Acquiring works of excellence

In the 1980s, The Ian Potter Foundation supported the acquisition of a series of sculptures to assist Australian sculptors and acquire works of excellence for the National Gallery of Victoria.

Six original works were commissioned: Les Kossatz Hard Slide (1980), Augustine Dall Ava An Obscure View (1981), Geoffrey Bartlett The Messenger (1982), Stephen Killick The History of the Handshake (1984), and Fiona Orr Isomorphic Impressions (1985).

Large metal sculpture in pool of water.

The Messenger by Geoffrey Bartlett was displayed in the NGV's St Kilda Road moat for two decades and is now on display in the gallery's Grimwade Gardens.

Probably the best-known sculpture acquired through the program is the Hand of God.  This bronze sculpture was crafted in 1954 by Sweden’s most prominent sculptor of the 20th century, Carl Milles. One of Milles's most famed works, this piece is the artist’s duplicate of the original, which is housed in Sweden.

In May 1980, the Swedish ambassador Mr Lars Hedstrom and Sir Ian Potter presented the bronze sculpture to the Arts Centre. In 2010, it was relocated to its present site on the lawns of The Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne. The purchase was funded by The Ian Potter Foundation and seven Swedish companies operating in Australia and was selected by Sir Ian on a visit to Sweden.

In 1999, the Trust revived this program of significant Arts Commissions and has since funded two commission series, one for music composition and one for moving image works. Each commission series offered major awards to individual artists to create specific works in a particular art form.