The Collection of Lady Marsha and Sir Andrew Grimwade CBE
The Collection of Lady Marsha and the late Sir Andrew Grimwade CBE offers a curated selection of works portraying an unwavering passion and commitment to supporting the arts. In the 1990s, Marsha and Andrew met through a family friend; Sir Andrew, who had recently lost his spouse, described their meeting as a coup de foudre. Their admiration for each other rapidly flourished, and after six months of letters and postcards back and forth, they eloped in Switzerland.
Their accomplishments over the next three decades demonstrated a collaborative approach founded on mutual respect and admiration. While Sir Andrew had the remarkable family heritage and influence of the Grimwade name behind him, he reflected in his 80th year how much he valued Lady Marsha’s expertise and wisdom in Indigenous art. By means of their collective experiences and enduring partnership, together, they have made an indelible mark inthe realm of arts and philanthropy.
The Grimwade family legacy is enmeshed with Victorian history, encompassing science, business, agriculture and the arts. Throughout his lifetime, Sir Andrew upheld this family tradition, never ceasing to be a humble yet energetic contributor to the cultural fabric. During his appointment as president of Trustees of the NGV circa 1976, he wholeheartedly embraced the Felton Bequest ethos of creating catalytic change with forceful philanthropic outcomes.1 Notable milestones under Sir Andrew’s custodianship involved the acquisition of Tim Leura and Clifford Possum’s masterpiece Napperby Death Spirit Dreaming in 1988; Felton’s Far Western Desert collection, 2011 and the Barak Project, 2013. As patron of the Miegunyah Press, Sir Andrew enthusiastically assisted Geoff and James Bardon’s instrumental book Papunya, A Place Made After the Story: The Beginnings of the Western Desert Painting Movement, 2004.
Born in Tasmania, Lady Marsha spent much of her childhood in Queensland. As a child, she was tanned and barefoot most of the time; she recalls how she was proud of being mistaken for an Aboriginal child. Lady Marsha remained in spirit strongly tied to Australia, although her love of travel grounded her in London for a time. Her son Toby Evans recalls, as children, [Marsha] would bring us back to Australia to visit relatives but would always arrange trips for us to see the more remote parts of the country. I remember her particularly loving the landscapes around Kata Tjuta (The Olgas).’2 Lady Marsha’s affinity and affection for Indigenous art was contagious; she believed wholly in the artworks ‘intrinsic beauty, partly because they represent landscapes that she also loves and because they now give a voice and agency to people who have struggled to be heard.’3
Sir Andrew deeply regarded Lady Marsha’s counsel on matters of Indigenous art. In 2007, Lady Marsha and Sir Andrew embarked on a remote journey ‘…my wife Marsha persuaded me to travel with her camping down the 2,000km of the Canning Stock Route. It opened my eyes to the Indigenous art of the Far Western Desert. So much credit behind the scenes is due to [Marsha] providing me with the passion to drive the acquisition process of the Far Western Desert Art. We felt a special relationship with Kunawarritji, Well 33, and its community, which has been the fountainhead of much far Western Desert art.’4
It is incredible how adventure can foster lifelong friendships. Author and explorer Andrew Dwyer guided Lady Marsha and Sir Andrew on their Canning Stock Route journey in 2007 and remained firm friends. During a second expedition with Lady Marsha, who travelled solo this time down the mouth of the Cooper, Dwyer recalls visiting Walaryirti Artists at Balgo, where Marsha spoke with Eubena Nampitjin, Boxer Milner, Sunfly Tjampitjin and Helicopter Tjungurrayi. ‘She told me then that she already owned one of Helicopter’s works and was pleased to meet him in the flesh.’5
When visiting Willuna, Lady Marsha talked Dwyer into buying one of Clifford Brook’s paintings. ‘It remains one of my most cherished paintings. I remember Marsha saying to me that you don’t choose the paintings – the paintings choose you!’6. The Collection of Lady Marsha and Sir Andrew Grimwade CBE represents a rich tapestry of cultural and visual languages within Indigenous art, a practice that has been, and remains, at the forefront of contemporary art. Lady Marsha and Sir Andrew Grimwade respected a culture that has remained resilient and strong. The plethora of works in this collection traverses the country in a way that reflects their genuine desire to engage with Indigenous communities in a meaningful way. The authenticity of this passion presents itself in each piece they have collected, and undoubtedly, their legacy will be one of generosity and a deep appreciation for art.
1 Andrew Grimwade, Storied Windows: Reflections on Indigenous Art, Miegunyah Press, Victoria, 2012, p. 110
2 In conversation with Toby Evans, Marsha Grimwade’s son, email correspondence 2023
4 Andrew Grimwade, Storied Windows: Reflections on Indigenous Art, Miegunyah Press, Victoria, 2012, p. 119
5 In conversation with Andrew Dwyer, email correspondence 2023