BALLARAT mayor Mark Harris says Bendigo’s success in hosting the popular Grace Kelly: Style Icon exhibition highlights the need to establish a dedicated exhibition space in our city.
About 80,000 visitors have already attended the popular exhibition of fashion and accessories worn by the movie star-turned princess at the Bendigo Art Gallery.
The Art Gallery of Ballarat — which did not bid for the exhibition — was one of a number of galleries considered not suitable. It was awarded to Bendigo because it had the “experience, philosophy and facilities” to host such exhibitions.
Cr Harris said it spoke of the city’s lack of a dedicated exhibition space — a role the Art Gallery of Ballarat, with its core focus on visual arts, should not be required to fill.
He said it was all the more reason to push for an exhibition space in the planned Eureka sports precinct upgrade or Civic Hall site.
“In an ideal world you’d have an art gallery speaking to an arts audience, and you’d have another space for those sorts of exhibitions,” he said.
Ballarat Regional Tourism (BRT) director George Sossi said Ballarat’s lack of a multipurpose exhibition space was certainly a weakness.
He said such a space would allow Ballarat to collectively go out and seek exhibitions and events.
But Mr Sossi said BRT also would continue its discussions with art gallery board about the benefits of more populist exhibitions.
“The broader the offerings we can make, the more potential we have in bringing additional visitors here,” he said.
Art Gallery of Ballarat director Gordon Morrison said exhibitions which featured great art — rather than celebrity photos or dresses — were going to be the gallery’s increasing focus into the future.
Mr Morrison said the recent Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton attracted 12,200 visitors to Ballarat, with 10,000 visiting by the Easter long weekend.
Mr Morrison said it was incorrect to say that Ballarat was “overlooked to host” the Grace Kelly exhibition because the Art Gallery of Ballarat chose not to bid for it when the V&A made it available for touring.
Andrew Cannon, Honorary Consul of Monaco, last week told The Courier he advised the collection’s owners, the Grimaldi Forum, that Bendigo had the experience, philosophy and facilities to stage the show from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum — setting it ahead of Ballarat and metropolitan centres.
Mr Cannon said he held Ballarat’s arts community in high regard, but considered Bendigo the obvious choice.