For over 35 years Artbank has been at the forefront of the Australian contemporary art sector and is the most successful program of its type in the world.
Established in 1980 as a federal government support program, Artbank’s two core objectives are to provide direct support to Australian contemporary artists through the acquisition of their work and to promote the value of Australian contemporary art to the broader public. Artbank funds its operations through the leasing of artworks from its collection.
The Artbank collection was founded in 1980 with an endowment of 600 artworks from the National Collection and has since grown to include over 10,000 works spanning media including painting, sculpture, video and photography. The collection is made accessible through the operation of a unique art leasing program where artworks can be leased by the public at a fraction of their insurable value. Founded on the policy principle of promoting broad access to contemporary art, Artbank leverages the leasing program to work with individuals, companies and governments (at all levels), as well as supporting the cultural diplomacy objectives of the Australian government in approximately seventy countries across the globe.
With fifty percent of the collection out on loan at any one time, Artbank has grown its client base to a position of financial sustainability. Artbank has been a largely self-funding government program for over twenty years and is the only cultural institution in Australia that works through a cultural business model that is sustainable – not receiving an annual funding appropriation.
Artbank’s position within the visual arts sector in Australia is unique. Structurally part of the Department of Communications and the Arts, Artbank also sits within the sector as a support program that intersects, and connects, both the non-commercial and commercial gallery sectors. Artbank has similarities with other collecting institutions in terms of how it undertakes aspects of its business – but is clearly different in both why it collects artwork for the collection and how it engages/promotes Australian art to stakeholders, clients and the broader public. Artbank, through the course of meeting the objectives on which it was established, promotes sustainability for artists in their careers directly through acquisition and by extension, through the commercial industries that produce and exhibit their works.
For the broader community, Artbank makes Australian contemporary visual art accessible in ways other collecting institutions cannot. With Artbank artworks in workplaces and other public and private places around Australia and the world, the broader community has direct access to some of the best examples of Australian contemporary art. This allows a different, more personal and more everyday type of engagement, unlike attending a gallery or museum exhibition. It embeds an appreciation of contemporary art as something that can enhance our lives, speaking to us about our culture and tell our Australian stories, in a unique way.
Why not see what we mean and explore the collection.