“A quantum leap” for Australia as collector John Kaldor donates $35m-worth of art to AGNSW

Kaldor has donated work by Rauschenberg, Christo, LeWitt, Koons, Judd, and Gursky, among many others


The Australian textile manufacturer and collector John Kaldor has donated 260 works of contemporary art to the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) in Sydney. The gift, valued in excess of $35m, is, described by museum director Edmund Capon as “the most significant single donation of works to an Australian public gallery. This is a quantum leap in terms of benefaction in Australia. It is epic in the 120-year history of this institution.”

The Kaldor gift comprises works assembled over 50 years and includes pieces by Robert Rauschenberg, Christo, Sol LeWitt, Jeff Koons, Donald Judd, Andreas Gursky, Gilbert & George and Thomas Demand, amongst others. It is particularly strong in minimalist art and also includes work by artists Kaldor has worked with through his Kaldor Art Projects, an organisation which has brought international art to Australia for nearly 40 years; its most recent project was an installation of prison cells by German artist Gregor Schneider (p1) on Sydney’s Bondi Beach.

The gift significantly enhances AGNSW’s existing collection of contemporary art which is strong in work by Australians (such as Adam Cullen, Mike Parr and Fiona Hall) and has a growing international collection (Rachel Whiteread, Cy Twombly, Anselm Kiefer, Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley).

Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Mr Kaldor says that his decision to make the gift is based on his desire for the collection to remain intact and be accessible to the public. “It’s a logical choice. It’s the main gallery in Sydney and they have the space to display the collection and rather importantly, they asked for it.” He added: “While all of my previous art projects have been temporary, this is a permanent project.” Under the Australian Cultural Gifts Programme, which encourages donations to cultural institutions, Mr Kaldor is entitled to receive a tax deduction for the market value of the gift.

The museum is now converting a former storage area into a 1,000 sq. ft gallery to house the collection. Funding for the A$4m ($3.8m) renovation has been donated by the heirs of the late industrialist and art patron Franco Belgiorno-Nettis who launched the Sydney Biennale in 1973.

John Kaldor was born in Hungary in 1936; his family fled the Communist takeover in 1948 and settled in Australia where he eventually made his fortune as a textile manufacturer. Since 2005 he has devoted himself entirely to Kaldor Art Projects which he launched in 1969 by commissioning Christo to wrap the Australian coastline.