Chaos & Order: 120 years of collecting at RMIT

For the first time in 120 years RMIT is presenting a survey exhibition sourced entirely from its permanent art collection, more than half of which has never been shared with the public before.

Chaos & Order: 120 years of collecting at RMIT (13 April–9 June) at RMIT Gallery showcases a wide range of Australian and international art by some of Australia’s most influential contemporary artists, such as Howard Arkley, Polly Borland, Emily Floyd, Sam Jinks, Reko Rennie, Helga Groves, Yhonnie Scarce, Christian Thompson, Kawita Vatanajyankur, and Ah Xian.

Prominent turn of the century paintings by Hugh Ramsey and Rupert Bunny also feature as well as important works from the W.E. McMillan Collection, an unparalleled chronicle of developments in gold and silversmithing over the last 50 years.


RMIT alumnus Kawita Vatanajyankur transforms her body into a tool. The Scale of Justice (2015). Image courtesy of the artist. Acquisition RMIT Art Collection.


The RMIT Art Collection is a testament to the skill, workmanship and innovation of RMIT alumni, who rank among the most highly-regarded artists the country has produced. Many of Australia’s great modern artists taught or trained at RMIT, including Robert Jacks, Inge King, Jan Senbergs, George Johnson and Roger Kemp.

RMIT’s print room, founded by Tate Adams, also played host to renowned artists John Brack, George Baldessin, John Olsen and Jock Clutterbuck.

However, the majority of the collection, valued at over $9 million, has been kept in storage, offices and meeting rooms, or is on loan to other museums and galleries.

Chaos & Order aims to bring together more than 130 works in the collection to celebrate its range and diversity, featuring artists who work in different mediums, engage in diverse narratives, and have distinctive histories and identities.

Curator Jon Buckingham says that collections are often used as tools for institutions to define themselves.

The intended purpose of the RMIT Art Collection is to tell the story of the university, its ideals and aspirations. However Buckingham also sees the RMIT Art Collection as “a window into the university’s unconscious – its aspirations, inspirations and creativity; but also its ego, its neuroses, its bitter disputes and rivalries.”

Chaos & Order seeks to embrace the ‘chaos and order’ inherent in art collections by encouraging audiences to engage with the artworks through a broad set themes and overlapping categories, rather than providing a definitive narrative that accurately traces the evolution of artistic style, thought and technique across decades and generations,” Buckingham said.

While the collection represents a living archive of the University’s creative endeavours, students seldom have the chance to directly benefit from working with it. In order to rectify this Buckingham worked with six students from RMIT’s MA Arts Management course to form the central vision for the exhibition, which will showcase Australia’s first dedicated sound art collection, and new installations by Reko Rennie.


What: Chaos & Order: 120 years of collecting at RMIT

When: 13 April–9 June

Where: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne


For interviews and general media enquiries: Evelyn Tsitas, RMIT Gallery

(03) 9925 1716


Image: Jill Orr, Southern Cross – To Bear and Behold, 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.


Polly Borland, Untitled (Nick Cave wearing a blue wig)

Exhibition 13 Apr 2018 – 9 Jun 2018

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