Art Gallery of South Australia
AGSA Adelaide: History, Permanent Collection Highlights.

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Art Gallery of South Australia,
North Terrace, Adelaide.

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Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) Adelaide


Permanent Collection
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art
Australian Collection
Asian Collection
European and American Collection
Opening Times
Contact Details
Earliest Indigenous Art of Australia



The Art Gallery of South Australia, one of the country's best art museums, is located between the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum in the centre of Adelaide's North Terrace cultural precinct. Founded in 1881, the AGSA's permanent collection consists of more than 38,000 items, including many different types of art from all over the world including prints, painting, sculpture, drawings, photographs, textiles, furniture, ceramics, and jewellery. In particular, it has an extensive holding of Aboriginal art by indigenous artists, as well as a comprehensive collection of Australian paintings from the early nineteenth century to the present day. The Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) receives more than 650,000 visitors a year, and is the 93rd most popular art museum in the world. Other major Australian art museums include the National Gallery of Australia (Canberra), the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne), the Queensland Art Gallery (Brisbane), the Gallery of Western Australia (Perth) and the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney). Meanwhile, other public arts venues in Adelaide include the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia (CACSA), the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Flinders University Art Museum & City Gallery (FUAM).

Note: South Australia is the home of the extraordinary site of Koonalda Cave Art (18,000 BCE) on the Nullarbor Plain, believed to represent some of the earliest indigenous art in the country.


The Art Gallery of South Australia was set up in 1881 in a 2-room venue inside the Adelaide public library, and was officially opened by Prince George, later King George V of Great Britain. In 1900, it moved into its present neoclassical Victorian building, which was extended in 1936 and 1962. The structure underwent a major program of renovation and extension in the mid-1990s, reopening in 1996. In June 2011 the gallery unveiled its new Elder Wing, refurbished at a cost of $3.5 million.

Permanent Collection

The Art Gallery of South Australia has a collection of over 35,000 works of art, making it one of the largest state art collections in the country. In addition to its holdings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, and other Australian art, it has an excellent Asian collection devoted to the art of India, China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia, as well as the only space dedicated to Islamic art, in Australia. The AGSA also has a fine collection of Western artworks spanning almost the entire history of art, from Antiquity to the present.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art

A pioneer in the acquisition of Indigenous art since 1939, the Gallery has a substantial number of Arnhem Land objects collected by anthropologist, Charles Mountford 1948-1952. (See also: Ubirr Rock Art, from 30,000 BCE and Nawarla Gabarnmang Charcoal Drawing, from 26,000 BCE.) Highlights of the Indigenous art collection include: Man's Love Story (1978) by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri; Straightening Spears at Ilyingaungau (1990) by Turkey Tolsen Tjupurrula; Paruku (Lake Gregory) (1991) by Rover Thomas; Billabong at Milmilngkan (2002) by John Mawurndjul; and Man (Wati) Ceremony (1972) by Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi.

Australian Collection

A. Painting and Sculpture

The AGSA's 19th century collection illustrates Australian Colonial Painting from New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia. It includes works by leading artists such as Martha Berkeley, S.T. Gill, Alexander Schramm and John Crossland.

Australian Impressionism of the 1880s and 1890s, known also as the Heidelberg School, is represented by masterpieces such as A holiday at Mentone (1888) and How We Lost Poor Flossie (1889) by Charles Conder; Early Summer Gorse in Bloom (1888) by Arthur Streeton; A break away! (1891) by Tom Roberts; A Ti-tree glade (1897) by Fred McCubbin; and Mystic Morn (1904) by Hans Heysen. Other important acquisitions have included works by Rupert Bunny, E. Phillips Fox and George Lambert.

Paintings by Modern Australian women artists includes works by Grace Cossington Smith, Margaret Preston, Grace Crowley, Nora Heysen, Stella Bowen, and Dorrit Black, while 20th century modern art in Australia is exemplified by modern artists such as Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Fred Williams, Russell Drysdale, John Brack, Peter Booth and Tony Tuckson.

