Some might suggest Bluey’s success was the death knell for the Griffith University Art Museum. GUAM, as it’s known in the art world, looks set to close soon along with its accompanying South Bank Studio to free up space for the university’s film students.
Pro-Vice chancellor (Arts Education and Law) Professor Scott Harrison says visitor numbers for GUAM have dwindled in recent years while film student enrolments are going gangbusters and the success of Bluey, the creation of former student Joe Brumm, has something to do with that.
“The success of Bluey is a factor in the increased numbers of Griffith Film School students,” Professor Harrison says. “And then Lachlan Pendragon, another Griffith student, was nominated for an Oscar this year for his short film An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It. These things have an effect.”
Part of that effect will almost certainly be the closure of GUAM to make way for film students who are in a temporary space at West End until mid-2024.
Professor Harrison says it’s a difficult decision and agreed there was a bit of “angst” around that decision,
“I’d say there’s a lot of angst which is fair enough,” he says. “I didn’t want to close it but we have to make space for the film school students. We’re in a formal consultation process with staff to be completed by December 15. Goodbye doesn’t mean forever though.
“We are looking at the possibility of relocating it to our CBD campus when that opens in a few years or we’d love a generous donor to step in with a new location.”
Professor Harrison says the university’s extensive art collection, most of which is displayed in various Griffith University campuses, will continue to be shown and the student gallery spaces at South Bank will remain. Artists booked to exhibit next year will be given as much notice as possible of the changes and appropriate action taken with respect to their contracts.
University Art Museums are traditionally important in the intellectual life of a city and the QUT Art Museum and UQ Art Museum made up a trio of top-notch galleries along with GUAM although visitor numbers are relatively low for all of them.
But one senior arts industry figure told us it was the business of universities to support and promote art, including the art of graduating students and that it was travesty that GUAM would be closing.
GUAM has flown under the radar much of the time although it heads the headlines nationally in 2019 when a public furore erupted over the display of a painting of the Virgin Mary cradling a penis by sometimes controversial artist Juan Davila. The Catholic Church and other Christian groups mounted a campaign to shut down the exhibition which went ahead regardless.
GUAM has exhibited the work of a range of emerging and established artists including Ben Quilty.
Professor Harrison says anyone seeking more answers can refer to the museum’s website for more information on the proposed closure which seems imminent.
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