Collaboration & Touring

Collaboration and touring have been an integral part of the Australian Design Centre’s programs throughout its 50-plus year history. As early as 1977, it toured the exhibition Design For Living and a year later, in 1978, Crafts on the Move, an exhibition dedicated to regional areas was also presented.

Almost every major ADC exhibition that is produced includes a national tour that incorporates the regions but since the early 2000s, the scale of ADC’s ambitious programming has also meant an increasing number of meaningful collaborations with institutions around the country.

In 2004, ADC (then known as Object – Australian Centre for Craft and Design) collaborated with Arts Tasmania to present Design Island, a spotlight on the work of 20 leading Tasmanian designers. Curated by ADC’s Brian Parkes and Pippa Dickson, the Project Officer – Design for Arts Tasmania, the exhibition opened at the Sydney Opera House before travelling to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the Design Centre Launceston. ‘Design Island’ went on to become the name for Arts Tasmania’s five-year strategy for growing and inspiring the state’s design sector, arguably a reflection on the exhibition’s own ambition and success.

Two years later, in 2006, ADC collaborated with the Melbourne Museum to present the large-scale exhibition Freestyle: New Australian Design for Living. The largest design exhibition of its type ever shown in Australia at the time, Freestyle involved a lengthy study tour across Australia and drew on the works of 40 different designers and practices. Curated by Brian Parkes, Freestyle focused largely on objects for the body or home and included work from fashion designers and Indigenous artists alongside jewellery and homewares. Highlighting the most interesting and current design practices from around the country, Freestyle opened at the Melbourne Museum before a six venue national tour that culminated with a two-site show in Sydney at ADC (then at St Margaret’s) and the National Art School. It later toured to the Milan Triennale Museum in Italy.

From 2006-2008 ADC collaborated with the Bombay Sapphire Design Discovery Awards to present an exhibition of the finalist’s work. The annual Award, which was established in 2003, had no means of showing the work before joining with ADC to present the first in a series of exhibitions. Recognised locally and internationally as the most prestigious award in Australian Design, the Award aimed to reward and promote excellence in functional design and to uncover the most original and inventive designers working in the field. The Award toured nationally and was presented annually at the Melbourne Museum also.

Menagerie: Contemporary Indigenous Sculpture, in 2009 was the biggest and most significant exploration of Indigenous craft and design in ADC’s history with an 11 venue national tour that included stops at Araluen Art Centre in Alice Springs, Cairns Regional Art Gallery, the Melbourne Museum, Queen Victoria Museum & Gallery in Launceston, Tandanya: National Aboriginal Cultural Institute in Adelaide and the National Museum of Australia, Canberra. Importantly, Menagarie was also the first time ADC collaborated with the Australian Museum to produce a major exhibition together. Both ADC and the Australian Museum jointly exhibited the show before the Museum purchased Menagerie for its permanent collection at the conclusion of the tour.

In 2014, ADC collaborated with local design retailer and manufacturer Workshopped to present Resolved: Journeys Into Australian Design. Since 2001, Workshopped have held an annual design competition celebrating emerging designers and their work, and helping them take their concept to market. Resolved presented the work of the previous 12 winners, exploring ideas of inspiration and process with 2013 winners Kink responsible for the exhibition design. Like Menagerie and Freestyle before it, Resolved undertook an eight venue national tour that concluded in 2016.

An important part of Resolved’s tour was the ‘animateur’ program that accompanied the exhibition. Two years before Resolved opened, in 2012, ADC partnered with the University of Wollongong and Dubbo’s Western Plains Cultural Centre on a research project testing new models for developing regional audiences for touring exhibitions and design projects. The ‘animateur’ program was developed as a consequence of this research and involved a specialist, or animateur, accompanying the exhibition to each venue. They then worked with the galleries to create bespoke programs for engaging local audiences who might not have had a great deal of exposure to design exhibitions of this nature before.

CUSP: Designing into the Next Decade in 2013 was presented in collaboration with Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre before a six venue national tour that ran until April 2016. A major survey of the work of 12 designers working across a range of disciplines, including data visualisation, fashion, architecture and social robotics, CUSP considered how the future of design might look and how it might continue to impact our lives in the coming decades. In researching the exhibition, ADC and curator Danielle Robson worked with a Curatorial Advisory Group including academics from RMIT Design Hub and the Schools of Design and Architecture at UTS, ensuring that design expertise was again central to the discussions surrounding the exhibition.

In 2015, ADC again collaborated with the Australian Museum, for the research and development phase of Future Nature. Another future-facing exhibition, Future Nature, mapped the places where art, science and design collide, specifically in biology and the natural world. The nine exhibiting artists, designers and architects were given access to the extensive archives, collections and backrooms of the then 188-year old institution and the resultant works included a re-imagining of the Museum’s famous Long Gallery, an interactive soundscape of frog communications and a 3D-printed coral ecosystem.

In 2016, alone ADC had four concurrent exhibitions touring nationally including CUSP, Resolved, Lola Greeno: Cultural Jewels and Shapeshifters: 3D Printing the Future. Shapeshifters is a joint exhibition presentation between ADC and the Western Plains Cultural Centre, exploring current innovations in this newly available, cutting edge technology and it will continue to tour until 2018.

Looking to the future, new collaborations with organisations including the Museum of Arts and Applied Sciences, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre and the Western Plains Cultural Centre in Dubbo are already underway as ADC continues to promote best practice design showcasing and the value of creative partnerships.


Image: Pleat, 2009, Chris Hardy. Courtesy of the artist