Past exhibitions and history

For more information about our previous exhibitions, please visit the Watt Space Exhibition Archive.

Watt Space opening 1989Left to right: Bryan Bulley, George Drewery, Peter Singleton, Jacquie Henderson, William Bowmore OAM, Phil Oke.

Early in 1989 George Drewery, Jacquie Henderson and Bryan Bulley, art students of the Hunter Institute of Higher Education approached the Students Representative Council of the Hunter Institute with a proposal to establish a student art gallery in Newcastle.

George Drewery at Watt Space Opening
George Drewery, first Watt Space President and founding student, at opening night 1989.

28 September 1989 was the opening of Watt's Happening, the inaugural exhibition of Watt Space, the Hunter Institute Student Art Gallery at 11 Watt Street, Newcastle. Special guest William Bowmore opened the exhibition and made the first purchases, a painting by David Middlebrook and a ceramic urn by John Cliff.

Watt Space Original space on Watt Street
Watt Space in Watt Street, Newcastle, 1989

At the end of 1989 a Student Management Committee of President, George Drewery, Secretary Jacquie Henderson and Treasurer Simon Alberry run Watt Space for the first 12 months with financial support from the Student Representative Council of the Hunter Institute of Higher Education and the assistance of the staff of the School of Visual and Performing Arts headed by Graham Gilchrist.

In April 1990 Pippa Robinson is appointed as part-time director and exhibitions officer of Watt Space, and a formal Watt Space Management Committee of three students, three staff members of the Institute and three SRC representatives was established.

After the amalgamation of the University of Newcastle with the Hunter Institute of Higher Education in 1989 is formalised, Watt Space comes under auspices of the UoN Services Limited. The Union is the major sponsor of the gallery with the Faculty of Art and Design also contributing to the operating costs of the gallery.

Watt Space expands with the addition of three new exhibition spaces at Watt Street, acquiring the use of adjoining rooms in the building. Exhibitions increase to close to forty each year displaying the work of over two hundred student artists. The Australian Graphic Design Association toured its inaugural Biennial Award exhibition to Watt Space.

The UoN Services Limited acquires the lease of section of the ground floor of University House (formerly NESCA House) on the corner of King & Auckland Streets, Newcastle and John Broughton, CEO of the Union, suggests that Watt Space relocates to the marble entrance halls within the building. The student committee of Mary-anne Taylor, Glyn Thomas and David Love and Director Pippa Robinson are much more attracted to the old NESCA printery with its loading dock, pit and storage areas and suggest plans for the refurbishment of this area into 5 separate gallery spaces. These are developed and carried out by the Union over several months.

Watt Space has also acquired an office on campus, in the gymnasium building.

View Pippa Robinson's essay here.

The final exhibitions at Watt Space in Watt Street featuring work by Lili-Ann Berg, Belinda Street, Julie Tilse, Anna Ephraim and Marianne Ireland close on 19 August.

Watt Space Long Room in 1996
The Long Room at the new Watt Space location at University House being renovated.

On Friday 23 August 1996 Watt Space at University House opens with the eclectics, a group show by VAMPS, the Visual Arts, Multi-media and Performance Society of the University of Newcastle. The opening night featured music, opera, poetry, performance and was opened by Su Cruickshank.

Watt Space hosts the 6th Annual Student Acquisitive Art Prize, formerly held in the Shortland Union, later in the year. This annual prize is sponsored by the Universiity of Newcastle Union Limited with total prize-money of $2,500.

The Union makes the position of Director of Watt Space full-time.

Watt Decade, curated by Watt Space Director Penny Metham, is exhibited at the gallery from 29 September - 19 October, celebrating the first ten years of the gallery's life with the works of fifteen current artists who took their first steps as developing artists at Watt Space.

The artists are: Samantha Arnull, Peter Barnes, Sandra Burgess, Sandra Minter Caldwell, Emil Goh, Martin Hodge, Chris Langlois, David Middlebrook, Darrin Morgan. Faye Neilsen, Niomi Sands, Natalie Sherring, Warrren Taylor, Dan Zero, Vera Zolumovski.

The accompanying catalogue included essays by Ross Woodrow, Pippa Robinson, Nick Mitzevich, Jody Watts, Apo Wu and Ian Burns which reflected their involvement and observations of Watt Space since 1989.

View Ross Woodrow's essay here.

25 Watt, curated by Watt Space Manager Penny Finnigan, was exhibited at the gallery from 11 – 28 September 2014, celebrating the first twenty five years of the gallery's life with the works of nineteen artists who showed at Watt Space as students and have since established national and international careers. The exhibiting artists were: Penelope Benton, Deidre Brollo, Ian Burns, Stephen Garrett, Linsey Gosper, Lucas Grogan, Susan Jacobs, Chris Langlois, Ken O'Regan, Izabela Pluta, Niomi Sands, Alexia Sinclair, Braddon Snape, Peter Speight (dcd) Julie squires, Catherine and Jennifer Strutt, Shan Turner-Carroll, Ahn Wells and Ashley Whamond.

The accompanying catalogue included essays by previous Directors, plus arts administrators Nick Mitzevich, Trish Flanagan, Anna Scobie, Gillian Shaw and Warren Taylor which reflected their involvement and observations of Watt Space since 1989.

View Penny Finnigan's essay here

View Anne McLaughlin's essay here

View Simone Paterson's essay here

View Pippa Robinson's essay here

View Ross Woodrow's essay here

Watt Space will reopen in its new premises of Northumberland House, corner of King and Auckland St, Newcastle on the 5th of November 2015.

View the Northumberland House renovations here.