Geoff Raby ’71, ‘In Our Time’

Over a 35-year period beginning in the mid-1980s, Australian economist and diplomat Dr Geoff Raby AO assembled a vibrant trove of works by more than 75 artists working in China and in Australia, as members of the Chinese diaspora. In Our Time is the inaugural exhibition of selected works from this collection, featuring nearly 70 artworks being exhibited together at Bendigo Art Gallery.

Through art imbued variously with humour, fantasy and sarcasm, the collection addresses diverse themes ranging from urban life, Chinese philosophy and cultural difference to social justice, human rights and nationhood. The represented artists work in media including painting, photography, drawing, ceramics, sculpture and textiles.

Geoff Raby is a committed art collector whose acquisitions reflect both his sociability and his role as a diplomatic mediator. He belongs to a group of collectors in Asia whose friendships and global networks changed the course of regional art histories. By enlarging the reach of contemporary artists’ practices beyond independent studios and private galleries, these individuals often fast-tracked emerging artists’ careers.

In Our Time explores diverse styles and artistic technologies. The exhibition maps developments in contemporary art practice in the context of changing political ideologies, social conditions and cultural activities in China and Australia. The La Trobe University Geoff Raby Collection of Chinese Art records a dynamic period of Chinese history, when artists were responding to the economic and cultural opening-up of the country while navigating its reforms. The exhibition takes on a heightened significance at a time when rising geopolitical tensions between China and the West have placed a premium on soft power, cooperation and cross-cultural understanding.

Guan Wei, ‘Water View No. 15’, (detail) 2011, synthetic polymer paint on canvas. La Trobe University, Geoff Raby Collection of Chinese Art.
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