Cover image of the review

Discovering Dobell / Dobell’s Circle

29 Jul 2017
Dobell’s Circle, 27 May - 13 Aug 2017 Discovering Dobell, 27 May - 13 Aug 2017

TarraWarra, clearly reaching for the best of both worlds, likes to market itself as 'privately funded, public art museum'. As a charitable not-for-profit company, the museum is sponsored by the Besen Family Foundation, while also receiving project-based public funding. Twinned to a vineyard, it balances out Melbourne's other favourite weekend getaway, John and Sunday Reed's publically-bequeathed Heide Museum of Modern Art. The three current exhibitions, Discovering Dobell, Dobell's Circle, and the additional Selected works from the TarraWarra Museum of Art Collection, draw heavily on artworks collected personally by the Besen family, and works collected since TarraWarra's founding in 2000.

Relevant to the showc_ase of 'coll_ection highlights', it is galling that TarraWarra's relatively small collection is not completely available for viewing online. The private origins of TarraWarra (and Heide, whose collection search is equally terrible) means that we exclusively conceptualise such places as gifts to the Australian public. For that perhaps our expectations of access are lower. After all, it is poor taste to look an art-donor in the mouth. Yet even if we gloss the public backing, and the cultural gifts made to them with substantial tax-breaks from the Australian Government, these institutions hold artworks of national importance that are a part of our collective cultural heritage. State and national institutions are expected to rapidly prioritise their digital access to collections. With public money comes public responsibilities. TarraWarra, if they don't already, should have the task of collection digitalisation prioritised in the near future.

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