By Michelle Slater
The owner of the Lyon Housemuseum in Kew, Corbett Lyon, will pass his valuable private collection of contemporary Australian art into public ownership.
In March, Boroondara City Council approved the building of a small public museum on the neighbouring property, connecting to the Housemuseum.
Mr Lyon will gift his collection into public ownership after it is moved into the new museum. This was promised on the condition that council approved the project.
“The museum will be set up under the Commonwealth as an endorsed public museum with its own constitution, collection policy and public fund.
“The affairs of the public museum will be administered by a board of directors comprising of people who have a degree of responsibility to the public,” he said.
Associate Professor Kenneth Wach, from Melbourne University Culture and Communication, said the board of trustees needs to be carefully selected to ensure the collection is protected.
“There is the possible danger in the future that the collection is taken over and controlled/managed by inappropriate or unqualified people,” he said.
“This needs to be safeguarded somehow in the formal agreements. The Board of Trustees needs to be made up of the right top-quality people.”
Prof Wach said that the collection is comprised of important works. “They are all well chosen and show the operation of sophisticated taste and choice.”
The collection’s highlights include works by Howard Arkley and Patricia Piccinini. Arkley’s Fabricated Rooms, is closely associated with the artist’s representation at the 1999 Venice Biennale.
The artworks are housed in the Lyon family’s private home, which won a Premier’s Designer Award in 2010.
The Lyons currently conduct small private tours of the collection. They plan to move the artworks out of their home and have the museum completed in eight years.
The museum will be based on the models of Tarrawarra in Healesville and Heide in Templestowe, where private collections have been made public.
Acting director of Tarrawarra, Maudie Palmer, was the inaugural director of both museums. “These three museums together will provide an opportunity for Melbournians and the public at large to see and appreciate the development of Australian modern art since the 1930s in buildings that are icons of modern architecture,” she said.
However, some Kew locals are unhappy about the council’s approval of the museum in a residential zone, on the corner of Cotham Road and Florence Avenue.
Maria Butler represented a residential steering group of 60 people that addressed the council in protest at the proposed development. She called the museum a “big box venture”.
She fears that the museum will draw too many visitors to the street and threaten public amenity. “Having 34,000 people in a residential area is wrong,” she said.
“You buy a house in a quiet street to enjoy that and raise your family. To have all those people coming up and down your street isn’t right.”
Councillor Coral Ross, who voted in favour for the museum, said that council was satisfied that visitor numbers will not impact on local amenity.
The museum hopes to attract 75 visitors a day when completed. Cr Ross said that visitor numbers will be restricted. She compared it to a childcare centre.
“If more children come in, then they are in breach of their permit and they aren’t allowed to operate. It’s the same way with the museum,” she said.