Established in 1945, the QUT Art Collection precedes the Museum by fifty-five years. It developed from the disparate collecting activities of a number of individuals from vocational education and technical training institutions in Brisbane, predominantly during the 1960s and 1970s. These 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 the University.
Comprising more than 2000 objects, the collection includes paintings, sculptures, decorative arts and works on paper, chiefly by Australian artists. A small group of international works, mostly ceramics and prints, augments the Australian holdings.
The collection has a history of a strong and adventurous commitment to contemporary art with the majority of works dating from the 1960s onwards. This emphasis is demonstrated in the Museum's acquisitions program through ongoing additions of major new works.
Whilst acquisition through purchase remains the principal means of procuring works, significant gifts have added further depth and distinction to the collection. Reflecting the generosity and civic commitment of individual and corporate philanthropists, this public support has made a major impact on the Museum's holdings. So too have the various acquisition and commission grants awarded by the Australia Council, particularly during the 1980s and 1990s, which have extended the collection's contemporary focus.
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 creative achievement. Acquisitions closely aligned to collection strengths take precedence.
Outstanding areas of the collection that have been marked for further development include Queensland art, contemporary Australian prints, new technology and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. The Museum's important representations of early twentieth-century Australian art and international prints will also be expanded, principally through bequests and gifts.