Faraday Street, c 1987-1992
Iliya Bircanin, The Dax Centre
David J de L. Horne
Copyright (image) The Dax Centre Copyright (Article) David J de L. Horne
Meeting Dr Dax in the NSW Art Gallery in 1979
One Saturday morning following a conference in Sydney, I decided to visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales. At lunchtime I made my way to the gallery restaurant where I saw Eric already seated. I approached, greeted him and joined him for lunch.
What ensued was most interesting. He launched into a quite emotional account of the difficulties he was having in finding a place to house a large collection of paintings, sculptures and other artworks by patients experiencing “mental images” that he had gathered over many years during his career in mental health; originating in London but most notably developed during his time in Victoria in the nineteen fifties and sixties.
The more he told me about this collection, the more it dawned upon me that it was a uniquely significant Australian collection of “raw art”, with both educational and artistic significance for understanding the evolution of how people understood their emotional illnesses, and the treatments they received, during the mid 20th century. I concluded it would be a major loss to the nation, as being the only comparable collection in Australia to those in the UK and Europe.
I concluded that it was important enough to become a university collection.
As soon as I returned to Melbourne I was directed to contact Mr Ray Marginson, then Registrar of The University of Melbourne.
I vividly recall that first meeting with Mr Marginson. After briefly explaining what the situation was, his immediate response was that he greatly admired “Dax” for the work he had done in Victoria to bring mental health services into the modern era, and that I should organise a joint meeting between the three of us to move the project forward. This I duly did and it led to funding being provided to bring Dr Dax’s collection from his home in Hobart to The University of Melbourne.
Initially the collection was housed in an unused laboratory in Old Physics but due to the support of Ray Marginson, the collection was soon moved to a small, single-storey terrace house, owned by the University in Faraday Street, Carlton.
Again, Mr Margison ensured adequate shelving and hanging space was funded and this allowed real progress to be made in curating and displaying the art work. Of course, later on, the Dax Collection was moved elsewhere until finding a truly professional home in its current setting: The Dax Centre, Kenneth Myer Building, The University of Melbourne.
David J de L. Horne
Footnote: This brief account is based upon a longer version written for: The Department of Psychiatry at The University of Melbourne 1964-2009 Personal Reminiscences (Eds. Edmond Chiu and Joy Preston). David Horne, Chapter 27. The Eric Cunningham Dax Psychiatric Art Collection. Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, 2010.
Hallway of Faraday Street terrace, showing wrapped, framed works on paper stacked up against each wall. More framed works on paper hang in two rows along all walls of the hallway.
What is The Dax Centre
History of The Dax Centre
The Art of Psychiatry
Trees and Their Meaning
The Art of Ekphrasis
The Stigma of Mental Illness - Donna Lawrence
The Artist as Outsider
The Art of Reflection
Art in a Therapeutic Context Today
Story education resources
Education Making Sense: Art and Mental Health Education Kit
This Education Resource links to relevant learning outcomes for:
- VCE Psychology (Units 1 – 4),
- VCE Health and Human Development (Units 1-2),
- Health and Physical Education: Health and Promotion, AusVELS levels 8 – 10.
- Other areas that may be relevant are: VCE Art, VCE Studio Arts, Visual Arts AusVELS levels 8 – 10, Humanities (History) AusVELS level 10.