Australia’s huge new Bushland Art Museum opens on the NSW south coast this month

During the catastrophic bushfire season in the summer of 2019-20, flames encroached on Bundanon and Riversdale, the 1,100 hectare properties that were gifted to the Australian public by artist Arthur Boyd and his wife Yvonne Boyd in 1993. Located in the Shoalhaven region on the south coast of New South Wales, the heritage listed sites were thankfully saved, as was the art collection they contain – and now they are all part of the sprawling new Australian bush gallery.

The Bundanon Art Museum was first announced in 2018, with construction starting in early 2020. On Saturday January 29, it will finally open its doors to the public. The 500 square meter purpose-built structure will feature contemporary and First Nations art throughout the year, beginning with the opening exhibition From impulse to action, which is all about the creative energy of experimentation. And yes, works by Boyd are part of the program.

The venue will host three seasons each year, drawing from its $46.5 million on-site collection of approximately 4,000 items, as well as new commissions. When not on display, the museum’s pieces are kept in a secure storage facility, which is part of its “environmentally friendly gallery of the future” design by Kerstin Thompson Architects, and meets all the challenges posed by its location and changing climate into consideration.

Another highlight is The Bridge, the 160 meter long by nine meter wide structure that doubles as a learning center and spans the existing ravine on the sloping side of the property. In addition to teaching and rest areas, it offers accommodation for up to 64 people, as well as cafes and restaurants. And views, too, of the Shoalhaven River – because seeing the scenery is as much of a goal here as experiencing the art.

This restaurant, the Ramox Cafe, will serve seasonal menus using paddock-to-plate ingredients and produce sourced from the Shoalhaven region. As for drinks, expect sips from local wineries and breweries, keeping the local spirit alive.

Built near existing 19th-century buildings on the site, the new art museum and bridge also share a public plaza as part of the $34 million project. The windows that frame the artwork with glimpses of the natural splendor outside are also an important feature – and, in addition to responding to its surroundings, including making the bridge a flood infrastructure that will always allow water to circulate naturally through the property, everything runs on solar energy.

As for this important art collection, it spans over 1,300 works by Arthur Boyd himself, as well as pieces by Pablo Picasso, Francisco Goya and Brett Whiteley.

When the Boyds gave the rural site to the Australian public over a quarter of a century ago, Bundanon and Riversdale became a haven for creativity, the arts and education, and remained a working farm. It all remains the same now that the Bundanon Art Museum opens – just with the new addition built into the hillside.

The Bundanon Art Museum opens on Saturday January 29 at 170 Riversdale Road, Illaroo, New South Wales. For more information, visit the hotel’s website.

Images: Zan Wimberley.

Posted on January 17, 2022 by

Sarah Ward


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