We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

Foundation major acquisition endowment fund

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Three bathers 1913

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Three bathers 1913 (detail), Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation purchase 1984 


Support the endowment fund by joining the Foundation

Fundraising is the only way the Art Gallery of New South Wales can expand our rich and varied collection – the heart of our gallery – as we receive no government funding for acquisitions.

Your support is vital to growing the collection, so that it can continue to inspire the millions of people who visit the Art Gallery each year.

We thank you for your generosity.

  • Celebrating 40 years of acquisitions: 1984–2024 Director’s message and anniversary publication

    Our collection lies at the heart of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, forming the catalyst for a vibrant art museum that inspires curiosity and provokes new ways of thinking about the world.

    The Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation, established in 1983, is the major art acquisition fund of the Art Gallery. By investing donations and bequests, the Foundation provides essential funds to support the purchase of collection highlights, many of which are on display today. Expertly managed and stewarded by the Foundation Board, these funds have established a corpus that leaves a lasting impact on our state’s art collection.

    Since the Art Gallery receives no government funding for art acquisitions, the generous support of our Foundation donors and bequestors enables us to continually develop our collection, maintain our leadership in the field of contemporary art, and expand our commitment to historical art.

    The 73 major works of art acquired with the assistance of the Foundation over the past 40 years – now valued at over $307 million – are a phenomenal investment in our cultural heritage. I take immense pride in the legacy these works of art provide for the State of NSW and look forward to future acquisitions that will ensure the continued enhancement of our collection and exhibitions.

    The recent expansion of the Art Gallery saw one of the most generous and transformational contributions by the Foundation to date. In December 2022, the Art Gallery had the privilege of unveiling nine major site-specific works that were commissioned as part of the Sydney Modern Project through a $15 million pledged donation from the Foundation. These magnificent works of art feature within our new building (named Naala Badu, meaning ‘seeing waters’) and the original building (named Naala Nura, meaning ‘seeing Country’), as well as our art garden.

    The Foundation has also helped us build upon our existing strengths as we envision the future direction of the Art Gallery. In 1958, we became the first art museum in Australia to commission and exhibit Aboriginal art as art, and our collection of Australian Indigenous art has since become one of the most comprehensive in the nation. In the last few years there has been a significant transformation of our displays, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander works included at the centre of visitor experience across our museum campus. We have also placed the Yiribana Gallery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in a respectful and symbolically meaningful manner at the entrance of our new building.

    Like all historically formed collections, there has been a bias towards male artists since we were founded in 1871. Works acquired with Foundation funds reflect the Art Gallery’s focus on addressing this imbalance, including the recent acquisitions of significant works by Louise Bourgeois, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, Simryn Gill, Yayoi Kusama, Sally Mann and Lisa Reihana.

    A stringent internal curatorial process is applied to all proposed art acquisitions, and formal submissions are only made after lengthy research and review. This scholarship and expertise ensures that key works of art are identified, sourced and negotiated for the collection.

    The acquisition of a group of spectacular historical Aboriginal shields from Australia’s south-east are just one example of new scholarship, where curators are seeking to establish connections between the designs on the shields in an effort to identify makers. This research is also reflected in the major living artwork bridging our two buildings that was commissioned with Foundation support – Jonathan Jones’s bíal gwiyúŋo (the fire is not yet lighted) – which foregrounds Indigenous knowledge at the core of a remarkable concept.

    The depth of research that goes into the acquisition of major works is also of fundamental importance to our exhibition programs. Following a Foundation tour to New York in 2015, we were able to acquire the sculpture Arched figure by Louise Bourgeois – one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. This purchase assisted in securing the largest-ever exhibition of her work in Australia, hosted exclusively at the Art Gallery from 25 November 2023 to 28 April 2024.

    International stature is affirmed by each addition to the collection we make through Foundation support at the Art Gallery. Not only are we building a collection of ongoing relevance, we are also contributing to the cultural capital of our state and contributing to international heritage, with works often featured as highlights of major exhibitions abroad. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Three bathers 1913 was the first acquisition made by the Foundation in 1984 and plays a crucial role in conveying the story of European modernism. It was loaned to Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf and the Kunsthaus in Zürich in 2017. Other Foundation-supported works loaned to major international public institutions over the last decade include Paul Cézanne’s Banks of the Marne c1888 (Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid, 2012), and Agnolo Bronzino’s Cosimo I de’ Medici in armour c1545 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2021).

    Many of the artworks acquired through the Foundation possess an immense stature in the canons of art history. Our rich and varied collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and objects offer a panoramic overview to stimulate the public enjoyment and understanding of art, ideas and issues through centuries.

    The Foundation has been essential to the Art Gallery in making contributions to the collection over the past 40 years that are relevant to the 21st century and beyond. It has provided the people of New South Wales, and indeed Australia and beyond, access to works of art that will continue to provide joy and inspiration worthy of our past, present and future. For this, I am deeply grateful.

    Michael Brand
    Art Gallery of New South Wales

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