The Little Art Museum That Could

All good things must come to an end, and so it was with the Danie Mellor retrospective at UQ Art Museum this week. The heavy gilt frames, beaded skulls and taxidermy animals of Mellor’s Exotic Lies, Sacred Ties exhibition are now safely in their crates ready for transport. The feathered dogs, the warrior shields and the coffin will soon join them. I was lucky enough to be there as they packed down the show, and watch as the team wrapped up yet another beautifully curated exhibition in old Mayne Hall. Even better, they waived their no photography policy for me so I could give you a sneak peek!

It was a big show to pull off – a complex, challenging collection of artwork. To be honest I’m not sure the bigger galleries could have done it justice, it so suited the intimacy of the Art Museum. A lot of Mellor’s work is so big and colourful and in your face that it would be easy to overlook the subtleties in a larger gallery space. The lower ceilings and moody lighting created an intensity of focus that would have been otherwise missed.

They’re a pretty amazing crew at UQ Art Museum. If they were a book they’d definitely be The Little Engine That Could. Not that there’s anything particularly little about them – they hold the second largest public art collection in Queensland – but given the size of their team and the constraints under which they work, they more than hold their own against the glamour kids at Southbank. They work hard when they need to, and they continue to deliver well thought out shows.

It’s a wonder more people don’t make the journey out to visit UQ Art Museum. Housed in one of Robin Gibson’s architectural masterpieces, it’s a pretty stunning building on the outside, and warm and inviting once you’re through the doors. Then again, even I didn’t know it existed until two years ago and I like to think I’m fairly well informed in the goings on of the art scene. The first I heard of it was when a friend’s exhibition was held there. Somehow its 70 odd years of existence had passed me by until that moment. I guess those who shout loudest get heard first, and perhaps the Art Museum is just a little too dignified for shouting. Mind you, I’m not sure I want to share the space they’ve created at St Lucia with any more people. I quite like walking through and feeling like it’s all mine.

That said, the new exhibition scheduled to open next week is Conflict: Contemporary Responses to War. From what I’ve heard it doesn’t just shout its message, it blasts it right into your psyche and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing the UQ Art Museum marching in to battle.

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