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Win win: Gallery's $35 million surprise in record-breaking bequest

Culture

During her lifetime, philanthropist Win Schubert was one of the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art’s biggest supporters, and three years on from her passing, QAGOMA has received a $35 million bequest from her estate – the biggest single cash gift in the gallery’s 125-year history.

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The bequest is one of the most generous ever made to an Australian state gallery and the largest presented to an arts organisation in Queensland history.

QAGOMA Director Chris Saines said Schubert had shown the great support and generosity for decades and had been instrumental in helping QAGOMA attain the most extensive collection of Ian Fairweather works in the country.

“It’s such a positive story for the gallery,” Saines told InQueensand. “She’s been an enormous supporter of the gallery since 1984.

“Right up to her death in 2017 she gifted the gallery more than 100 artworks, and there were 14 Fairweathers among those gifts, so really substantial gifts of Australian and Queensland painting over time.”

Saines said although QAGOMA had known it would be receiving the bequest for several years, the final amount was far greater than what had been anticipated.

“Mrs Schubert did signal that she was going to give a major cash gift to the gallery, probably going back a decade, so certainly I was aware that was her intent and that it be settled on the gallery finally when she passed and her estate was settled.

“But it turned out to be a very much larger gift than we’d initially anticipated, almost double what she’d first signalled, so that was the really surprising and quite a wonderful part of this whole adventure.”

QAGOMA director Chris Saines. (Photo: QAGOMA)

Chair of the QAGOMA’s Board of Trustees Professor Emeritus Ian O’Connor said Schubert’s bequest would support the acquisition of major Australian and international works for the gallery’s collection.

“Comparable to some of the country’s most generous cultural gifts, Mrs Schubert’s $35 million gift establishes The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Charitable Trust,” O’Connor said.

‘The purpose of the Trust is to develop and maintain a permanent collection of artworks created in or after 1880, for the advancement of art education in Australia. Held by QAGOMA, works from this collection will be featured in the gallery’s forward exhibition program.”

Saines said over the past two decades, Schubert’s support had enabled the acquisition of works including Cai Guo-Qiang’s 2013 allegorical assembly of 99 replica animals, Heritage; Yayoi Kusama’s large-scale sculptural work Flowers that bloom at midnight; Kohei Nawa’s Pixcell-Double Deer#4; and (Chicago artist) Nick Cave’s 2012 soundsuits installation HEARD.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s Heritage, which was part of the popular Falling Back to Earth exhibition. (Photo: QAGOMA)

“The first thing you see if you walk into GOMA today is that beautiful Yayoi Kusama sculpture Flowers, the big colourful spotted flower that looks like a bit of a snapdragon – it almost looks like a flower turning into an insect really – and that was a work that she supported us with.

Part of Yayoi Kusama’s Flowers that bloom at midnight sculpture series. (Photo: QAGOMA)

“We think that in the future, we’ll be able to buy works of that calibre and quality and of course, also that value, because we don’t intend to spend these funds on modestly priced works.

“We’re really looking at major work that will have a lasting impact on our collection and make it even more of a destination for people from all around the state and all around the world.”

Earlier this month, QAGOMA also paid tribute to their benefactor’s contributions with the launch of the Schubert Circle, a dedicated program to recognise donors who have included a gift to QAGOMA in their wills.

“Win’s gift gives us a real filip,” Saines said, “so we decided to establish the Schubert Circle,  for people who are thinking about making a bequest to the gallery.

“We’ll kind of bring all of those people together, each year and acknowledge their planned giving, as it were, and kind of keep them informed of the gallery’s future plans and so forth.  We’re hoping over time that the Schubert Circle will also, aggregate unto itself some really wonderful promise gifts that will bear fruit for the gallery in the decades ahead.”

Saines said Schubert’s generosity was something QAGOMA had never taken for granted and the bequest would leave a lasting legacy.

“Wyn was obviously a very successful businesswoman, both with a fashion business and also later with her galleries and that gave her the capacity to develop some independent wealth as a result of that hard work.

“Her generosity to the gallery really was unabated from the very first gift in 1984, it just didn’t stop. she loved giving, she loved the joy that art gave to people, and she wanted that joy to be shared through her legacy into the future.”

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