The QUT Art Collection has a unique and colourful history which has shaped our values and philosophy to the current day. The Collection was founded on the desire to foster the visual arts within the community – both as a teaching resource and part of the institution's civic responsibilities. The Collection expounds an adventurous commitment to contemporary art with many works dating from the 1960s onwards. Comprising more than 3000 objects, the Collection today includes paintings, sculpture, ceramics, and works on paper, chiefly by Australian artists, but a small group of international works, mostly prints, augments the holdings. A focus area of the Collection is the William Robinson collection of works that numbers over 320 objects.
Established in 1945, the Collection precedes the Art Museum by 55 years. It developed organically from the disparate collecting activities of a number of vocational education and technical training institutions in Brisbane. Acquisitions were often based on selections from staff, including significant individuals such as Betty Churcher, Mervyn Muhling and William Robinson. As such, the artworks collected during the 1960s and 70s reflect the distinct personalities of different individuals, as well as the practical constraints of collecting and displaying works within small teaching institutions.
These early collections were rationalised in the early 1980s following several institutional mergers. In 1990, the resulting collections, now more substantial in quality and depth, were brought together under the unifying patronage of QUT. As a tertiary institution that is still relatively young, and with a reputation for being nimble and adaptable, QUT seeks to build a unique Collection that reflects the diversity and agility of the institution. It aims to fill a void in Australian art collections, rather than mirroring the collecting patterns of other institutions. QUT's Collection is an important thread in the fabric of Queensland as well as national art collections – it is one part of a broader story of Australian art.
QUT is committed to growing and strengthening the Collection each year through an acquisitions program that includes purchases and gifts. Acquisitions that build on existing strengths, fill prominent gaps, and contextualise existing holdings take precedence. Rather than amass a large general collection, the Museum continues the tradition of building one of modest scope, where only the finest works are acquired based on principles that value excellence, individuality and exceptional skill as integral components of the visual arts and creative achievement.