Originating as a bequest in 1978, the Penrith Regional Gallery Collection consists of over 1600 objects, primarily featuring paintings, sculptures, works on paper and photography.
It was Margo Lewers’ wish that her former home and artwork collection be given to the people of Penrith. This ambition was honoured by her daughters Darani Lewers and Tanya Crothers, and the Penrith Regional Gallery was officially opened in 1981.
Gerald and Margo Lewers were actively involved in the development of visual arts, particularly within the Sydney art scene and were keenly interested in the development of modern art practice. The Penrith Regional Gallery continues to acquire works in areas that reflect, explore and critique the practices, histories, interests and philosophic commitments of Gerald and Margo Lewers, their contemporaries and Modernism.
Building the Collection
Following the original Lewers Bequest, the collection has grown through the generosity of many individuals who donate either artworks or funds to the Collection. These individuals include artists who have directly gifted their artwork, private collectors who have donated artworks through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gift Program, and estate beneficiaries who donate to Penrith Regional Gallery in honour of the deceased. The Friends of Penrith Regional Gallery have also played a consistent and ongoing role in supporting the acquisition of works.
Specific examples of significant donations include the following:
Between 2010 and 2018, Blue Mountains resident Robin Gurr donated a selection of 70 works by Aboriginal artists to Penrith Regional Gallery. The gift included work by Butcher Cherel, Dolly Nanpijinpa Daniels, Weaver Jack, Lily Karadada, Lorraine Connelly Northey, Ashley Scobie, Bessie Nakamarra Sims, Patrick Smith, Jujuka Dolly Snell, George Tjungurrayi, Maryanne Tungatalum, Susan Wanji Wanji, Linus Warlapinni and Pedro Wonaeamirri, alongside various fibreworks, collected on Gurr’s travels to Aboriginal Art Centres and communities. This series of generous gifts were significant contributions to the gallery’s growing collection of Aboriginal artworks, and offer a glimpse into a range of diverse Aboriginal artistic practices. The artists, as custodians of their traditional land, use a variety of mediums to document their stories of tribe, clan, language and country.
GIFT OF MICHAEL AND JILL HAWKER
The donation from the Hawker Family in 2016 added a significant list of Australian and international contemporary artists to the Penrith Regional Gallery Collection, namely Tracey Moffatt, Bill Henson, Patricia Piccinini, Ricky Swallow, Ian Smith, Dan Arps, Nadine Christensen, Cao Fei, Selina Ou, Daniel Boyd and Susan Norrie.
Avid collector of contemporary Australian art, Michael Hawker has had an extensive career in the banking and insurance industries and has held many directorships with both Australian and international companies. In 2010 Michael was recognised for his services to the community, becoming a Member of the Order of Australia. Currently Chairman of the medical research institute The George Institute for Global Health, Hawker also joined the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney in January 2019.
In 2010, the gallery received a substantial donation of a range of Sonia Farley works by her nephew David Farley. Sonia Farley worked extensively as a sculptor and her sculptural pieces share a close aesthetic affinity with the artistic practice of her uncle, Gerald Lewers. As stated by Macquarie Galleries curator Eileen Chanin, ‘a brilliant carver, Gerald Lewers deeply influenced his niece, Sonia, who carved with him’. Gerald Lewers often worked with wood and his practice, currently represented in the Gallery’s Collection, explored both Abstraction and utilitarianism. An interest in both abstraction and utilitarianism is also represented within the donation of works by Sonia Farley, who was attracted by the modernist pursuit of remaining honest to both material and form. Sonia Farley’s work is also linked to the modernist philosophy of her aunt Margo Lewers who valued the merit of unifying art and domesticity – a belief that was practiced in her house and garden and a belief that has continued to underscore the importance and uniqueness of the Gallery site.
GIFT OF THE ARTIST
Many artists who have exhibited at the Gallery or have had a connection with the Gallery in other ways, have offered artworks to the Collection as gifts. These works make up large proportion of the Collections holdings and include works from notable Australian artists such as Brook Andrew.
WORKS PURCHASED WITH ASSISTANCE FROM THE FRIENDS OF PENRITH REGIONAL GALLERY
The Friends of Penrith Regional Gallery have consistently supported the development of the Collection through both fundraising towards acquisitions and by contributing to the costs of preventative conservation efforts and other collection care needs. We remain heartened and grateful for the significant and ongoing contribution The Friends of Penrith Regional Gallery offer towards the development and care of the Collection.
COLLECTION CARE AND CONSERVATION
The Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of the Lewers Bequest Collection is housed in a purpose-built storage facility on the Gallery site.
Since 2014 the Gallery has successfully completed various activities to improve collection care and preventative conservation practices at the Gallery, using funds awarded through the National Library of Australia’s Cultural Heritage Grants program. In 2018 we also sought addition external funding to complete a partial upgrade of the shelving and hanging racks within the Collection Store. With new acquisitions being added to the Collection every year and limited space within the Collection Store, the need to consistently improve collection care and preventative conservation practices is ongoing.
The Gallery’s 2003 Conservation Action Plan identified works for priority conservation. Since then over 50 artworks have received conservation treatment, many being cleaned and/or reframed, and the Gallery acknowledges the generous contribution of The Friends of Penrith Regional Gallery in this undertaking.
Examples of significant works in the Collection that have received full conservation treatments include Darani Lewers, Downpipe c. 1964; Margo Lewers, Corkwall c. 1965, Untitled [Hanging Mosaic] c. 1955, and Untitled [Wall Mural] c. 1970, and Gerald Lewers, Pelican Birdbath c. 1950 – all of which are important features of the property and its history as the home of the Lewers family.
Conservation treatments of significant art works in the Collection include Construction Element 1944 and The Construction…Transparent Planes 1942, by Ralph Balson; Herculaneun 1961 and Cliffs at Fall c. 1961 by Elwyn Lynn; Anachronistic Segments 1960–1963 by Carl Plate; # 13 c. 1959 by Tony Tuckson; Marquesus Feast 1967 and Tasmania Afire 1967 by Mimi Jaksic Berger; Blue Centre 1960 by Nancy Borlase and Dream of an Ancient Tablet c. 1960 by Yvonne Audette amongst others.
The Collection is held in trust by Penrith City Council for the public benefit. Through our exhibition and other programming we aim to deliver Collection access opportunities via a range of platforms and we are currently working towards being able to provide online Collection access via a searchable catalogue here on our website. Should you require further details on our Collection or wish to request access for research purposes, please contact the Gallery:
Phone: (02) 4735 1100