A History of ARTEXPRESS
Early years 1950s - 1970s
ARTEXPRESS is jointly managed by the NSW
Department of Education and Communities and the Board of Studies NSW. It is coordinated by The Arts
Unit, Department of Education and Communities.
ARTEXPRESS grew from humble beginnings to a
major event in New South Wales. The impact of the
exhibition has surpassed its original function as a display
of exemplary Visual Arts bodies of work and it remains internationally unique in its selection processes, quality
Final year students’ artworks were first publicly exhibited in the late 1950s. The works were selected from entries
for the Leaving Certificate by the then Supervisor of Art,
Bob Winder, who later became the NSW Director-General for Education. Venues at that time included the
Commonwealth Bank and faculty common rooms at
Sydney University and the University of NSW.
A small selection of works, mostly paintings, were crated
and transported free of charge by the Sydney Morning
Herald delivery trucks to country high schools where art teachers hung and supervised the showings.
When the first Higher School Certificate examination was
held in 1967, artworks were selected and mounted by art advisors and consultants in the foyer of the Clancy
Auditorium at the University of NSW. Another selection was exhibited at the Secondary Principals' Conference at the Narrabeen Fitness Centre. These venues were used until
In 1976 the exhibition was shown in the foyer of the
Seymour Centre at Sydney University. Between 1977 and 1980, the Clancy Auditorium became the central Sydney exhibition venue. Outer metropolitan schools often provided additional display sites.
In 1978/79 Orange Regional Gallery showed a small collection. These exhibitions were extremely popular. During the 1980s exhibitions continued to be mounted by consultants attached to the Directorate of Studies (Curriculum) with assistance from Community Relations.
The naming of ARTEXPRESS and further expansion
In 1982 the Sydney Town Hall hosted the exhibition, now called ARTEXPRESS, as part of the Festival of Sydney. In 1983 the exhibition moved to Centrepoint Tower and a small collection was shown by the Art Gallery of NSW.
In 1984/85, the Hunter Region organised exhibitions of ARTEXPRESS in Newcastle, supported by the Newcastle Herald and the United Permanent Building Society. Country tours, which ceased for a time because the Sydney Morning Herald delivery truck service had been disbanded, were re-established with the assistance of the Regional Galleries Association, the Arts Council and the Country Areas Program. For a number of years ARTEXPRESS was shown at Parramatta, Milperra CAE, North Sydney and Sutherland, as well as at a central Sydney venue.
By 1986, the Community Relations Unit and Department of Education, had taken major responsibility for the coordination of the growing number of ARTEXPRESS exhibitions. An art teacher was deployed full-time to manage both ARTEXPRESS and the development of the Department of Education's William Wilkins Memorial Art Collection. This collection of high calibre HSC artworks provide an educational resource for teachers and the public.
From 1989 the Art Gallery of New South Wales became the principal venue for ARTEXPRESS with satellite exhibitions in up to six other locations.
In 1999 the Arts Education Centre, now the Department of Education and Communities' Arts Unit, took over responsibility for the organisation of ARTEXPRESS exhibitions.
Record attendances and other landmarks - ARTEXPRESS to the present day
In 2001 ARTEXPRESS reached the landmark annual attendance figure of over 500,000. In 2002 a selection of ARTEXPRESS works travelled to New York and were exhibited at Brooklyn Museum of Art. The exhibition was opened by the Australian Ambassador in New York, Mr Ken Allen. It was also exhibited at Macy Gallery, Teachers' College, Columbia University.
During ARTEXPRESS' 21st birthday year, 2004, an independently curated exhibition of the William Wilkins Memorial Collection was displayed at Newington Armory, Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush. The first exhibition of ARTEXPRESS at the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre was also held that year.
The Newington Armory at Sydney Olympic Park became an annual venue for ARTEXPRESS from 2005. The Newington Armory show has become the second largest exhibition in the metropolitan area focusing on western Sydney students and new media.
ARTEXPRESS electronic catalogues on CD-ROM were produced in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The CD-ROMs include images of all artworks and film/video, digital animation and interactive works.
Since 2000 attendance at ARTEXPRESS exhibitions has increased by 7.5% annually and visitors now approach one and half million per year. ARTEXPRESS has exhibited over 3,000 students’ works in the past ten years. It has become a much anticipated event in Sydney's cultural calendar and continues to draw national and international acclaim.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales continues as the principal venue. Visitors to ARTEXPRESS contributed to 14% o the gallery's total annual attendance when ARTEXPRESS celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2008.
Newcastle Regional Arts Centre holds an annual ARTEXPRESS exhibition and Hazelhurst Gallery & Arts Centre and Newington Armory, Sydney Olympic Park, have become established venues for the display of quality Higher School Certificate Visual Arts submissions. The regional tour continues to grow in popularity with regional Arts Centres vying for ARTEXPRESS up to 3 years in advance.