The Beef Capital’s Multi-Million Dollar Art Collection Tours to the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery & Museum

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The Beef Capital’s Multi-Million Dollar Art Collection Tours to the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery & Museum

Rockhampton is well-known for its beef and bulls but is not a place many would immediately associate with a nationally significant, multi-million dollar art collection. Thanks to an unlikely 1970s fundraising drive, led by a controversial Mayor (better known for being shot by his mistress,) today, the Rockhampton Art Gallery houses works by renowned Australian artists including Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, John Brack and Margaret Olley. 

A selection of this remarkable collection which chronicles the development of modernism in Australia from 1940 to 1980 is currently being shared in a national touring exhibition set to include the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery & Museum from April 18 to June 20. 

Cream: Four Decades of Australian Art will be officially opened at the Gallery & Museum 6pm, Friday 17 April by Cr Gail Sellers, Mayor of Gladstone Region.  At the launch, Rockhampton Art Gallery Director Tracy Cooper-Lavery will deliver a comprehensive Floor Talk of the exhibition while speaking about the history behind this remarkable collection.

“One of the reasons I took on the role of Gallery Director was that I knew Rockhampton had a reputation of owning a fantastic collection but I had not yet seen it,” Ms Cooper-Lavery said.

“Once I saw what was there and began to research the story behind the collection, I knew this was a unique body of work by some of Australia’s greatest artists and deserved wider recognition."

Cream: Four Decades of Australian Art hopes to lift the lid on one of the greatest art stories of regional Australia that until now has remained untold.  The collection was conceived in 1976 when then Mayor of Rockhampton, Rex Pilbeam, devised and implemented a fundraising campaign to establish a significant art collection for Rockhampton.

An embodiment of political incorrectness (but a product of the times), Pilbeam was a colourful character described as a “benign despot” by his fans for his methods of transforming the dusty country town into a modern Regional City.  Despite the economic recession of 1975, some $500,000 was raised (today, close to $2.7million) through public subscription, subsidies from Rockhampton City Council and a substantial grant from the Federal Government’s Australia Council.

The Cream of the collection is hitting the road thanks to an Australia Council Visions of Australia Touring Grant. The project also received financial support from the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, Gordon Darling Foundation, Regional Arts Development Fund and Rockhampton Regional Council.  

The Gladstone Regional Art Gallery & Museum is open 10am - 5pm, Monday to Saturday with FREE admission and is located on the corner of Goondoon & Bramston Sts, Gladstone. Everyone is welcome to attend the official exhibition launch 6pm, Friday April 17, please RSVP as refreshments will be served.  Phone 4976 6766 or email  For more information about the exhibition, visit


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