We take a look back at a quarter century inside this fantastic local cultural icon, from humble beginnings to housing an esteemed collection based on the nation’s oldest local government art prize.

On 11 December 2023, Mosman Art Gallery, one of Sydney’s leading cultural institutions, celebrated the 25th anniversary of its opening. Officially opened by His Excellency the Honourable Sir William Deane, AC, KBE Governor-General of Australia in 1998, the Gallery has enjoyed an enviable reputation for excellence in its program of visual art exhibitions and associated activities.

mosman art gallery
Governor General William Deane (left) with Mayor Jim Reid in 1998

Over the last 25 years the Gallery has been a place of connection for the community and beyond, with over 1.5 million people visiting since it opened its doors. Mosman Art Gallery has provided valuable experiences which have enriched and inspired the local community, through more than 350 exhibitions, as well as countless public and education programs, and the Mosman Art Collection.

John Cheeseman, Director of Mosman Art Gallery, reflected recently:

“It is extraordinary when you reflect on how Mosman Art Gallery has become one of the great success stories of culture in Australia. While firmly linked to our community, the Gallery team has built a reputation second to none and we continue to be recognised nationally for the quality and scope of our work. Over the past 25 years the Gallery has won over twenty national and international awards. And at the same time, the community remains at the heart of what we do – telling local stories, reflecting on the past, encouraging participation and celebrating the great artists, artistic traditions and collections of our region. At twenty-five years, the Gallery is still relatively young and has a bright future ahead.”

mosman art gallery
The Gallery is home to the Mosman Symphony Orchestra

With its focus on contemporary art, heritage, First Nations, new technologies and community access, the Gallery’s artistic program has earned several significant industry awards over the last two decades, including awards for Mosman Art Gallery’s recent major exhibitions; Tokkotai, Destination Sydney and Bungaree’s Farm. During this period, the Gallery’s signature event, the Mosman Art Prize, has also grown to be one of Australia’s most prestigious art awards.

Mosman Art Prize: Australia’s Oldest Municipal Art Prize

mosman art gallery
Mayor Carolyn Corrigan with the 2020 Mosman Art Prize Winner Salote Tawale

Founded in 1947 at a time when only a small handful of art prizes were in existence in Australia, the Mosman Art Prize reflects all types of development within the Australian art scene since the time of its inauguration. In this way, the prize has always strived to offer contemporary and modern artists support and opportunities to exhibit their work.

The Mosman Art Prize is Australia’s oldest local government art award, and has been won by an impressive number of well-known national artists, including Margaret Olley, Guy Warren, Grace Cossington Smith and Nicholas Harding.

A Focal Point for the Community

Says artist Ann Cape:

“The Mosman Art Gallery is a vital hub of creative influence and a valuable centre of community involvement. It is a meeting ground and educational resource for all ages and sections of the community, from groups stimulating those with dementia and school children, to providing major local and nationally significant exhibitions.”

mosman art gallery

In its former life the Gallery building was a Methodist Church designed by Burcham Clamp and Walter Burley Griffin, and built in 1915. In 1997 the building was leased to Mosman Council for 75 years and in recognition of the building’s valued heritage, architect Hugh Fraser was commissioned to undergo adaptive design work to create the Mosman Art Gallery and Community Centre, bringing to fruition the vision of an extensive community consultation process. While still retaining its original architectural integrity and beauty, such as the Grand Hall, the building underwent further refurbishments in 2012, providing the gallery with five dedicated exhibition spaces.

Mosman Mayor Carolyn Corrigan commented recently:

“As a Council we are immensely proud of our Gallery and the role it has played in promoting arts and culture within our community and across Australia. We are very grateful for the support we enjoy from our residents, artists, gallery supporters and volunteers. We are so fortunate to have the gallery as one of our cultural places in Mosman. It’s a showcase for art, but also hosts a broad range of Council and community events across many sectors of the community. We look forward to a bright future, led by a dedicated Gallery team delivering exceptional artistic programs, which continue to support and foster a love for creativity in Mosman.” 

Ken Done (centre) in 1999 with (from left to right) Clive Hale, Paul Del Pratt, Bill Peach and Wendy Sharpe

Celebrated artist Ken Done AM, himself a Mosman local, noted:

“Everyone in Mosman should be immensely proud of the Mosman Art Gallery. The dedication of the director and staff has made Mosman Art Gallery a focal point for the appreciation of art of the past and present, with clues to the future. It is a great part of the community.”

mosman art gallery
In 2015 esteemed Australian artist John Olsen AO OBE gifted a new painting of Sydney Harbour to the Mosman Art Collection

The significance of Mosman Art Gallery’s contribution to the local Mosman community and beyond over 25 years is perhaps best summarised by artist Michelle Belgiorno:

“We are lucky to have such a dynamic Regional Gallery which regularly hosts significant national-class exhibitions but which also actively supports and encourages local Mosman artists. The Gallery plays an important role enriching Mosman’s cultural fabric.”

For more information about Mosman Art Gallery at its programs visit www.mosmanartgallery.org.au


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