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Shepparton Art Museum announces inaugural exhibition program

Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) has announced its inaugural exhibition program that will be presented in the new $50 million art museum designed by acclaimed architecture firm Denton Corker Marshall.

Spanning five floors, SAM will launch with a suite of new exhibitions and major artist commissions by emerging and established Australian artists, with work to be presented across the Museum, the surrounding precinct and online. Coming together with a spirit of regeneration, the reimagined Museum will represent the diversity and richness of Victoria and its unique local surroundings along with the vision and aspirations of its people. The exhibition program spans sculpture, painting, video, photography, ceramics and installation and is set to build upon the existing strengths of the SAM Collection, including its nationally recognised ceramics collection and the nation’s most significant collection of South-East Australian Aboriginal art.

SAM’s inaugural collection exhibition, Flow: Stories of River, Earth and Sky, showcases the nation’s largest holding of the extended Namatjira family, and is presented alongside a dynamic line up of world premiere Australian exclusives and commissions celebrating artists from across Australia and around the world. Highlights of the program include a major survey exhibition of the work of renowned Yorta Yorta artist Lin Onus; a new artwork commission by acclaimed Yorta Yorta, Wamba Wamba, Mutti Mutti and Boonwurrung artist, Maree Clarke, titled Connection to Country – I Remember When…,2021; and a new participatory commission by Amrita Hepi.

Dr Rebecca Coates, Artistic Director & CEO of SAM said: “I’m thrilled to be able to announce our inaugural exhibition program which ushers a new chapter of regeneration and community engagement for the Museum and Shepparton. SAM holds a special place in the hearts of Australians, presenting work by some of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists, locating their work within a global context. These first exhibitions speak to our unique people and place and acknowledge and celebrate our local Yorta Yorta people and shared culture. This is the most significant and exciting moment in SAM’s history as an organization. I look forward to sharing this new chapter in SAM’s history that will build on its past legacy and create a new vision for the future.”

The inaugural exhibition program to be presented at SAM includes:

The People’s Gallery will house a major survey exhibition, Lin Onus: The Land Within (opening 20 November 2021) which is the first significant showing of the highly acclaimed Yorta Yorta artist’s work to be presented on Country. The exhibition brings together a selection of work spanning more than two decades, drawn from major public, state and private collections across Australia. Artworks are drawn from the 1970s to the artist’s untimely death in 1996, across a range of media including painting, prints and sculpture.

Showcasing one of Australia’s foremost artists and choreographers, A Call to Echo, 2021, the new participatory video installation by Amrita Hepi (opening 20 November 2021) will be the first exhibition for SAM Kids in the Children’s Gallery, a new, dedicated space for children and the young at heart. A Call to Echo sets up a dynamic relationship between an on-screen performance and participants within the space. Through gestural mirroring and translations, the work invites audiences to explore new forms of bodily communication and reciprocity, all in a COVID safe way. Weaving physical provocations together with a mix of moving image cues sampled from cinema, dance history and the artist’s previous works, it playfully draws attention to the limits and potential of how our bodies move.

The inaugural exhibition in the new Lin Onus Gallery will be Flow: Stories of River, Earth and Sky in the SAM Collection (opening 20 November 2021), an exhibition that explores our relationship to nature and the ways that people, culture and ideas move through the region and out into the wider world. Who we are, how we understand place, how we define our priorities, and how we connect to the outside world are all determined by nature’s kinesis with motion and change as shared constants. The exhibition features the artwork of over 60 artists drawn from SAM’s collection and presents major new acquisitions for the first time including works from the Carrillo and Ziyin Gantner Collection of Australian Indigenous Art.

The new SAM has been designed to showcase SAM’s ceramics collection throughout the building. Showcase One, at the entrance to the art museum’s cafe, features Everyday Australian Design: Functional Design from the Ian Wong Collection (opening 20 November 2021), an exhibition of objects that celebrates Australian daily life and culture. From the 1880s to the present-day, many of these familiar objects have become icons of our time, such as the Eski and the Décor wine cooler. Providing insights into daily life, the show comprises the everyday items we use at home and while at leisure with our family and friends. This colourful display will provide a story or two for all by prompting a nostalgic memory or casting light on the familiar object’s trajectory through the world of design.

A special Brown Pots (opening 20 November 2021) exhibition will examine the influences and innovations of Australian studio potters engaging with and expanding on the teaching, writing and philosophy of Bernard Leach, the father of British studio pottery, and Japanese potter Shoji Hamada. This exhibition will kick off a three-part series of exhibitions exploring the trajectory of Australian studio pottery from the 1960s to today, to be presented by SAM in its new dedicated ceramics showcases over the next 18 months, showcasing works from the SAM Collection.

The art museum has commissioned a major new work by acclaimed Yorta Yorta, Wamba Wamba, Mutti Mutti and Boonwurrung artist, Maree Clarke. Connection to Country – I Remember When…,2021 celebrates Yorta Yorta Elders, cultural heritage and ongoing connection to Country. The installation includes a series of large-scale lenticular lightboxes, the most ambitious that Maree has made to-date, and will be shown in the front window of SAM’s new building in anticipation of the museum’s opening in late 2021 (opening 20 November 2021). Given its location as a public window, the programming of this space has been designed to attract the passing public and a diverse line-up of participants to engage with the work, from less typical museum goers to those who enjoy and make use of the surrounding park and amenities.

Looking Out and Across to a Future, 2021 (opening 20 November 2021) is the inaugural Art Wall commission at SAM on the 4th floor Furphy Wall by celebrated Melbourne artist Louisa Bufardeci. The large-scale artwork will be the first in an ongoing series of dynamic temporary commissions by contemporary artists, designed to respond to and enliven a dedicated public space, a terrace and bar on the museum’s top floor, looking out over Victoria Park Lake.

A major public artwork by celebrated Girramay and Kuku Yalanji artist Tony Albert, House of Discards, 2019, has been installed in prime position in the forecourt of the new SAM building. Reaching nearly five metres, the towering steel structure resembles a supersized house of playing cards with bold black and white faces. It is the largest work to enter the SAM Collection to-date.

The opening show in the Hugh D. T. Williamson Community Gallery will be Fresh: GV Top Art & Design, 2021 (opening 20 November), featuring artworks and design presentations from talented year 11 and 12 VCE Art, Studio Arts and Visual Communication Design students studying across 14 schools in North Central and Hume regions of Victoria in 2020. The Community Gallery is a dedicated space where local artists and creatives will have the opportunity to work in a professional museum context and connect with new audiences across a range of exhibitions, public programs, and events. More information forthcoming.

Designed by award-winning Melbourne-based architects Denton Corker Marshall, Shepparton Art Museum is the centrepiece of the compelling new arts institution on Shepparton’s Victoria Park Lark, in the North Central corridor of Victoria. The 5300m2 building houses the Museum, Visitor Center and Kaiela Arts, Shepparton’s local Aboriginal arts centre, as well as a cafe and event space with a rooftop terrace.

Information on the 2021 exhibition program can be found at sheppartonartmuseum.com.au. SAM is set to open 20 November, 2021. 

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