Ngununggula, the Southern Highlands’ first regional art gallery, opened to the public on 12 October 2021, following a delay due to the COVID-19 lockdown in NSW.
The Gallery opened with two inaugural exhibitions by celebrated Australian artists Tamara Dean and Megan Cope. Meaning “belonging” in the traditional language of the Gundungurra First Nation People, Ngununggula is located in what was the old dairy at Retford Park, which has received a heritage-sensitive redesign undertaken by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer and constructed by Richard Crookes Constructions, surrounded by a landscaped garden created by Jane Irwin.
Director of Ngununggula Megan Monte said: “We’re so delighted that we can finally unveil Ngununggula to the public and begin this new chapter engaging with our local community and visitors. It’s been an unusual time to open a new gallery space but we’re so proud of what’s been achieved and can’t wait to welcome people in to experience the space and the beautiful works of both Tamara Dean and Megan Cope.
“The Southern Highlands already has such a vibrant creative community and through Ngununggula we aim to add to this and create a centre of arts and culture in the region available to everyone.”
Featuring four gallery spaces spanning the 712m2 footprint of the building, including an Entry Pavilion and an education space, Ngununggula will feature a program that represents the region and beyond through significant exhibitions, artist-led projects, live events, workshops, artist talks and public programs. Creating engaging ways for the local community to connect with artists and their ideas will be at the core of Ngununggula’s philosophy.
Throughout the Gallery, a series of newly commissioned photographs and sculptural installations created over the last 18 months by acclaimed Australian artist Tamara Dean will be featured for the inaugural exhibition High Jinks in the Hydrangeas, on display until 12 December 2021. The exhibition offers a perspective of our collective experience of isolation and renewed appreciation of nature, as Dean used her surrounding environment of private gardens throughout the Southern Highlands as the focus of her photographic works.
Meanwhile, in the newly constructed Entry Pavilion, a large-scale installation by Megan Cope will be unveiled. Cope’s work which will be on display for 12 months consists of a large-scale mapping piece, made in collaboration with local Gundungurra Elder Aunty Velma Mulcahy OAM and the broader Southern Highlands Aboriginal community. This is the first Entry Pavilion Commission, an annual initiative which speaks to the Gallery’s commitment to celebrating Gundungurra language and culture by inviting an Aboriginal artist or collective to work with the community to create a site-specific installation in Ngununggula’s Entry Pavilion.
Due to the recent lockdown throughout NSW, construction was delayed on the gallery café Hearth, which will now open in mid-November 2021. In partnership with local favourite Moonacres Kitchen, the café will feature a menu focused on local produce and farm-to-table cuisine, created by chef Sabine Spindler. Until the official opening, the café team will run a kiosk for visitors to the gallery.
Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin said: “From the beginning, Ngununggula set out to be a game-changer for the Southern Highlands, and I am proud that the NSW Government, through the Regional Cultural Fund, has played its part in bringing this visionary project to life.