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Ten Years of Contemporary Art: The James C Sourris AM Collection

Author: Queensland Art Gallery

When Published: 2011

Publisher: Queensland Art Gallery

Available: Good bookshops. Queensland Art Gallery Store, or online:

Description: Large Colour book. Hard cover. 158 pages

Ten Years of Contemporary Art: The James C Sourris AM Collection is a snapshot of art from the first decade of the new millennium, acquired for the Gallery’s James C Sourris, AM, Collection. Richly illustrated over 156 pages, this publication includes works by leading Australian artists such as Vivienne Binns, Robert Hunter, Gareth Sansom, Tony Albert, Judy Watson, Vernon Ah Kee, Tim Johnson and more, showcasing exceptional works by senior and emerging Brisbane-based Indigenous and non–Indigenous artists, as well as a key group of Australian video works.

A message from James C Sourris, AM

'Ten Years of Contemporary Art: The James C Sourris AM Collection' is a snapshot of art from the flrst decade of the new millenium, acquired for the Queensland Art Gallery's James C Sourris, AM, Collection. The sole criterion behind the aquisition of works for this collection is that each be of museum quality

A number of people have made direct contributions to this collection and it is only fltting they be publicly acknowledged.

Flrstly to my sister Marica, who has given me wonderful support for this project over the past ten years.

To Doug Hall, AM, who was there at the beginning and without whom there would be no collection. A close freindship with Peter Bellas and Josh Milani has resulted in an extraordinary collaboration acquiring works for the collection.

At my request, and in an attempt to broaden the collection, both Peter and Josh sourced works from other states for my approval.

And lastly, and especially, to Tony Ellwood, Director of the Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art. It was Tony's suggestion, and through his enthusiasm for the project, that this exhibition has come to fruition.

In Conversation with James C Sourris, AM

From, Artlines, Queensland Gallery Magazine, Sept/Oct/Nov, 2011, pp. 32-33.

James C Sourris, AM, has been a generous and dedicated supporter of the Gallery for many years, both through membership of its Foundation Council and as an exceptionally active and focused individual donor to the Gallery’s Collection. Tony Ellwood, the Gallery’s Director, asked James Sourris about the history of his interests in visual art and art museums, when he first started collecting art, and how the focus of his collection has developed.

I remember clearly when I first became interested in art.
The year was 1954 and I was selected by the school principal to be in charge of the Library. On three of four walls were works by Albert Namatjira donated to the college by a wealthy grazier. I was so enamoured with the paintings that I was determined that one day I would own a Namatjira. Little did I know that it would lake me 31 years to achieve my ambition.

During the 90’s I collected a few works mainly for a new home I was building, mostly paintings and ceramics from gallerist Victor Mace, what I would call 'domestic pieces'. The home, designed by family friend Robin Gibson, was to be contemporary minimalist and demanded contemporary art to bring it 'alive'. ln 1997 I was introduced to Peter Bellas, of Bellas Gallery, by my sister Marcia. Peter suggested I should devote my time to collecting contemporary art, and at the time I purchased my first major contemporary work, a wonderful painting by Robert Hunter.

A year later, in 1998, I became a Gallery Foundation Benefactor and enjoyed the exhibitions to such an extent that viewing contemporary art became a habit during my international business trips.

The turning point came when I moved from a 'domestic' collection to works of a public gallery standard. It was time to collect major works, and quality was to be the byword. ln collaboration with Peter Bellas, it was decided that I would collect contemporary art within a clear time frame, namely 2000 to 2010. The start of a new millennium seemed an obvious starting point for the collection.

The collection's interests are in several key areas, and there is a reason for this. Obviously it falls into a number of areas and I have attempted a balance between the various parts. As my interest in contemporary art developed, the criteria for my focus became more clearly defined. Each work purchased needed to be of a standard and quality acceptable to a State gallery or the National Gallery. This view still governs my acquisitions policy today.

In an effort to create a balanced collection, I have included artists in different periods of their careers. For example, senior Australian artists Tim Johnson, Gareth Sansom and Robert Hunter; mid-career artists Eugene Carchesio, Helga Groves, Rosslynd Piggott, Gordon Bennett and Jon Cattapan; and emerging artists like Gareth Donnelly and Lucy Griggs. Add to this mix, traditional and urban Indigenous artists and you can see I have attempted a broad sweep of contemporary art. I have also made a deliberate effort not to be Queensland parochial. This is an Australian and International collection of contemporary art.

Initially, because of my background in film exhibition, the Gallery acquired a number of international and Australian video art works with my funds, by artists such as Brill Viola, William Kentridge and Australia's Patricia Piccinini. While video is used by artists to view a globalised world, equally important is how Australian artists view world events. For example, Madeline Kelly and her nuclear paintings, Judy Watson on the environment, and Gordon Hookey on matters political.
In the mid 90’s - after these video works were acquired – then Director Doug Hall and I agreed to work towards a contemporary art collection for the Queensland Art Gallery to be named 'The James C Sourris Collection'. The discussions took nearly two years, and at the end we agreed that sufficient video art had been acquired and it was time to broaden the Collection to include painting, photography, sculpture and installations. The acquisition of Wang Qingsong's Night Revels of Lao Li and a sculpture by Scott Redford quickly followed, and the collection was up and running.

An interest in books commenced at an early age, probably because both my parents were 'readers'. I recall at 1,2my favourite authors were We Johns and Zane Grey. At 20, I was collecting first editions. The first title I bought as a first edition, which I still retain, was Ian Fleming s Dr No. My reading today is mainly art, biographies and world conflicts.
Recently, at the invitation of Tony Ellwood, I was asked to view material the Gallery wished to acquire for the 'Surrealism' exhibition – original manifestos, exhibition catalogues, journals and books. My view was it was important for the Gallery to own them so they could be displayed during the exhibition with works from France. On the evening of the opening, Mr Didier Ottinger, Deputy Director of the Centre Pompidou, expressed his delight about the way the printed material was integrated with Pompidou collection works, so the exhibition had been substantially enhanced.

This material is now owned by the Gallery under the auspices of 'The James C Sourris Art Collection' and will take its place in the Gallery's Research Library for generations to come . . .I am proud that I was able, in a small way, to contribute to this outstanding exhibition.

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