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The spirit of the gift

by Andrew Sayers AM, 1 June 2003

Former NPG Director, Andrew Sayers celebrates the support given to the Gallery by Gordon and Marilyn Darling.

Portrait of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, 2000 by Victorian Tapestry Workshop
Portrait of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, 2000 by Victorian Tapestry Workshop

The greatest gift anyone can make to a gallery is a continuous, repeated and on-going support. Such support shows not just a desire to assist with an individual purchase or a discrete project, but also a belief in the ideas that are embodied in the gallery, in it's future and what it represents.

In the case of the National Portrait Gallery, the most consistent and long-standing support has come from Gordon and Marilyn Darling. This has been in the form of practical involvement at the Patron and Board level, tireless advocacy on behalf of the idea of the Gallery and on-going assistance with the development of the collection. Both Gordon and Marilyn Darling have given portraits to the Gallery and have regularly donated funds to enable the Gallery to make purchases and to commission works.

One characteristic of the Darling's giving has been the thoughtfulness and the way in which each act of generosity has furthered an identifiable and particular aspect of the Gallery's collection or programs. Marilyn Darling comments; There is real satisfaction and ongoing excitement in agreeing to the acquisition of portraits which fit your particular interest. The fact that the portraits of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, General Eva Burrows and Dame Mary Gilmore, three iconic Australian women, are now in the collection is very important to me. Another characteristic is that it has been a source of satisfaction and pleasure for the donor. Of his role in building the collection, Gordon Darling says; I always love getting a call from Andrew Sayers, saying that he has a wonderful portrait on offer and 'could it come from my fund?' This is a very special experience -and one I would recommend to others at all levels of giving. I feel a special link with these items when I see them on the Gallery walls.

Margaret Olley has also been a consistent friend of the Gallery since 1998. Among the works the much-loved Sydney painter and philanthropist has given to the Gallery are a number of portraits of fellow artists, including a self-portrait by Jeffrey Smart, a portrait of Justin O'Brien by the late Bryan Westwood and a self-portrait by Barry Humphries.

Philip Bacon, too has had a long and on-going association with the Gallery and has enriched the collection with important works including Roland Wakelin's self-portrait and assisting with the acquisition of Sir William Dargie's portrait of Albert Namatjira. In 2003 Philip Bacon joined with Gordon and Marilyn Darling and James Fairfax to fund the visit of Sir Roy Strong to Australia for the Circle of Friends.

Furthermore, the Australian medical science entrepreneur Peter Farrell has been an on-going supporter of the Gallery. He has contributed to catalogue costs and one of the largest commissions, Bill Henson's triptych of Simone Young.

In addition to these individuals there have been a number of companies who have been long-term supporters of the Gallery's programs. Rosemount Estates has been a generous sponsor of Gallery activities since its sponsorship of the tour of Uncommon Australians in 1992-93 (the exhibition that started the National Portrait Gallery on its course) until the present day. Similarly, Tempo Services has been an on-going sponsor of the Gallery's exhibition program along with WIN Television.

The commitment to the National Portrait Gallery shown by all of its on-going supporters is greatly valued. Underlying such commitment is the idea that the Australian public deserves a National Portrait Gallery through which the stories of those people who have shaped Australia can be represented