Artbank Melbourne to open its doors to all in March

Artbank Melbourne AARArtbank will launch its new Collingwood premises by opening its doors to all on Saturday 24 March, offering the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes and view one of the largest collections of contemporary Australian art in the world.

The Artbank Open House is designed to promote the accessibility of the Artbank collection and to provide the opportunity to see some great examples of contemporary Australian art. Part of a renewed presence in Melbourne, the Open House is one of a number of new initiatives to be implemented.

A new non-residential Studio Program, which offers creatives practicing in the visual arts (including artists, curators, writers, designers and academics) the opportunity to realize projects and progress their work in an architecturally purpose-designed space with its own laneway access, all within the increasingly unaffordable city fringe.

Residents will be selected via an open-call and receive a daily living allowance, with the final program being defined by the needs of the practitioners who apply. Length of stay and different requirements will be accommodated as best as possible to maximize the impact the studio program will have as a support mechanism.

A new Project and Event Space will also be a feature of the Collingwood site. It will have a dual purpose of unpacking the Artbank collection while also be open for community, arts sector and educational use. Artbank’s artworks are spread around the world through the art-leasing scheme. They form the backdrop of many different types of actions and allow for a more personal type of engagement with contemporary art, which will also be the case in the facility in Collingwood.

“We are very excited to be launching our new facility in Melbourne,” said Artbank Director Tony Stephens. “It gives us the opportunity to grow our engagement with Victoria and the southern states of Australia. The Artbank Open House is a great way to kick things off.”

“We’re all about accessibility and engagement and this event, as with the new initiatives that will be running in Melbourne, truly reflect the shared ownership of the Artbank collection. The development of the new facility has allowed for broader thinking around the pressures facing artists, and how Artbank’s investment can be applied in ways that maximise our support.”

“We also want to reinforce the notion that this is a democratically available collection, so everything we do, from how we design our spaces to how we engage with our audiences, reflects this. Accessibility is a key consideration for all of Artbank’s activities and physical sites,” added Mr Stephens.

The new facilities, designed by award-winning Collingwood architecture studio Edition office, use the steel-framed racking system, which holds a portion of Artbank’s vast collection of Australian art as a central design-element. Usually, confined to the backroom, these large-scale art-storage units will become significant architectural objects in themselves. Visitors can move around and within the storage areas, catching glimpses of thousands of the artworks held within.

“We seek to reverse the perception that visual art is only for an elite few, seeing it is a reflection of Australian society that can be engaged with regardless of how much or little you might know about art history – telling our stories and commenting on the world around us,” said Mr Stephens.

Established in 1980, Artbank is an Australian Government arts support program, and a key component of the government’s support for visual artists. The program aims to increase the sustainability and accessibility of Australian contemporary art: to support Australian contemporary artists; and to encourage engagement with and appreciation of Australian contemporary art by the broader community.

Largely self-funded for the last twenty years, Artbank generates revenue through the leasing of artworks. Artbank’s collection is currently comprised of over 11,000 artworks, by 3500 artists. Artbank’s support for artists is often applied early in their careers, with future acquisitions being made at regular intervals to form an extensive and constantly evolving collection of Australian contemporary art.

The move to expanded new Melbourne premises is the latest in a period of significant change for Artbank, with the launch of new premises in Sydney’s Waterloo in 2014 and the development and delivery of a popular program of exhibitions, fellowships, partnerships and events – all designed to promote engagement with Australian contemporary art.

The Artbank Open House event is on Saturday 24 March 2018 (11.00am – 4.00pm) at 18-24 Down Street, Collingwood and offers a mix of art, music, artist, architectural and curatorial talks, and free street food (until it lasts). For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Architects impression of the new Artbank Melbourne – courtesy of Edition Office