AGWA celebrates 25th Anniversary

– by David Charlesworth

Art Gallery of WA is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Art Gallery of WA Foundation which raises funds for the purchase of artworks for the State collection.

Founded in 1989 the Foundation has raised funds for more than 4500 works which is over 25 per cent of the entire collection.

As part of the celebrations a special exhibition has opened showing a number of prestigious works in the collection.

I spoke with Foundation’s Manager Teresa Fantoni about the Foundation, what it has accomplished and what is planned for the next quarter century.

How did the exhibition on display come together?

“The curator for the exhibition was Melissa Harpley, she’s the historical curator for the gallery.

“It was kind of a team effort from all the curators to bring this together but what we’ve tried to do with the exhibition was tell the story of how the works come into the collection.”

How does the foundation work in funding artwork purchases?

“We receive cash donations from foundation members but we also have a lot of foundation members that donate works of art to us.”

“Some of the works, you’ll see on the labels that the work of art is a gift or we’ve purchased it through funds or a lot of members also will often bequeath money in their will or they’ll bequeath particular works of art.”

“So there’s a real mix of ways in which members give we’ve tried to represent in this exhibition.”

And why is it important to have a state collection of art?

“It’s an important legacy for the current generation and future generations and it’s important for us to build on this collection because our state needs that cultural vibrancy.”

“It’s essential to our state in order for us to thrive in many other industries as well,” she said, “So we just feel that arts are essential to life and that’s why we need a state art collection.”

“[The Foundation] makes sure that the arts are enriching the lives of West Australians and visitors to our gallery and our collection.”

Richard Bell_Colour Theory_web
Top of Page: Ethel Spowers, Swings 1932. colour linocut on buff oriental laid tissue, 30.0 x 27.8 cm (sheet). State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased through the Sir Claude Hotchin Art Foundation, Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 2011. Above: Richard Bell, Colour Theory 2012. acrylic on linen, 183.0 x 244.0 cm. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased through the TomorrowFund, Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 2014.

What has the Foundation been working on recently?

“In recent years the foundations been responsible for acquiring a lot of contemporary works, this is due to the major capital campaign that we ran completing in 2011.

“These are international, national and West Australian contemporary works, so there’s a real mix there and a lot of them are in the show.”

What was the major campaign? How much was raised?

“It’s an endowment fund for the purchase of contemporary art, the Tomorrow Fund, 268 works have been purchased with fund already.”

“The fundraising was completed in 2011, but it was actually a government initiative where the government pledged $15 million if the foundation, the gallery, was able to raise the balance of $10 million.”

“So we raised that $10 million, we had pledges for that $10 million, and we are realizing those pledges at the moment.”

“Pledges were confirmed in 2011 and… once the pledges are realized we will then receive the last instalment from the government.”

“We expect to receive that instalment from the government… at some stage next year.”

What does the AGWA Foundation have planned for the next few years?

“We have this fund and it’s really changed the way we operate with making acquisitions for the collections. We are now focussing on the acquisition of historical works of art which traditionally have been, are a lot more expensive to acquire.”

“That’s kind of the main focus; in the last year and a half the foundation has allowed the gallery to purchase a few major historical works. There’s been one called, Arthur Boyd’s “Bridegroom Drinking From a Creek. Which is actually displayed downstairs at the moment.”

“The next phase is fundraising for historical works of art, it’s what we’re working on at the moment, ensuring that we get some more major historical works of art that have a context within our collection, that we fundraise for those and get them into the collection.”


On display until December 1, entry to the anniversary exhibition is free, and other works from the collection are also available for viewing in the permanent exhibition.

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