Stubbs’s kangaroo and dingo paintings saved for the nation

Ofer Family Foundation - George Stubbs Kangaroo
George Stubbs' kangaroo

The National Maritime Museum is delighted to announce that the Eyal Ofer Family Foundation will donate £1.5m to help enable the museum to acquire two 18th-century oil paintings by the celebrated British artist George Stubbs (1724-1806). The donation will help save these paintings for the nation and bring these remarkable works to the widest possible audience.

The paintings, Kongouro from New Holland and Portrait of a Large Dog, are vitally important visual records of Captain James Cook’s first epic Endeavour voyage of discovery (1768-1771) and represent the first depiction of an Australian kangaroo and a dingo in Western art. They were first exhibited together in London in 1773 and have remained in the UK ever since.

Both paintings were privately owned until they were sold in late 2012 to a buyer outside the UK. Due to the significance of their place in British history and artistic culture, they were put under an export bar in January 2013 while an appeal was mounted to save them for the nation. That export bar elapses today. Thanks to this donation, along with significant funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), The Monument Trust, the Art Fund and the public, the appeal has met its target and the paintings will remain in the UK as part of the permanent collection of the Museum.

Exploration is a particularly rich theme for the National Maritime Museum, which already holds unrivalled collections relating to Cook’s three great voyages. The acquisition of these works will greatly enhance the Museum’s world class art collection and its educational work with schools and families. They will also be central to the Museum’s commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Cook’s Endeavour voyage in 2018.

The works will initially go on display in the historic Queen’s House, part of the National Maritime Museum, in summer 2014. The Foundation’s donation, in addition to supporting the acquisition of the paintings, will also enable the re-presentation of the gallery space in the Queen’s House in which the kangaroo and dingo, together with other works of art that document and explore the theme of exploration, will be displayed. This is the first of a series of projects designed to enhance the seminal Queen’s House by Inigo Jones in time for its 400th anniversary in 2016. In recognition of this generous donation, the gallery space will be named ‘The Eyal Ofer Gallery’.

Lord Sterling of Plaistow, Chairman of the Royal Museums Greenwich, said:“Through this generous donation from Eyal Ofer, the National Maritime Museum has been able to secure these wonderful works of art for the nation. The support has enabled us to have not only ‘Saved our Stubbs’ but also to rejuvenate the ‘Queens House’ at the National Maritime Museum which will house the first exhibition of these paintings in ‘The Eyal Ofer Gallery’.”

My family has a long connection with this great maritime institution and these paintings are a landmark in Britain's history of maritime exploration and Captain Cook's voyages.

Sir David Attenborough said: “Exciting news that these two pictures, so important in the history of zoological discovery, are to remain where they were commissioned and painted.”

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, who placed the export licence deferral on the pictures in January, added:“This is great news and a perfect example of our cultural export licence system working to help keep a wonderful part of our cultural heritage in this country where it belongs, while also ensuring that the original seller of the works does not lose out. Thanks to the incredible generosity of Eyal Ofer, the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Monument Trust, the Art Fund and the public, these strange and wonderful paintings will be available to be enjoyed, free of charge, by everyone for generations to come.”

Eyal Ofer said:“I’m delighted that this donation helps secure two such important paintings for the National Maritime Museum and the country. My family has a long connection with this great maritime institution and these paintings are a landmark in Britain’s history of maritime exploration and Captain Cook’s voyages. I look forward to seeing them being discovered, enjoyed and studied by as wide a public audience as possible.”

Carole Souter, Chief Executive of HLF, said:“These are very special paintings which form an important part of the story of James Cook’s voyages. We are delighted that our Heritage Lottery Fund grant of just over £3 million has underpinned other philanthropic giving and enabled the paintings to be acquired by the National Maritime Museum. Plans are already underway to enable the less fragile painting – Kongouro – to tour a number of places with links to Captain Cook so that as many people as possible get to see and enjoy it.”

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said:“Helping secure great works of art for public collections is why the Art Fund was founded over 110 years ago so we’re thrilled to have played a part in making this great acquisition happen. We’re also proud to be supporting the interpretation project that will accompany their display at Greenwich and beyond, illuminating the adventures of Captain James Cook, a key figure in the nation’s history. Thanks to the generosity of the art-loving public, the collective support of the HLF and other funding bodies and the Eyal Ofer Family Foundation, these important works by George Stubbs are here to stay.”

Eyal Ofer is an international shipping and real estate magnate. Through his London-based Zodiac Maritime, he operates one of the largest fleets flying the Red Ensign in the UK.

The Eyal Ofer family has a long tradition of philanthropy in the UK and overseas. Eyal Ofer’s father, Sammy Ofer K.B.E., was a major supporter of the National Maritime Museum (the Sammy Ofer Wing opened in 2011) and the restoration of the Cutty Sark in Greenwich (opened in 2012). Eyal Ofer himself has continued that philanthropic tradition, supporting numerous other projects including the new building programme at Tate Modern and the Royal Row Barge Gloriana for Her Majesty’s the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Through this donation from the Eyal Ofer Family Foundation, Eyal Ofer aims to provide continuity to his family’s legacy of charitable giving and to reinforce the importance of maritime heritage in the UK.

Further information can be found here or by contacting us here.
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