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Kaldor gift

Thursday 3 April 2008

Today the Art Gallery of NSW announced the most extraordinary single gift of works of art to an Australian public gallery.

The gift is from John Kaldor and his family. Built up over the past 50 years, the John Kaldor Collection represents the history of international contemporary art, and is today valued at over $35 million AUS.

John Kaldor is one of Australia’s foremost patrons of contemporary art. Since the 1960s Kaldor has collected the work of emerging artists, many of whom went on to become the most influential artists of our time. Many of the works in the collection are now beyond the reach of public museums.

Gallery director Edmund Capon said: "The John Kaldor Collection is the most important collection of late 20th century avant-garde art in Australia. This unique collection is an exemplary vision of one man on behalf of his family. This is a gift that will forever be a milestone in the history of this Gallery."

Comprising some 260 works, the gift includes work by Christo, Jeff Koons, Robert Rauschenberg, Sol LeWitt, Gilbert & George, Richard Long, Carl Andre, Andreas Gursky and many more.

At the opening of this year’s Archibald Prize the NSW Premier, Morris Iemma, announced a grant of $25.7 million AUS to construct an off-site collection storage facility for the Art Gallery of NSW. In August 2007 the Belgiorno-Nettis family generously donated $4 million AUS to the Gallery. This donation will go towards converting existing storage space at the Art Gallery of NSW into the new John W Kaldor Family gallery for contemporary art.

The Gallery’s contemporary collection has grown steadily over the last 20 years with an emphasis on conceptual and European art. The collection includes significant works by Joseph Beuys, Rebecca Horn, Anselm Kiefer, Yves Klein, Jannis Kounellis, Tatsuo Miyajima, Sigmar Polke, Doris Salcedo, Gerhard Richter, and Haim Steinbach among others. These are displayed along with an extensive collection of Australian, and increasingly Asian, contemporary art.

The John Kaldor Collection complements and extends the Gallery’s contemporary collection. The union will enable the Gallery to present a formidable display of international contemporary art spanning five decades.

The number of works by Christo in the John Kaldor Collection surpasses the holdings of most museums internationally. It also includes a substantial representation of Robert Rauschenberg, whose work since the early 1950s took dada collage and assemblage to new levels. Representation of work by the minimalist and advocate of conceptual art Sol LeWitt is strong and there are excellent examples of work by Carl Andre and Donald Judd. These complement the Gallery’s holdings of classic conceptual works by Joseph Kosuth, Ian Burn and others.

Kaldor, like the Gallery, collected new British art from the 1960s for example, Richard Long and Gilbert & George. The Gallery has works by Antony Gormley and Tony Cragg and Anish Kapoor.

One of the outstanding aspects of the John Kaldor Collection is German photography. In particular, it includes significant works by Thomas Demand, Andreas Gurksy and Thomas Struth, all of whom have become much sought after and prohibitively priced in recent years. The Gallery holds a number of works by Bernd and Hilla Becher, who inspired this new generation of objective visionaries in photomedia. These works together with the Bernd and Hilla Becher’s in the John Kaldor Collection will present a comprehensive and clear historical representation.

Minister for the Arts, Frank Sartor, Steven Lowy, president of the board of Trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW and Edmund Capon, director of the Art Gallery of NSW, today met with John Kaldor and his family to officially thank him for his gift.


Statement from the Kaldor Family

I did not set out to form a collection; to collect was a way to participate in the excitement, the creative energy of contemporary art.

The early 1960s were the beginning of pop art and it opened my eyes to a totally new world, a world that I wanted to make my own. And now, almost 50 years later, I have the same passion, the same wonder and I am grateful to the many artists who have given me so much.

I was fortunate that from the ’60s I travelled regularly overseas on business and had the opportunity to make friends with the small number of galleries that focused on contemporary art. I met many artists whose work I admired and contemporary art became part of my life, my passion. It was a very different world to what it is now.

My home began to fill with art and my children grew up with some very strange objects, which they just took for granted; a 20-metre wrapped gum tree by Christo down the corridor took some explanation for first time visitors. But after some time collecting wasn’t enough. I wanted to share my love of contemporary art not only with my family and friends but also with the arts community and the art-loving public, who in those days were quite isolated from international trends.

My first endeavour turned out to be quite monumental. In 1968 I met two artists in New York who wanted to realise their most ambitious work to date. The project captured my imagination and I was determined to help them. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Wrapped coast – one million square feet, Little Bay, Sydney Australia became a reality in 1969. The success of the work and the impact it had on the Australian art scene made me realise the importance of this endeavour and that it shouldn’t be a ‘one off’. And so Kaldor Art Projects was born.

Over the past four decades we have had a number of projects. Gilbert & George, Sol LeWitt, Richard Long, Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman. All of these took place at the Art Gallery of NSW. It was the beginning of our partnership. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s wrapping of the vestibule during their retrospective exhibition in 1991 was enthusiastically supported by Edmund Capon.

In the summer of 1995/96, Jeff Koons’s Puppy won the hearts of Sydney before its permanent installation at the Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao in Spain.

Last year we launched three projects: Urs Fischer on Cockatoo Island, Gregor Schneider on Bondi Beach and our first educational project Move for 500 public schools in NSW.

Next week in collaboration with the Art Gallery of NSW is the launch of Bill Viola, The Tristan Project at St Saviour’s Church and at the Gallery.

I am devoting my time now to continuing the success of Kaldor Art Projects and to build an organisation that will have a permanent role to play in the visual arts.

It’s wonderful that Naomi and I share the same passion, a never ending excitement for art. We collect together and she is my support and partner in the art projects. Over the last few years Naomi and I discussed the future of the collection. Understanding my deep love for it, she encouraged me to consider gifting it because of its unique and historical significance. Our aim was to preserve the artistic integrity of the collection built up over 50 years.

Gifting the collection is the ultimate step in my desire to share my love of art with the Australian public and thus it becomes the major and most permanent Kaldor Art Project. I would like to especially thank and acknowledge the generosity of my children in sharing my enthusiasm to gift the collection. They join me in this act of philanthropy, a fulfilment of a life time’s passion, which they have been part of since childhood.

I would like to thank David Gonski, who started our discussion with the Gallery and saw it through till the end, and Steven Lowy, who embraced David’s enthusiasm once he took over as president.

Many thanks for the insight, advice and patience of Janet Whiting and Peter Pagonis, for their outstanding contribution.

Finally my heartfelt thanks to Edmund Capon and his team for their enthusiasm and the way in which they have included me in the ‘Gallery Family’.

I have known Edmund since he came to Australia and I admire and applaud his achievements. Over the past 30 years he has built the Art Gallery of NSW into a vibrant world-class museum that embraces the past and looks to the future. I couldn’t have wished for a better partnership, a better home for my collection.

Media information and interviews
Claire Martin, Press Office
(02) 9225 1734 or 0414 437 588