William Robinson, The Rainforest (1990). Collection Gallery at HOTA. Acquired through funds from the Gold Coast’s business and artloving community, 1991. On display HOTA foyer, Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Queensland. The difficulties started just after William Robinson had won the prestigious Wynne Prize for landscape in 1990 with a monumental painting of verdant rainforest in the mountainous hinterland of Queensland’s Gold Coast.
After Robinson’s win, Fran Cummings, the director of the Gold Coast City Gallery at the time, came up with a bold plan to acquire the work. She decided the painting would be a worthwhile addition to the gallery’s collection, particularly given its local subject matter.
The Rainforest, at nearly 5m in length and across two panels, was valued at $80,000. It was a lot of money, but Cummings believed she could raise it.
First she went to the local council, hoping for $30,000. However, there was an influential dissenting voice, Gold Coast Bulletin arthritic John Millington. He wrote stories saying council funds should not be spent on the painting and the gallery was being ripped off. He believed the painting to be worth between $20,000 and $30,000.
The council decided not to put any money towards the purchase, but Cummings decided to crowd fund. It took six months and the money was raised entirely from local businesses, including the newspaper that employed the art critic, and the community.
The Rainforest now hangs in the foyer of the Gallery at HOTA (Home of the Arts), the new name for the Gold Coast City Gallery, at Surfers Paradise. As gallery director Tracy Cooper-Lavery and I stand before the painting, she explains how the painting depicts a waterway in the Beechmont rainforest as it flows through Botan Creek, into a waterfall, and then into the Coomera River.
And while The Rainforest is not all about the monetary value, it is worth noting it is now valued at about $900,000. The painting is so significant that Cooper-Lavery describes it as the “hero of the collection” and says they “love it so much it has literally been the starting point” for the design of the Gold Coast’s new $60.5 million gallery, due to open in January 2021. ew
Oil on canvas, 183cm x 488cm