Dexion supplied its storage and racking solutions to the Bendigo Art Gallery to help store the gallery’s large collection of exhibits.

The largest and one of the oldest regional galleries in Australia, Bendigo Art Gallery was established in 1887 and has over time, become a major cultural hub for the region with art exhibitions that draw visitors from across Australia and the world.

The Gallery has continually expanded their collection to include nearly 5000 exhibits comprising of paintings, sculptures, work on paper, multimedia, indigenous works, decorative arts, furniture, and historical documents.

Prior to their recent renovations and implementation of a dedicated storage space using Dexion’s racking solutions, the Gallery was forced to house much of its collection in storage in Melbourne, with less than 40% of the collection accessible at the Gallery at any one time.

According to Bendigo Art Gallery’s Collections Manager Sandra Bruce, having outgrown their existing space, the gallery was forced to store part of their collection at a commercial facility in Melbourne, which was not only costly and inefficient but also potentially damaging to the artworks. Requests for access to artworks by researchers and academics also could not be met because most of the collection was in storage.

A fundraising effort in 2010 through the City of Greater Bendigo was able to raise sufficient finances for a new gallery wing and a dedicated storage area on site that would have enough space to store all of the gallery’s collection in one place. Between the State Government and the City of Greater Bendigo, the gallery was able to secure almost $8M in funding for the expansion, with additional philanthropic funding contributed by the gallery’s Board.

According to Bruce, a major focus of the renovation was not only to add new gallery space but also improve their back of house operations through a new purpose built store room. Having worked with Dexion in a previous role, she knew they had a track record of delivering systems for museums and galleries.

After analysing and cataloguing the gallery’s collection, Bruce approached Dexion to discuss suitable storage and racking products. In consultation with Dexion, Bruce identified the most appropriate art racking storage solutions for housing each of the collection’s elements, as well as drafting a proposed floor plan for the architects incorporating Dexion’s storage solutions.

Once the project was confirmed, the City of Greater Bendigo commissioned Melbourne architectural firm Fender Katsalidis Architects to design the new wing and storage space. Andrew Walter, Architect and Project Manager at Fender Katsalidis for the Bendigo Art Gallery project, also approached Dexion for assistance with the design.

Even the architects had worked with Dexion before and knew that they were one of the top rung suppliers for museum and art gallery storage solutions. According to Walter, they brainstormed with Dexion combining the gallery’s brief incorporating Dexion products and a suggested floor plan with their own ideas based on the architects’ previous experience on MONA (Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art), working out the finer details in terms of the layout and how to fit the racking into the space.

Walter explained that there were six columns required in the storage space, and the design had to work with the columns, ensuring sufficient space and circulation for accessing the racking.

Owen Lewis, Dexion’s State Sales Manager for Victoria and Tasmania confirmed that Walter sought special information regarding mobile art racking and Dexion responded with comprehensive information about their solutions as well as advice on space planning for the gallery’s new storage area.

Walter’s team collaborated with Dexion’s teams in Melbourne and Sydney to work out where the racking would go in relation to the columns, the collective weight of the racking and exhibits, and how much horizontal and vertical space the racking, particularly the mobile art racking, would use.

Walter believes Dexion’s reputation as a market leader in storage solutions for museums and galleries was a major advantage during the project. He explained that Dexion’s excellent knowledge base helped them make informed design decisions. He added that they would definitely call upon the storage specialists again in future projects thanks to their knowledge and experience with international quality standards for galleries.

In August 2013, the City of Greater Bendigo completed their analysis of the six bids competing for the tender and awarded the contract to Dexion on the basis of their mobile art racking solution, which was the most efficient solution for the space with their price also tailored to the gallery’s budget.

To store the approximately 5000 artworks, including paintings with frames in a variety of sizes, weights and depths as well as unusually shaped sculptures and other works, the bid included longspan shelving, flat file cabinets, mobile and wall mounted art racking and a multi-bay Compactus system.

While the collection at the gallery is predominately fine art, they also have decorative arts and furniture as well, in addition to sculptures, painting, works on paper, a little bit of textiles as well as ceramics. The gallery needed a storage solution that would be as user-friendly as possible.

The solution provided by Dexion included two Single Entry Bay units of Dexion Ultima longspan shelving as well as two Double Entry Bay units of Ultima longspan shelving. Longspan shelving features wide and long shelves, suitable for big, bulky heavy objects that are loaded and unloaded by hand. Longspan shelving is perfect for the unique sculptures and artefacts that are part of the gallery’s collection.

Dexion also supplied 18 flat file cabinets to efficiently manage the historical documents and unframed artworks that are part of Bendigo Art Gallery’s collection. Measuring 1.4 metres wide by 0.9 metres deep with five shelves, the cabinets are arranged in six columns three cabinets high to make the best use of the available space. Thanks to these cabinets, the Gallery has 90 extra drawers for housing these important objects, which can now be accessed easily by staff to support enquiries from researchers.

Dexion also specified a mobile art racking solution, which includes a mixture of nested and unnested art racking using movable steel mesh panels to store paintings of various sizes, shapes and weights, while maximising the use of the available space.

The nested racking, which is more compact, consists of 3m high by 2.5m deep single sided powder coated steel mesh panels that are fixed at each end of a 25-metre span, coupled with 26 double sided mobile panels that can be moved manually from side to side to access the paintings. Paintings can be hung anywhere on the steel mesh of the panels.

The unnested racking has the same fixed panels at the ends and 17 double sided hanging art rack panels in the middle. According to Lewis, the integration of both nested and unnested mobile art racking for the Bendigo Art Gallery project was quite unique with Dexion’s solution catering to both deep framed older artworks as well as the shallower, lighter frames for more modern artworks.

Dexion recommended their multi-bay Compactus unit solution to store and secure small sculptural works. Lewis explained that the Compactus is Dexion’s most compact solution similar to longspan shelving but with lighter items, and is ideal for storing bulky and awkwardly shaped items. With a smaller footprint, the Compactus does not take up as much space as longspan shelving. The gallery now stores the smaller 3D objects in their collection in the Compactus.

The multi-bay Compactus unit supplied by Dexion to the Bendigo Art Gallery is quite large, measuring 10 bays long by 5 bays deep. The Compactus works by moving the bays from side to side to create an aisle at any one time between two of the bays. This is a great way for the gallery to access a large volume of storage space without taking up a lot of floor space. The Compactus at the gallery comprises of 300 separate storage compartments with a total storage area of 360 metres within an 8 metre wide by 6 metre deep space.

Dexion began installing its storage solutions in the new gallery’s underground storage space towards the end of 2013, working closely with the gallery and the Council during the implementation and completing the storage room by the deadline in early 2014. The Gallery then transferred their collection into the storeroom, including relocating all of the artworks from Melbourne, which enabled them to install an extensive exhibition in time for the grand unveiling of the new eight-gallery wing on 15 March 2014.

Dexion’s Lewis concluded that the installation of the storage and racking solutions now allows the gallery to continue expanding its collection and raise its regional and international profile. The storage products make maximum use of the space as well as greatly improve the speed and efficiency with which the Gallery can retrieve and store items.

Bendigo Art Gallery’s Bruce added that she had a great experience working with Dexion, especially for their ability to provide a complete solution from advice, feedback and problem solving to product supply. She will not hesitate to work with Dexion again for any future storage requirement.