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Reflections

aGOG signage, 1989
neon tube, acrylic, metal, electrical transformer
60 x 165.5 x 9 cm (sign)
29.5 x 15 x 12.5 cm (transformer)
Winifred Mumford, designer manufactured
in Queanbeyan
Gift of Helen Maxwell 2003

HELEN MAXWELL COLLECTION

The australian Girls Own Gallery, known as aGOG, opened its doors on 16 March 1989 as a commercial gallery representing women artists only. It was housed in a complex in Leichhardt Street Kingston, which also contained the Leichhardt Street Studios, home to many Canberra artists at different times.


Helen Maxwell, aGOG’s director, intended her gallery to promote and exhibit women’s art from the Canberra region and beyond. In the ten years of its operation aGOG had an important infl uence on art in the Canberra community. Many young artists had their fi rst exhibition at aGOG, and Maxwell also sought out older artists, some of whom had rarely if ever exhibited their work. The Canberra commercial art world is a small one, and aGOG gave audiences signifi cant exposure to a broad range of contemporary art practice. A number of the many artists who exhibited at aGOG are represented in the CMAG collection, including Olive Cotton, Sue Lovegrove, Victoria Clutterbuck, Pam Debenham, Marie Hagerty, Judy Horacek and eX de Medici.


Maxwell closed the doors of aGOG at the end of 1998 and went in search of a larger gallery space in which to expand and also represent male artists. In March 2000 she opened the Helen Maxwell Gallery in Mort Street, Braddon, in the building once occupied by the fl edgling Australian newspaper, which Rupert Murdoch had launched in Canberra in 1964.


Signage is an important component of the CMAG collection. Commercial signs are part of the visual landscape of a city and signifi cant objects of social history. The elegant aGOG sign is material evidence of the australian Girls Own Gallery, an important enterprise in Canberra’s cultural history; it is also symbolic of affi rmative action practices that followed 1970s second-wave feminism, in the creative arts as elsewhere. Maxwell’s little gallery achieved its aims and brought artists and audiences together, and signifi cantly advanced the potential for women working in the arts in the Canberra region and elsewhere.


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