Russell Mills’ iconic collection Contemporising the Modern comes to Town Hall Gallery

An iconic collection of Australian photography will be presented at Hawthorn’s Town Hall Gallery with its latest exhibition Contemporising the Modern: Australian Modern and Contemporary Photography. The touring display of works from the Russell Mills Collection invites guests to admire some of Australia’s most iconic images from a selection of Australia’s best-known photographers, showing from 26 October 15 December.

The renowned Russell Mills Collection explores the evolution of Australian photography at a time when photographers struggled to have their work accepted as a pure art form. The exhibition features works by photographers including Pat Brassington, Olive Cotton, Max Dupain, John Eaton, Rennie Ellis, Peter Elliston, Petrina Hicks, Carol Jerrems, Peter Leiss, Robert McFarlane, David Moore, Trent Parke, Michael Riley, Roger Scott and Wolfgang Sievers among others.

Russell Mills began collecting photography in the 90s and over an 18-year period, gathered major images by prominent Australian photographers including Robert McFarlane’s Bea Nude (1978), Kerry Dundas’ Harbourside Life (1952), Roger Scott’s Queenscliff, Sydney (1975) and Wolfgang Sievers’ The Gears for the Mining Industry (1967).

In 2015, the Russell Mills Foundation donated 50 photographs to the Murray Art Museum Albury Collection. These photographs illustrate the development of Russell Mills as an art collector, an enthusiastic viewer to a connoisseur of photographic art.

Mills was initially drawn to the work of Australian photographer Olive Cotton, who achieved long-overdue recognition for her photography during the mid-1980s. Russell acquired four works after being captivated by her evocative imagery, making her the most represented artist in his collection.

Also well represented in the collection is the work of Max Dupain, including the legendary Sunbaker (1937/1980s), a piece that has become a symbol of modernism in Australian photography, and Silos through windscreen (1965/2005) (pictured left).

Contemporising the Modern: Australian Modern and Contemporary Photography is on loan from the Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) and tours with funding from the Russell Mills Foundation. Founded by the late Russell Mills, the foundation was formed with a view of encouraging the arts and social justice in Australia.

Born in the NSW country town of Scone in 1951, Russell began collecting photographs from 20th century Australian and American photographers in the 90s. By 2010 he had far too many to hang on the walls of his own home and later wanted to donate to a public institution that would use them to inspire artists and the broader public to appreciate photography as an art form. Russell has been a benefactor of the Photographic Collection at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) which already held most of Russell’s collection, who then made the introduction to MAMA.

Town Hall Gallery features a diverse range of contemporary public programs, curated exhibitions and exhibitions drawn from the Town Hall Gallery Collection, celebrating the rich cultural heritage of the City of Boroondara. A member of the Public Galleries Association of Victoria, Town Hall Gallery supports local, national and international artists at varying stage of their careers and offers a space for local artists and community groups to exhibit professionally in a gallery environment.

Contemporising the Modern: Australian Modern and Contemporary Photography: FREE

Exhibition openings:

Contemporising the Modern and Made to Measure :Saturday 26 October 2019, 2pm 
Walk and talk: Saturday 26 October 2019, 1pm
Mid-week Walk and Talk: Wednesday 27 November 2019, 11am

Exhibition dates: 26 October – 15 December 2019

Town Hall Gallery, 360 Burwood Road, Hawthorn