Art icon shy about honour
NERIDA BLOK firstname.lastname@example.org MARGARET Olley is not usually stuck for words. But yesterday, in front of local press at the Lismore Regional Gallery the delightfully eccentric Australian treasure, well known for her still life paintings, was at a loss to say how she felt about a planned new gallery building being named after her. The announcement was made official last night by Federal Arts Minister George Brandis at the launch of the gallery's latest exhibition: A View From Here, featuring works by Olley, William Robinson and Nicholas Harding. The estimated $12 million gallery, which will be located on the old Lismore High School site fronting Keen Street, is to be called The Margaret Olley Arts Centre. "I find it embarrassing," said the Lismore-born 84-year-old. "It's a great honour but basically I'm a shy person." Ms Olley, who flew from Sydney accompanied by prominent friends and arts supporters Barry Pearce, head of Australian art at the Art Gallery of NSW, Ross Steale, French Professor at Sydney University, and former state politician and Lismore boy Michael Yabsley, in a plane chartered by businessman, Frank Lowy, said the centre was important for Lismore. "If you get a bigger gallery you will get more exhibitions," she said. "Lismore now deserves a larger community centre and I think with a new art gallery, we'll be coming of age." Lismore Regional Gallery director Steven Alderton said naming the long-planned centre after Ms Olley would be a major boost to the gallery. "Instant national significance and relevance," he said. "She's one of our greatest ambassadors for Lismore, one of Australia's great art icons and we're happy to claim her as one of ours. Her commitment to Australian art is very important." To proceed with the project Mr Alderton said more funding was needed. Lismore City Council has contributed $6 million and Southern Cross University $250,000. Another $5-6 million is needed.