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SAM – art, architecture, people and place

As a precursor to a more in-depth article in the next issue of Indesign, Jan Henderson ventured to Shepparton to discover SAM and enjoyed every moment.

SAM – art, architecture, people and place


Perhaps one of the very few upsides of the pandemic has been the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with our own backyard – that is, to enjoy the sights, sounds and scenery that regional towns have to offer.

For Victorians, the opening of the Shepparton Art Museum (SAM), is one such pleasure, and within easy access from Melbourne, this new gallery is certain to become a star attraction.

An exterior aerial shot of SAM.
Photograph by John Gollings.

Designed by Denton Corker Marshall (DCM), SAM is certainly a statement building that draws the eye when driving into Greater Shepparton. It’s also a very approachable gallery, not overpowering, at just five storeys high. DCM, has created a wonderful interior that is perfectly formed to showcase the impressive talent of the mostly local artists’ works. 

Each level is accessed by a grand contemporary staircase positioned at the rear of the building and a central void ensures there is ample natural light reflected through large picture windows that also frame the outside views.

A colourful hanging installation hangs over a void in SAM, Shepparton Art Museum.
Installation by Anne Marie May. Photo by Tim Griffith.

Walking through the larger galleries there is a human dimension to the spatial form and strategically placed partitions help delineate the spaces without inhibiting the journey of discovery.

The exhibition areas vary in size, larger spaces on levels one and two with more intimate spaces for a video installation or collection on each floor. Through the inclusion of display windows and utilising tucked away areas there is ample opportunity to display myriad works that will engage every cultural enthusiast. 

A person walks through an installation in SAM.
Flow. Photo by Christian Capurro.

Exhibitions on display at the moment are expertly curated and displayed and are especially relevant to the community as SAM celebrates the work of local Yorta people who now call Shepparton home.

Currently there is an extraordinary exhibition by Lin Onus titled, Lin Onus: The Land Within and this multi-faceted artistic exposition is absolutely not to be missed.

Lin Onus. Photo by Tim Griffith.

Through a range of artworks that includes a brightly coloured fever of stingrays suspended mid-air, paintings large and small of landscape and people and other sculptural pieces, Onus presents an exploration of the struggle for Indigenous rights, the impact of colonisation and the joys and strengths of Aboriginal people. It is a beautiful curation of works by a truly great artist and is all the more impressive for inhabiting this new gallery space. 

Another must see is the exhibition, Brown Pots, on levels two and three. Ceramics have a special place in the heart of the Shepparton Art Museum as the gallery boasts the most significant collection of Australian ceramics in regional Australia.

A yellow sculpture of a dog in a corner between hanging artworks in SAM.
Lin Onus. Photo by Christian Capurro.

Brown Pots presents the ever-evolving story of Australian studio pottery from the 1950s to present day and has been drawn from the works of more than 60 artists that comprise the SAM ceramic collection.

Lovers of ceramics take note, as this is the first of three exhibitions of outstanding exhibits that also celebrates the contribution of women and leading Aboriginal artists of the genre.

Overall, SAM is a fabulous gallery that will delight and surprise. Not only is the building a singular design, the exhibitions are world class and it is well worth the drive to Shepparton to discover all that SAM has to offer. 

Denton Corker Marshall

Lin Onus: the Land Within, People’s Gallery, Level 2

From 20 November 2021 – 13 March 2022

Brown Pots, SAM Showcases, Levels 2 and 3

From 20 November 2021 – 17 July 2022

For more information on SAM go to, sheppartonartmuseum.com.au

Shepparton Art Museum will appear in Indesign’s Workplace issue. Want to be the first to see more? Subscribe now.

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