MCA Presents Ann Lewis Gift Spanning Five Decades of Contemporary Art

The Gift of Ann Lewis AO provides an extraordinary road map of Australian art practice over the last 50 years, shaped by the vision of one of Australia’s best regarded collectors and arts supporters.

Running 8 December 2009 until 18 April 2010, Almanac presents the generous donation made to the Museum of Contemporary Art by Ann Lewis AO. Thanks to Ann’s roles as collector, philanthropist and gallerist, visitors to this exhibition can enjoy a collection of works built at the forefront of cultural production across five decades. The exhibition also draws upon the major gifts by Ann Lewis to the Newcastle Region Art Gallery and Moree Plains Gallery.

Ildiko KovacsTracing changes in taste, influence, styles and ideas, Almanac reflects a collection with depth and currency. Veering across time and location, it comprises paintings, photography sculpture, ceramics and printmaking including several works which will be on public display for the first time.

The exhibition begins with abstract painting by modernist Ralph Balson, and later works by John Firth-Smith and Richard Dunn, and continues through to more recent works by Aboriginal artists from remote regions. The diversity of materials and approaches is reflected in the media and methods employed by the artists – from Robert Klippel’s delicately teetering metal sculptures to Hany Armanious’ hotmelt sculptures that solidify the negative spaces of various wine glasses. Similarly works by Rosalie Gascoigne and Neil Roberts use found objects which carry the aura of their history.
The exhibition includes a number of photographic works by artists such as Rosemary Laing and Anne Zahalka, which combine wit, scale and observation alongside compelling portraits and street studies by photojournalist Jon Lewis.

Significantly, the exhibition also features several works by respected Aboriginal artists, including the acclaimed Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Sally Gabori, Dorothy Napangardi, Gloria Petyarre and Judy Watson.

Ann Lewis has worked tirelessly throughout her lifetime to raise the profile of Australian artists abroad, and to bring international artists to local audiences. Having been amassed as a private collection, this exhibition mirrors the deeply personal relationships Ann Lewis has enjoyed with a diverse array of artists. The end result is a fascinating showcase of Ann’s friendships and professional networks both in Australia and abroad. Works by international artist Callum Innes and Robert Rauschenberg are therefore another highlight of the exhibition.

Ann Lewis was the Director of Sydney’s influential and at times controversial Gallery A in Paddington from 1964 until 1983. She was also a foundation member of the Visual Arts Board, Australia Council, President of the Art Gallery Society in the Art Gallery of NSW, a member of the Aboriginal Arts and Crafts Company and a member of the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Artists featured in the exhibition are: Hany Armanious, Ralph Balson, Curley Barduguba, Ian Burns, Robert Ambrose Cole, Timothy Cook, Richard Dunn, Mikala Dwyer, John Firth-Smith, Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, Rosalie Gascoigne, Callum Innes, Kitty Kantilla, Robert Klippel, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Ildiko Kovacs, Rosemary Laing, Jon Lewis, Marrirra Marawili, George Milwulurrurr, Rosella Namok, Dorothy Napangardi, Jimmy Ngalakurn, Bobby Barrdjaray Nganmirra, Robert Owen, Gloria Petyarre, Robert Rauschenberg, Neil Roberts, Lola Ryan, Ricky Swallow, Walala Tjapaltjarri, Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula, Wukun Gathinikpa Wanambi, Judy Watson, Louise Weaver, Timothy Wulanjbirr and Anne Zahalka.

About the MCA:
The MCA is the only institution in Australia devoted to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art, from this nation and around the world. It is renowned for making art accessible and engaging for a broad spectrum of public audiences through stimulating exhibitions, educational programs and special events. The MCA has consistently been voted Sydney’s favourite museum and attracts over half a million visitors each year, 65% of which are under the age of 35 years old.

Image: Ildiko Kovacs, “Lulu”, 1999. Oil on plywood, 151.5 x 275 cm. Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Ann Lewis AO, 2009. Image, Courtesy: The artist and Martin Browne Fine Art. ©The artist