CANBERRA lawyer and ANU alumnus Craig Edwards announced a major gift of Aboriginal art to the Australian National University this morning (July 23).
The gift is estimated to be worth more than $9 million and includes 124 western desert paintings from Mr Edwards’ personal collection. It is the most significant single donation of Indigenous art to an Australian university.
At the Drill Hall Gallery this morning ANU vice-chancellor Prof Brian Schmidt said: “This is an inspirational act of philanthropy on the part of Craig Edwards, and we are delighted that he has chosen ANU to be the custodians of this extraordinary collection.”
The collection comprises works by influential Indigenous artists such as Nyurapayia Nampitjinpa, also known as Mrs Bennett, Yannima Pikarli, Tommy Watson, Naata Nungurrayi, Tjawina Porter Nampitjinpa, George Tjungurrayi and Queenie McKenzie.
Mr Edwards has been an enthusiastic collector of Aboriginal art for more than 30 years and has spent much time in the western desert.
“I was captivated by some of the monumental works of the desert artists. I always thought they did their best work on a large scale and it’s fair to say my love affair with the art became something of an obsession,” he told those present.
As his collection grew, he said, he had placed some of it on show in Central Australia, hung and rotated works in the offices of his law firm, and loaned works to regional galleries from time to time, but the volume of the collection and lack of resources to show it began to feel overwhelming.
“I’ve had a strong and long connection to the Drill Hall Gallery and ANU and it was an obvious choice to donate here, especially with the high degree of public access it will give,” he said.
“The Drill Hall Gallery is open to the general public and that was a really important factor for me but also I want the collection to be a resource for students who may be doing research into related topics.”
Drill Hall Gallery director Terence Maloon described the gift was a wonderful addition to the ANU art collection.
It is understood that the gallery is preparing a major showcase of the works for October this year.