Highlights from the AGSA's growing collection of Australian contemporary art include: Mayfair: Xmas (Wildfire red) for Mrs Pretty (2002) by Robert Macpherson; Cell Culture (2002) by Fiona Hall; Fallen Branch (2005) by Hossein Valamanesh; and Shadow of the Hereafter (2007) by Imants Tillers.

B. Prints, Drawings and Photographs

The AGSA also possesses a wide collection of Australian prints, drawings and photographs, with a special focus on South Australian works. It includes a significant number of colonial and modernist works of drawing and printmaking plus some wonderful examples of contemporary art. Its wide collection of fine art photography features shots by some of Australia's greatest photographers, including 19th century photographers as well as 20th century artists. In 2004, the gallery secured the R.J. Noye collection of early South Australian photos, consisting of some 6,000 items, including unique photographs and glass plate negatives by Paul Foelsche (1831–1914) and HH Tilbrook (1848–1937).

C. Decorative Arts

The AGSA's assembly of decorative art and associated crafts encompasses examples from the early 1800s up to the present. It includes South Australian Biedermeier furniture, silver objects, as well as ceramic art, porcelain, jewellery art and metalware. There are also examples of international design styles such as Art Nouveau (1890-1914), Art Deco (1925-40), and post-war modernism from the Bauhaus design school (1919-33). The Australian Craft Revival Movement is represented by artists including Milton Moon, Peter Rushforth and Gwyn Hanssen Pigott.

Asian Collection

The AGSA's collection of Asian Art includes rare examples of Japanese art (ceramics, screens, sculpture, prints), Chinese art (pottery, lacquerware, sculpture), Indian art (miniature painting, illuminated manuscripts, carvings, textiles), as well as works from Southeast Asia (notably wood carving from South Sumatra) and the Middle East.

Highlights include: a unique collection of Asian ceramics from Japan, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar; sculptural masterpieces such as the magnificent Japanese Amida Nyorai, the Sino-Tibetan White and the Jain Shri Mallinath and Vijayanagara period Siva nataraja from India; craftworks like the Javanese ninth-century Kala and Batak Mortuary puppet (si gale gale); a definitive collection of Indian textiles dating from 1350s to the 19th century; ukiyo-e woodblock prints like the Thirty-six views of Edo by Utagawa Hiroshige; plus rare objects such as a Celestial globe (1780–81), and a heterodox Mughal portrait of Prophet Muhammad riding the bouraq steed.

European and American Collection

A. Painting and Sculpture

AGSA's collection of Western art includes a fine group of Old Masters containing: (1) Examples of Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture. (2) Works by Italian 17th century artists active in Naples, Venice and Rome, including Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, Claude Lorrain, Salvator Rosa, Luca Ferrari, Luca Giordano and Francesco Solimena). (3) Paintings by Dutch Realist artists like Balthasar van der Ast, Gerrit Dou, Gaspard Dughet, Nicolaes Maes, Jacob van Ruisdael, Salomon van Ruysdael, Willem van de Velde the younger and Philips Wouwerman. (4) Works of 17th/18th century French painting by Nicolas de Largilliere, Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer, Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre, Jean-Jacques Bachelier and Claude-Joseph Vernet.

The collection also features a comprehensive selection of paintings by the best English painters (1700-1900), such as Joseph Wright of Derby, JMW Turner, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Aubrey Beardsley, Edward Poynter and George Frederick Watts, as well as works by the Pre-Raphaelite artists Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John William Waterhouse. The gallery is especially strong on British portrait art, with examples by Anthony van Dyck, Peter Lely, Godfrey Kneller, William Hogarth, the great Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, Thomas Lawrence, and the Scottish Masters Allan Ramsay and Henry Raeburn.

In addition there are representative works from 20th century movements of modern art including: the Camden Town Group (Walter Sickert, Harold Gilman and Charles Ginner); the Bloomsbury Group (Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant); Vorticism (Percy Wyndham Lewis, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska); plus important examples of contemporary British painting by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. British sculpture is represented by artists such as Frederic Leighton, Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth.

