QAGOMA Foundation: Integral to the story of our Collection

 

As the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) celebrates 125 years since its establishment on 29 March 2020, we look at the role of the Foundation in sustaining a philanthropic community at QAGOMA that has been integral to the story of the Gallery’s Collection and the success of its exhibitions and other achievements. Here, we touch on some of the milestones of the past four decades as the Gallery recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of its Foundation.

Since the inception of the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation in 1979, this institution’s fundraising body has been inextricably linked to the story of its Collection. From humble beginnings, albeit with some exquisite high profile international acquisitions, it has grown to encompass an enthusiastic community of givers whose great generosity has allowed the Gallery to build a Collection with both a broad base and exceptional areas of focus.

Montien Boonma, Thailand 1953-2000 / Lotus sound 1992 / Terracotta, gilded wood / 390 x 542 x 117cm / The Kenneth and Yasuko Myer Collection of Contemporary Asian Art. Purchased 1993 with funds from The Myer Foundation and Michael Sidney Myer through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © QAGOMA
Thai artist Montien Boonma (left) installing Lotus sound in the Queensland Art Gallery for ‘The First Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT1), September 1993 / Image courtesy: QAGOMA Research Library /
Photograph: Christabelle Baranay

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The Foundation is a Committee of the Queensland Art Gallery Board of Trustees that works to build and sustain our philanthropic community. It accepts gifts and raises money, primarily for acquisitions but increasingly for exhibitions, conservation, publications and wider programming. In looking back at four decades of collecting enabled by the Foundation, we can identify a number of pivotal acquisitions that help tell this larger story of our Collection, and indeed of that generous community that has nourished its extraordinary growth.

The formation of the Foundation coincided with the construction of the Robin Gibson-designed Cultural Centre, of which the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) was very much the centrepiece and a long-awaited permanent home for a somewhat itinerant Collection. Even prior to its opening in 1982, the building captured the imagination of donors. In its first six months the Foundation raised $400 000 through the first Foundation Appeal, which urged support ‘for the purchase of works of art to enrich the Gallery’s Collection and thus make it representative and commensurate with the standards expected of a major public gallery’. By June 1981 this total had reached $2.7 million, including government subsidy.

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The very first acquisition through the Foundation was The Master of Frankfurt’s Virgin and Child with Saint James the Pilgrim, Saint Catherine and the Donor with Saint Peter c.1496. Other key purchases in the first two years included Tintoretto’s dramatic Cristo risorgente c.1555 and Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of Marchese Filippo Spinola c.1622–27, one of the Flemish master’s most notable Genoese portraits, and Rubens’s Young woman in a fur wrap (after Titian) c.1629–30. These found a home in the new building alongside other treasures from the Collection, by then comprising 3848 works amassed during its first 90 years.

The Master of Frankfurt, The Netherlands 1460 d.c.1520-c.33 / Virgin and Child with Saint James the Pilgrim, Saint Catherine and the Donor with Saint Peter c.1496 / Oil on oak panel / 69 x 55.2cm / Purchased 1980 with funds from Utah Foundation through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
Tintoretto, Venice 1518-94 / Cristo risorgente (The risen Christ) c.1555 / Oil on canvas / 201 x 139cm / Purchased 1981. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
Anthony van Dyck, Flanders/England 1599-1641 / Portrait of Marchese Filippo Spinola c.1622-27 / Oil on canvas / 218.3 x 139.6cm / Purchased 1981. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation. Dedicated 1998 to Sir George Fisher CMG inaugural President of the Foundation (1979-85) in recognition of his distinguished service / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
Peter Paul Rubens, Flanders 1577-1640 / Young woman in a fur wrap (after Titian) c.1629-30 / Oil on canvas / 91.8 x 68.3cm / Purchased 1980. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

RELATED: Young woman in a fur wrap (after Titian)

From this selection of Old Masters, the Gallery began to widen its perspective with the emergence of a new vision that looked to Asia. Plans were laid for an ambitious and innovative series of exhibitions that would transform the Gallery’s collecting focus; The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) saw a shift from a Eurocentric collecting model to what was happening on Queensland’s doorstep. While this new approach did not exclude international acquisitions — and indeed, some of the most remarkable major works of art acquired since then have been from global artists — it gave QAG an undeniable point of difference that forms the cornerstone of our institutional vision to this day.

