Void Ratio, 2015, charcoal on primed paper, 109 x 88 cm. Courtesy the artist, photographer Christian Capurro, RACV Art Collection.
Neil Haddon, The First Time (Castra), 2014, enamel paint on aluminum panel, 130 x 120 cm. Courtesy the artist and THIS IS NO FANTASY, photographer Christian Capurro, RACV Art Collection.
Joy Hester, Girl with flowers, 1958, ink and watercolour on paper, 30 x 23 cm. Ledger Gift, 1993, 1993.039, © Estate of Joy Hester /The Copyright Agency 2020, Benalla Art Gallery Collection.

Left: Heidi Yardley, Void Ratio, 2015, charcoal on primed paper, 109 x 88 cm. Courtesy the artist, photographer Christian Capurro, RACV Art Collection. Middle: Neil Haddon, The First Time (Castra), 2014, enamel paint on aluminum panel, 130 x 120 cm. Courtesy the artist and THIS IS NO FANTASY, photographer Christian Capurro, RACV Art Collection. Right: Joy Hester, Girl with flowers, 1958, ink and watercolour on paper, 30 x 23 cm. Ledger Gift, 1993, 1993.039, © Estate of Joy Hester /The Copyright Agency 2020, Benalla Art Gallery Collection.


Art has a wonderful way of bringing people together and drawing out experiences through conversation that help foster a sense of belonging and wellbeing.


RACV general manager social impact and communication Louise Steinfort says RACV is committed to supporting regional Victoria. 

“We are pleased to partner with both MPavilion and Benalla Art Gallery to bring this exhibition together in a meaningful way for the community,” she says.

“Art has a wonderful way of bringing people together and drawing out experiences through conversation that help foster a sense of belonging and wellbeing."

Director of the Benalla Art Gallery, Eric Nash, says Re-gathering is a “momentous” project, “a last opportunity to regather our community, to hear from them directly, and to provide a space for healing and reflection after the unprecedented challenges of 2020”.

Art lovers can see Re-gathering from 18 December to 20 June, 2021 at the Benalla Art Gallery, 97 Bridge Street, Benalla.


Below: George Feather Lawrence, Kings Cross, Sydney, 1960, oil on composition board, 33 x 43.5 cm. Ledger Gift, 1987, 1987.09, © Estate of George Feather Lawrence / Copyright Agency, 2020, Benalla Art Gallery Collection.