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Australia's Huge New Bushland Art Museum Is Opening on the NSW South Coast This Month

Sprawling over 500 square metres alongside a 160-metre-long bridge that doubles as a learning centre, the Bundanon Art Museum will showcase contemporary and First Nations art year-round.
By Sarah Ward
January 17, 2022
By Sarah Ward
January 17, 2022

During the catastrophic bushfire season over the summer of 2019–20, flames encroached on Bundanon and Riversdale, the 1100-hectare properties that were gifted to the Australian public by by artist Arthur Boyd and his wife Yvonne Boyd back in 1993. Located in the Shoalhaven region on the New South Wales south coast, the heritage-listed sites were thankfully saved, as was the art collection within them — and now they're all part of Australia's sprawling new bushland gallery.

The Bundanon Art Museum was first announced back in 2018, with construction starting in early 2020. Come Saturday, January 29, it'll finally opening its doors to the public. The purpose-built, 500-square-metre structure will showcase contemporary and First Nations art year-round, starting with 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 onsite collection of around 4000 items, plus new commissions. When they're not on display, the museum's pieces are housed in a safe storage facility, which is part of its 'environmentally prepared gallery-of-the-future' design by Kerstin Thompson Architects, and takes all of the challenges posed by its location and the changing climate into consideration.

Also a highlight: The Bridge, the 160-metre-long by nine-metres-wide structure that doubles as a learning centre, and spans over the existing gully on the property's sloping hillside. As well as teaching and break-out spaces, it features accommodation for up to 64 guests, plus cafe and dining facilities. And views, too, taking in the Shoalhaven River — because seeing the scenery is as much an aim here as checking out art.

That eatery, Ramox Cafe, will serve up seasonal menus that hero paddock-to-plate ingredients and source produce from the Shoalhaven region. Drinks-wise, expect sips from local wineries and breweries, continuing the local mindset.

Built near the site's existing nineteenth century buildings, the new art museum and bridge also share a public plaza as part of the $34 million project. Windows that frame the artwork with glimpses of the natural splendour outside are also a big feature — and, as well as responding to its surroundings, including by making The Bridge a piece of flood infrastructure that'll still allow water to flow naturally across the property, it's all solar-powered.

As for that hefty art collection, if spans around more than 1300 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 back more than a quarter-century ago, Bundanon and Riversdale became a haven for creativity, arts and education, and remained a working farm. That's all staying the same now that Bundanon Art Museum is opening — just with the new addition built into the hillside.

Bundanon Art Museum opens on Saturday, January 29 at 170 Riversdale Road, Illaroo, New South Wales. For further information, visit the venue's website.

Images: Zan Wimberley.

Published on January 17, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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