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Johnstone Gallery facts for kids

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The Johnstone Gallery was a leading private gallery located in the suburb of Bowen Hills in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It was co-owned by Brian Johnstone and his wife, Marjorie Johnstone.

Unique character

The Johnstone Gallery had a unique character. It was housed in a privately owned, purpose built, gallery in a large sub-tropical rainforest setting. Owners Brian and Marjorie Johnstone were extremely successful gallery curators and apart from having their own unique collection of Australian and overseas art, they managed to attract leading Australian artists such as Sir Sidney Nolan, Robert Dickerson, Lawrence Daws, Margaret Olley, Charles Blackman, Ray Crooke, Arthur Boyd, Donald Friend, Laurence Hope and many others to exhibit their artworks at special exhibitions.

The heyday of the Johnstone Gallery occurred in post-war Brisbane. Brisbane was sadly not known for great visual art offerings outside the Queensland Art Gallery.

Not content with just operating their gallery, Brian and Majorie Johnstone opened their sub-tropical rainforest garden for the staging of the theatre productions. Between 24–27 April 1962, Twelfth Night Theatre, then situated in inner city Wickham Terrace, staged Aristophanes' Lysistrata with the set and costumes designed by Quentin Hole. It was a unique moment in the history of theatre in Brisbane.

Brian and Majorie Johnstone wanted to establish a unique suburban artistic precinct in Brisbane. With this in mind they planned as early as 1966 to form a committee to establish a theatre on part of the ground the gallery occupied. This would later become the place for the building of the current Twelfth Night Theatre. Prior to the commencement of the building of the theatre, a production of Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas was staged in a tent on the site of the future theatre. Building work began in 1969. The theatre opened in February 1971 at the Bowen Hills site under the direction of Joan Whalley with two productions, A Flea in Her Ear by Georges Feydeau and The Rose and the Ring a musical based on the fireside pantomime written by William Makepeace Thackeray. The Johnstones were delighted, as Brian wrote to Sidney Nolan:

"...with the new half-million dollar theatre next door, the establishment is now nicely rounded off, so perhaps one of these days Marjorie and I will be able to play ladies and gentlemen of the art world!"

The theatre is still functioning today under the directorship of Gail Wiltshire.


Although the Johnstone Gallery closed in 1972, the artistic vision of Brian and Marjorie Johnstone lives on in the memories of those who knew them personally, the artists who held exhibitions at their gallery and the many people who visited as patrons. The extensive Johnstone Gallery Archive held in trust for the people of Queensland at the State Library of Queensland. The Johnstones were ground breakers and Brisbane owes them a great mark of gratitude for the considerable work that they achieved. The gallery buildings have since been demolished and the rainforest gardens lost to the development of townhouses.

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