Gordon Darling Fund
To celebrate the opening of the National Gallery of Australia in October 1982, Gordon Darling, then Chairman of the Gallery Council (1982-86), presented $10,000 for the purchase of contemporary Australian prints. This enabled the Gallery to acquire 94 works covering the spectrum of printmaking activities in Australia at that time.
Gordon Darling maintained his interest in contemporary Australian prints and at the launching of the Australian National Gallery Foundation in the Bicentenary year (1988) he presented one million dollars to establish the Gordon Darling Contemporary Australasian Print Fund. The title of the fund was altered in July 2007 to the Gordon Darling Australia Pacific Print Fund, so as to better define its activities. In establishing this fund Gordon Darling followed a tradition established by some of the great benefactors of the arts in Europe and America.
Most of the great art museums of the world have extraordinary holdings of graphic art which form the backbone - and contain many of the gems - of their collections. Because prints are usually editioned, and are therefore more readily available, print collections are often formed with more deliberation and foresight than those of painting and sculpture. But due to conservation requirements that enable them to remain in pristine condition into the future, they are not on permanent display.
Such collections are often vast in scale, containing works which represent the artistic and cultural heritage of a nation. Many of these great public collections originated in the private cabinets of the nobility; others resulted from enlightened patronage of philanthropists. Baron Edmond de Rothschild bequeathed his collection of over 40,000 prints to the Louvre; Lessing Rosenwald presented his incomparable collection of prints to the National Gallery of Art in Washington; the Pierpont Morgan collection (which is still being enlarged) is housed in New York in the library that bears his name; while the print room of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is named after its benefactor Abby Aldrich Rockefeller.
Gordon Darling's generosity has permitted the National Gallery of Australia to form an unrivalled collection of contemporary prints from Australia and the Pacific region. The work of contemporary Aboriginal artists, from communities and urban areas, forms a significant part of the collection. Gaps in our collection of prints by major artists such as John Olsen and Janet Dawson have been filled; the printed work of artists such as Mike Parr has been acquired; and an artist such as Lithuanian born Vaclovas Ratas, who arrived in Australia in 1949, is now represented by the first prints that he produced after landing in Western Australia.
Initiatives of the Gordon Darling Fund, instigated by Senior Curator Roger Butler, include the digitisation of the Australian print collection, the Gordon Darling Fellowship, the Gordon Darling Graduate Internship, Australian Prints Online project and the website printsandprintmaking.gov.au. The Gordon Darling Australia Pacific Print Fund has helped lay the foundation of a great Australian print collection at the National Gallery of Australia.