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Australian Jews donate $14 million to gallery

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Two of Australian Jewry’s most benevolent benefactors have donated more than $14 million to the National Gallery of Victoria.

It is the largest cash gift by individuals ever made to an Australian art gallery.

A campaign to raise nearly $144 million by the gallery’s 150th anniversary in 2011 was launched by the Victorian Premier John Brumby last week in the presence of Academy Award-winning actor and gallery ambassador Geoffrey Rush.

“I’d like to be part of ensuring the National Gallery of Victoria can continue to buy great works of art for future generations to love, learn from and enjoy,” said benefactor Loti Smorgon at the launch.

Gallery director Gerard Vaughan said the Smorgon gift was vital. “For many years we have not been able to go into the marketplace and compete with the rest of the world to secure the greatest masterpieces,” he said. “We’re now buying works of art that would grace any of the world’s greatest art museums.”

Loti and Victor Smorgon both arrived with their families from Europe in the 1920s. They married in 1937, and built a dynasty renowned for its business acumen and philanthropy. Victor Smorgon is a recipient of the Companion of the Order of Australia – the highest civic award Australia bestows on her citizens. Loti Smorgon is an Officer of the Order of Australia. Both of their citations recognize their role in art and philanthropy.

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