Nineteenth century French art is represented by a selection of works from the Barbizon School of landscape painting - by artists such as Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot and Charles Francois Daubigny - and a fine collection of twenty bronzes by Auguste Rodin.

B. Contemporary Art

Since the 1970s, the AGSA has widened its collection of international contemporary and postmodernist art, with acquisitions of works by Turner prize-winners such as Gilbert & George, Howard Hodgkin and Richard Long, and other leading British artists such as Frank Auerbach, Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Long and Leon Kossoff. Other top contemporary artists in the collection from around the world, include: Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, Duane Hansen and Kenneth Noland (all America); Mimmo Paladino and Enzo Cucchi (Italy); Joseph Beuys, George Baselitz, Gerhard Richter and Rainer Fetting (Germany).

C. Prints, Drawings and Photographs

The AGSA now possesses one of the finest printmaking collections in Australia, featuring works by many of Europe's best etchers and engravers, including: Andrea Mantegna, Albrecht Durer, Lucas Cranach, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens (St Catherine of Alexandria), Rembrandt and Goya (note: the gallery owns first edition sets of Goya's Disasters of War, Los Caprichos and Los Disparates). Also included are satirical prints by British artists like William Hogarth, Thomas Rowlandson, George Cruickshank and James Gillray, as well as a selection of Pre-Raphaelite prints and drawings by John Millais, Aubrey Beardsley, and others. In addition there are modern prints by Continental artists including Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Edouard Manet, Renoir, Emil Nolde, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Edvard Munch and Kathe Kollwitz.

The drawing collection includes important examples of the drawing skills of masters like Tintoretto, Taddeo Zuccaro, Anthony van Dyck, Guercino and Tiepolo, as well as modern artists such as Eugene Delacroix, Jean-Francois Millet, Pierre Bonnard, Camille Pissarro, George Grosz and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

D. Decorative Arts

AGSA's collection of European decorative art comprises some 2000 objects (largely by British artists) ranging in date from the late 16th century to the present. It includes textiles, furniture, jewellery, glass, pottery and wallpapers. It features an outstanding selection of Arts and Crafts items, acquired at the New Zealand International Exhibition in 1907; The Adoration of the Magi, a fine piece of tapestry art by William Morris & Company, as well as examples of their textiles, embroideries and wallpapers; stained glass art by Tiffany & Co; furniture by designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Rennie Macintosh, and De Stijl's Gerrit Rietveld.


The Art Gallery of South Australia runs a busy program of temporary exhibitions and contributes a number of travelling art shows to regional art venues. Major exhibitions at the gallery in recent years have included the following.

2014 Fashion masterpieces from the Musee des arts Decoratifs, Paris
2014 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Dark Heart
2013 Turner from the Tate: the Making of a Master
2012 Fred Williams: infinite horizons
2011 Beneath the winds: Masterpieces of Southeast Asian art
2011 Saatchi in Adelaide
2010 A beautiful line: Italian prints from Mantegna to Piranesi
2010 Rupert Bunny: artist in Paris
2010 Candid Camera: Australian Photography 1950s-1970s
2009 Making Nature: Masters of European Landscape Art
2009 The Golden Journey: Japanese Art from Australian Collections
2008 Hans Heysen
2008 Misty Moderns: Australian Tonalists 1915-1950
2008 Ballets Russes in Australia
2007 A Century in Focus: South Australian Photography 1840s-1940s

Opening Times

Open: Daily from 10am to 5pm.
Closed: December 25th

Contact Details

Art Gallery of South Australia
North Terrace
South Australia 5000
Telephone: 61 8 8207 7000

Earliest Indigenous Art of Australia

Kimberley Rock Art (c.30,000 BCE)
Engravings and wall paintings
Kimberley Plateau, Western Australia.

Burrup Rock Art (30,000 BCE)
Mainly stone engravings
Murujuba, Pilbara, Western Australia.

Bradshaw Paintings (c.15,500 BCE)
"Gwion Gwion" wall painting
Kimberley, Western Australia.


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