The 2023 QAGOMA Medal has been presented to Philip Bacon AO in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the development of the Collection and distinguished service to the Gallery. Philip Bacon is a longstanding member of the Foundation Committee and a former member of the Board of Trustees, as well as a transformative donor and advocate for the Gallery.
This year, we are delighted to celebrate Philip Bacon’s enduring and ongoing commitment to QAGOMA. Philip’s highly strategic giving as a collector and donor positions him among Australia’s — and certainly Queensland’s — most well-regarded philanthropists. Over decades, he has given selflessly of his deep knowledge and expertise on the arts as a board, trust and committee member of many of the country’s most significant cultural organisations, including this Gallery.
Ian Fairweather ‘Gethsemane’ 1958
A keen gallerygoer and art enthusiast from a young age, Philip was a frequent visitor to Brisbane’s handful of commercial galleries in the 1950 and 60s, where he discovered the work of Charles Blackman, Margaret Olley, Ray Crooke and Lawrence Daws. He first worked as a gallery assistant at the Grand Central Gallery in Brisbane in the late 1960s, where Keith Moore taught him much about the business of running a commercial art gallery. At the same time, he remained keenly aware of Johnstone Gallery and considered Bryan and Marjorie Johnstone to be formative role models. Johnstone Gallery’s closure in 1972 became the impetus for Philip to open his own gallery in 1974, at the urging of artists such as Daws, Blackman and, especially, Olley. He found premises in a run-down former tile factory in Fortitude Valley’s Arthur Street — a site he incrementally developed into a building that remains Philip Bacon Galleries almost 50 years later.
Eugène Von Guérard ‘A view from Mt Franklin towards Mount Kooroocheang and the Pyrenees’ c.1864
Of his enduring reverence for the power of art, Philip has said: ‘I had always loved being in art galleries — with their silence and atmosphere of peace, of escape from the outside world; it was much like being in a cathedral. Plus, of course, there were the pictures and sculptures, beautifully lit and displayed’.1
Auspiciously, next year will mark the fiftieth year of Brisbane’s Philip Bacon Galleries, a landmark reached by few Australian gallerists in the country’s history. As well as representing many of the artists who first encouraged him to go into the business, Philip went on to patiently champion a new generation of creative voices, and to be dubbed ‘the wise counsellor to a generation of Australian artists whose names have worked their way into the country’s consciousness’ by the Australian Financial Review.2 A notable example of this was his friendship with Olley and his subsequent role of steering her estate through the Margaret Olley Art Trust, both being instrumental in QAGOMA realising the major exhibition ‘Margaret Olley: A Generous Life’ in 2019. Philip wrote a touching recollection of their many years of friendship for the accompanying exhibition publication.
George Lambert ‘Self portrait with Ambrose Patterson, Amy Lambert and Hugh Ramsay’ c.1901–03
Philip Bacon’s remarkable philanthropic contribution to the Gallery’s Collection began in 1985, building to an exceptional patronage that places him among our most generous donors, which was acknowledged in 2009 when Galleries 7, 8 and 9 at QAG were named in his honour. He has gifted and, as importantly, enabled the Gallery to acquire, many highly significant works of art. These include iconic Australian works such as Ian Fairweather’s Gethsemane 1958 (illustrated), Eugène von Guérard’s A view from Mt Franklin towards Mount Kooroocheang and the Pyrenees c.1864 (illustrated) and George Lambert’s Self portrait with Ambrose Patterson, Amy Lambert and Hugh Ramsay c.1901–03 (illustrated); and major international works like Edgar Degas’s sculpture Danseuse regardant la plante de son pied droit, quatrième étude c.1882–1900, cast before 1954 (illustrated), given in memory of Olley.
Philip served on the Queensland Art Gallery Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2017 and has played an influential role as a member of the QAGOMA Foundation Committee since 2013. His dedication to the arts and culture stretches well beyond QAGOMA: he is a longstanding Board member of the Brisbane Festival, Trustee of the Gordon Darling Foundation, and has served on boards and councils for a range of organisations including Opera Australia, the Order of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia and the Queensland Music Festival.
Edgar Degas ‘Dancer looking at the sole of her right foot, fourth study’ c.1882-1900, cast before 1954
Philip’s acumen and largesse have been widely and deservedly recognised. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1999, then an Officer of the Order in 2021 for distinguished service to the arts, to social and cultural organisations, and through support for young artists. He was made an honorary Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Queensland in 1999 and named a Queensland Great ten years later. In 2019, Philip was inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame, cited as ‘Australia’s leading art dealer’, and recognised as a Leading Philanthropist by both the Queensland Community Foundation and Philanthropy Australia.
In 2023, the Queensland Art Gallery Board of Trustees and Director are pleased to add to these accolades by awarding the QAGOMA Medal to Philip Bacon AO.
Chris Saines CNZM is Director, QAGOMA
1 Philip Bacon, quoted in 40 Years, 40 Paintings: An Anniversary Loan Exhibition [exhibition catalogue], Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane, 2014, unpaginated.
2 Tony Walker, ‘Why Philip Bacon is Australia’s go-to art dealer’, Australian Financial Review Magazine, 29 April 2016, https://www.afr.com/life-and-luxury/why-philip-bacon-is-australiasgoto-art-dealer-20160321-gnnecv, accessed 16 October 2023.
Featured image: The 2023 QAGOMA Medal recipient, Philip Bacon AO, with Ian Fairweather’s Gethsemane 1958 / Gift of Philip Bacon AM through the QAGOMA Foundation 2017. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Photograph: C Baxter © QAGOMA