Sacred Art in Public Places

The ACU Art Collection contains over 1,000 diverse artworks dating from the 13th century to the contemporary, representing a wide range of disciplines and media. The collection is organised into four sections comprising the Modern and Contemporary Art Collection, presenting work by Australian and international artists, the Chapel Collection holding sacred art used in the service of worship or devotion, the Ceremonial Collection featuring the Biccherna book, processional mace and ACU ceremonial robes, and the Historical Collection with botanical specimens, 15th century chasubles, embroidered vestments and furniture, and art historical items.Works from the collection are widely displayed throughout the campuses, with an emphasis on limiting the number of artworks held in storage and providing greater visual access to this important asset. With a large proportion of the collection reflecting religious themes, the placement of these works supports the expression of the University’s spiritual values and mission in both sacredand public spaces, including chapels, libraries, and lecture theatres, and the Vice-Chancellor’s office where visitingdignitaries are reminded of the importance of religious art in study, reflection and academic rigour on every level.Significant examples of sacred artwork displayed on the Brisbane campus include the commission of a statue of Catherine McAuley, the iconic founder of the Sisters of Mercy, by celebrated Australian artist Peter Wegner, which will be displayedin front of the chapel, and a moving depiction of the Flight into Egypt by Joyce Meyer which has pride of place in the Vice-Chancellor’s reception. The recent opening of the Mercy building has provided a wonderful opportunity for the siting of another recent acquisition painted by notable Italian renaissanceartist Matteo di Giovanni di Bartolo. The striking work Madonna with child and St. John the Baptist painted c. 1490 provides a profound and moving impact within the entry foyer of this notable new facility.Similar displays of spiritual art are experienced on all ACU campuses, with none more prominent than the majestic carving of Christ on a Cross which is a major feature within the Phillipa Brazill Lecture Theatre at the St. Patrick’s campus in Melbourne. The impact of sacred art in public spaces can be both obvious and subtle, ranging from theclear religious message reflected in the nature and positioning of such an iconic item, to the refined suggestion of devotion contained in quiet and sometimes unexpected appearances of divine objects. Space responds to, and is given meaning through art, and the spirituality and reflection conferred by the placement of religious artwork promotes a calmness and contemplation within the university and wider community.

Caroline Field

GDFA (Printmaking), MA (Fine Arts),GD MuseumStudies, has been Curator of the ACU Art Collection since 2016. She has extensive knowledge of Australian art, encompassing artistic assessment,collection management and presentation.Previous positions include Director of the City of Horsham Regional Art Gallery,and Manager/Curator of the Museum of Art, Deakin University.

ACU Centre for Liturgy – March 2019

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