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.


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 Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.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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World Congress Centre interior. Artist: Elizabeth Gower
World Congress Centre interior. Artist: Elizabeth Gower


World Congress Centre Art

In the 1980s the Victorian Government earmarked a site between the World Trade Centre and Spencer Street for a facility that would include a hotel, an exhibition hall and a conference centre. And more than 70 artworks!


The Art and Major Buildings Program was developed by the Ministry for the Arts to improve the built and natural environments, and provide opportunities for the employment of artists, designers and craftspeople. The initial project for this program in 1989 was the commissioning and purchase of over 70 works of art for the new World Congress Centre, with a budget of $500,000.

Site-specific works at the World Congress Centre included a major glass work for the Atrium by Maureen Cahill; a sculpture installation by Guiseppe Romeo; a large-scale painting in the curved escalator enclosure by Elisabeth Gower; and the design of a 30-metre loading bay grille by Alex Selenitsch. Purchased works included paintings by Jan Senbergs, Lin Onus, Ginger Riley, Stephen Bush and David Larwill; photography by Mark Strizic, John Cato and Rosalind Drummond; original prints by Marie McMahon, Jan Davis, Elisabeth Milsom and John Olsen; and drawings by Pam Hallandahl and Craig Gough.

In 1991 the Melbourne Cricket Club announced the first of a number of artworks to be commissioned as part of the $150 million redevelopment of the Southern Stand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). $700,000 was allocated for art to be spent in three areas – an historical and memorabilia display; a major external sculpture; and a series of art works within the building.

Melbourne artist Anthony Pryor won the commission with his 19-metre high, steel sculpture, The Legend. Unfortunately Pryor did not live to see the work take pride of place at the entrance to the Southern Stand. He died in 1991, aged 40, shortly before the sculpture was installed.

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