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People > Obituaries > James Agapitos.

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submitted by Sydney Morning Herald on 04.01.2007

James Agapitos.

Art world loses a passionate collector and benefactor

Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney.

January 4, 2007

Clara Iaccarino Arts Writer

JAMES AGAPITOS, the owner of the nation's largest collection of Australian surrealist art, has died at his home in Bellevue Hill. He was 78.

Agapitos and Ray Wilson, 60, his partner and co-collector, accumulated more than 300 works during their 40-year relationship. Neither came from families with an interest in visual art, but they built up a collection that now features important works by luminaries including Jeffrey Smart, Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Donald Friend.

"The art world became a great part of our social life," Wilson said yesterday. "It's a wonderful world and the people in [it] have given us so much pleasure."

Agapitos and Wilson have pledged $10 million to the Art Gallery of NSW following their deaths. They both wanted their collection to remain intact, but Wilson said yesterday he was unsure which institution would receive the collection after he died.

In the past two years the couple had also begun collecting contemporary Aboriginal art.

They have donated a number of surrealist works to various national and regional galleries and helped raise funds for different institutions.

Agapitos was a "benefactor of enthusiasm", said the director of the Art Gallery of NSW, Edmund Capon. "He had an unbridled enthusiasm and passion; he was a pretty rare individual, an inspiration," Mr Capon said. "He's most irreplaceable - not only for his support, but for the person that he was and will remain."

Born in Egypt to Greek parents, Agapitos came to Australia in 1952.

He had already begun collecting art when he met Wilson, but it was the purchase of James Gleeson's The Attitude of Lightning towards a Lady Mountain (1939) in 1990 that convinced the couple to focus on surrealism. The Gleeson painting - Agapitos's personal favourite - is on long-term loan to the National Gallery of Australia.

Gleeson said yesterday Agapitos had told him the work "opened up a new idea about what art could be".

One of the couple's proudest moments was a touring exhibition of selected works from their collection entitled Australian Surrealism: The Agapitos/Wilson Collection. Initiated by Ron Radford when he was the director of the Art Gallery of South Australia, the show toured nationally and was shown at Sydney's S.H. Ervin Gallery in June 2004. "It was an affirmation that we had done something unique in art in Australia," Wilson said. "The reaction from the media and the public was something that gave us great joy and pleasure."

[[Editor -

James Agapitos wrote the definitive article on, and helped make Kytherians around the world, aware of, and promoted Kytherian sculptress Marea Gazzard. ie he was always a powerful Philokytherian.

The Greek/Australian Superstar of Craft.

He also enunciated a suberb "philosophy of benefaction", which Kytherians would do well to adopt.

Benefaction 1. The Anointed Ones. Thoughts on the Art of Giving.

Benefaction. 2. Call of the Benefactor. It's in giving that we receive!


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