THE CUNNINGHAM DAX COLLECTIONS

The Collection is named after its founder Dr Eric Cunningham Dax (1908 – 2008).
The Cunningham Dax Collection consists of a number of sub-collections.

What is the Cunningham Dax Collection?

The Cunningham Dax Collection consists of more than 15,000 artworks created by people who have experienced mental illness or psychological trauma.  The Collection includes works on paper, canvases, photographs, textiles, sculptures, installations, artists’ books and diaries, digital media and films.

Dr. Dax was an English psychiatrist who moved to Melbourne when he was appointed as the Chairman of the Mental Hygiene Authority in 1952.  In this role Dr. Dax made many positive changes to Victoria’s mental health services.  One such change was to introduce an art therapy program into Victorian psychiatric hospitals.

Victoria’s psychiatric hospitals began to be closed down in the 1980s and the thousands of artworks that had been created in the art therapy programs may have been destroyed.  However, Dr. Dax believed that these were very valuable as educative tools.  So he salvaged around 8000 of these works, which is how the Cunningham Dax Collection began.

Two distinct eras are represented in the Cunningham Dax Collection; artworks produced within psychiatric hospitals from 1940s into 1970s and artworks donated to the Collection by artists and community groups from 1980s until the present.

In the early 2000s the Collection expanded to include artworks made by people who have experienced trauma.  This expansion led to a number of group donations, including the Childhood Abuse Collection, the Holocaust Collection, the Tsunami Collection, the Safe Havens Asylum Seekers Collection and the Bushfire Collection.

The Cunningham Dax Collection is the only one of its type and size in Australia and only one of three such collections in the world.

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