Philanthropist Win Schubert loved QAGOMA and gave generously when she was alive, but she left the best until after her passing.
Philanthropist Win Schubert loved QAGOMA and gave generously when she was alive, but she left the best until after her passing.

Woman’s record $35m cash gift to state’s galleries

A $35 million bequest left to our state galleries by Gold Coast philanthropist Win Schubert will be announced today and it's the largest single cash gift in the gallery's 125 year history.

The Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) was left the money by the late Mrs Schubert (who died in 2017) but court action against her estate held up the bequest.

The millionaire stepdaughter of the wealthy Gold Coast rag trader claimed she was entitled to a slice of the philanthropist's estate and took legal action.

In early 2018 Suzzan Tatay of Surfers Paradise filed a family provision claim for a slice of Mrs Schubert's $38 million estate as a stepchild, because her late mother was Mrs Schubert's de facto.

Ultimately the claim failed in court and today the chair of the Queensland Art Gallery board of trustees, Professor Emeritus Ian O'Connor, will publicly announce the bequest as the gallery celebrates its 125th anniversary.

Mrs Win Schubert who has left QAGOMA $35 million in her will. Picture: Mark Calleja
Mrs Win Schubert who has left QAGOMA $35 million in her will. Picture: Mark Calleja

Professor O'Connor said it was one of the country's most generous cultural gifts.

"Mrs Schubert's $35 million gift establishes the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Charitable Trust," he said.

"The purpose of the Trust is to develop and maintain a permanent collection of artworks created in or after 1880, for the advancement of art education in Australia. Held by QAGOMA works from this collection will be featured in the gallery's forward exhibition program."

Over two decades before her death Mrs Schubert enabled the acquisition of more than 100 important artworks for the State's Collection. Some of the most significant include Cai Guo-Qiang's hugely popular allegorical assembly of 99 replica animals, Heritage 2013; Yayoi Kusama's large-scale sculptural work Flowers that bloom at midnight 2011; Kohei Nawa's PixCell-Double Deer#4 2010 and Nick Cave's HEARD2012, 15 'soundsuits' that can be activated by dancers and were a major highlight of GOMA's tenth-anniversary celebrations.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s Heritage was purchased for QAGOMA in 2013 with funds from the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation through and with the assistance of the QAGOMA Foundation. Picture: Natasha Harth
Cai Guo-Qiang’s Heritage was purchased for QAGOMA in 2013 with funds from the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation through and with the assistance of the QAGOMA Foundation. Picture: Natasha Harth

While Mrs Schubert generously supported a number of ambitious international acquisitions in her lifetime, her giving was primarily focused on art from Australia and Queensland. Most notably, her support through The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Foundation for the Arts resulted in QAGOMA holding Australia's most extensive collection of works by Ian Fairweather.

QAGOMA acknowledged Mrs Schubert's remarkable benefaction in 2012 through the naming of major gallery spaces of the Queensland Art Gallery The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Galleries, and by honouring her with the QAGOMA Medal in 2015.

Mrs Schubert's generosity will also be remembered through the eponymous Schubert Circle, a dedicated program recently launched to recognise donors who have included a gift to QAGOMA in their Will.

She was a formidable figure in the arts and somewhat enigmatic according to QAGOMA director Chris Saines who developed a close relationship with the philanthropist who visited the gallery weekly before her final illness.

QAGOMA director Chris Saines and philanthropy manager Dominique Jones with Yayoi Kusama’s sculpture Flowers that bloom at midnight purchased with the help of Mrs Win Schubert. Picture: Annette Dew
QAGOMA director Chris Saines and philanthropy manager Dominique Jones with Yayoi Kusama’s sculpture Flowers that bloom at midnight purchased with the help of Mrs Win Schubert. Picture: Annette Dew

"She could be daunting and she took a little getting to know," Saines said. "There was an underlying shyness. But she had a wonderful and wicked sense of humour."

Mr Saines said the court case had held up the bequest but that he was grateful to the executors of her will.

"Through it all they took care of safeguarding her bequest and ensuring her wishes were honoured," he said. "This gift was her express wish and she wanted this to be a gift that would really change things."

Mr Saines said the money would be enough for some smaller art museums to build a new wing but that QAGOMA didn't need to do that and would be putting the money to good use by adding to its collection.

"She didn't specify what we should do with it and that is part of the beauty of what she has done,"

Mr Saines said.

Originally published as Woman's record $35m cash gift to state's galleries


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