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Lady Nolan gets her works back from the thieving CMAG

By johnboy 23 April 2010 15

Vicki Dunne is letting us know that as a consequence of the ACT Government’s attempts to appropriate the Lanyon homestead Nolan collection for the Canberra Museum And Gallery (CMAG) the 218 art works are now being shipped back to England.

“Lady Nolan has done this because of the complete failure of both the ACT and Commonwealth governments to honour the wishes of the artist and the spirit of his gift of 24 works comprising the Foundation Collection that he wanted housed and displayed in the purpose-built Nolan Gallery at Lanyon.

“Lady Nolan is justifiably upset with their treatment of her and their failure to honour Sir Sidney’s extraordinary gift.

“It is a sad day for the people of Australia and a shameful indictment on the two governments.

If they had any decency they’d give back the foundation collection too. But that’s too much to ask.

What’s Your opinion?


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Lady Nolan gets her works back from the thieving CMAG
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MissChief 3:45 pm 21 Dec 11

trevar said :

And on the other side of the argument, if the works were accepted on certain conditions, and those conditions could not be met, they should have been returned back when the Nolan Gallery was (unfortunately but rightly) closed, although I can understand the desire to compromise.

Exactly and rightly so! But “other side of the argument”? The ethical decent side?

Also their actions were not simply “a desire to compromise”. As I understand it the Nolan Family were told what was going to happen to the work, they vehemently objected but the Government went ahead anyway.

As the work was on loan under certain conditions and those conditions were not met, the Government had no right to take the work. It has always seemed like theft to me and I’m glad the Nolan Family have exercised their right to take the work back. I’m sure they did it reluctantly but with utmost respect for the artist’s dying wishes.

This really was a disgraceful act by our Government and everyone involved should hang their heads in shame.

54-11 7:01 pm 24 Apr 10

And that’s the main point, sepi – they have never bothered to explain why they have done this. Perhaps if the government (ie Stanhope) wasn’t so arrogant…

sepi 2:19 pm 24 Apr 10

I wonder who they sent in to negotiate all this with Lady Nolan though, if the Nolan Gallery was unviable. (PIty – it was absolutely gorgeous experience, and nice to have some quality art outside of central civic.)

I suspect they didnt’ even try to negotiate, and just sent her a letter saying ‘tks for the million dollar art collection, we’re doing something else with it now, ta very much’.

Ari 11:22 am 24 Apr 10

CraigT said :

My five-year-old can paint better than that.

Ahhhhh, the age-old refrain.

CraigT 8:47 am 24 Apr 10

I’ve seen those Sidney Nolan paintings they already have at the NGA – why on earth would we want more?
My five-year-old can paint better than that.
Good riddance to bad rubbish.

trevar 10:42 pm 23 Apr 10

This is a sad event, but hardly news. I used to work at the Nolan Gallery, and while it was rare to have more than a handful of people through in a day, those who made the trek were mostly interstate visitors who had made the trek especially to see the works. On a few rare occasions during events at the homestead, there’d be more, and some would come by chance rather than design, but usually visitors were enthusiasts. Everyone (except for the occasional husband or boyfriend who was coerced) I encountered at the place loved the experience.

The location was genuinely perfect, and it was a unique institution, perfect for the works it exhibited. I don’t believe any gallery in Australia, including the magnificent NGV at Federation Square has the same calibre of resonance between the works and their environment.

But the cost of running it was astronomical. Between the two staff required for every opening, the expense of security at an isolated location, insurance for some of the most valuable works in the national collection, the malfunctioning of the climate control system, and the maintenance of the deteriorating building, it was a money pit.

While the loss of the works from Australia is distressing, I still don’t object to the actions of either the governments involved, or Lady Nolan. If every benefactor of the national collection insisted on a custom-built gallery in a specified environment, the costs would not merely be astronomical, as they were with the Nolan Gallery, they’d be absolutely impossible. We can’t build a separate gallery for every bequest, and no matter how great Nolan was, his legacy is not worthy of the kind of funding the bequest insists on, and it was never appropriate for a government to deify this artist above all our other artists in the way that it did.

The NGA might be as inspiring a piece of architecture as a Samsung fridge, but it is nonetheless appropriate for its purpose as a generic house for the display of visual art, and it is as suitable for Nolan’s works as it is for those of Pollack, those of Van Gogh, those of the Pacific Islanders, or those of the Ming Dynasty. I’d say the same is true of CMAG.

And on the other side of the argument, if the works were accepted on certain conditions, and those conditions could not be met, they should have been returned back when the Nolan Gallery was (unfortunately but rightly) closed, although I can understand the desire to compromise. Nolan was a magnificent artist, and like most magnificent people he was arrogant, self-centred and mad as a cut snake. Had the bequest been made on more reasonable terms, it may have been met. As it was, it was only a matter of time before this conflict arose.

It is a shame to lose the works, but even Lady Nolan should have had the foresight to see it coming.

54-11 5:51 pm 23 Apr 10

That’s right, JB, they had a range of low-cost options which would have retained the works. I just cannot believe how often thos government stuffs up.

caf 4:12 pm 23 Apr 10

“Maintaining the gallery at Lanyon” apparently meant paying two full-time staff to handle an average of 10 vistors a day who made it out there.

Which does not sound like we were getting great value for money.

This is simply an aristocratic dummy spit.

    johnboy 4:48 pm 23 Apr 10

    How many are CMAG getting?

    Also bear in mind that they deliberately killed off promotion of the Lanyon gallery, it was usually staffed by volunteers, and staffing needs could have been met through the broader Lanyon complex.

Devil_n_Disquiz 3:33 pm 23 Apr 10

Stanhope(less) again !! Twit.

Wraith 3:25 pm 23 Apr 10

Clown Killer said :

This is a sad end to what could only be described as a monumental act of pig-headed stupidity and greed on the part of the CMAG and its puppet master John Stanhope.

Stanhope’s inability to take control and reign in the bureaucrats who mismanaged this issue from the start is another indictment on his government.

Thank goodness that Lady Nolan had the courage and decency to tell the latte-sipping wankers at CMAG where they could shove their ingratitude for her late husband’s generosity. It’s just a shame that we’ll miss the opportunity to see the paintings as a complete collection.

Very much agreed

troll-sniffer 3:20 pm 23 Apr 10

The petty bureaucrats and politicians responsible should hang their heads in shame. Sure, Lanyon needed money spent on it, but not a lot when the big picture is looked at. Put it this way, I reckon a poll of Canberrans that asked us to choose between having the Nolan paintings at Lanyon, or continuing the existence of the CMAG itself, would have pretty clearly indicated to the self-serving empire builders associated with CMAG what we the public would have preferred. I think CMAG would have been routed.

Clown Killer 3:02 pm 23 Apr 10

This is a sad end to what could only be described as a monumental act of pig-headed stupidity and greed on the part of the CMAG and its puppet master John Stanhope.

Stanhope’s inability to take control and reign in the bureaucrats who mismanaged this issue from the start is another indictment on his government.

Thank goodness that Lady Nolan had the courage and decency to tell the latte-sipping wankers at CMAG where they could shove their ingratitude for her late husband’s generosity. It’s just a shame that we’ll miss the opportunity to see the paintings as a complete collection.

p1 2:58 pm 23 Apr 10

If they had any decency they’d give back the foundation collection too.

If they had any decency, they would have built the damn gallery out at Lanyon.

    johnboy 3:01 pm 23 Apr 10

    All they had to do was maintain the gallery that had been built out there.

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