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Brief History
Contemporary Art Society of Victoria (Inc.)

The Contemporary Art Society was established 13 July, 1938, by George Bell in protest at the perceived conservatism of the dominant Australian Academy of Art, with primary and paramount objectives being the fostering and promotion of contemporary art, to further the understanding of it, and to encourage and stimulate artists. George Bell was president from 1938 to 1940.

Its first exhibition was held in the National Gallery, Victoria, in June 1939 with work from all states. After disagreement over the direction of the Society, George Bell and 83 other members seceded in 1940 and John Reed was elected president. Membership of the Contemporary Art Society brought together some of Melbourne’s young radical artists - Arthur Boyd, John Perceval, Harry de Hartog, Albert Tucker, Sidney Nolan, Vic O’Connor, Yosl Bergner, Noel Counihan. However, in 1947, after personal and political differences, C.A.S. suspended activities.

John Reed revived C.A.S. in 1954, and in 1956 established the Gallery of Contemporary Art (later the Museum of Modern Art and Design of Australia) as the C.A.S. head office. In 1955 the annual subscription of ten shillings was increased to one pound. In 1956, Georges Mora was elected President. Artists donated paintings towards an inaugural fund raising exhibition in 1957, and the Victorian Government made available a grant. In 1960 Edwin Tanner was elected vice-president, 1961 David Boyd as president and John Perceval as vice-president. In 1963 C.A.S. rented premises at 9 Collins Street, Melbourne, and 1 Fitzroy St, St Kilda in 1967.

From 1967 to 1987, presidents elected were: 1967 Robert Grieve, 1972 Heather Johnson, 1975 Joan Gough, 1980 Sue McDougall, 1982 Louise Foletta, 1984 Anthony Syndicas, 1985 Marek Dobieki, 1987 Jan Delaney. From 1972, members were able to rent exhibition space at Joan Gough’s studio in Kew and, later, her studio in South Yarra until early 1989.

In a change of direction, the Society's July 1989 Annual Exhibition, judged by Erica McGilchrist, was held in the “Old Court House Gallery” in Seymour, Victoria. In June 1989, Robert Lee became President. The C.A.S. held its Council and Members’ meetings at members’ homes, and local hotels. In October 1989, the Members’ Exhibition was held in the “Sky” Gallery in Collingwood.

In February 1990, the C.A.S. gained use of the Ola Cohn Centre in East Melbourne, as a base for its activities. Many successful artists’ evenings and discussion nights were held over the next 7 years. 1990 also saw exhibitions held at the State Bank Galleria and AMP Square, Melbourne.

1991: exhibitions were held at Seymour’s “Old Court House Gallery” and the State Bank Galleria in Melbourne. In the same year, the C.A.S. became an incorporated body.

1992: C.A.S. Inc. revisited the AMP Square for its Annual Exhibition. It also took part in the winter Richmond Off Peak Arts Festival, with an exhibition at Café Richmond, and a 12-minute televised segment about the Society and members’ works on Richmond Access Television (RAT). The 1992 Members’ Exhibition was held at historic Coolart, Balnarring, for 5 weeks.

The 1993 C.A.S. Inc. Annual Exhibition was held at the State Craft Collection Gallery at the Meat Market Craft Centre, North Melbourne. 1993 also saw the first “3/4 x 1 Foot” show (a touring small works exhibition), which was held at “The CUB Malthouse”, South Melbourne, and later at “Arts Post” in Ballarat, Vic. The 1993 Members’ Exhibition was held at the Doncaster Gallery. At this show, the C.A.S. Inc. Works on Paper Folio was introduced. Mark Burt was elected President in July, and opened the “Arts Post” exhibition. 1993 also saw the introduction of “Friends of C.A.S. Inc.” for people interested in the society and the arts.

The 1994 C.A.S. Inc. Annual Exhibition was again held at the State Craft Collection Gallery at the Meat Market Craft Centre. A second touring small works show, the “City to City 9 x 12 Board Show”, was shown at the The CUB Malthouse Gallery, South Melbourne, and the Seymour Theatre Centre, Sydney. The 1994 Members’ Exhibition travelled to Cowwarr Art Space, Cowwarr, in Gippsland. 1994 saw the implementation of CASspace, a programme for displaying contemporary art in non-traditional public venues, and the first CASspace venue for displaying members works: Suits Cafe, Bar & Lounge, Melbourne.

In 1995, a second CASspace venue - 2 huge shopfronts in Collins St - was found, and had its first exhibition in March. CASspace 546-564 Collins St, and CASspace at Suits, showed regularly changing exhibitions up to July 1997.

The 1995, 1996 and 1997 C.A.S. Inc. Annual Exhibitions were held at the Meat Market Craft Centre. Members’ Exhibitions were held at AMP Square in 1995, Colonial Bank Gallery & Mully’s Cafe, Bendigo, in 1996, and Chapel Gallery, Prahran, in 1997. The 1995 and 1996 touring exhibitions of 9” x 12” works, “Bridge the Gap” and “The Shanghai Boomerang Board Show”, both opened at The Malthouse Theatre, then moved across town to CASspace 546-564 Collins St. “The Shanghai Boomerang Board Show” was also shown at the Seymour Theatre Centre in Sydney after the Malthouse Gallery. The C.A.S. Inc. 9” x 12” Exhibition 1997 was the first one to be opened to non-members. It travelled from Melbourne to Sydney, Tennant Creek, Darwin, Adelaide and Hobart.

