WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following article contains the name of a deceased Yorta Yorta person.
Situated on the lands of the Yorta Yorta people, the Shepparton Art Museum (affectionately known as SAM) has opened a magnificent $50 million centre just two hours’ drive north of Melbourne. Although the museum’s collection was established in 1936 and now contains 4,000 unique items, this is the first time that the works have been brought together in one building specifically designed to showcase them at their best.
Designed by acclaimed local architects Denton Corker Marshall, the firm behind the Melbourne Museum and the Stonehenge Exhibition Centre in the UK, SAM is deeply embedded in the surrounding landscape of Greater Shepparton. The towering cube-like structure has a rich, ochre-red façade, a reference to the surrounding red river gums and river plain, while multi-storey windows bring the stunning views indoors, embracing the connection between nature, people, and culture that features in many of the works in the museum’s extensive Aboriginal art collection. Set to be a community and cultural hub for the Greater Shepparton region, the new building contains a huge number of exhibition spaces, as well as Kaiela Arts (Shepparton’s local Aboriginal art centre), an outdoor amphitheatre, the Shepperton Visitors’ Information Centre, and an airy café that overlooks Victoria Park Lake.
We are proud to be putting Shepparton on the cultural map and to contribute to radically changing this unique part of regional Victoria.
SAM launched their new space with nine free exhibitions spanning the collection’s extensive range of media, including ceramics, paintings, photography, and large-scale installations. One of the central displays is a major retrospective on late Yorta Yorta artist Lin Onus, particularly notable for being the first exhibition of Onus’ work on his own Country. Titled Lin Onus: The Land Within, the exhibition features a mix of his paintings, prints, and sculptures that ‘meld Western-inspired photorealism with traditional Aboriginal imagery and patterning’ to explore the impact of colonisation on the land and First Nations people. Other standout works include Anne-Marie May’s Everything Joyful is Mobile, made from large, brightly coloured acrylic sheets suspended from knotted ropes in the atrium, a video installation about movement by Amrita Hepi in the Children’s Gallery, and dozens of watercolours by iconic Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira and his extended family.
From nature lovers to abstract thinkers, the Shepperton Art Museum has something for every art lover to find wonder in. Open every day over summer except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, it’s a great way to get out of the city – and if you can’t yet make the trip in person, a significant portion of SAM’s collection has been made available online!
If you liked this feature, you might enjoy reading about The Nomadic Art Gallery, bringing art from Aotearoa New Zealand to Europe.