Packsaddle Exhibition

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The Packsaddle Exhibition is now in its 33rd year; it’s a popular and nationally recognised exhibition that showcases an incredible array of artistic talent and raises funds for NERAM. Lynne Walker provides a rundown of the exhibition and the history behind it … 

At NERAM in October/November of each year, the Packsaddle Fundraising Exhibition exhibits in excess of 150 artworks and prints for two weeks and is one of the biggest selling exhibitions in regional NSW. Now in it’s 33rd year, the exhibition continues to comprise a diverse range of prints, paintings, and sculptures from nationally renowned artists, hung alongside young and emerging artists, with works contributed by major Sydney galleries and individual artists. 

The consistently high standard of work on show in the exhibitions over the last 32 years has meant that Packsaddle has grown into an exhibition that attracts a large audience of collectors and art lovers and is nationally recognised as one of the most significant art sales in Australia.

So what is Packsaddle, and what are the essential elements which have made this exhibition tick over every year for so many years?

The original Packsaddlers were Beverley Wright, Pat Elkin, June Atherton and Benoni Pearson. Of these four dynamic women, Pat remains as Patron and as inspiration for the rest of the Packsaddlers. She says, “The original objective of Packsaddle was to educate the public in art. We weren’t initially interested in money, being interested only in bringing Australian art to the country, but it has evolved into a profitable enterprise as well – which is a bonus.”

The Packsaddle group includes a number of artists, art educators, researchers and art appreciators, who are dedicated to finding quality works of art at an affordable price.

The make up of the group has changed over the years, with new volunteers coming on board, contributing and leaving, and Pat attributes this turnover as being essential to the health and longevity of the exhibition, saying, “Everyone contributes differently, and each fresh approach means we keep on re-inventing ourselves.”

All proceeds of each exhibition have gone to NERAM for specific additions, such as improved hanging accessories, scaffolding, solander boxes, conservation of the Howard Hinton and Chandler Coventry collections, wall cladding and more recently a printing press for NERAM’s Museum of Printing.  

In the mid nineties they funded the Artists Studio in the new extension The Packsaddle Studio, with attached residential flat, which continues to provide a space for regular community art classes, seminars and workshops, and provide accommodation and a venue for Artists in Residence. 

The Packsaddle women work to provide funds for acquisitions to add to the NERAM Collections and have donated more than 20 paintings by nationally recognised artists. 

And the essential elements?

More than three million dollars worth of artworks over the past thirty two years have been sold at the Packsaddle Exhibition. The continued success of this annual art exhibition relies not only on the quality of the works on sale, but on the individuals and the relationships that the Packsaddlers have built within the regional art buying community and the galleries and artists who support them.

Co Chair Glenda Kupczyk-Romanczuk says, “We could not continue without the support of the community. Many customers are old friends now, having bought year after year. Libby Beasley sums up a sentiment expressed by many: “Each year I think I’ve got enough … but every time there’s something new and wonderful.” Comments like this inspire us to keep finding new artists. We are also delighted to welcome new faces – especially young people looking to make a first purchase. New art lovers inspire us to plan for the future.

Each year for longer than anyone in Packsaddle can remember, Allingham Removals has been transporting the essential selected original artworks  from Sydney galleries and artists to and from NERAM and are rated by the Packsaddlers as their longest serving supporters. 

Members of the Cameron family who worked for Allinghams have just recently bought the firm, and are continuing to provide excellent service. Pat says, “They have always been very adaptable and accommodating, travelling all over Sydney to various locations with the minimum of fuss. We owe them a great deal.” 

Another essential long time supporter has been print supplier Janie Miller, who has been providing a great array of prints from artists across Australia which she brings to Armidale for the Packsaddlers to select from each year. Pat says, “Janie has been providing us with prints from various artists for over twenty years, and she gives us access to such a lot of diverse artists and their works, which we may not otherwise get .”

Over the years the Packsaddlers have invited a diverse array of artists and art lovers to open their exhibitions – Wendy Sharpe, Barry Pearce, Edmund Capon, Jenny Sages, Madeline Winch, Christopher Hodges, Angus Nivision, Roy Churcher and Idris Murphy, to name just a few, and this year they have invited Christopher Hodges back for the third time.  

Packsaddle Co-Chair, Moira Lloyd says, “Christopher has been one of our longest serving supporters, almost since Packsaddle began, and we are delighted he is returning as our opener his year.”

Christopher has been making paintings, sculpture, prints and drawings throughout his career, and his work is now in many public, private and corporate collections, including NERAM, the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery and the AGNSW.

Christopher is also the director of Utopia Art Sydney, which he founded in 1988.   

The gallery is well known for the way in which it exhibits contemporary Indigenous and Non-Indigenous artists side by side, and nurturing the careers of many now well-known artists like Emily Kngwarreye, John R Walker, George Tjungurrayi and  Angus Nivison. 

Why are the Packsaddlers wearing yellow gloves?

Because one of the Hinton works Packsaddle has funded the conservation of is Esther Patterson’s The Yellow Gloves.

This year’s Packsaddle exhibition opens at NERAM on Friday 19th October at 6pm and runs through until Sunday 4th November. The gallery is open from Tuesday until Sunday from 10am until 4pm. For more information, see www.neram.com.au or follow us on Packsaddle’s Facebook.

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