1998: Mandy Hopkins was elected President. Exhibitions for this year were: the Annual Exhibition, Meat Market, and the Members’ Exhibition at The Haven Gallery, Williamstown. From September 1998, this venue was also a new C.A.S. Inc. exhibition space - C.A.S. Inc. at The Haven - from 1998 to 1999. CASspace 546-564 Collins St also became available again, from October 1998 to December 2001.

1999: Robert Lee was elected President. Exhibitions were: Annual Exhibition, “Windows 99”, May, and Members’ Exhibition, November-December, both at CASspace 546-564 Collins St, Melbourne. The C.A.S. Inc. 9” x 12” National Touring Exhibition of Contemporary Art 1999-2000 was launched at Steps Gallery, Carlton, July 1999, then began its travels around Australia to Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Gippsland, Sydney, Grafton, Cairns and Tennant Creek (NT), returning to Melbourne in July 2000 for a final showing at CASspace 546-564 Collins St.

2000 exhibitions were: Annual Exhibition, May-June, at Artistcare Gallery, South Melbourne; Members’ Exhibition, November-December, at CASspace 546-564 Collins St, Melbourne; and “I said Pet ... Show!” also at CASspace 546-564 Collins St, Melbourne.

2001 exhibitions were: Annual Exhibition, March. at Eckersleys Open Space Gallery, Melbourne, and Members’ Exhibition, November-December, at CASspace 546-564 Collins St, Melbourne, followed by “I said Pet ... Show!”, December, at the same venue.

2002 exhibitions were: C.A.S. Inc. Annual Exhibition, June, at Eckersleys Open Space Gallery, Melbourne; C.A.S. Inc. Members’ Exhibition, November, at Artistcare Gallery, South Melbourne; and The Collectors’ Exhibition, December, at Steps Gallery, Carlton.

2003 exhibitions were: Annual Exhibition, March-April, at Eckersleys Open Space Gallery, Melbourne; and Members’ Exhibition, October, at Clifton Creative Arts Centre, Richmond.

From December 2000 to August 2004, CAS had 10 group shows of members’ works at Commercial Bedding Supplies in Richmond.

2004 exhibitions were: The Collectors’ Exhibition, February, at Steps Gallery, Carlton; Annual Exhibition, May, at Eckersleys Open Space Gallery, Melbourne; Members’ Exhibition, October, at Clifton Creative Arts Centre, Richmond, and the inaugural outdoor art show on the banks of the Yarra river, “Art At Burnley Harbour”, December, at Burnley Harbour in Richmond.

2005 started with the 3rd Collectors’ Exhibition (February) at Steps Gallery, Carlton, followed by the Annual Members' Exhibition at Eckersleys Open Space Gallery in Melbourne's CBD (August) and “Art At Burnley Harbour” on the Yarra River at Burnley Harbour in Richmond (December).

2006 exhibitions were: a CAS exhibition in February - March as part of the Herring Island Summer Arts Festival, Herring Island; The Collectors’ Exhibition, May, at Steps Gallery, Carlton; Annual Exhibition, September, at Eckersleys Open Space Gallery, Melbourne; and Art At Burnley Harbour, December, at Burnley Harbour in Richmond.

2007 exhibitions were: Contemporary by Nature in March, our 2nd CAS exhibition as part of the Herring Island Summer Arts Festival, Herring Island; The Collectors’ Exhibition, May, at Steps Gallery, Carlton; C.A.S. Inc. Annual Exhibition 2007, September, at Eckersleys Open Space Gallery, Melbourne; and Art At Burnley Harbour, December, at Burnley Harbour, Richmond.

2008 started with Contemporary by Nature in March, our 3rd CAS exhibition as part of the Herring Island Summer Arts Festival, Herring Island, and continues with the 6th Collectors’ Exhibition, May, at Steps Gallery, Carlton. Forthcoming shows: the Society’s 70th Anniversary C.A.S. Inc. Annual Exhibition 2008, September, at Fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne; and Art At Burnley Harbour, December, at Burnley Harbour in Richmond. There were also two exhibitions of CAS members’ works at MoorWood contemporary furniture showrooms, Fitzroy, where the Society displayed regularly changing exhibitions from September 2005 to April 2008.

2009 exhibitions were: Contemporary by Nature in March, our 4th CAS exhibition as part of the Herring Island Summer Arts Festival, Herring Island; The Collectors’ Exhibition, May, at Steps Gallery, Carlton; Brooch - The Subject ... III, our 3rd special exhibition of Wearable Art and the first to be opened to artists Australia wide, August - October at Fitzroy Library, Fitzroy; C.A.S. Inc. Annual Exhibition 2009, September, at Eckersleys Open Space Gallery, Melbourne; and Art At Burnley Harbour, December, at Burnley Harbour in Richmond.

2010 started with Contemporary by Nature in February - March, our 5th CAS exhibition as part of the Herring Island Summer Arts Festival, Herring Island, followed by Brooch - The Subject ... IV, our 4th special exhibition of Wearable Art and the 2nd to be opened to artists Australia wide, August - October at Fitzroy Library, Fitzroy. 2010 continues with the C.A.S. Inc. Annual Exhibition 2010, September, at Eckersleys Open Space Gallery, Melbourne. Forthcoming show: our 7th Art At Burnley Harbour, December, near Burnley Harbour in Richmond.

The Contemporary Art Society of Victoria Inc. holds at least two major exhibitions each year, also occasional special exhibitions. CAS also provides additional exhibition opportunities, such as displays of Members’ works at Fitzroy Library and Richmond Library (Vic). The society holds various activities, including Gallery Walks, dinners and social events. It is a non-profit organisation, run by artists, for artists and those interested in the arts. We hope you enjoy this year’s Annual Exhibition.


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