NGV Gallery of Japanese Art Opening Remarks: Mrs Pauline Gandel

LKG_JapaneseArt_NGVPaulineGandelGalleryopening_PG_640Photo courtesy of William Hung

Opening Speech Pauline Gandel Cocktail Reception
Pauline Gandel Gallery of Japanese Art Opening
October 2 2012
National Galley of Victoria

Ambassador Sato, Ambassador Rotem, Consul-General Sobashima, Director Akimoto, President of Trustees Myers, Director Ellwood, Distinguished Visitors from Japan, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to welcome each of you here this evening to celebrate the opening of the new NGV Japanese art gallery. We share interest and appreciation for Japanese art and culture and support for this significant institution in the state of Victoria.

I am sure you all know the distinguished architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright. I wonder if you also know that he was a great admirer of Japanese art and culture and a collector of woodblock prints? There is a quotation from his biography that appeals to me personally and reflects my love of Japan and philosophical approach to art collecting: ‘ If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you the rest of your life.’

My first investment in beauty was a birthday present for my husband John purchased some 25 years ago. Little did I know that it would eventually put me in league with other Japanophiles like Frank Lloyd Wright. He wrote about his experience with Japanese prints … ‘if Japanese prints were to be deducted from my education I don’t know what direction the whole might have taken’.

I can only wonder too at what direction my interest in art might have taken had I not purchased that birthday present for my husband – an 18th century lacquer document box. I thought it would be an excellent pencil box for his desk, but it became the beginning of a journey into the importance of lacquer and its role in Japanese culture.

Never did I expect that journey to lead to today, the opening of the first ever gallery in an Australian public institution dedicated to Japanese art. It is three years since discussions commenced in September 2009. I am proud to have been a significant contributing force in the realization of the gallery and have been happily engaged with the NGV team to see it take form in the best way possible. It is fitting that it opens in the ‘Asian century’ amidst a growing awareness of the importance of Asia to Australia, and under the new Director of the NGV Tony Ellwood, whose experience with contemporary Asia is well known.

To celebrate the opening of the new gallery, I have lent several important pieces of lacquer from my private museum. One of these in particular has an Australian connection: A set of lacquer shelves from the bridal trousseau of a noble’s daughter. From the collection of Victorian Lieutenant General Sir Horace Robertson, Commander of the British Occupation Forces in Japan, the suite has been completed by contemporary lacquer master Kitamura Tatsuo who is with us this evening. My involvement as a significant sponsor and supporter of the preservation and reinvention of one of Japan’s unique art forms is also an unexpected and truly exciting point in my journey.

Companions enhance any journey, and I am fortunate to have many. Foremost of these is my husband John. A stern master, John’s continued support and encouragement have overseen the growth of my lacquer collection from a personal hobby to a collection of international standing. Needless to say, his support has been of vital importance to the successful outcome of those discussions in 2009!

The contribution of cultural knowledge and exchange to the broadest spectrum of international relations cannot be overestimated. We are all aware of the growing tensions in Asia, of the very current territorial issues between Japan and China. Here at the NGV, we see Asian cultures in close and harmonious physical proximity and are able to appreciate the influences of each on the other. We may see these physical galleries as a metaphor for the relationships we aspire to nurture in broader contexts.

I invite you all now to visit the Pauline Gandel Gallery of Japanese Art and hope that each person takes away a sense of this harmony, a feeling of unity with Japan and Asia in general, and an understanding of the importance of investing in beauty.