On collections

12 07 2010

As I wrote in a recent post on the NGV, I have been thinking about the place of collections and museums/galleries. I’ve been thinking of how many places have jewellery (contemporary or otherwise) collections in Melbourne and which of these are available for public viewing (either by physical admission or appointment, or online/virtually). The list I’ve made so far is below, but I’d really appreciate any additions you have so please feel free to leave comments.

> Public collections

  • National Gallery Victoria (NGV) International and Ian Potter Centre; government (ie. tax-payer) owned institution; selection from jewellery collections from various curatorial departments on open (free admission) display; selected items sometimes incorporated in special exhibitions (eg. Fashion in time of Jane Austen)
  • Melbourne Museum; government (ie. tax-payer) owned institution; while not charged with a remit to collect contemporary jewellery, my reading of their website is that this institution holds a significant collection of indigenous cultures, and it could be expected that this would include artefacts of body adornment
  • I thought that the following public museums may have some jewellery, but I couldn’t find any reference to such on their website (and haven’t seen any in my personal visits), so for now assume they do not hold any: Old Treasury Building / Gold Treasury Museum, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Heide Museum of Modern Art
  • perhaps local councils (eg. City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection) and regional/local art galleries – are there any that have a jewellery focus?
  • Monash University Museum Gallery; though I cannot tell if this has any from the collection page the extent of any jewellery collection – can anyone tell me?
  • Craft Australia (though not strictly Melbourne-based) has a collection of images available online (and are seeking donations to continue this work); my understanding is that the organisation has ownership of the images (not the original objects), and it belongs in this discussion because access to artwork may be extended from the physical access to virtual/online access too.

> Acquisitive Awards

  • RMIT: Gold & Silversmithing students are eligible for a number of awards during the undergraduate and postgraduate degrees (2009 listing here; 2007 here), the below ones are acquisitive and therefore the pieces awarded must exist somewhere in a collection… do these collections all form part of the RMIT University Art Collection? Other than the W.E.McMillan collection, has anyone ever seen any exhibitions of these collections?

    > W.E.McMillan Collection, part of the RMIT University Art Collection (the responsibility of the RMIT Gallery); a collection built up from (usually annual) acquisitive awards for current RMIT students, dating back to 1961; there was an exhibition of selected works in 2008 [link]; although when I search the RMIT website for this award, it seems that it is no longer offered/current

    > Don Begbie acquisitive award for excellence in gold and silversmithing

    > Klepners award for limited series jewellery

    > Kathlyn (Kate) Harris fashion jewellery award

    > Ernst Fries silversmithing award in second yea

    > Wolf Wennrich award for gold and silversmithing (he taught at the Gold and Silversmithing Department at RMIT from 1963 until the 1980’s

    > Emily Hope Prize for figurative work

    > further, there are postgraduate prized offered by Diana Morgan and Ronnie Bauer (owner of Klepners) – though I am unsure if these are acquisitive

    > prizes I understand not to be acquisitive are those offered by Koodak and Debbie Sheezel; there is a new prize offered by Maggie Fairweather and I am unsure if it acquires or not

  • Other degree acquisitions: I had a look online and couldn’t find that NMIT or Monash or Box Hill have acquisitive awards, but perhaps there are some but just not detailed on the interwebs – please let me know if you know of any.
  • Acquisitive Awards: I would include BUDA and Toowoomba Contemporary Wearables (cared for by the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery) among these types of non-university acquisitive awards, and I am sure there are many. Are there any based in Melbourne? Perhaps Gallery Funaki has commenced a collection based on the 2008 and 2006 International Award; are there any others?

> Private Collections

  • Private individuals: there are a handful of Melbourne-based jewellery lovers who I would certainly define as collectors (think Diana Morgan, perhaps Lee Lin Chin) … I have been thinking about interviewing or at least having an informal discussion with some of these lovers of contemporary jewellery, and would welcome suggestions on who may fit this description – please do leave a comment or email me! What happens to their collections, have any considered exhibiting?
  • Corporations: while large private corporations have a history of collecting artworks, these do tend to be ‘traditional’ in that they are usually two-dimensional works for hanging in offices and board rooms (paintings, drawings, prints, tapestries) and sculpture; I would be very surprised if any corporate collections extend to jewellery, though perhaps some to have objects created by jewellers/metalsmiths?

> Retail spaces / Galleries: while not strictly ‘collections’, retail spaces and galleries could certainly be considered a place for makers and interested people to see a survey of jewellery tastes and techniques (see my ‘Links’ page for links to retail galleries and spaces), however for the purposes of this kind of discussion, I don’t really consider them ‘collections’.

