Posted by Jeremy Eccles | 25.11.10

Gallery: Art Gallery of NSW

Edmund Capon, Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales today announced that Mollie Gowing, a great supporter of the Gallery and of Indigenous art in particular has left an important collection of 142 artworks plus a very generous legacy of $5 million to establish two endowment funds for acquisitions at the Gallery: one for Indigenous art and a larger one for general acquisitions.

The 142 works include artists such as Arthur Boyd, Ian Fairweather, John Olsen, Fred Williams, Emily Kam Kngwarray and Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri.

The publicity-shy Mollie Gowing had an association with the Gallery for more than 35 years, beginning as a volunteer guide. She was a champion for Australian art with a real passion for Indigenous art so that in 1994 she encouraged the establishment of the AGNSW's specialist Yiribana Gallery. Mollie’s legacy will live on indefinitely said Edmund Capon; and added that her enthusiasm for the ceremonial in Aboriginal art was totally unrelated to her despair at his buying a religious artwork from the Italian Renaissance for the Gallery.

Mollie and Jim Gowing, of the famous retail family, began their association with indigenous art when Jim sent home Aboriginal barks and baskets while serving in Darwin during the 2 World War.

In 1992 Mrs Gowing came to the Gallery to say her accountant had told her she might have some money to spare. The result was the Mollie Gowing Acquisition Fund for Contemporary Aboriginal Art – already credited with major purchases in the initial Yiribana catalogue - which gave for many years on average $50,000 annually primarily for the acquisition of Indigenous art. Mollie Gowing’s contribution represented the most significant private support of Indigenous art in Australia. 

Almost one-third of the Gallery’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection acquired since 1992 – 386 works - owes its presence to Mollie Gowing. The collection includes many of the biggest names in the Indigenous art world: Emily Kam Kngwarray, Michael Jagamara Nelson, Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, Queenie McKenzie, Roy Kennedy and Judy Watson.
In 2006 the Gallery held a special exhibition to honour the support Mollie Gowing gave to the Gallery. Gifted: Contemporary Aboriginal Art showcased the significant works the Gallery purchased with her support.

Mollie Gowing died in December 2009.


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Contact Details

Gallery: Art Gallery of NSW
Contact: Cara Pinchbeck - Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art
Telephone: +61 2 9225 1700 or 1
Address: Art Gallery Road Sydney Sydney 2000 NSW



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