Retford Park in Bowral is now home to the Southern Highlands’ first regional art gallery, Ngununggula.
Meaning ‘belonging’ in the traditional language of the Gundungurra First Nations people, Ngununggula opened to the public on 12 October. Located in what was the Old Dairy at Retford Park, Ngununggula has been sustainably repurposed for the new state-of-the-art gallery.
The gallery has a focus on visual arts and education and will represent the region and beyond through significant exhibitions, artist-led projects, live events, workshops, artist talks and public programs. Creating engaging ways for the local community to connect with artists and their ideas will be at the core of Ngununggula’s philosophy.
Director of Ngununggula, Megan Monte, says that the gallery will capture the cultural vibrancy of the region through a dynamic curatorial program and community-minded approach.
“We want the gallery to serve as the centre of arts and culture in the Southern Highlands and add to the vibrant creative offering of the region, with a program featuring leading Australian artists and a focus on being a resource for art education to the community. Our program is about storytelling, sharing experiences and understanding perspectives with a sense of scale and ambition,” she says.
Built in the 1880s, Retford Park is a place of great heritage significance and natural beauty. In 1964, James Fairfax AC, former chairman of John Fairfax Ltd (later known as Fairfax Media), bought Retford Park and transformed the agricultural property into a gentleman’s estate.
Mr Fairfax was a well-known champion of the arts and generous philanthropist. He always believed that Retford Park should be preserved for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations and in 2016 he gifted his historic home and its magnificent gardens to the National Trust (NSW).
Executive Director of the National Trust of Australia (NSW), Debbie Mills, says it is wonderful to see the work of the National Trust and Ngununggula come together.
“The National Trust’s work in conserving and celebrating vibrant and authentic places is perfectly supported through the Southern Highlands Regional Gallery partnership. Ngununggula at Retford Park is a wonderful addition to carry on James Fairfax AC’s passion for art,” she says.
A series of newly commissioned photographs and sculptural installations created over the last 18 months by acclaimed Australian artist, Tamara Dean, are featured throughout the gallery as part of its inaugural exhibition ‘High Jinks in the Hydrangeas’, on display until 12 December 2021.
From 12 October, a large-scale installation by Megan Cope will also be on display. Cope’s work will consist of a large-scale mapping piece, made in collaboration with local Gundungurra Elder Aunty Velma Mulcahy OAM and the broader Southern Highlands Aboriginal community. This is the first Entry Pavilion Commission, an annual initiative which speaks to the gallery’s commitment to celebrating Gundungurra language and culture by inviting an Aboriginal artist or collective to work with the community to create a site-specific installation in Ngununggula’s Entry Pavilion.
Following the advice of the State Government, Ngununggula is initially only able to welcome residents of the Southern Highlands (Wingecarribee Shire Council LGA).
How to get to Ngununggula, Southern Highlands Regional Gallery
Address: 1 Art Gallery Lane, Bowral 2576
A new road has been built and Ngununggula has a separate entry to Retford Park. While Retford Park remains closed due to COVID-19, access must be made via Art Gallery Lane, near the corner of Rowland Road and Jonathan Street in East Bowral.
Please note that being a new road, Art Gallery Lane does not currently appear on Google maps.
For more information regarding the gallery, visit ngununggula.com