Direct from Graceland, coming to the Bendigo Art Gallery in March, is director Jessica Bridgfoot’s latest star-studded ride

For a regional center, the Bendigo Art Gallery has a capital reputation, forged by pioneering filmmakers Tony Ellwood in the 1990s and Karen Quinlan from 2000 to 2018. Grace Kelly in 2012 set attendance records, attracting thousands of visitors from Melbourne, a two-hour drive away.

Ellwood is now director of the CNG, and Quinlan runs the National Portrait Gallery. And even, Bendigo Art Gallery Go ahead. Since taking the top job in 2019, Jessica Bridgefoot has hosted popular shows including Fashion Revolutionary Mary Quant in collaboration with Victoria from London & Albert Museum, and Gothic Beauty: Victorian Notions of Love, Loss and Grief.

Jessica Bridgfoot, Director of the Bendigo Art Gallery: “It’s not just a place for elite members of the community who love art.” Nicole Roseau

In February, Bridgfoot will present the first major survey of contemporary fashion by Indigenous Australian designers at Paris Fashion Week. In March, Elvis: Live from Graceland, an exclusive exhibit curated with the Graceland Archives, opens. And in 2023, she will oversee a $28 million redevelopment of the gallery.

“What I have been entrusted with is a new phase of transformation,” says Bridgfoot, 40, who grew up in Bendigo and remembers the gallery being somewhat austere. “There was a small room where the contemporary works were. Then you would go through the very formal historic courts that we still have. It was a static space.

Facilities will be expanded, technology updated, and educational and civic access improved. The entrance will be remodeled and blockbuster exhibitions will have a dedicated space, which is important given Bridgfoot’s ambitions for the venue. If Grace Kelly was a blockbuster, you can imagine the expectations for graceland. The Elvis show is expected to inject millions of dollars into the local economy through post-pandemic tourism.

“Grace Kelly [exhibition] That’s when we realized it wasn’t just about clothes or design. It’s also about the biographical details behind them,” says Bridgfoot. “Elvis was the first self-proclaimed celebrity. He came before the time of publicists and was one of the first male artists to wear makeup.

Well-known and beloved stories can be difficult for curators to approach. “[Presley’s] is also a controversial and quite Shakespearian story. There are twists and villains throughout.

Piinpi: contemporary Australian indigenous fashion closed in January ahead of the Paris Fashion Week trip. It featured the work of more than 50 indigenous artists and designers, from inner cities to remote desert centers.

“Once we came up with the idea for an exhibit about the burgeoning world of Indigenous fashion, we realized how huge the groundswell was,” says Bridgfoot. “It was sort of a risk – untested content. But the response has been phenomenal.

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