CONSTRUCTION TO COMMENCE: Rockhampton Art Gallery view from Quay St.
CONSTRUCTION TO COMMENCE: Rockhampton Art Gallery view from Quay St. Contributed

Full steam ahead for new Rockhampton art gallery

IT WON'T be long now until Rex Pilbeam's glorious collection of modern art will finally have a home fit for its exquisite beauty.

Rockhampton Regional Council yesterday signed off on construction of the new Art Gallery to begin in July and called tenders from four contractors who were shortlisted after expressions of interest were called last year.

Mayor Margaret Strelow said with all bar one grant application approved, it was time to put the pedal to the metal.

"Rex Pilbeam's legacy of a nationally significant collection of modernist Australian art will finally be able to be pulled out of storage and put on public display where it belongs,” she said.

"The new Art Gallery is a catalyst project and with it comes the opportunity to unlock a precinct focused on art, culture, events and modern education centred around the Customs House.”

Rockhampton's new Art Gallery will be constructed on Quay St, next to Customs House. It will be three storeys and include a double volume exhibition space on the lower floor and an upper level gallery for semi-permanent exhibitions including the council's collection.

It will also include a gallery shop and cafe, flexible multi-purpose areas/education spaces, administration, storage and back of house areas.

Rockhampton Art Gallery view from Quay Ln.
Rockhampton Art Gallery view from Quay Ln. Contributed

The $31.5m Rockhampton Art Gallery project was funded by all three levels of government.

"We wouldn't be here without the support of all levels of government and I commend the support from both State and Federal Governments in funding this project,” Cr Strelow said.

"We were delighted to receive a $2million grant from the State Government a few years ago, which allowed us to engage one of the best architectural firms in Australia to design a home that is fitting for this amazing collection.”

Lindsay and Kerrie Clare, who designed Queensland's award-winning Gallery of Modern Art on Southbank, will bring an international reputation and decades of experience to the design of the new building.

They are joined by Conrad Gargett, who were responsible for the refurbishment and re-purposing of Brisbane's Customs House, and local architect Brian Hooper.

new art gallery image.Photo Contributed
New Rockhampton Art Gallery image. Contributed ROK080319aartgallery

Cr Strelow said the time had come to build a permanent home for Rex Pilbeam's legacy collection.

"When Rex introduced the collection to the people of Rockhampton, he charged future generations with maintaining and advancing his art gallery,” she said.

"In his words, 'this is the least that we can expect from the citizens of tomorrow in return for the splendid contribution made by the citizens of today'.

"Today we accept that charge and commence work.

"Of course, today's art galleries are much more community minded than traditional galleries have been.

"Our existing crowded gallery space hosts toddlers playing and drawing and yoga classes among other things.

"The location in the middle of the Quay St precinct will see a space that locals wander in and out of - totally at home.

"Whilst the top floor will house our existing collection, the ground floor is just as likely to be hosting an immersive digital experience as it is traditional sculpture.”

After completion of the procurement process, the council expects a two-year construction program to begin in July and finish about mid-year 2021.