The Johnstone Gallery Archive 1948 - ca 1992: treasure collection of the John Oxley Library

From 1950 until 1972, the Johnstone Gallery was the force behind building an appreciation of contemporary Australian art in Brisbane and beyond, as arguably Australia’s most famous commercial gallery of the time. The potted palms, calico lined walls, bamboo blinds, cane dividers and sea-grass mats of the Johnstone Gallery at 6 Cintra Road, Bowen Hills provided three crucial spaces for the genesis of a contemporary art audience in Queensland - the imagined, the material and the creative.

Brian and Marjorie Johnstone with their dog Lindy, photographed by Arthur Davenport and added to the scrapbook. The collection includes 26 volumes of bound scrapbooks. RBHARC-7 Johnstone Gallery Archive 1948-ca. 1992, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The Johnstone Gallery was a leader in its choice of artists, display style and artist representation. Owners Brian and Marjorie Johnstone created a focal point of Brisbane’s cultural and social life, with their Sunday exhibition openings becoming legendary. When the gallery closed in 1972, there was a very real sense that it was the end of an era.

Newspaper articles about the Johnstone Gallery were added to the scrapbooks meticulously by Marjorie. RBHARC-7 Johnstone Gallery Archive 1948-ca. 1992, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Today researchers appreciate that all aspects of the gallery are documented in The Johnstone Gallery Archive, bequeathed by Marjorie to the State Library of Queensland in 1994. The collection features 26 bound volumes of scrapbooks, gallery files, printed exhibition catalogues, correspondence, photographs, and is a major resource for provenance research of Australian artworks and artists. Photographer Arthur Davenport recorded many of the artworks and gallery installations from 1964 to 1972. 

Interior of the Johnstone Gallery, Bowen Hills, Queensland, ca. 1969 showing an exhibition of Ignacio Marmol paintings. Image number: 27642-0649-0001 Acc 27642 Arthur Davenport Photographs. In copyright, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

The Johnstone Gallery Archive was added to UNESCO's Australian Memory of the World Register in 2021. See also the Media Release pertaining to the announcement. 

Read more about the Johnstone Gallery Archive on the State Library of Queensland exhibitions portal and listen to several prominent artists, gallery owners and acquaintances talk about their association with Brian and Marjorie Johnstone in the Johnstone Gallery Interviews recorded between 2009 and 2014.

Visitors to the John Oxley Library on Level 4 of State Library can access the collection for personal research and study. An extensive finding aid lists the contents in series and by box number. Restrictions apply to copying the material in the archive. 

Jacinta Sutton, Program Officer, Collection Engagement, State Library of Queensland

Collection: RBHARC-7 Johnstone Gallery Archive 1948-ca. 1992

Oral Histories: Johnstone Gallery Interviews

Website: Johnstone Gallery Archive resources

Podcast: Johnstone Gallery (A night in the JOL)

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