A recreation of the late great artist Margaret Olley’s studio will be built in a new Tweed River Art Gallery extension, funded by a $1 million offer by the late artist’s trustees.
The Margaret Olley Art Trust announced the offer to the gallery in Murwillumbah last week, sparking a flurry of excitement in local art circles.
Many thought the studio and some of her collection could end up in her birthplace of Lismore where a new regional gallery was proposed recently but councillors were divided over the issue and it was put on hold.
But the Tweed, where the artist spent her childhood, won out when the Olley estate announced the bequest, including the replica of her studio and some of her favourite works, would go to the Tweed gallery.
Gallery director Susi Muddiman said it was ‘an incredible privilege for the gallery to be chosen for this honour’ and the fact the artist had lifelong connection with the Tweed ‘adds poignancy to the centre’.
‘I look forward to working with the Trust and Council officers to realise Margaret’s vision. The Margaret Olley Centre will include a recreation of Miss Olley’s studio, an exhibition space and an education centre. The centre will see Margaret remembered as a fine artist, as well as a generous philanthropist to the arts,’ Ms Muddiman said.
The centre will be the repository of a large number of the artist’s own works, including works in progress, ephemera and correspondence, currently in the possession of the Margaret Olley Estate.
Philip Bacon, a trustee, said the artist’s interest in regional galleries, and the Tweed River Art Gallery in particular, ‘makes this project especially attractive to the trustees’.
Tweed mayor Barry Longland said the generous gift was ‘an indication of the reputation of our first-rate regional gallery’.
‘The recent success of the 2011 Archibald Prize, with its winning portrait of Margaret Olley attracting thousands of visitors from outside the region, points to the high regard held by the public for one of Australia’s most admired artists,’ Cr Longland said.
Council general manager Mike Rayner said the centre and gallery would become a major tourist attraction and act as an economic driver for the region.
Photo Jeff Dawson