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March 21, 2023

Margaret Olley’s $1m bequest

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[author]Chris Dobney[/author]

Ever since the death of great Australian painter Margaret Olley there has been jostling between two of the region’s art galleries as to which should have to right to wear the mantle of the state’s ‘Olley’ gallery.

Australia’s greatest art treasure was born in Lismore, thereby giving that city a claim to her name.

Indeed Lismore City Council had a plan to build a gallery in her name but it was thwarted by politicking and a lack of community support.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell admitted as much at the time of Olley’s death.

‘We had plans to have the Margaret Olley Art Centre in Lismore and unfortunately there was not widespread political support for that and there was a groundswell of community opposition to it and we’ve had to shelve it,’ she told the ABC at the time.

In later life Olley was a visitor to the Tweed, and the well-established Tweed River Gallery felt it also had a right host an Olley gallery.

That hope seems to have come to fruition with the announcement today that the Tweed gallery will be the beneficiary of a $1 million bequest from Olley’s estate.

Gallery director Suzi Muddiman, who for a curator has never been shy of talking numbers, described the bequest as being ‘like gold in terms of attracting people and improving facilities’.

In the end even Dowell couldn’t begrudge Olley’s decision, telling ABC today ‘I’m very pleased that money like this is coming to our region. There was always a hope that it would come to Lismore but in reality our plans are still a long way off.’

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