How MAC yapang acquires art

Published on 21 June 2024


Sir William Dobell, Brett Whiteley and Margaret Olley are but a few of the artists whose work makes up the collection of more than 1000 artworks at the Museum of Art and Culture - MAC yapang. 

The collection boasts work by renowned Aboriginal artists such as Judy Watson and Douglas Archibald, contemporary Australian artwork, key works by Dobell, large-scale contemporary sculptures and Indigenous works on paper.

MAC yapang's curator Jasmine Kean explains how the museum acquires art for their permanent collection and what it looks for.

1. Tell us a bit about MAC yapang's collection including some of the artists that feature?

We collect paintings, prints, sculptures, drawings, photographs, ceramic works, multimedia, moving image, sound and a series of fantastic public artworks spread along the foreshore and throughout the onsite sculpture garden.

Some of the artists represented in our collection include Sir William Dobell, Judy Watson, Vernon Ah Kee, Nell, Brett Whiteley, Janet Laurence, James Gleeson, Guan Wei, Margaret Olley, Lottie Consalvo, Wendy Sharpe, Tim Storrier, María Fernanda Cardoso and Lindy Lee. 

2. How has the collection been acquired?

Primarily through generous bequests, donations, purchase and acquisitive art prizes. Several works have come into our care through other means such as the Charlestown Square Art Prize (1986-1991) and through direct purchase from the artist. 

3. What does the gallery look for in terms of acquiring art?

Our focus is acquiring artwork which has relevance to Lake Macquarie: artists from our region who reflect on the area or local artists who have made a significant contribution to art. The art museum plays an important role in acquiring, managing, interpreting and presenting works of art for both residents and visitors to Lake Macquarie. New acquisitions enrich the cultural life of our region. 

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Image above: Shaun Allen C.F.C 2022. synthetic polymer on canvas. 189 x 115 cm. Highly Commended, yapang Emerging Art Prize 2023. Museum of Art and Culture yapang Collection, Lake Macquarie Cultural Collections.

4. Tell us about works in the collection that are particularly significant?

In 2015, the art museum acquired two important works by Judy Watson comprising 20 etchings that explore the history of the artist’s family under colonialism as well as 20 print works exploring the impact of global warming and pollution on the Great Barrier Reef. These works form part of yapang – a sub-collection of Aboriginal works on paper. Using etching and lithographic techniques, these artworks provide a powerful reminder of life ‘under the act’ of forced removal and the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma. They also speak to the current state of our environment as affected by climate change. 


Image above: Judy Watson heron island suite 2009. etchings with chine collé. 50.0 x 35.5cm (paper size); 24.5 x 19.5cm (plate size). Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Judy Watson, 2016. Museum of Art and Culture yapang Collection, Lake Macquarie Cultural Collections.

5. What makes MAC yapang's collection unique?

Like many other galleries, our collection reflects the artistic fabric of the region. We have established collecting areas which relate directly to place, driven by themes: Still Waters, Clear Visions.

This refers to ‘water’ not only as a literal and metaphorical theme but also a clear expression or vision of the complex social and environmental aspects of the region, interwoven through its Aboriginal and post-contact history and contemporary lifestyles.

We also hold a number of works through the yapang collection, a nod to our important commitment to Aboriginal programming and long partnership with our Aboriginal Reference Group. Over the years the collection has expanded to include a range of media. Alongside the Nona etching and a group of key works by Jonathan Jones, this collection now boasts pieces by Douglas Archibald, Ruby Djikarra Alderton, Eubena Nampitjin, Ningie Nangala, Dorothy Napangardi, Kathleen Paddoon, Freddie Timms, Jason Wing and Judy Watson.

6. How can the public see the collection?

Our recent acquisitions will be showcased as part of two exhibitions late this year titled Jim Ridgeway: Story Country and Like New: Recent acquisitions MAC yapang. We regularly display artworks in our libraries and loan them to other institutions for exhibition. Much of our collection will be available to view online and explore in late 2024. 

7. One fun fact about the collection?

The collection is valued at close to $3 million and continues to grow in value and numbers each year. It’s an incredibly valuable asset for our community. 


Image at top: Exhibition view, Lake Art Prize 2022, MAC yapang. Artwork in centre of image: Vipoo Srivilasa, Serpent 1 2021, porcelain, 57 x 36 x 11cm. Highly Commended Acquisitive Lake Art Prize 2022. Museum of Art and Culture yapang Collection, Lake Macquarie Cultural Collections. 

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