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Olley’s legacy embraces Lismore gallery

An artist's impression of the new Lismore Art Gallery.

An artist’s impression of the proposed Lismore Regional Gallery: the main gallery space would be named The Margaret Olley Gallery in honour of the Lismore woman who went on to become one of Australia’s greatest painters..

The Margaret Olley Arts Trust will present $500,000 to Lismore City Council this afternoon for the Lismore Quadrangle project, ensuring Olley’s legacy lives on in Lismore, the town of her birth.

The funds will go toward the $5.8 million Lismore Quadrangle development in Keen Street, which includes a redeveloped Lismore Regional Gallery, café and bookshop, public piazza, and new car parking.

Lismore Regional Gallery director Brett Adlington said the main gallery space would be named The Margaret Olley Gallery in honour of the Lismore woman who went on to become one of Australia’s greatest painters.

The executor of Margaret’s estate, art dealer Philip Bacon, said Trustees of The Margaret Olley Arts Trust were delighted to help a new Lismore Regional Gallery come to fruition.

‘This was a project very close to Margaret’s heart, going as it did to her love of, and belief in, the value of regional galleries to their communities, with of course the added attraction that Lismore was her birthplace’, Mr Bacon said.

‘When the former director of the Lismore Gallery, Steven Alderton, approached Margaret to enlist her help, back in 2005, she immediately got to work, energetically lobbying all levels of government, at any opportunity that presented itself.

The late, great Margaret Olley at work in her home studio in Paddington, Sydney. Photo: Getty Images

The late, great Margaret Olley at work in her home studio in Paddington, Sydney. Photo: Getty Images

‘No politician was safe from her entreaties, and a much-valued invitation to lunch at Duxford Street came with the clear understanding that she expected at least a hearing, but preferably a commitment, of support,’ Mr Bacon said.

The new gallery in Lismore didn’t eventuate in 2009 due to funding issues, but the Margaret Olley Art Centre is now a feature of the Tweed Regional Gallery.

This year, with funding from the National Stronger Regions Fund, Lismore City Council and Arts NSW, as well as more than $100,000 in pledges from the Lismore community, Margaret’s vision of a new Lismore art gallery will be realised.

‘It is very gratifying for me, as her lifelong friend and dealer, that interest in her paintings, and in her life, continues unabated. She would be astonished, but secretly very pleased’, he said.

‘She remains one of Australia’s best-loved artists, and the splendid new Lismore Regional Gallery will carry her name into the future, as will the many paintings in public and private collections throughout the world.’

Mayor Jenny Dowell thanked Mr Bacon and the Trustees for their unwavering support of a project Margaret had believed in.

‘Margaret Olley’s connection to Lismore, the place of her birth, lives on after her passing through this generous donation from her estate’, Cr Dowell said.

‘Our community, like many artists and galleries that have been beneficiaries of her generosity, is so grateful for her commitment to nurturing cultural life, particularly in regional Australia.

‘Margaret Olley will always hold a special place in Lismore’s heart and through this gift from her estate, she will have a presence in the heart of our city forever,’ she said.


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