State of the art: collecting for the future
Art and Heritage
The paintings and sculptures around the University of Adelaide help create a sense of place - but sometimes we hardly notice what's there until it's gone.
The removal of Bill Cook's The Guru from the Union Bar earlier this year provoked a campaign to get it back. The day it arrived in the bar after cleaning and re-framing was like the arrival of the Beatles at Adelaide Airport - security reporting its progress across the campus and a mass of students waiting to have their photo taken with the bar's own guru at the end of his trip.
Whether the work is of quality to justify this level of worship is a matter for the art critics of the world, but the story illustrates the level of attachment the students and staff at Adelaide have for the artwork and other collections on our campuses.
Ms Mirna Heruc, Manager of Art and Heritage Collections, along with Anna Gardner, the Collections Officer, are the caretakers of the University's art and other collections.
The Art and Heritage Collections team was expanded to two this year and this reflects the University's growing commitment to custodianship of its art and artefacts, and a desire to see them properly managed and cared for. This occurs alongside the collections managed by faculties.
Generous assistance is also provided by Tupp Carmody, Executive Assistant for Corporate Information, and Julian Tremayne, Art and Heritage Installation Technician.
"The University has 19 collections that we have identified so far, and this is growing as we work through to identify and organise the various items and create a thorough database," Ms Heruc said.
"We have a modest visual arts collection, but there have been magnificent bequests throughout our history and there are some significant works, including pieces by Henry Moore and Arthur Streeton.
"While the visual art and sculpture is easily identified as part of the collection, we also have what we believe is a quite unique collection for this state, of scientific apparatus.
"We have equipment that was used by Florey and also Bragg in the Physics Museum, as well as a lot of other equipment that dates back through the University's history. Eventually we will need to call for some volunteers to help us identify many of the older items.
"There is also a lot of furniture. It is amazing to work with it because it is always very clear where it sat in the University - you can see the level of wear and tear that items have had and the quality of the pieces. They all indicate something about the furniture's use and where it belonged.
"Unfortunately, a lot of the old pieces don't fit in with our modern, ergonomic requirements so they mainly sit in storage, but from time to time we get requests from people who prefer the warmth and patina of desks and bookshelves that have been a part of the place for a long time.
"We are also tagging pieces currently in use that we think should be added to the collection in the future. Whenever Property Services renew an area of the University, they work in close consultation with us regarding the preservation of appropriate items."
The University has now established an art storage area for the collections.
"All of the visual art was once stored 'on the walls' but everyone needs a rest, and we now have proper facilities for this to happen. It has been a very rewarding time to work with the collections," Ms Heruc said.
"One day I would love to see a museum space to showcase our art and artefacts."
Story by Lisa Reid