• MONA - Museum of Old and New Art - Hobart (Courtesy of MONA - Moorilla Gallery)
As the world celebrates International Museum Day (IMD) on May 18, SBS Italian Radio spoke to expert Rose Lang to pick her favourite museum in each state and territory.
Virginia Padovese

18 May 2017 - 10:09 AM  UPDATED 18 May 2017 - 10:50 AM

Australia has a lot to offer in terms of art. SBS Italian asked Rose Lang, lecturer in Gallery and Museum Management at Melbourne's RMIT to choose one museum for each state and territory in Australia to accompany us in a journey to discover the best our country has to offer.

To draft her selection, she focused on 'Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums' which is this year's theme for International Museum Day.

"By choosing to say the unspeakable in museums, the theme of IMD 2017 encourages museums to play an active role in peacefully addressing traumatic histories through mediation and multiple points of view," says a spokesperson for the International Council of Museums, the organisation behind the event.

Queensland - QAGOMA - Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art

"QAGOMA changed the way museums engage with the public," says Ms Lang of her choice for the state of Queensland.

"Through their ground-breaking children's programs and the highly significant Asia Pacific Triennials they have immeasurably enriched the cultural engagement between Australia and its south-east Asian neighbours."

In the late 19th century, Queensland artists Isaac Walter Jenner and R. Godfrey Rivers successfully lobbied for the creation of a state art gallery, which opened as the Queensland National Art Gallery in 1895.

It occupied a series of temporary premises prior to the opening of its permanent home at Brisbane's South Bank in 1982.

The establishment of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in 1993 forged a focus on artwork of the region, and as an ongoing exhibition series the APT created a case for a second building to display growing contemporary collections. The Gallery of Modern Art opened in 2006, creating a two-campus institution.

Victoria - Islamic Museum of Australia

Rose Lang's pick for Victoria is the Islamic Museum in Thornbury: "It builds awareness, connections and curiosity - always at the heart of any good museum - about Islam, at a time when fear and ignorance are running riot."

The Islamic Museum of Australia is a not-for-profit foundation founded in May 2010 with the purpose of establishing the first Islamic Museum in Australia. It aims to showcase the rich artistic heritage and historical contributions of Muslims in Australia and abroad through the display of various artworks and historical artifacts.

Tasmania - MONA - Museum of Old and New Art

"It's a predictable choice," says Ms Lang of the 2011 addition to Australia's art landscape - Tasmania's MONA.

"MONA is inspiring as a museum with an anarchic, melodramatic and unapologetically partisan approach to contemporary art. Its liberating rock n' roll take on everything it does has made audiences and the gatekeepers of contemporary art question their assumptions about the fundamentals of making a museum and a few key things about looking at art. The anti-museum museum".

The Museum of Old and New Art is located on the Berriedale peninsula in Hobart and it is the largest privately funded museum in Australia. The museum presents antiquities, modern and contemporary art from the David Walsh collection who has described the museum as a "subversive adult Disneyland." 

New South Wales - White Rabbit Collection

"Kerr and Judith Neilson's collection of contemporary Chinese art brought together in a simple but beautiful building shows a snapshot of cutting edge contemporary Chinese art practice," says Lang.

"A forward-thinking collection where the passion is tangible and generously shared with the viewer".

The White Rabbit Gallery was opened in 2009 to showcase what has become one of the world’s most significant collections of Chinese contemporary art. Dedicated to works made in the 21st century, the White Rabbit Collection is owned by Judith Neilson, who was inspired to establish it on a 2001 trip to Beijing. She was thrilled by the creative energy and technical quality of the works she saw and wanted to share them with people outside China. She makes regular trips to China and Taiwan to augment the Collection, which by early 2016 included almost 2000 works by more than 500 artists.

Northern Territory - Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

Rose Lang's choice in the Northern Territory the Museum and Art gallery is steeped in Indigenous culture.

The museum is: "Located on Larrakia Land at Bullocky Point in Darwin, but the Fannie Bay Gaol in Darwin, the Museum of Central Australia (incorporating the Strehlow Research Centre) in Alice Springs, and the Alcoota Fossil Bed site north east of Alice Springs are also part of this cluster of museums which have a wonderful deep focus on ancient Indigenous culture and the history of the land itself. These museums find their central significance as sites of living Indigenous art and tradition".

The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) is the Northern Territory’s premier cultural organisation. It attracts over 300,000 visitors annually. Its vision is to be a world-class museum connecting people and stories of the Northern Territory, respecting and promoting Aboriginal culture, creating conversations across and between disciplines and being inclusive and accessible to a broad range of people.

Western Australia - The Art Gallery of Western Australia

"It has a unique relationship to the Asian Pacific Rim countries due to its location on the west coast of Australia," says Lang of her choice for Western Australia.

"It also has wonderful Indigenous collections some of which are available to view online. Small but intensely interesting."

The Art Gallery, founded on 31 July 1895, was opened by Sir Alexander Onslow. The foundation stone for the Beaufort Street wing of the Museum and Gallery was laid on 24 July 1901 by HRH the Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V).

Australian Capital Territory - National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

"Not the kind of museum that perhaps everyone first thinks of," says Lang of the National Film and Sound Archive, "but a museum of sound and images that is a treasure trove of the odd and the ordinary."

"Loved by many for its immense value as a research and reference tool, the online accessibility of (some) collection items means it has truly national reach for anyone with a laptop".

Established in 1984, with its roots dating back to the 1930s, the NFSA is Australia’s premier audiovisual archive and a place of engagement with Australian audiovisual production, past and present, for everyone. It is Australia’s ‘living’ archive and the custodian of over 2.3 million items that they not only collect, but preserve for future generations and share in many diverse ways.

South Australia - Samstag Museum

The Samstag Museum "continues the ancient museum tradition of education through a commitment to intellectual and cultural life," says Lang.

She adds: "Named after important philanthropists who have funded a significant international scholarship for Australian contemporary artists, its collections include works by Samstag Scholarship alumni as well as the Max Hart collections of Aboriginal Bark Paintings."

The Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art is one of the University of South Australia’s leading creative centres; its establishment, in 2007, reflects the University’s determination to make a dynamic contribution to the intellectual and cultural life of South Australia and to the Australian tertiary education sector.

A big thanks to Rose Lang for her comments and advice.