John Olsen, Somus, gouache and oil pastel on paper on board, 1966-67, ANU Collection. Photo by Stuart Hay.

Visitors to University House can see John Olsen, Somus, gouache and oil pastel on paper on board, 1966-67, ANU collection. Photo by Stuart Hay.

Exhibition Space: University House

In a tranquil part of the campus sits University House, a quiet sanctuary with a surprising take on art. REBECCA BLACKBURN, GradDipRes&EnvMan (Hons) '99, BA '91, BSc '91 tours the building's collection.

When University House opened in 1954, The Sydney Morning Herald declared it was to be "a museum of contemporary art".

The building was a post-war statement. It was an architecturally designed, integrated package of landscape design, art, sculpture and furniture. T

here were no art galleries in Canberra and it would be another 28 years until the National Gallery of Australia was built.

Since then, University House has been a standout for art - a hidden gem, in some respects - and today its collection is remarkably strong.

Works by prominent Australian artists, including Arthur Boyd, John Brack, John Olsen, Clarice Beckett and Jeffrey Smart, can be found dotted around the building.

The art starts before you even enter the building. A massive sandstone figure reclines on its side, nestled amongst the bushes next to the entrance of University House.

Relaxation, a semi-abstract sculpture by Gerald Lewers, signals the building is a place to wind down at the end of the day.

Once inside, you notice the temperature drop. The cool interior matches the design of the building, perfect for those hot Canberra summers.

One can take in the calm, clean lines of Fred Ward furniture, the custom-designed Frank Hinder terrazzo floor and potted orchids.