The founding director of the National Gallery of Australia James Mollison has died. He was 88-years-old.

Mollison was appointed director of the NGA in 1977 but he had acted in that role since 1971, overseeing the building of the gallery and the creation of the gallery’s collection.

His tenure as director, which ended in 1990, was marked by the then-controversial decision to purchase Jackson Pollock’s abstract painting Blue Poles for $1.3 million in 1973. Now estimated to be worth $350 million, it’s considered as the piece of art that put the gallery on the world map.

The National Gallery of Australia's founding director, James Mollison has died at age 88.

The National Gallery of Australia’s founding director, James Mollison has died at age 88.Credit:Fairfax Media

The gallery’s current director Nick Mitzevich said Mollison was “one of Australia’s greatest museum directors,” and it was bold choices like the Pollock purchase that showed Australia could have a world class art collection.



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