14 March 2014

Olley ¡Olé!

Every bit of the Margaret Olley story that I know seems incredible from the first to the last.

Bill Dobell's 1948 portrait of her was awarded the Archibald Prize - they "were both at a party given by Russell Drysdale. Margaret was wearing a fancy dress costume made from ex-war-supply parachute silk and sleeves from a friend's grandmother's wedding dress. Dobell asked if he could paint her portrait and she agreed. Olley recalled that she sat for him in his flat in Kings Cross wearing normal street clothes and an old battered hat, which she had decorated with flowers. When she saw the finished portrait, she was amazed because Dobell had not seen the fancy dress since the party. She later described it as "truly a magnificent work."
Dobell was seen running through the streets of Sydney with the still wet painting to get it to the Art Gallery of NSW before the close of entries".

And how amazing that 63 years later, Ben Quilty's portrait of her won The 2011 Archibald.

Miss Olley lived and painted for decades in what had been prior to 1964 a hat factory in Paddington NSW's Blue-Ribbon real-estate district and after her death it was no surprise that despite what must have been frightening condition it sold for $2.8m (actually with the 4-br terrace fronting Duxford St that she leased out, quite a bargain at 2.8).

Francis Bacon's studio was , in my opinion, his greatest work, and so it is with Olls.
Fortunately I am not the only one who thinks this way and the whole lot including her ashtrays with the butts still in them, has been packed in Paddo for travel up the highway to Murwillimbah and reconstructed so we can all make pilgrimages. Obviously we will merely be able to peep over the red velvet ropes to enthrall at this dust-free reassembled room built within the white-space gallery -
"the Margaret Olley Arts Centre in Murwillumbah early next year. The green kitchen, orange room and yellow room will be recreated.":
Lovely Kelim under all those bits and pieces - what tough rugs they are to survive 60 years without a good shake. Apparently she cooked a good roast and terribly important people dined there safely.
The most extraordinary achievement for all involved and I am just itching to get there.
 Read about it at this link - Known in her time as "Australia's greatest living legend", her work was predominantly still life and intimate interiors, much of which was featured in a major exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW in 1997. (In 2006 she donated more than 130 works valued at over $7 million to the Art Gallery).

Her handsome and historic Newcastle property.
Not all her stuff went up to the fab new museum though.
Until I went gathering links for this post, I had not known that Francis Bacon's studio was also relocated from London to Dublin. 
I just love the internet informing me every day of more than one new fact.