Behind the scenes of Quiddity: join our curator talk

Quiddity at RMIT Gallery, installation image by Tobias Titz, 2016

Quiddity at RMIT Gallery, installation image by Tobias Titz, 2016

Ever wanted to go behind the scenes in a museum? Have you wondered how are works are packed, preserved, stored and cared for? Join RMIT Collections Coordinator Jon Buckingham on Tuesday 26 July from 1-2 pm at RMIT Gallery as he provides an insight into the aspect of an art collection most people never see.

Buckingham is lead curator of the current RMIT Gallery exhibition Quiddity, which is drawn entirely from the RMIT Art Collection. The exhibition approaches a materially diverse array of artworks from the perspective of the conservator and the registrar in order to emphasise their physicality, explore the limitations environment and entropy place on their display, and reveal something of their existence outside the context of an exhibition.

Works are displayed on storeroom boxes, crates and on wire racks, recreating the ‘secret life’ of the works when they are not displayed in exhibitions.

Quiddity has been produced in collaboration between RMIT Gallery and students from the RMIT Master of Arts Management program. In this talk, lead curator Jon Buckingham will explore how artworks are handled, packaged, stored and conserved.

Quiddity installation image - close up of work by Ken + Julia Yonetani. Photo by Tobias Titz, RMIT Gallery, 2016

Quiddity installation image – close up of work by Ken + Julia Yonetani. Photo by Tobias Titz, RMIT Gallery, 2016

“When on display, artworks naturally tend to be viewed within a carefully constructed cultural, historical or thematic context. Behind the scenes though, aesthetic and cultural significance are at least on an equal footing with – and sometimes must play second fiddle to – physical requirements if a collection is to have any life expectancy,” Buckingham said.

“Artworks are scrutinised in minute detail. They must be catalogued, researched, regularly monitored for change, and appropriately stored.”

What: Quiddity curator talk with Jon Buckingham.

When: Tuesday 26 July

Time: 1-2 pm

Where: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Bookings: Free – register to attend



RMIT Welcome Day: Students embrace art event



Artist Joel Gailer and assistant watch as students test out his skateboard with specially carved wheels – all part of Welcome Day fun at RMIT.

Take one skateboarding artist, two metres of primed canvas, an ample amount of printmaking ink (deep black) and mid-winter, sunny, clear blue skies at the RMIT Welcome Day for mid-year intake students and what do you have? A community art event!

The City Welcome Day is a campus-wide celebration for all students at the RMIT City Campus, where the campus comes alive for a day of fun and frivolity. RMIT Gallery’s marquee was well attended, with students eager to put their name down to volunteer at the gallery and gain valuable experience in working in the art industry.

Artist Joel Gailer thrilled skateboarders and audiences at his Performprint event during the recent RMIT Gallery exhibition Out of the Matrix, (watch the exhibition video here) so we thought we’d invite him back to show new students the sort of exhibitions and public programs RMIT Gallery puts on.

After Joel completed his half hour skateboarding-printmaking performance, someone tapped him on the shoulder and asked the question; “can I have a go?”

And so, Welcome Day became, briefly, RMIT Art Event – with students testing out their prowess on the skateboard, and risking inky feet as they tried to make their mark on the canvas.


Some students had never been on a skateboard before, and yet were intrigued by Joel’s performance and bravely attempted to at least stand on the board – and some went further, actually having a spin.

While  RMIT has a large number of academic, creative, sports, spiritual, political and special interest clubs, new students also discovered that the cultural activities RMIT Gallery provides are also part of an enriching university experience.


Curator + Conservator in Conversation: RMIT Gallery talk 8 July


Taking its name from the Latin meaning ‘the essence of a thing’, Quiddity (RMIT Gallery, 1 July – 20 August) seeks to unpack the RMIT Art Collection both literally and figuratively. The exhibition explores the idea of thinking about artworks as physical objects rather than seeing them as items invested with meaning or expressing emotion.

