After receiving more than two million dollars for a much needed refurbishment, the Drill Hall Gallery is now a museum-grade facility. Once a training facility for soldiers during the Second World War, it is now fit to exhibit the ‘Old Masters’ – with its new state-of-the-art climate control system designed by Benmax and its sophisticated system of programmable LED lights designed by Simm Steel of Steensen Varming.
The lights are the products of the generous benefaction of artists, well-wishers and friends that were collected through a series of events – such as an auction and a dinner raising more than $140,000 for the Drill Hall. This benefaction, as well as the funds injected for the refurbishment by the ANU, affirms the importance of the Gallery in the ANU and wider Canberra community.
A few weeks have passed since its reopening on 14 July 2016, and the success of its first show Streets of Papunya (15 July – 14 August) has paved the way for the further successes of the variety of exhibitions to be shown through the remainder of this year.
The current exhibition is curated by the prominent historian of Western Desert painting, Professor Vivien Johnson, and presents the works of the new generation of painters from Papunya: a renowned hub of Indigenous creativity. The works in the exhibition have been sourced both directly from Papunya Tjupi Arts, and also from large public institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia and the National Museum of Australia. Some works have also been drawn from the ANU’s School of Archaeology and Anthropology and the College of Asa and the Pacific, both of which boast considerable and remarkable collections of works.
Students and visitors to the University alike can see not only the works from some of Canberra’s finest cultural institutions, but also those that have been obtained by the University itself. Drill Hall is far more than a place for art students – it is accessible to all students and teachers across campus who are interested in learning in a way that differs from a standard lecture format. In reopening the Drill Hall the University is further enriching the experience of education by offering a mix of theoretical and visual aids inside and outside of the classroom.
In addition to the diverse learning opportunities provided by the works displayed, the Drill Hall prides itself on the different types of artwork it is able to showcase. Hosting a variety of temporary exhibitions, with a short turnaround period roughly extending to six weeks per exhibition, the Drill Hall programming permits a degree of flexibility that is not shared by some of the larger cultural and art institutions in Canberra. This enables the exploration of different mediums, genres, themes and generations of artists, and the creation of an ever-changing environment for visitors to enjoy. Consequently, a diverse audience is attracted, with the Gallery always aspiring to draw in new people – particularly those from surrounding residences like UniLodge.
The recent renovations and acquisitions like the Erskine Gift, along with a program of upcoming exhibitions, events, and a lecture series, establish the Drill Hall as a new cultural hub. Watch this space.
Streets of Papunya closes on 14 August 2016 and is followed by Brian Blanchflower-Canopies which runs from 19 August until 25 September 2016.