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Unprecedented philanthropic support for the Gallery expansion

Major pledges bring capital campaign total to $88 million

In what is likely to be the country’s most substantial public–private partnership in the history of the arts in Australia, a total of $88 million has this year been committed or pledged alongside the state government’s $244 million for the Art Gallery of New South Wales expansion.

In June 2017, the Gallery announced Susan and Isaac Wakil as lead donors to the Sydney Modern Project capital campaign with the extraordinary gift of $20 million, one of the largest lifetime monetary gifts ever made to an Australian art museum, and the largest monetary gift in the Gallery’s 146-year history.

The Gallery is delighted to announce gifts of $5 million or more, pledged to support galleries in the new building designed by multiple award-winning Tokyo-based architectural firm SANAA, from the following lead donors:

  • The Ainsworth family, whose pledge comprises gifts made by AGNSW Trustee Geoff Ainsworth and Jo Featherstone, Len Ainsworth, Mark Ainsworth, and Paul and Valeria Ainsworth
  • The Lowy family, including former Board presidents Sir Frank Lowy AC and Steven Lowy AM
  • Kerr Neilson, a well-known supporter of the arts and culture in Sydney
  • Mark Nelson, Board vice-president and chair of the campaign committee, with his wife Louise Nelson
  • Gretel Packer, AGNSW Trustee and campaign committee member, also a key supporter of learning and participation programs at the Gallery

Geoff Ainsworth said that he and the other family donors were excited by the new possibilities offered by the expanded and transformed gallery, especially for younger generations.

‘We’re living in an increasingly visual culture so it’s very important that young people have abundant opportunities to engage thoughtfully with art in all its evolving forms. While the Gallery throngs with school students, there’s much unmet demand. Our family is delighted the expansion will allow the Gallery to cater for twice the number of school students than it can presently.

It is also important to the family that Australians are offered the chance to experience the greatest exhibitions from around the world here in Sydney. The much larger major exhibition space will make that much needed space available,’ Mr Ainsworth said.

Steven Lowy, president of the Board in 2013 when the Sydney Modern Project was announced, said he was delighted to see the project coming to fruition.

‘This is desperately needed cultural infrastructure for NSW and I’m very proud that my family is supporting its development,’ Lowy said.

Mark Nelson, who has played a key role in attracting philanthropic support for the project said, ‘I was thrilled to be able to lead the capital campaign efforts, both as chair of the campaign and on a personal level. The new expansion will enable us to display so much more of the extraordinary and diverse permanent collection, which belongs to all residents of the state. It’s a terrific outcome for Sydney and New South Wales.’

Acknowledging and thanking the Ainsworth and Lowy families, Kerr Neilson, the Nelsons and Gretel Packer for their philanthropic contributions to the Sydney Modern Project, David Gonski AC, president of the Art Gallery of NSW Board of Trustees, said the Gallery was enormously grateful for their ongoing support.

‘It’s incredibly exciting that our lead donors are backing the future success of the Gallery with all the positive cultural and social benefits it will bring to the people of New South Wales, as it has in the past,’ Gonski said.

Due to the success of the Sydney Modern Project capital campaign quiet phase, the announcement of the second phase – the public launch – of the campaign is scheduled for 2018.