26 September 2023

Whitlam’s arts legacy on display

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An exhibition featuring a collection of artworks gifted to former Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam and his wife, Margaret in 1979, has gone on display at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra.

The collection, Dedicated to the Dedicated: Whitlam, the Arts and Democracy, includes works by John Olsen, Brett Whiteley, Lloyd Rees, John Coburn, Arthur Boyd and others.

Featured is the original Whitlams’ Folio, inscribed with a message of thanks to Gough and Margaret Whitlam for “the marks they have made on the Australian canvas”.

Director of the Whitlam Institute, John Juriansz said the Institute was delighted to share the collection with the people of Canberra and visitors.

“Whitlam’s belief in a more confident and independent cultural identity for Australia is as relevant as ever,” Mr Juriansz said.

“This Australian-first exhibition underscores why a thriving artistic community is important for a healthy democracy.”

He said the Whitlams’ Folio was one of around 37,000 items in the Whitlam Prime Ministerial Collection, which was unsurpassed by any other in Australia.

“This exhibition also documents how Gough Whitlam (pictured) viewed the arts as a fundamental human right and a precondition for a healthy democracy. In his words, ‘A society in which the arts flourish is a society in which every human value can flourish’,’’ Mr Juriansz said.

Director-General of National Archives, Simon Froude says it was a privilege to be hosting the exhibition.

“Whether you are into political or art history, or are a lover of Australian art, this exhibition not only highlights both Gough’s and Margaret’s support for creative Australians, but also the impact their work had on the hearts of the arts community,” Mr Froude said.

The exhibition and its associated events run at the National Archives until 29 October.

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