RMIT’s art collection has come out of the shadows, offices and walls around the university to reveal more than 1000 artworks in a searchable data base for students and researchers to explore.
The RMIT art collection online is a significant resource, facilitating wide general access to university’s dispersed art collection. It provides an immersive experience combining both technology and education – and allows everyone, everywhere with access to technology to explore the treasures held – including fine art, photography, ceramics, sculpture, textiles, new media and a ground-breaking sonic arts collection.
For more than 125 years, the RMIT University art collection has served as both a repository for education and research, and as a source of inspiration.It provides a considerable overview of Australian art history and includes some of the most highly-regarded and successful artists that both the country and the University have produced. Works from the collection are regularly loaned for exhibition to other institutions, both within Australia and internationally.
Professionally cataloguing the entire collection has taken four intensive years, starting with partial paper records to a full accounting of all the fine art works that the university holds, in keeping with international best practice.
The online database has been meticulously annotated and researched, and provides a comprehensive global referencing system that is not only a natural progression for a university of technology, it will allow researchers access to information and history of individual artworks.
Work was undertaken by Jon Buckingham, RMIT Collections Coordinator, under the direction of Suzanne Davies, RMIT Gallery Director and Chair, RMIT University Art Collection Committee.
Mr Buckingham, who curated the 2014 exhibition Revelations: Sculpture from the RMIT Art Collection at RMIT Gallery, said that RMIT Art Collection builds on the history of RMIT, which is inextricably linked to the creative development of Melbourne.
“The range of work by artists considered masters of high abstraction, including members of the Centre Five Group, is well represented in the RMIT Art Collection and many of these sculptors such as Inge King and Vincas Jomantas were immigrants from post-war Europe who creatively influenced the development of modernism in Australia,” he said.
“The university has produced leading teachers such as George Baldessin, Inge King, Tate Adams, and significant Alumni Sam Leach, Lisa Roet, Vincent Fantauzzo, Robert Jacks, Clement Meadmore, Helen Brack, and Reko Rennie.”
Ms Davies said that the collection’s intuitive website had already been put to use as a teaching tool, with Master of Art students from the School of Art using it to curate a virtual exhibition for their final assessment in the Curating Contemporary Art program taught through RMIT Gallery.
Students are presented with real and hypothetical constraints for an exhibition proposal, and using the resources of the works in the RMIT Art Collection, will curate a virtual exhibition harnessing the information they have been provided with during the course, including budgeting, audience participation and reach, content, curatorial rationale, use of exhibition space, leverage of sponsors and knowledge of the Australian cultural events calendar.
“It is anticipated we will have a wide range of responses given that students now have access to a diverse range of catalogued items that provides a considerable overview of Australian and international art history,” she said.
“A commitment to quality and innovation in art practice is a primary focus for the RMIT University Art Collection. These works aspire to reflect and elaborate on the creative strengths of RMIT and its amazing story,” Ms Davies said.
“RMIT University has remarkable and esoteric collections of objects in the areas of Design and Fine Art Practices.
“Bringing the RMIT Art Collection online showcases the university’s strengths in the design and fine art sphere, and illustrates how these areas are in dialogue with each other. It also highlights RMIT’s commitment to both Australia’s cultural history, and its future.”