Join us on Thursday 7 July from 5.30-6.30 pm when exhibition curator Jon Buckingham and Danielle Measday, Conservator of Natural Sciences, Museum Victoria focus on the different ways the two disciplines approach permanent collections and the challenges of putting together an exhibition.

In Quiddity, works such 19th century Australian artist Hugh Ramsay’s nude (1895) will be displayed in its unrepaired state to highlight the process of conservation. The piece is one of the most notable in RMIT University’s Art Collection and it was damaged an transit with paint flaking off the surface. It is now stabilised and has been specially patched with Japanese paper.


About the speakers

Jon Buckingham is the Collection Coordinator for RMIT University’s art collection. He is responsible for generating, researching and maintaining records on provenance, intellectual property and the history of RMIT’s artworks, and for their ongoing storage and conservation.  He facilitates the acquisition of new artworks for the University and project-manages the commissioning and installation of large scale artworks in public spaces. Jon also produces a variety of exhibitions and events from the collection, coordinates the display of works around campus, and organises loans to external institutions.

Danielle Measday is conservator of Natural Sciences for Museum Victoria. Her love of museum conservation began the first time she saw an X-Ray of a painting. She trained as an objects conservator at the University of Melbourne’s Masters of Cultural Material Conservation program. She works closely with collection managers, curators and researchers across the zoology, palaeontology and geology fields to find solutions to facilitate access to the collections, and preserve them for the future.

WHAT: Curator + Conservator in Conversation – Quiddity public program

WHEN: Thursday, 7 July 2016

TIME:  5:30 PM to 6:30 PM

WHERE: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street Melbourne

BOOKINGS: Free. Book tickets

Quiddity & Light moves opens at RMIT Gallery

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Quiddity opening night RMIT Gallery 2016, photo by Vicki Jones Photography

Winter exhibition openings in Melbourne attract a dedicated crowd not afraid to brave the cold, wet weather.

We were charmed by the colorful coats and cheerful smiles worn by our enthusiastic audience who turned out on Thursday evening, 30 June to celebrate the opening of Light moves: Contemporary Australian Video Art and Quiddity.

Dr Gerard Vaughan AM, Director, National Gallery of Australia, flew down from Canberra to launch the travelling NGA exhibition Light moves, which includes a stunning work by RMIT alumni Christian Thompson.

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HEAT 2010, by Christian Thompson, Three channel digital video, sound, duration 5 minutes 52 seconds, collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Opening night image, Light moves at RMIT Gallery 2016. Photo by Vicki Jones Photography.

Light moves demonstrates NGA’s commitment both to celebrating the work of contemporary Australian artists and also to creating audiences for their work in Australia,” Dr Vaughan said.

“Visitors will be mesmerised by the exhibition’s images of bodies moving through space and also by the diversity of work by Australian artists of the highest calibre.”

RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies said the exhibition was a wonderful opportunity for students in particular to explore a diversity of screen-based work and see how artists use the medium to create poetic works that speak to their own personal interests and histories, as well as tell great stories.

Dr Nicole Tse, from The Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, The University of Melbourne, launched Quiddity, an exhibition she said was close to her heart, displaying as it did “the secret life of collections.”

Quiddity shows how collections come to life in a museum context as seen through the eyes of Arts Management students,” Dr Tse said.

“If we look closely at these works, they can tell us stories about how they have been stored and cared for, and their journey before they even came into a museum. Cracks in the canvas can reveal a history of a work being rolled up under someone’s bed, for instance.

“These secret lives are fascinating and are revealed in Quiddity.”


What: Quiddity and Light moves: Contemporary Australian Video Art

When: 1 July – 20 August 2016

Where: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Quiddity public programs:

Quiddity: Wednesday Lunchtime Guided Tours

In Conversation: Curators + Conservators

Quiddity Reading Group

Quiddity: Curator floor talk

Wrapping it Up – Quiddity Panel Discussion