Bendigo Art Gallery —
Creating a cultural destination.
Bendigo Art Gallery (BAG) is one of Australia’s largest and oldest regional galleries. In 2004, it was known for its collection of 19th century European and Australian art. Despite extensive refurbishment of the gallery and a curatorial agenda refocused on building a significant collection of contemporary Australian art, the audience profile was aging and visitor numbers were stagnating. BAG was also facing the rise of the ‘mega museum’ – institutions that attracted hundreds of thousands of people to through blockbuster exhibitions. Australia’s oldest regional gallery knew they were losing relevance in the heavily crowded and highly competitive public art market.
We worked closely with the gallery director to tease out their brave new vision – to become known for staging major international blockbuster exhibitions, and to be relevant to younger, more diverse audiences.
Project by project from 2005, we set out to transform the brand and make BAG relevant again by demonstrating their renewed sense of purpose through all facets of the museum: from visitor engagement, exhibition and retail design to print communication, products and the built environment.
We created a new identity system and new strategies for the gallery’s communications, both internally and externally. We redesigned the BAG Foundation funding categories and communications and enabled them to secure more private donations. And with their renewed focus and increased confidence in communications, BAG ultimately gained the confidence to head offshore and land their first major touring exhibition.
Over the course of our seven-year relationship, we contributed to the launch of all major exhibitions. And when budgets were tight, we provided a creative structure for the Gallery’s curatorial team so consistency and quality were never compromised.
The success of our work together became most apparent in 2009 during the blockbuster exhibition, The Golden Age of Couture, when large numbers of people travelled from Melbourne and from across Australia to visit the gallery. Queues of people around the block told their own story. Our exhibition identity and communications were awarded with a Premier’s Design Award and an AGDA Design Effectiveness award for the economic, environmental and social impact it delivered to the region.
The Golden Age of Couture attracted 75,000 visitors over three months (a figure usually expected over 12) and the exhibition generated $9.42 million revenue for the local economy – proof that creative thinking and strategic design makes a significant difference.
More generally, attendance increased from 59,000 in 2004 to almost 160,000 in 2009 – an increased of over 270%. Exhibitions such as Grace Kelly: Style Icon and Genius and Ambition: The Royal Academy of Arts, London 1768-1918 in the following years meant that the Gallery’s visitation figures steadily increased year on year, with a high of roughly 315,000 in 2011.
Renewed interest in the Gallery meant that further redevelopment became viable, perhaps even necessary. In 2014 a new, purpose built addition was opened to increase BAG’s gallery space. As the Gallery evolved and grew, we worked together to adapt the identity system to new needs across different mediums, both digital and static. As a result of the Gallery’s renewed appeal, new visitors are now discovering Bendigo.