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Mollie Gowing’s lasting legacy

One of Australia’s most generous art patrons

Mollie Gowing; Arthur Boyd River bank and four rocks 1993. Gift of Mollie Gowing

25 November 2010

Edmund Capon, Director, 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 works plus a very generous legacy of $5 million to establish two endowment funds for acquisitions: one for Indigenous art and a larger one for general acquisitions.

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

The publicity-shy Mollie Gowing had a long association with the Gallery for more than 35 years, spending many years as a volunteer guide. She was a champion for Australian art with a real passion for Indigenous art. “Mollie’s legacy will live on indefinitely,” said Edmund Capon.

Mollie and Jim Gowing, of the famous retail family, were two of Australia’s most important and generous art patrons.

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

Almost one-third of the Gallery’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection acquired since 1992 owes its presence to Mollie Gowing.

Since then the Gallery has added almost 400 paintings, sculptures, photographs, ceramics and fibre works to its collection for the public to enjoy.

The collection includes many of the biggest names in the Indigenous art world: Emily Kam Ngwarray, 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.

Media contact

Susanne Briggs
Tel +61 2 9225 1791
Mob 0412 268 320
susanne.briggs@ag.nsw.gov.au