Due to some recent health complications and surgery, I haven’t been able to visit museums or galleries for quite some time. Now that I’m slowly on the mend, we took the opportunity to drive down to the Gold Coast for a mid-century getaway and to visit the new Home of the Arts (HOTA) Gallery. The new Gallery opened on May 8, 2021. As you can see in the image below, the exterior of the building looks like a giant mosaic. This was inspired by the artwork, The rainforest, by William Robinson.
Before delving into my top 8 artworks, I want to talk a bit about the logistics of the Gallery. Firstly, ignore the opening time on Google. We read it opened at 9am but when we arrived at 9am on the dot, we saw the gallery actually opened at 10am. There were quite a few people who had arrived at the same time so make sure you take note of that if you want to visit. Also, make sure you try and navigate the website in advance to book tickets. It is a very clunky and not user friendly website. The cost of entry is free but you still need to book due to COVID.
Once inside, the experience was fantastic. One of the visitor service officers recommended we start at the top and work our way down. This was very helpful advice as the Gallery flows well by taking this route. All of the floors have staff available to answer questions and provide more recommendations. They were all so lovely and informative and this really enhanced our visit.
So now onto the artworks. I am really restricting myself here and narrowing it down to two artworks per floor. This should hopefully give you an idea of the diversity of what’s on display and might even tempt you to visit!
The main theme for floor 4 is pride and passion – an introductory theme showcasing artworks in the collection made prior to the 21st century. For a bit of context, the Gold Coast has been this increasingly popular and populated city in Queensland. Collecting began in 1968 for a future Gold Coast Gallery as the need for a cultural collection and site became more pressing. Here are my top two picks from this floor.
1. A Painted Page: Myer Christmas Catalogue 1979 by Jenny Watson
This painting stood out to me as soon as I entered the space. Not only is is quite large, but there is something about the balance of grey canvas and intricate artworks that is aesthetically pleasing. Also, who doesn’t love seeing a creepy doll pop up in an artwork.
2. Manster ‘Dracula’ 1986 by Maria Kozic
Speaking of creepy, I had to include this artwork by Maria Kozic. Mostly because I’m a huge Dracula fan, but also because it is a really cool artwork. From one angle, you can see the infamous Dracula in all his vampire glory. From the opposite angle, Dracula just looks like a normal man.
If you are able to take the stairs between floors then I highly recommend doing so. Between each floor are small landings where you can sit and admire the view of Surfer’s Paradise. On floor 3, you will find a selection of contemporary artworks made during the 21st century.
1. Sarah Island, Tasmania by Ben Quilty, 2015
Mimicking a Rorschach test, Ben Quilty painted a readable image on the right side of this canvas then squashed the painted side to the unpainted side to create the image seen above. The significance of this being that like the psychological test, the character of Sarah Island’s landscape (and Australian history more broadly) needs to be interrogated. For those unaware, Sarah Island is off the coast of Tasmania and was where convicts were sent for hard labour. It was also where the Aboriginal Palawa peoples were sent en route to Flinders Island.
2. Mid Century Modern by Tony Albert – Girramay/Kuku Yalanji/ Yidinji, 2016
These photographs are of a stubbed out cigarette in an ashtray sitting over some kitschy old world tea towel. If you focus on each of the images you’ll see the tea towels depict Aboriginal people in a stereotypical and negative way. These photographs speak to the glamorisation of colonisation posing the question “what does it mean to extinguish a cigarette on someone’s culture?” The image above shows a small number of the photographs on display. They take up an entire wall of the floor and really demand your attention.
This is the final floor for the HOTA Collects exhibition. The theme is highlighting the Gold Coast and providing an introduction to the people and area.
1. Proposal for a Gold Coast Public Sculpture by Scott Redford, 2005
I am truly a mid-century girl at heart. Seeing this proposal for a Las Vegas-like sign filled me with joy. The atomic star, the neon – all amazing. That’s all I wanted to say about this sculpture. Just build it, please.
2. The rainforest by William Robinson, 1990
This is probably one of the most famous paintings in the Gallery. In 1990, this artwork depicting the Gold Coast Hinterland won the Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Fran Cummings, who was the Director of the Gold Coast City Gallery, embarked on a public campaign to acquire this artwork. Enough funds were raised in the community and it was acquired. There is, however, quite an interesting story about the controversy surrounding the acquisition of this artwork – I encourage you to read about it here. It is a very large painting that really dominates the space. There were a few other artworks I enjoyed on this floor but I couldn’t go past including this significant piece of history for the Gallery.
Solid Gold: Artists from Paradise
The final two artworks I want to include are in the temporary exhibition, Solid Gold. This exhibition showcases artworks by local artists displaying the diversity and expanse of the region.
1. Wonderwall by Kirsty Bruce, 2021
Who doesn’t love a good collage? They are always a bit of fun and this one is no exception. We spent quite a bit of time looking at all the elements and thinking of how they work together. Kirsty Bruce invites the audience to create their own stories and build their own connections between the cut-outs. I enjoyed the collage mostly because there was a skeleton standing next to a burger. Pretty much my aesthetic.
2. Cloud Drive by Samuel Leighton-Dore, 2020
This is an interactive artwork where you can download an app, point your phone at the clouds and read the thoughts/feelings of a stranger. Similar to how many of us store data, these clouds store stories of strangers and encourage visitors to build a connection, even if just for a fleeting moment.
Finally, I want to mention that on the ground floor, near the temporary exhibition area, there is a large glass window for visitors to take a sneak peek at what happens behind the scenes. Look at all the lovely organisation going on here. I love this transparency in museums and galleries and wish that we could see this more!
That brings me to the end of my post on HOTA. Overall, we really enjoyed our visit to HOTA Gallery. There are some exciting exhibitions coming soon so no doubt this won’t be my last visit. The entire Gallery is accessible. Plenty of parking is available and please remember it opens from 10am to 5pm on all days except Friday when it stays open until 8pm. If you’re looking for a lovely end to your week, have a wander around the Gallery then head to the rooftop bar on Level 5 for some amazing views.