Arts Flashback

To celebrate Arts Victoria's 40th anniversary we've hit the archives
and uncovered some choice moments in the development of
Victoria's arts sector.

Click on the images below to view the stories and photo galleries, share them with others, and find out how Victoria grew to be the arts and cultural powerhouse it is today.


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Bell-bottoms, handlebar moustaches, platform shoes, our daring approach to fashion (and facial hair) belied an era of serious social change and political drama in 1970s Australia.

We scrapped the White Australia Policy and welcomed an era of multiculturalism. Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.

We had more leisure time that ever before. Norm coaxed us off the couch with Life. Be in it and we got fit. But when we weren't out BMXing, ten-pin bowling or roller-skating, we were listening to Skyhooks and Sherbet, tuning into the new world of FM radio, and watching Number 96 on our brand new colour TVs.

Here in Victoria, a creative community of artists, craftspeople, theatre-makers and musicians were laying the foundation of the mighty independent arts sector we enjoy today.

Premier Rupert Hamer put the arts firmly on the Government's agenda with the creation of Australia's first state Ministry for the Arts. Its first priorities? Getting the construction of Southbank's Arts Centre complex moving, creating a chain of regional performing arts centres, and bringing art out into the public.

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ACCA, Gallery 1, August-September 1987
ACCA, Gallery 1, August-September 1987


ACCA established

The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art was established by the Ministry for the Arts in November 1983 to provide a forum for contemporary art and artists. A Victorian-era building in the Domain, South Yarra, was made available, an interim committee was established and John Buckley was appointed inaugural director.


When the Centre was officially opened in September 1984, it became Melbourne's major venue for the exhibition of contemporary international and Australian art. It encouraged innovation and experimentation in the visual arts, offering solo, group and theme exhibitions, performances, forums, lectures and publications.

Early exhibitions included: work by Australian artist Imants Tillers following his exhibition at the 1986 Venice Biennale; New York artist Keith Haring; and The Naked Image – The Nude in Recent Australian Photography.

Strong private sponsorship underpinned the Centre's work. In February 1987, a striking, green-and-white-striped extension to the original building was opened. It was designed by architect Daryl Jackson and named the Lotti Smorgon Gallery.

In the early 1990s a project was proposed to relocate ACCA, together with Playbox Theatre Company, to a new contemporary arts precinct in Southbank. In 2002 this was realised, with ACCA moving into its current distinctive rust-red home, designed by Wood Marsh architects, on Sturt Street, alongside what is now Malthouse Theatre, and contemporary dance company, Chunky Move.

With the new building came a new leadership team – executive director, Kay Campbell and artistic director, Juliana Engberg – and an ambition to be at the forefront of the international contemporary art scene.

Since then ACCA has grown into one of the most significant and revered contemporary art spaces in Australia, with an international reputation for presenting important new art from both Australia and overseas. Its focus continues to be on creating opportunities for artists, and since 2002 it has commissioned 359 new works.

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