La Trobe University Museum of Art aims to acquire, conserve and exhibit a major public art collection of demonstrable excellence and significance that reflects the diversity of art produced, especially since the establishment of La Trobe University, for the cultural enrichment, education and research enterprise of the University's student body, staff and the wider community.
The La Trobe University Art Collection began in 1966, before construction of the first buildings commenced at the site of the University’s major campus at Bundoora. Recognising the importance of an art collection within an educational environment, the University’s Master Architect, Dr Roy Simpson, AO, incorporated the installation and display of art works into his overall vision for La Trobe. Together with Mr Frank Barnes, the University’s first Business Manager, and the generosity of individual benefactors, Dr Simpson initiated the commissioning of paintings by Gareth Jones-Roberts, Leonard Lloyd Annois and Charles William Bush to establish the Art Collection.
Major sculptural works, such as Allen David’s monumental glass screen that graces the main entrance to the University Library, were also included in the original design. The further installation of sculpture in the grounds and paintings throughout the buildings were proposed in the original Master Plan, and were made possible with funds raised through the 1976 Retirement Appeal for the inaugural Vice-Chancellor, Dr David Myers.
Today the La Trobe University Art Collection is considered a major public art collection, comprising over 2,000 post war and contemporary Australian art works. The collection covers most media and periods of Australian art. It includes the largest holding of works by the Australian Surrealist Bernard Boles, expatriate artist Allen David and the Etta Hirsh Ceramics Collection which consists of over 300 pieces.
In addition to an active acquisition program, art works have been acquired through an artist in residence program and sponsorship of public art prizes, reinforcing the University’s commitment to the study, patronage and advancement of the visual arts.
Public accessibility to the Collections remains a priority, with many of the works displayed across the University’s metropolitan and regional campuses, included in touring exhibitions and exhibitions held at other venues.