While looking for potential holders of collections, I found the Collections Australia Network, which lists various collecting bodies. It is certainly a very long list, and I have yet to wade my way through it to discover any that may add to the above discussion.

So, what’s the point of all of the above? After researching and writing it, I can see three things I’d like to explore further and seek general opinion on:

  • a list of all public institutions with collections of jewellery (contemporary or historic) in Melbourne; with the hope to extend this to a national listing at a future point
  • to ask/answer the questions: what can be done to make significant acquisition and private jewellery collections come into the public domain? perhaps even a kind of restricted access, like an online catalogue or an exhibition every few years? [I’d especially like to understand more about the extent, conservation and exhibition of the RMIT collections]
  • to connect with a private collector(s) who would like to share their story about collecting works and what they hope will happen with their collection in the future.

What are your thoughts?



6 responses

12 07 2010

Hi Karen,

Thanks heaps, once again, for all the info you bring us.

I don’t have much knowledge to add to what you’ve already said about the Australian collections and museums, but have been impressed by the jewellery collections (both contemporary and historical) and their physical and virtual presentation at the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) in New York. I’d love to see something similar here – the Powerhouse in Sydney has excellent image archives but mainly on objects.

MAD have regular exhibitions highlighting parts of their collections, and very good online facilities, with added notes, to view and learn more about the pieces they own. In addition to actual jewellery, they also have acquired sketches from prominent jewellers; I was amazed to be able to see some of Herman Junger’s original drawings, right there in a drawer below the work, when visiting back in 2009. At the time, they were exhibiting the “highlights of their contemporary jewellery collection”.

Here’s a link to their online archives which include also very recent, contemporary acquisitions:


And this will take you to their current silver jewellery exhibition…


which the MAD website describes as follows:
“Collectors Daniel and Serga Nadler have assembled a unique collection of silver jewelry from around the world, including massive neck ornaments, anklets, bracelets, complex earrings, and a wide variety of brooches and fibulae. Portable Treasuries: Silver Jewelry from the Nadler Collection, on view from February 16 to August 8, 2010, showcases selections from the Nadler Collection. The exhibition will present approximately 150 works, from North Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and the hill tribes of Southeast Asia …”

Thanks again Karen for your brilliant posts.

PS. If you search the MAD website, remember to spell jewellery as “jewelry”, the American way – if you don’t, 0 results will come up : D

12 07 2010
Caz Guiney

Great initiative. Years ago I took some students to the Diamond Valley library where the City of Banyule had stored some of it’s jewellery and object collection. Amongst it were a Mari Funaki and a Marion Hosking from the 90’s. Somewhere I have a small catalogue, I will see if I can find it. Below is all I could find on their website.

The City of Banyule Art Collection has over 400 works including paintings, works on paper, jewellery/metalworks, ceramics, glass, textiles and sculpture.

Artworks are displayed in Council Service Centres, public buildings such as libraries, schools, the Banyule Community Health Service and Bundoora Extended Care.


13 07 2010

I believe that there is an Ernst Fries award at Monash too, but I’m unsure as to any other details – whether it’s acquisitive I don’t know.

As part of Buda is The Arts Centre acquisitive award. We were told the story behind the award at the opening of the touring exhibition at The Arts Centre last year (so sorry I’m a little low on detail), but it is to complement a collection of silver objects/vessels donated to the Arts Centre by a couple. From what our host said, it seemed to be an ‘out of the blue’ inheritance. From memory I think they also left cash to sponsor an award, and the Arts Centre, not having a lot of knowledge on such matters, acted on advice to add their award to the Buda schedule.

So somewhere The Arts Centre has a collection, but what it is, and what state it’s in…?

It’s great to see someone locally thinking about and reaching out to collectors. And just a day later the AJF blog has posted on a similar theme http://www.artjewelryforum.org/blog/ . Following on from the likes of Drutt it would be so interesting to see where all the work in private hands in Australia might go.

13 07 2010

Thank you for the comments Melissa, Caz and Inari … perhaps I need to add another page to the blog for an evolving listing… will give it some thought about how best to capture this all.
Also, I will hopefully soon be chatting with someone ‘in the know’ about the RMIT collections … so hopefully will have more to share in the near future.

20 08 2010
On collections, continued « Melbourne Jeweller

[…] 20 08 2010 Last month I wrote about private collections, and especially wanted to know more about the collection formed from the many acquisitive awards at […]

15 05 2015
RMIT Art Collection Online | Melbourne Jeweller

[…] 12Jul10 : On collections […]

%d bloggers like this: