Social currency (Eva Cox)
, 1999

by Kim Spooner

encaustic on canvas (160.0 x 180.0 cm)

Eva Cox AO (b. 1938), feminist, social activist and academic, was born into a Jewish family in Vienna in 1938 and came to Australia at the age of ten, having spent a substantial portion of her life until that point as a refugee in England. As a student at the University of Sydney in the 1950s she was associated with the Sydney Push, members of which included Clive James, Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer and Margaret Fink, and became active in politics and social issues, particularly feminism. Back in Europe in the 1960s, she met and married an English photographer. Their daughter was born in 1964. She returned to Australia in the early 1970s and as a single mother completed an honours degree in sociology at the University of New South Wales. In the midst of this, she co-founded the feminist magazine Refractory Girl and became a regular contributor to Oz magazine. A spokeswoman for the Women’s Electoral Lobby, she campaigned on a range of social issues including feminism, superannuation, childcare, social security and public health. In the late 1970s she directed the New South Wales Council for Social Services; and later she helped to found the Women’s Economic Think Tank. From 1994 to 2007 she lectured at the University of Technology, Sydney. In 1995 she gave the ABC Boyer Lectures, on the theme of ‘A Truly Civil Society’. Appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1995, Cox was named the Council of Australian Humanist Societies’ Humanist of the Year in 1998. Cox is a regular contributor to online social justice and political forums. Along with Anne Summers, Elizabeth Evatt and Greer, Cox featured in a series of postage stamps, issued by Australia Post in 2011, honouring women who had contributed greatly to the advancement of gender equality.

Kim Spooner (b. 1955), artist and lecturer, studied at the University of Sydney and the Julian Ashton School, from which she gained a travelling scholarship in 1978. She has held solo exhibitions regularly since 1992 and has been included in numerous group shows including the Archibald Prize (1997, 2000 and 2001) and, more recently, the Mosman Art Prize exhibitions of 2010, 2011 and 2013. Having been in the running for the Portia Geach Memorial Award in 1995 and 1996, Spooner took out the prize in 1999 with this portrait of Eva Cox. Her portrait of Margaret Whitlam, exhibited in the Salon des Refus├ęs in 1998, is also in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Eva Cox 2003
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2003.04