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James Mollison, c.1973 (printed 2004)

Wesley Stacey

type C photograph (sheet: 42.8 cm x 30.5 cm, image: 29.6 cm x 29.6 cm)

James Mollison AO (1931–2020) was the inaugural director of the National Gallery of Australia. Born in Wonthaggi, Victoria, Mollison gained his sole formal tertiary qualification from the Secondary Teachers College in Melbourne and commenced his career as education officer at the National Gallery of Victoria in the early 1960s. Following two years as director of the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery (now the Art Gallery of Ballarat), in 1969 he was appointed to the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board, then part of the Prime Minister’s Department, with instructions to put together a definitive collection of Australian art for a gallery that was scheduled to open in 1976. In 1971 he became Acting Director of what was then called the Australian National Gallery; six years later his appointment as the institution’s first director was confirmed. Mollison is widely credited for instituting the bold, astute and thoughtful collection policy by which the Gallery acquired works such as Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles – purchased, controversially, for $1.3 million in 1974 – and Sidney Nolan’s iconic Ned Kelly series. On his retirement from the Gallery in 1989 Mollison said ‘we set out to show Australians firstly their own art, in great depth, against the art of the rest of the world. We deliberately worked to the highest possible standards.’ From 1989 to 1995 he was Director of the National Gallery of Victoria. His several publications included a number of books on the prints and paintings of Fred Williams.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of James Mollison AO 2004

Accession number: 2004.161

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Wesley Stacey (age 32 in 1973)

James Mollison AO (age 42 in 1973)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

James Mollison AO (3 portraits)

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