Inaugural QAGOMA Medal Celebrates Eminent Chair Richard Austin
The Chair of the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) Board of Trustees, Professor Susan Street AO today announced former Chair, the late Richard WL Austin AO OBE (1919–2000) as the recipient of the inaugural Gallery Medal.
‘The Gallery Medal honours Richard (Dick) Austin for his distinguished and outstanding services to the Gallery during his term as Chair of the Board of Trustees from 1987 to 1995, and for initiating and supporting the Gallery’s focus on the Asia Pacific in that period,’ said Professor Street.
‘From the outset of his appointment to the Board, Austin actively encouraged the Gallery to take a more serious and engaged account of historical and contemporary Asian art, as Australia forged closer links with the region.’
QAGOMA Director Chris Saines CNZM said it was clear that Austin’s strategic leadership was instrumental in shaping and building the Gallery’s internationally-renowned Asian and Pacific art collection and its flagship exhibition series, The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT).
‘The APT is the only major exhibition series in the world to focus exclusively on the contemporary art of Asia, the Pacific and Australia, and after more than two decades it remains one of Australia’s most anticipated contemporary art events,’ said Mr Saines.
The Gallery Medal officially acknowledges Austin’s many achievements during the period of his service and the impact of his legacy on the direction of the Gallery’s collection development, programming and audience engagement.
A new initiative, the Gallery Medal will be awarded from time to time to an individual who has given distinguished and outstanding service, or who has made a transformative contribution to the institution.
Designed and produced by renowned Queensland jeweller Barbara Heath, the medal design incorporates an iconic breezeway lattice pattern found in many Queensland homes, and a cascade of silver ‘water’ droplets representing nourishing and cultivating rain.
During his term as Chair of the Board (1987–1995), Richard Austin profoundly influenced the Gallery’s development as it expanded into its new Queensland Cultural Centre building.
Fluent in several Asian languages as a result of his career in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Austin was a serious collector of traditional Japanese and Australian art. His appointment as Chair — which coincided with that of Doug Hall AM, as Director — signalled a major shift in the institution’s strategic direction.
Initially planned to recur for only three exhibitions from 1993, the Asia Pacific Triennial’s rise to critical and popular acclaim cemented it as an ongoing event and the Gallery’s flagship exhibition series. The 8th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8) will open across both Gallery sites on 21 November 2015 and continues until 10 April 2016.
Richard’s wife Arija Austin will accept the Gallery Medal in his honour next month.