Throughout the 1990s, which witnessed the first three APTs and the planning stages for the new Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), the Foundation continued to grow and to recognise significant donations and bequests. The annual Foundation Appeal strategically enhances the Gallery’s Collection by acquiring a single major work or set of works each year. The Appeal identifies works that resonate with a wide audience, including those by iconic international artists such as James Turrell and Yayoi Kusama, and Australian artists Ian Fairweather, Ben Quilty and Michael Zavros. Past Appeals have also enriched our understanding of the work of Indigenous Australia, as seen in the stunning collection of banumbirr (Morning Star poles) from Arnhem Land.

James Turrell / Night Life 2018
James Turrell, United States, b.1943 / Night Life 2018 / Commissioned 2017 to mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). This project has been realised with generous support from the Queensland Government; Paul, Sue and Kate Taylor; the Neilson Foundation and the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Appeal / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © James Turrel / Photograph: Natasha Harth, © QAGOMA
Yayoi Kusama, Japan b.1929 / Soul under the moon 2002
Yayoi Kusama, Japan b.1929 / Soul under the moon 2002 / Mirrors, ultra violet lights, water, plastic, nylon thread, timber, synthetic polymer paint / The Kenneth and Yasuko Myer Collection of Contemporary Asian Art. Purchased 2002 with funds from Michael Sidney Myer and The Myer Foundation, a project of the Sidney Myer Centenary Celebration 1899-1999, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation and The Yayoi Kusama Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Appeal / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Yayoi Kusama / Courtesy: Yayoi Kusama Studio, Inc. / Photograph: Chloe Callistermon, © QAGOMA
Ian Fairweather, Gethsemane 1958
Ian Fairweather, Scotland/Australia 1891-1974 / Gethsemane 1958 / Gouache on cardboard on board / Gift of Philip Bacon, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2017. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Arty / © Ian Fairweather/Copyright Agency, 2020
Ben Quilty, Australia b.1973 / Sergeant P, after Afghanistan 2012 / Oil on linen / 190 x 140cm / Purchased 2014 with funds from the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Appeal and Returned & Services League of Australia (Queensland Branch) / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Ben Quilty
Michael Zavros, Australia b.1974 / Bad dad 2013
Michael Zavros, Australia b.1974 / Bad dad 2013 / Oil on canvas/ Purchased 2016 with funds raised through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Appeal / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Michael Zavros
Frank Djekula 1943–2001, Gupapuyngu people; Richard Galngadiwuy b.1940; Henry Gambika Nupurra b.1932, Djambarrpuyngu people; Richard Gandhuwuy b.1940, Liyagawumirr people; David Lakarriny Gurruwiwi b.1957 / Gali Gurruwiwi b.1942; Henry Dhalnganda Gurruwiwi b.1945; Paul Gurruwiwi b.1975; Richard Dhaymutha Gurruwiwi b.1938; Trevor Gurruwiwi b.1973, Galpu people; Wilson Lanydjurra Gunbirrtja b.1955, Malarra people; Ian Wuruwul c.1950–2010, Ganalpuyngu people; Terry Dhurritjini Yumbulul b.1950, Warramirri people / Banumbirr (Morning Star poles) (installation view) / Wood, bark fibre string, cotton thread, feathers, commercial feathers, human hair, native beeswax, natural pigments, synthetic polymer paint / 73 poles / Purchased 2004, 2008 and 2010, including works purchased with funds from the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation, Margaret Mittelheuser AM and Cathryn Mittelheuser AM, Gadens Lawyers and funds raised through the 2010 Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Annual Appeal / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © The artists/Copyright Agency, 2020 / Photograph: Natasha Harth, © QAGOMA

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RELATED: Ian Fairweather

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Over the past four decades, the Gallery has enjoyed remarkable success with its collection building, exhibitions and other achievements. Through the generosity of Foundation members and donors, and with the support of the Queensland Government, the Foundation has raised more than $140 million since its establishment, enabling the acquisition of more than 8300 artworks — over 45 per cent of the Gallery’s Collection. For this incredible commitment to building the Collection of a state institution, I sincerely thank every member of the Foundation and Committee. We have accomplished so much together, and I am very excited about some upcoming plans which will take giving, and its outcomes, to a new level at QAGOMA.

Chris Saines CNZM is Director, QAGOMA. Edited extract from the Gallery’s Artlines magazine, ‘A Forty-year Foundation’, issue 2, 2019

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Feature image detail: The Master of Frankfurt Virgin and Child with Saint James the Pilgrim, Saint Catherine and the Donor with Saint Peter c.1496

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