The Southern Highlands’ first art gallery. Ngununggula, will open to the public on 12 October. Meaning ‘belonging’ in the traditional language of the Gundungurra People, the gallery is located at a former dairy in Bowral and was redesigned by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer.
Director of Ngununggula, Megan Monte, says the lockdown-associated delays to the opening of the gallery have done little to taper the excitement of gallery staff and the local area.
“We’re so delighted that we can finally unveil Ngununggula to the public and begin this new chapter engaging with our local community and visitors. It’s been an unusual time to open a new gallery space but we’re so proud of what’s been achieved and can’t wait to welcome people in to experience the space and the beautiful works of both Tamara Dean and Megan Cope,” she says.
“The Southern Highlands already has such a vibrant creative community and through Ngununggula we aim to add to this and create a centre of arts and culture in the region available to everyone.”
Featuring four gallery spaces spanning the 712 sqm footprint of the building, with an added Entry Pavilion and an education space, Ngununggula will feature a program that represents the region and beyond through significant exhibitions, artist-led projects, live events, workshops, artist talks and public programs.
“I’ve been working on the concept of Ngununggula since 2017 and it’s so exciting to finally see this realised. We wanted to create a space to bring the community together with art and culture, and to give the Southern Highlands a hub for residents and visitors of all ages to access some of the most important artists of our time,” says Ngununggula Founder and artist Ben Quilty.
“It has taken a team of extraordinary people to pull this project together, and we acknowledge the generous support of the NSW Government through Create NSW, the Wingecarribee Shire Council and our wonderful donors. The world needs more artists, more thinkers, more activists and a gallery is the place to foster all of it.”
A series of newly commissioned photographs and sculptural installations created over the last 18 months by acclaimed Australian artist Tamara Dean will be featured throughout the gallery as part of its inaugural exhibition High Jinks in the Hydrangeas, on display until 12 December 2021. The exhibition offers a perspective of our collective experience of isolation and renewed appreciation of nature, with Dean using her surrounding environment of private gardens throughout the Southern Highlands as the focus of her photographic works.
A large-scale installation by Megan Cope will be situated in the entry pavilion. Cope’s work which will be on display for 12 months consists of a large-scale mapping piece, made in collaboration with local Gundungurra Elder Aunty Velma Mulcahy OAM and the broader Southern Highlands Aboriginal community. This is the first Entry Pavilion Commission, an annual initiative which speaks to the Gallery’s commitment to celebrating Gundungurra language and culture by inviting an Aboriginal artist or collective to work with the community to create a site-specific installation in Ngununggula's Entry Pavilion.
“From the beginning, Ngununggula set out to be a game-changer for the Southern Highlands, and I am proud that the NSW Government, through the Regional Cultural Fund, has played its part in bringing this visionary project to life,” says NSW Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin.
“With its beautiful setting, cultural heritage, and magnificent exhibitions Ngununggula will be a drawcard delivering significant economic benefits to the Southern Highlands through employment and tourism, along with its contribution to the vibrancy of the region’s arts and cultural life.”
Executive Director of the National Trust of Australia, NSW, Debbie Mills says it is wonderful to see the work of the Trust and Southern Highlands Regional Gallery.
“It’s fitting that Ngununggula ‘belonging’ will soon welcome visitors for all to enjoy. The Trust’s work in conserving and celebrating vibrant and authentic places is perfectly supported through the Southern Highlands Regional Gallery partnership. Ngununggula at Retford Park is a wonderful addition to carry on James Fairfax AC’s passion for art,” she says.
Lockdown has delayed construction on the gallery café Hearth, which will now open in November 2021. For more information regarding the gallery, visit ngununggula.com.